Of Zeus and Cronus

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Cronus, the ruler of the Titans, swallowed his children immediately after his wife Rhea gave birth, for Cronus was determined that no child should ever usurp his power: he had heard a prophecy from his parents, Uranus and Gaia, that a son would overthrow him just as he had overthrown his father. Therefore, he stayed awake waiting for the birth of his children, and swallowed them one by one. His wife, Rhea, bitterly angry, sought help from her parents (the same Uranus and Gaia), hoping to save her son Zeus who was about to be born. They came up with a plan to protect the child and get revenge on Cronus at the same time. They sent Rhea into hiding, and when the baby was born she gave him to Gaia, who hid him deep within herself, kept him alive, and raised him. In the meantime, Rhea wrapped a great stone in swaddling-clothes and brought it to Cronus, who believed it was his new son and swallowed it.

Zeus grew great and strong, and when he reached adulthood he and Gaia together forced Cronus to disgorge the great stone as well as all the brothers and sisters.

There followed a long and terrible War of Heaven in which Zeus and his generation of gods finally defeated Cronus and his generation of Titans. Zeus punished his defeated enemies terribly. One of them, Atlas, was forced to bear the entire weight of the world on his back forever. The rest were chained and imprisoned deep within the earth.

Before giving birth to the Titans, Uranus and Gaia had given birth to various bizarre monsters including three many-headed Hydras (sea serpents) and three Cyclops. Cronus had later imprisoned the detestable Hydras. Part of the reason that Zeus was able to finally win his war against the Titans was that he freed the Hydras and they fought for Zeus with their terrible weapons of thunder and lightning. Two of the Titans, Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus, sons of the Titan Iapetus (whose name may relate him to Japhet, one of Noah’s sons), also sided with Zeus. After the war, the Hydras, in gratitude, gave Zeus the thunder and lightning which became his trademark.

These gods were the children of Time (Cronus) and Space (Rhea). Their leader, Zeus, was called the ‘father of the gods’, and represented both Heaven (within the cosmos) and the human Spirit (within the individual). One meaning of the above story is that Time (Cronus) encompasses (that is, ‘swallows’), and ultimately destroys, everything that comes into being on the manifest physical plane, but Time cannot destroy the Spirit (Zeus). Zeus was hidden deep within the Earth (Gaia), just as the Spirit is hidden deep within the body. But it is eternal and strong, and if it comes of age and enters the contest with Time, the myth assures us, it can be victorious – though it will require the help and strength that can only be mustered from our inner ‘monsters’.