The Theogony tells of the first generations of the gods. See if you can draw up a family tree, showing the
main figures in each generation.
How are the gods represented in the Theogony? What are their attributes? How are they similar to or
different from humans?
Why do you think this divine family saga is so rife with violence? Note in particular the violence with
which each generation overthrows the generation before. How does Zeus end the violence?
If we think about the gods as one of the "others" against which Greeks defined themselves, what can we
infer about the conditions of human existence from the Theogony's depiction of divine existence?
Gods as the “others”:
Mortals are always inferior to the Gods
Some mortals rivaled the gods (Helen [aphrodite], Achilles [river gods], Arachne [Athena])
o But gods always come out on top
Compare yourself to a superior being and define what it means to be human, as an inferior
o Think about what limits us, our suffering and indignities
o Gods are different and superior
o Gods don’t have blood, they have “ecker” green stuff
o Gods smell ambrosia, they don’t eat
o Gods are all powerful and immortal
This are the defining characters
Powerful & Immortal
They have absolute power in their reign, and also over any human, there is
nothing that a human can do to fight off the god
Mortal: “mort” die
o Thnatoi: “those who are going to die
o Athnatoi; “those who are not going to die
Gods think of human like pets, and mourn for them when they die.
Eos (G) & Tithonus (M): begged zeus to give him immortality, he grants it but does not have
eternal youth, dried out crackling voice by the end. Origin myth for the cycada (locus).
o Illustrates that humans are not immortal, that we are supposed to die.
Anthromorphic: “Human & Shape”: Greeks imagine for gods to have human form, and emotion,
and desires. o Homers Iliad: Greeks and Trojans, with gods rooting for their teams. Some humans are
half bloods. They don’t suffer. “Gods are Human like”
Eg: Sarpedon: Zeus + mortal woman: is about to be killed, zeus tries to bring him
to the heavens, hera talks him out of it because then all the gods will bring their
children up too. As the boy dies, zeus cries tears of blood.
Thetis (sea nymph) flirts with Zeus so the Trojans will win, Hera scolds them and
he owns her verbally. Domestic dispute. We see the gods as human in this way.
Hera borrows some items from Aphrodite, he submits, use sex for power, again
Gods can be petty and duplicitous, but in the end they are righteous.
Zeus knows that Hector is supposed to die, even though he favours him he
makes sure that justice is served.
Gods are to be admired, not emulated. If you step out line the gods will punish
you. Respect your fellow man, due to ethics, not because youre trying to be a
Xenophanes “Cows and horses would draw the forms of the gods in their image.”
Protagoras “Man is the measure of all things” Humans are the center of it all.
Hesiod: “Birth of the gods” 8 c bce
o Chasm: emptiness
o God by god: the universe populates
o Setting for author: End of the dark ages (time Hesiod wrote) why so detailed?
o 1. Virtuous poet, reason for attention to detail
o 2. Increased communication between the polis (the greek city states). Pan-hellenism
Beginning of Olympics to unite the Greeks (every 4 years)
Worship zeus together, communally,
Did Hesiod go to all the niches and create a panhellenic story?
Not everyone knows all the river gods, but the everyone lives near one,
and they know their names, panhellenism, giving props to all the gods
an all the cultural.
o 3. Religious reason, polytheistic
Gods are always presented as a community, not individually, like their the only
Zeus is of course the god of the gods.
Punishment for the gods:
o 1 yr in a coma
o Then, 9 yrs cut off from the gods.
Very different from mortals, but not separate
o They are the natures, mountains, winds, rivers
o They are the facts of our existence
All of the abstractions are divinities.
Gods which are very different from us
o The monsters
Achidna (maiden, serpent)
o But there are still similarities between the very different and humans
And have the problems of human families
Struggle for power
Specifically between father and son
o Viewed as a succession myth
o Cf: Babylon
o Father and son as a main theme.
o Zeus and Olympians were the gods of rule during Hesiod’s time. We know how the story
ends. He paves the road, of blood and conflict, tells us the rest
Chaos: empty disorder
Eros: love, desire o Then:
Gaia makes for herself, from herself, a mate
The starry heaven (Ouranos)
o Then they have children (the titans) the most fierce of the
Monsters (100 handers, 50 headers, etc)
o Loathed his father
Ouranos hid the children deep in Earth, he hated them. Immediate conflict.