Theia, sometimes written Thea, is one of the Greek Titanides. Theia is one of the twelve older generations of gods known as the Titans found in Greek mythology. Born from the primordial gods, the Titans were powerful beings who ruled long before the Olympians.
Theia is the child of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus, as were all eleven of her siblings. Theia, whose name literally translates to goddess or divine, is the Greek goddess of light and vision.
Theia is also referred to as Euryphaessa in ancient texts, which means “wide-shining.” Scholars believe Theia is referred to as Eurphaessa in reference to the shimmering expanse of the upper atmosphere for which Theia was responsible.
Theia married her brother, the Titan Hyperion. Hyperion is the god of the sun and wisdom. Together Theia and Hyperion had three children who were all celestial deities that could manipulate light.
Theia is the mother of Selene (the moon), Helios (the sun), and Eos (the dawn). Because of her children, Theia is referred to as the goddess from which all light proceeded.
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Who is Theia?
Few ancient sources mention Theia. The few references that mention Theia seem to do so only in relation to her children. This is the case with most of the Titans. Most notable mentions of Theia appear in Pindar’s Odes, Hesiod’s Theogony, and the Homeric Hymn to Helios.
The Titan goddess of light, Theia, is often depicted with long flowing blonde hair and fair skin. She is either surrounded by light or holding light in her hands. Sometimes the Titaness is pictured with light beams emitting from her body with images of the sun and moon believed to symbolize her children.
Theia is the eldest daughter of the timeless primordial deities of mother earth and the sky. Theia is often referred to as mild-eyed Euryphaessa in ancient texts. It is believed that Theia replaced the primordial god Aether and was, therefore, responsible for the pure shimmering air of the upper atmosphere.
According to Pindar’s Odes, Theia is the goddess of many names. The ancient Greeks believed Theia, sometimes referenced as Thea, to be the goddess of sight and light. Thea translates to sight. The ancient Greeks believed they could see because of light beams emitted from their eyes. This belief is perhaps why Theia was associated with light and with sight.
Theia was not only the goddess of light according to the poet Pindar. Theia was the goddess who endowed gold, silver, and gems. Another power Theia possessed was the ability to manipulate light with regard to gems and precious metals.
Theia was responsible for making precious stones and metals sparkle and shimmer, which is why Theia is associated with things that shimmered in the ancient world.
As the goddess of sight, the ancient Greeks believed Theia was the goddess of wisdom too. Theia was an ocular goddess, as were her sisters Phoebe and Themis. It is believed Theia had an ocular shrine in Thessaly. However, her sisters had more fame as prophetic deities, with Phoebe associated with a shrine at Delphi.
The Primordial Gods
As with all belief systems, the ancient Greeks looked for a way to make sense of the world in which they lived. The ancient Greeks created primordial gods to personify the existence and processes in nature that were difficult for them to understand.
From the void that was Chaos, Gaia was not the only primordial goddess to arise. Gaia, along with Tartarus, the god of the abyss or underworld, Eros the god of desire, and Nyx, the god of the night were born.
Greek mythology developed into a complex pantheon, beginning with the primordial gods and their children. Gaia and Uranus had twelve children together. They were: Oceanus, Tethys, Hyperion, Theia, Coeus, Phoebe, Cronus, Rhea, Mnemosyne, Themis, Crius, and Iapetus.
Who are the Twelve Titans in Greek Mythology?
Theia is one of the twelve Titan deities found in Greek mythology. The Titans were children born from the primordial gods Gaia and Uranus. According to the Greek creation myth, as recorded by Hesiod in the Theogony: from the nothing that was Chaos came Gaia, mother earth, and the universe began.
It is pertinent to note the explanation provided by Hesiod for the beginning of the universe is one of many creation myths found within Greek mythology.
Theia and Hyperion
Theia married her Titan brother, Hyperion, the sun god and a god of wisdom, and heavenly light. They resided with the rest of their siblings on Mount Othrys. Mount Othrys is a mountain in central Greece, said to be the home of the Titan gods.
The ancient Greeks believed that Theia and Hyperion worked together to give humankind sight. It was from the union of Theia and Hyperion that all light proceeded.
The three children of Hyperion and Theia were all celestial deities. Their children are Selene (the moon), Helios (the sun), and Eos (the dawn). Selene, Helios, and Eos are regarded as personifications of the natural process they represent.
Selene is described as riding a chariot that pulled the moon across the sky each night. Helios rode his own chariot that pulled the sun across the sky once his sister Eos had cleared the night for him. Of Eos, it is said that she rode a chariot from the edge of Oceanus to open the gates of dawn, dispel the night, and clear the way for Helios. Helios also rose from Oceanus each day.
Theia and Her Titan Siblings
The Titans were not the only children produced by Gaia and Uranus. Gaia birthed three Cyclops children, who Uranus imprisoned in the deepest level of the underworld. Gaia could not forgive Uranus for this, and so Gaia and Theia’s youngest brother Cronus plotted to overthrow Uranus.
When Cronus killed Uranus, the Titans ruled the world, and Cronus ushered in a Golden Age for humanity. The Golden Age was a time of great peace and harmony where everyone prospered. Cronus married his Titan sister Rhea. It would be one of their children that would put an end to the rule of the Titans.
A prophecy told of the fall of Cronus at the hands of one of his children, like his father before him. Because of this prophecy, Cronus devoured each of his children at birth and imprisoned them in his belly.
When Cronus plotted with Gaia to overthrow his father, he promised to release his brothers from Tartarus, which he did not. This angered Gaia, and so when Rhea gave birth to her sixth child, Gaia, and Rhea kept the child hidden from Cronus on Crete in the hopes that one day the child would depose Cronus.
The child was a son who was named Zeus. First, Zeus found a way to free his siblings from his father’s stomach. Even with the help of his regurgitated brothers and sisters, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, and Demeter the Olympian gods could not defeat the Titans.
Zeus then freed Gaia’s imprisoned children from Tarturas. Zeus along with his and Theia’s siblings fulfilled the prophecy and defeated Cronus after a 10-year war.
Theia and the Titanomachy
Sadly, what transpired during the mythical Titanomachy has been lost to antiquity. Not much is known about the great battles that must have happened during this cataclysmic moment in Greek mythology. There are mentions of the conflict in other stories about Greek gods and Hesiod’s Theogony.
What we do know is that when the war between the new gods of Olympus and the old gods of Mount Othrys broke out, the female Titans did not fight with their brother-husbands. Theia, like her sisters, remained neutral. Not all of the male Titans fought alongside Cronus either. Oceanus, like his sisters, remained neutral.
The war raged for ten years and wrought havoc on the human world. It is said that the air burned, and the seas boiled as the earth trembled. It was then that Zeus freed Theia’s siblings from Tartarus. The Cyclopes and Gaia’s monstrous children, known as the Hecatoncheires, helped the Olympians defeat the Titans.
The Cyclopes built the acropolis where the Olympian gods would reside in. The Cyclopes also made the Olympians weapons. The Hecatoncheires returned to Tarturas to guard their imprisoned siblings.
What Happened to Theia?
Theia remained neutral during the war and therefore would not have been imprisoned in Tartarus like her siblings who fought against the Olympians. Some of Theia’s sisters had children with Zeus, while others disappeared from the records. After the war, Theia disappears from ancient sources and is mentioned only as the mother of the Sun, Moon, and Dawn.
Theia’s children Selene and Helios were eventually replaced by the ruling Olympian gods. Helios was replaced by Apollo as the sun god, and Selene by Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the hunt. Eos, however, continued to play an important role in Greek mythology.
Eos was cursed by Aphrodite, the Olympian goddess of love, after Aphrodite’s lover Ares the god of war, and Eos had an affair. Aphrodite cursed Eos never to be able to find true love. Eos was always in love, but it would never last.
Eos took several mortal lovers and had many children. She is the mother of Memnon, the king of Aethiopia who fought the legendary warrior Achilles during the Trojan War. Eos perhaps escaped the fate of her mother Theia as she was not only remembered for the children she bore.