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LGREEK MYTHS OF THE CREATION.1
sule ore s § 16. Origin of the World. — There were among the Greeks several accounts of the beginning of things. Homer tells us that River Ocean, a deep and mighty flood, encircling land and sea like a serpent with its tail in its mouth, was the source of all. According to other myths Night and Darkness were the prime elements of Nature, and from them sprang Light. Still a third theory, attributed to Orpheus, asserts that Time was in the beginning, but had himself no beginning ; that from him proceeded Chaos, a yawning abyss wherein brooded Night and Mist and fiery air, or Æther; that Time caused the mist to spin round the central fiery air till the mass, assuming the form of a huge Worldegg, flew, by reason of its rapid rotation, into halves. Of these, one was Heaven, the other Earth. From the centre of the egg proceeded Eros (Love) and other wondrous beings.
But the most consistent account of the origin of the world and of the gods is given by the poet Hesiod, who tells us that Chaos, the yawning abyss, composed of Void, Mass, and Darkness in
Supplementary information concerning many of the myths may be found in the corresponding sections of the Commentary.
confusion, preceded all things else. Next came into being broadbosomed Earth, and beautiful Love who should rule the hearts of gods and men. But from Chaos itself issued Erebus,' the mysterious darkness that is under Earth, — and Night, dwelling in the remote regions of sunset.
From Mother Earth proceeded first the starry vault of Heaven, durable as brass or iron, where the gods were to take up their abode. Earth brought forth next the mountains and fertile fields, the stony plains, the sea, and the plants and animals that possess them. V § 17. Origin of the Gods. — So far we have a history of the throes and changes of the physical world ; now begins the history of gods and of men. For in the heart of creation Love begins to stir, making of material things creatures male and female, and bringing them together by instinctive affinity. First Erebus and Night, the children of Chaos, are wedded, and from them spring Light and Day; then Uranus, the personified Heaven, takes Gæa, the Earth, to wife, and from their union issue Titans and hundred- . handed monsters and Cyclopes.
The Titans? appear to be the personification of mighty convulsions of the physical world, of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. They played a quarrelsome part in mythical history; they were instigators of hatred and strife. Homer mentions specially two of them, Iapetus and Cronus; but Hesiod enumerates thirteen. Of these the more important are Oceanus and Tethys, Hyperion and Thea, Cronus and Rhea, Iapetus, Themis, and Mnemosyne. The three Cyclopes represented the terrors of rolling thunder, of the lightning-flash, and of the thunderbolt; and, probably, for this reason, one fiery eye was deemed enough for each. The hundred-handed monsters, or Hecatonchires, were also three in number. In them, probably, the Greeks imaged the sea with its multitudinous waves, its roar, and its breakers that seem to shake the earth. These lightning-eyed, these hundred-handed
1 So far as possible, Latin designations, or Latinized forms of Greek names, are used.
2 On the Titans, etc., Preller's Griech. Mythol. I, 37.