Lecture Three: Cosmogony and Theogony
What is Cosmogony and Theogony
– Cosmogony: the birth of the universe (the cosmos)
– Theogony: the birth of the gods
– In many traditions, including the Greek Mythological tradition, the two are identical:
+ Natural elements are themselves deities.
Non-Greek Creation Stories Babylon
– Source: Enuma Elish (“when on high”)
– Text probably dates to 18 to 16 c. BCE (BronzeAge)
– Contains the Babylonian creation myth
– Leads to the supremacy of the Babylonian patron city-deity, Marduk.
– The natural elements and forces are viewed as gods.
– Primordial watery substance: Tiamat
+ Cosmic Chaos/disorder
+ Lack of form
+ Defeated by Marduk
+ Then divided and shaped by Marduk into elements of nature in their current (proper) order: sky
above, mountains, earth, rivers below.
+ Cosmic order
+ Defeats Tiamat and becomes a supreme god
Non-Greek Creation Myths Egypt
– Various local versions, with roughly the following outline:
+ Primordial infinite chaotic sea called (Nu or Nun)
+ Pyramidal mound emerges from the sea
+ The Sun (often as god Ra) emerges from the mound
+ The natural elements and forces are viewed as gods.
Non-Greek Creation Myths Biblical
– Apre-existing deity initiates creation
– Infinite and formless primordial watery mass
– Light is created
– The watery mass is divided by a partition (the sky) in water above and water below.
– The natural elements are not personified: they are not gods.
Some Themes in Creation Stories
– One, undifferentiated, formless element is separated into multiple elements
– From disorder eventually forms order
– Motionless, stagnant mass gives way to animated cosmos full of change and activity
Hesiod's Creation Myth – Chaos: meaning something like chasm
+ Not really a god yet
– The first deity is Gaia (“earth”)
+Associated with earth and fertility
– Tartarus: the murky realm deep beneath the earth
– Eros: the word means sexual desire
– Two apparently different images of Eros in Greek mythology
– Hesiod's Eros, “Protogenos” (first born), one of the first deities
+ The agent of cosmic motion
+ The primal urge that initiates not only sexual procreation and multiplication, but more generally
cosmic energy, motion, change.
– The boy, Eros, playful, mischievous companion ofAphrodite, sometimes her son withAres.
– The separation is not consistent
– Known as “Cupid”?
– The idea of an Earth-Mother goddess, associated with agriculture and fertility, is common in
+ Recall Tiamat: the first divinity, female, generates other gods.
+Aside from Gaea, Rhea, Themis, Cybele, Hera, Demeter andAphrodite all have significant
elements of the ancient Earth-Mother in them.
– The pattern in many traditions is the overthrow of te female earth goddess, often associated with
primordial disorder, by a male sky-god (ie: Zeus) who establishes order.
Hesiod's Creation Myth
– Erebos, darkness, and Nyx,