We can read the theme of family in one of two ways:
- There are some amazingly strong family bonds going on here.
- This is the most messed up family ever.
Let's take a closer look at both sides of the coin.
In a weird way, Zeus' journey is a story about family love and unity. His mother, fearing for his life at birth, gives him over to his grandmother, who secretly sends him away to Crete and watches over him while he grows up. The very first thing that Zeus does upon reaching manhood is free his brothers and sisters from their confinement, and every single one of them joins with him in the war against the Titans. Pretty tight knit group, wouldn't you say? Throw in the fact that their grandmother tips them off about the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires and we're forced to assume that there's some deep, lasting affection going on here. Zeus even rewards his brothers and sisters by giving them lordship over parts of the universe after they win the way.
The only hang-up here is that Cronus is Zeus' father, making all of the other Titans his aunts and uncles. Now, the Titans do band together behind Cronus, demonstrating a tight bond similar to that of the younger Olympians, but there's no escaping the fact that the two sides of the family are a war. We guess the love only goes so far.
On the flip side, this bunch is worse than our entire, extended family all in the same room on Thanksgiving. But seriously, the ancient Greek gods are messed up. Every romantic affair that takes place in the Theogony is incestuous in some way, and a lot of them result in crazy, messed up kids like the Hecatonchires. Uranus goes around throwing his kids in jail in the bowels of the earth, his wife has him castrated – by his son, no less –, and his grandson starts a war between different family generations. Compared to these nutcases, your average sitcom family looks pretty tame. If you continue your study of ancient Greek mythology you'll see that it only gets more bizarre as you go along. Crazy.
Questions About Family
- Hesiod's Theogony doesn't expressly tell us what happened to Zeus' mother, Rhea. Technically speaking, Rhea is one of the Titans, which means it's possible that she was imprisoned along with her brothers and sisters. How would this make you feel? Why? Do you have any ideas about why this information is missing from Hesiod's story?
- Do you feel that Cronus deserves his fate? Why or why not? Is there anything that might justify his actions? What about Uranus?
- The family relationships between the ancient Greek gods are pretty crazy by our current standards, but if you look at myths and, to an extent, religious texts across cultures you find that lots, and we mean lots, of origin stories involve a lot of incest and/or other, weird family relationships. How do you feel about the way that the characters in this story behave towards each other?