What is a Titan in Greek Mythology

What Is a Titan in Greek Mythology?

When one thinks of Greek Mythology, the beings that first come to mind are the Gods of Olympus. From the forge master Hephaestus, the beautiful Aphrodite, the wise Athena, the dour Hades, to the almighty Zeus, these characters are embedded into Greek Myths and symbolize the order that governs the world. But what is a Titan in Greek Mythology?

As powerful and well-known as these Olympians were, they were not the first rulers of the Universe. Before them, there was a race of gigantic, primordial beings known best as the Titans.

With that comes the question “What is a Titan in Greek Mythology?” Answering that question will require us to lay down a few core principles that make up the world where the Greek myths lived.

What is a Titan?

titan in greek mythology

A Titan, in simple terms, was a gigantic being that once held dominion over the ancient Greek world. These beings were no mere giants as some of them have been depicted to be as big as mountains themselves. And with that size also came the strength and power that allowed the race to subjugate the entire universe.

But that is not to say that all Titans were massive beings. Some of the later titans like Helios and Prometheus appeared no larger than a tall human being or Olympian. The point is that these beings were once the dominant race of the entire Greek universe.

As to their creation, all Titans trace their origins back to the aspects of the sky and earth respectively, Uranus and Gaea. When these two Primordial beings bonded, their union gave rise to the 12 original titans.

The 6 male titans were Hyperion, Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Cronus, and Iapetus. Alternatively, the 6 female titans were Rhea, Theia, Mnemosyne, Themis, Thetys, and Phoebe. 

These brothers and sisters would also marry each other and would give rise to the other races of the world. However, the most prominent offspring of these Titans would be the third generation of divine beings that would become known as the Olympians.

What is the difference between a God and A Titan in Greek Mythology?

What is a Titan in Greek Mythology and how different were they from their more prominent children? To answer that question, it is best to compare the two side by side.

Before anything else, there was absolutely nothing physiology-wise that would differentiate a Titan from an Olympian as they were from the same genealogy. They were both beings of large stature and divine origin. Titans and Olympians had more to share with their overall appearance and profile than the other children of Gaea like the Cyclops and the many-armed Hecatoncheires. 

That being said, there was still a considerable difference between the two races. The first obvious difference was the size. Size-wise, a Titan is to an Olympian what an Olympian is to a mere mortal. Titans were so massive that they would dwarf their younger counterparts.

Proof of this is the story of when Cronus swallowed almost all of his children out of fear of being usurped by them. Thus, much of the Olympians (save for Zeus) dwelled and grew inside their father’s belly until Zeus freed them all.

Also, the primordial Titans Gaea and Uranus were aspects of the sky and earth themselves. As such, their actual bodies encompassed the entire land and sky itself.

Another difference was intelligence. Most myths depict Titans as selfish, cruel, and impulsive. They could be easily tricked by simple deceptions. Rhea, for instance, managed to trick Cronus into swallowing a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes by presenting it to him as the infant Zeus. 

Lastly, the major difference between Olympians and Titans was their concept of dominion over the aspects that comprise the Universe. Where Olympians had control over such aspects, the Titans themselves were the embodiments of such.

Thus, when the Olympians won the Titanomachy and cast most of the Titans to Tartarus, they wrested control over these primal elements. With the new gods at the helm, the elements would stabilize, and order would come to the universe.

What Powers did Titans Have?

Aside from their massive size and strength, the Titans are essential aspects of the elements that make up the world. They symbolize nature in its pure and unshackled form.

Thus, while their children might have an understanding or control over an element and plane of existence, the Titans themselves comprise these very aspects of the universe.

For instance, Poseidon might have dominion over the ocean but it is Oceanus himself that is the ocean. The same is for Hyperion which represents the light of the sun while his son Helios is merely its herald.

This is why a lot of natural disasters are deemed to be the Titans merely expressing who they truly are: the chaotic and unbound aspects of nature. The Olympians that followed after them merely brought things to order.

However, it is this very uncontrollable nature that allowed the Titans to form the very world that mortals lived in. Every mountain, sea, weather formation, and a gust of wind is a product of the Titans moving through the universe.

What Happened to the Titans?

what is a titan in greek mythology

A crucial element to know in answering what is a Titan in Greek mythology is learning about their fate. What exactly happened to them?

To answer that question, one must understand that the myths concerning the Olympians and Titans are tales of Conflict. Cronus, the leader of the Titans, deposed his father Uranus to become ruler of the sky, earth, and sea.

In turn, Cronus became fearful that he would meet the same fate. Thus, he swallowed his children whole save for Zeus. When the young Zeus returned, he was able to cause Cronus to release his siblings from the titan’s belly.

Once freed, Zeus and his siblings would wage war against the Titans in an event known as the Titanomachy. After a long and brutal campaign, Cronus’s worst fear was realized and he was deposed by his children. 

With most of the Titans cast down to a deep place beneath the Underworld known as Tartarus, Zeus would divide dominion over the sky, sea, and underworld between him and his brothers Poseidon and Hades. The rest of the Olympians and their allied titans would take duties guarding and managing certain aspects of the world.

According to Greek Mythology, The Titans fought from Mount Othrys, while the Olympians fought from Mount Olympus.

To this day, it is said that the Titans remain bound to Tartarus. Other myths state that the Titans would be released from their imprisonment in the future. Once freed, they would wage war against their usurpers for one last time.