Genesis of the Greek Gods
This paper is going to be concerning the origin of the Greek Deities known as the Olympians, starting from the primordial deities and ending with the war on the giants. In between there is the story of the Titans as well as the Olympians themselves. It covers the birth, war, and defeat of the Titans and the Giants by the Olympians and may get slightly confusing as Greek Mythology tends to do.
The beginning of Greek Mythology starts not with the Olympians, but with the two primordial deities of Greek Mythology, Gaea and Uranus. They produced the Titans and the Goddess of Love Aphrodite. The Titans were led by the Titan of Time, Cronus, whom at the request of Gaea, cut their father Uranus into pieces after Gaea tricked him into coming down to earth then bound him. The four titans that held him down were Iapetus, Hyperion, Crius, and Coeus. Cronus and his wife Rhea, then birthed the Olympian Gods/Goddesses, however Cronus, fearing an uprising by the Gods to overthrow him, swallowed all of them except one, Zeus.
The reason Cronus didn’t swallow Zeus as well, is due to a trick Rhea played on her husband by swapping the baby Zeus with a stone wrapped in a blanket. Zeus then was raised in a cave by nymphs, and guarded by Kouretes who drowned out the sound of the crying by a battle dance. When Zeus was fully grown, he persuaded the goddess Metis to give Cronus a potion that caused him to expel all of the Gods/Goddesses that he had swallowed. Then Zeus freed the Cyclopes, the Hekatonkheires, and the four other giant sons of Heaven from Tartarus.
The Gods/Goddesses led by Zeus, and armed by the Cyclopes, then battled the Titans and eventually defeated the Titans. Many of the Titans after their defeat were imprisoned and punished, some of the elder ones were thrown directly into Tartarus which is the Greek version of Hell, another Primordial God who will be involved later. Atlas is one of the Titans that is best known for how he was punished, he was forced to hold up the sky to prevent more children like the Titans from rising up against them. This caused Gaea to become extremely angry and thus brought forth the Giants.
Before the Giants rose up, the Olympians decided on duties, the three Eldest brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades split up the world into three domains and basically drew straws for who gets what. Zeus got the Sky/Heavens, Poseidon received the Sea, and Hades became the God of the underworld/Earth. It was then decided that the resting place of the Gods would be Mt. Olympus and that there would be Twelve Gods/Goddesses split to rule over mankind. The Original Twelve in some stories was Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Ares, Hephaestus, Hermes, Hera, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hestia, Demeter. This later changed due to the introduction of Dionysus, where Hestia graciously gave up her throne to allow Dionysus a seat on Olympus thus upsetting the balance of the sexes on Olympus.
Hades, in some stories is thought to have remained in the underworld, plotting against his brothers, in other stories, he prefers being in the underworld. Either way, some myths believe him to not be one of the Olympians even if he is one of the eldest three. This brings us to the Giants, spawns of Gaea and Tartarus, although some myths say the giants were born from the blood from when the Cronus castrated Uranus. The Giants were one of the biggest threats that the Olympians ever faced, apart from the first monster Typhon. There were one hundred Giants born by Gaea.
The King of the Giants was known as Porphyirion, and all the Giants had been given powers, thanks to a prophecy by the Fates, that caused them to not be able to be slain except by the combined might of a God/Demigod. The two strongest giants were, of course, Porphyirion and Alcyoneus and both were slain with the help of a demigod known as Heracles (Hercules). Alcyoneus had a special power that he could not be killed in the land where he was birthed. So, he was dragged by Heracles, on the advice of Athena, outside the borders of that land and then killed. Porphyirion was killed by the combination of Zeus and Heracles after Porphyirion attacked Heracles and Hera, when Zeus caused Porphyirion to become in love with Hera which then caused him to rape Hera. Most of the other giants were destroyed by a combination of Zeus’s lightning bolts and Heracles’ arrows. The help of Heracles supposedly led to the granting of immortality for him by the Olympians. But that is a different story for a different time.
Going back to Olympians, the twelve original deities were each known/in charge of certain aspects of the world. As stated previously the elder three, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, were in charge of the sky, the sea, and the underworld respectively. Whereas the remaining Olympians had different aspects of the human personalities. Athena was the Goddess of Knowledge and Strategies, Hermes was the God of Merchants, Thieves, and Messengers, Hephaestus was the God of the Forge and Tinkering. Hera was the Goddess of Marriage, Aphrodite the Goddess of Love, etc. The thing that separates Greek Mythology from current religions is that in current religions, God(s) is(are) known for being perfect and all knowing, whereas in Greek Mythology, the Gods had more human qualities and could be temperamental, and when angered could cause havoc on mortals who provoke their ire.
This has been a shortened version of many stories written about the genesis of Greek Mythology. It has been mainly from my memory with some assistance here and there by a website known as Theoi, created by Aaron J. Atsma.
Atsma, A. J. (2017). Gigantes. Retrieved from Theoi: http://www.theoi.com/Gigante/Gigantes.html