Who are the Titans?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

In Greek mythology, the Titans are the children of Uranus, they sky, and Gaea, the earth. They are the generation before the Olympians, the gods and goddesses led by Zeus who are most well known in this tradition.

Demeter was the daughter of the Titans Rhea and Cronus.
Demeter was the daughter of the Titans Rhea and Cronus.

There are twelve Titans, six male and six female. The male titans are Cronus or Kronos, Iapetos or Iapetus, Hyperion, Oceanus, Coeus or Koios, and Creus or Crius, or Krios. The female titans are Theia, Rhea, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, and Themis. Atlas and Prometheus, both sons of Iapetus, are also considered to be Titans. Cronus has an important counterpart in Roman mythology, in which he is known as Saturn.

Zeus was one of the children of the Titans Cronus and Rhea.
Zeus was one of the children of the Titans Cronus and Rhea.

Some of the Titans’ names have particular meanings that give insight into their characterization. For example, Mnemosyne means memory, Phoebe means light, and Themis means justice. Although Cronos might look very much like the root for time, it is actually a distinct word.

The Titan Themis is associated with law and social order; her Roman counterpart led to the modern image of Lady Justice.
The Titan Themis is associated with law and social order; her Roman counterpart led to the modern image of Lady Justice.

One of the crucial stories about the Titans, told by Hesiod, recounts that Uranus was jealous of his children and feared their rebellion, so he kept them confined in Gaea. With Gaea’s encouragement, Cronus overthrew Uranus, castrating him with a sickle provided by Gaea, and the Titans took over as rulers of the world.

Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders, was a Titan.
Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders, was a Titan.

Once freed, the Titans became the ancestors of most if not all of the major and minor gods in the Greek pantheon. Cronus and Rhea are the parents of Demeter, Hades, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. Hyperion and Theia are the parents of Helios, the sun god; Selene, the moon goddess; and Eos, goddess of dawn. Oceanus and Tethys are parents of the river gods and Oceanids. Coeus and Phoebe are the parents of Leto. Mnemosyne and Zeus are parents of the Muses. And Themis and Zeus are the parents of the Horae, the Seasons, and the Morae, the Fates.

The Titans have also been immortalized as astronomical names. Cronus, as Saturn, is a planet. The moons of Saturn include Titan, Tethys, Rhea, Iapetus, Hyperion, and Phoebe. Mnemosyne Regio, Themis Regio, and Tethus Regio are regions on Venus, and Rhea Mons and Theia Mons are Venusian mountains. The name 57 Mnemosyne was given to an asteroid as well.

On Earth, Iapetus Ocean is the name given to the precursor of the Atlantic Ocean, which existed 400 to 600 million years ago. Tethys Ocean was located east of Gondwana from about 245 to 65 million years ago.

Titan is Saturn's biggest moon.
Titan is Saturn's biggest moon.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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