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Hesiod , part of the Monnus mosaic, 3rd or 4th century, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier

The theogony ( ancient Greek Θεογονία Theogonía “emergence of the gods”, from θεός theós “god” and γίγνεσθαι gígenesthai “will, arise”) is a work of Hesiod , in which the emergence of the world and the gods in the order of their rule is described. It originated around 700 BC. BC and is one of the oldest sources on Greek mythology along with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey .


The Theogony (with Scholien ) in the manuscript written in 1319 Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, Gr. 464, fol. 158v

Hesiod's theogony begins with his poet consecration by the muses . These hand over Hesiod as a scepter "a sprout of freshly green laurel" and breath divine song into him, so they consecrate him as the singer of theogony.

After this Proömium , Hesiod's poetic account of the development of the world and the descent of the gods begins: The cosmos begins with the appearance of six primordial deities. These are Chaos , Gaia , Tartaros , Eros , Erebos and Nyx . It is unclear whether these six arise independently of one another or whether the other five arise out of chaos. Usually, however, the latter is assumed.

Next Gaia gives birth through Eros - without copulation in sleep - Uranos , the sky, the Ourea , the mountains, and Pontus , the sea. Nyx and Erebos beget Aither , the air, and Hemera , the day. The Titans , the Cyclops and the Hekatoncheirs descend from Gaia and Uranos . Uranus hides his children in the earth and does not let Gaia give birth to them. This angered Gaia and she incited Kronos , one of the titans, to overthrow. On her advice, Kronos emasculates his father with a sickle and throws the limb into the sea. By emasculating his father, he becomes the ruler of the second generation of gods. From the blood that falls from Uranos' limb on Gaia, the giants , the Erinyes and the Melian nymphs arise . Aphrodite grows out of the seed of the limb thrown into the pontus .

This first longer narrative is followed by other genealogies. The descendants of the Nyx are enumerated, those of the Pontus and the descendants of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys , the Oceanids and the rivers. This is followed by the descendants of the titans Theia and Hyperion , the titan Kreios with the daughter of Pontos Eurybia and the titans Phoibe and Koios . Finally, the descendants of Kronos and Rhea are named: Hestia , Demeter , Hera , Hades , Poseidon and Zeus .

After Kronos was predicted by Uranos and Gaia that he would be overthrown by one of his sons, he devours his children. However, Rhea manages to hide Zeus and instead let Kronos devour a diapered stone. With a trick, Kronos vomits up the stone and the other children, whereupon Gaia shows them the hiding place of the Cyclops. Zeus frees them and receives the thunder, the detonator and the lightning from the forging Cyclops .

After the description of the birth of Zeus, the genealogy of the Titan Iapetos with the Oceanid Clymene follows . These are all punished by Zeus for their misdeeds, including Prometheus , whose liver is tied to a column and eaten by an eagle until Heracles later frees him. (In other traditions, e.g. in the tragedy of Aeschylus , Prometheus was forged in chains on a rock in the Caucasus by Hephaestus on the orders of Zeus .) The punishment of Prometheus is the only one explained: Prometheus distributed a slaughtered ox, whereby he tried to deceive Zeus. He put the meat in one heap and covered it with skin and stomach; in another heap he put the bones and covered them with fat. Zeus recognized the deception and still chose the pile with the bones, since then people have been sacrificing the bones to the gods and eating the meat themselves. Zeus then hides the fire from people, but Prometheus steals it and brings it back to them. Zeus has Hephaestus make the Pandora out of clay and sends it to the people to bring them misfortune.

After the Prometheus story, the further course of the Titanomachy is described. Zeus and his siblings wage war against the titans for ten years until Gaia reveals the hiding place of the Hekatoncheiren. These are freed and together they defeat the titans and ban them to the Tartaros, where they are guarded by the Hekatoncheirs. This is followed by a longer description of Tartaros and its inhabitants. A final argument follows: After the exile of the Titans, Gaia gives birth to Typhoeus in order to disempower the gods. He almost wins, but is then fought by a lightning bolt from Zeus and banished to Tartaros, where the harmful winds arise from him. After this final battle, Zeus is determined to be ruler by the other gods.

A catalog of Zeus' marriages follows, first with Metis . Gaia prophesies to Zeus that a son of Metis will overthrow him, just as he overthrown Kronos and this Uranus, and then devours his wife. Zeus then gives birth to Athena out of his head. After the marriages with other goddesses, Zeus' connections with mortal women and marriages of the other Olympians follow . Finally, with its own prologue, a catalog of the goddesses who have offspring with mortal men follows.


Hesiod's gods are portrayed as predominantly good and philanthropic, but they also have characteristics and commit acts that were generally considered reprehensible in Greek society. Already Xenophanes threw Homer and Hesiod therefore their anthropomorphism before: All have attached Homer and Hesiod the gods what is in people disgrace: stealing, adultery and deceiving each other!



  • Paul Mazon: Introduction à la Théogonie d'Hésiode. Les Belles Lettres 1928

Web links

Wikisource: el: Θεογονία  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Theogony  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations