Titans - Encyclopedia

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TITANS (Gr. Tcraves), in Greek mythology, the children of Uranus and Gaea. According to Hesiod (Theog. 133), the male Titans were Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and Cronus; the female, Thea, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys, to whom Apollodorus adds Dione. At the instigation of Gaea they rebelled against their father, who had shut them up in the bowels of the earth, and set up as ruler their youngest brother, Cronus, who in turn was dethroned by his son Zeus. A struggle then ensued between Zeus and Cronus, in which the Titans took different sides. The opponents of Zeus were finally defeated, and imprisoned in Tartarus (Theog. 153-210, 617 sqq.). The rebellious Titans are the representatives of the wild, disorderly forces of nature, who are defeated by the Olympian deities, who stand for law and order. The name Titans is usually explained as "avengers," referring to the vengeance taken by Cronus on his father Uranus, but A. Dieterich (Rheinisches Museum, 1893, xlviii., and J. E. Harrison (Prolegomena to Greek Religion) connect it with riiavos (gypsum).

According to Harpocration (s.v. 'AlroµarTcov), the Titans, when they mutilated Dionysus' Zagreus (see D10NYsus), besmeared themselves with gypsum to conceal their identity, as Artemis daubed her face with mud to escape the rivergod Alpheus. The custom was practised at Bacchic and purificatory rites (Demosthenes, De corona, p. 313) as among savage tribes at the present day. The Titan story is probably an attempt to explain the fact that the Orphic worshippers, when about to tear the sacred animal, daubed themselves with gypsum. L. Weniger, in an article "Feralis exercitus" in Archie filr Religionsgeschichte (May 1906, February and March 1907), while regarding the "white colouring" as an original feature, does not accept the derivation of T travES from TtTavos. According to him, Zagreus is the divine hunter, in turn pursued and slain by others mightier than himself, the "snow-clad" (white) giants dwelling on Parnassus. These Titans, whose original is to be found in Pentheus and Lycurgus (for whom see DioNYsus), had nothing to do with the Titans of Hesiod's Theogony. The whole has reference to the winter festival of Dionysus, when the god arrived with his Thyiades (the wind spirits) on the heights of Parnassus, there to be murdered by the Titans, to be buried and come to life again.

The standard work on the subject is M. Mayer, Die Giganten and Titanen in der antiken Sage and Kunst (1887).

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