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Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
Table of Contents


 

 

THE ELDER GODS

[67]

T
HE Greeks did not believe that Zeus and the other gods of Mount Olympus were the only ones that had ever ruled over the world. They thought that there had been other great gods long before Zeus, or Poseidon, or Hades, had even been born.

Uranus was the first ruler of the gods, while the earth was still young, and there were yet no men on it to be governed. He had many children, who were called Titans. These were huge, fierce gods, and even their father sometimes found it difficult to control them. Indeed, some of them were so strong and terrible that Uranus did not dare to allow them the freedom of the earth and sky, but kept them shut up tight and fast in the very deepest and darkest places inside the earth. Three of these prisoners were giants, each with a hundred hands; and others of them had only one great eye in the middle of the forehead.

[68] Uranus may have been quite right in dreading these strange gods, and putting them away where they could do no harm; but their mother was angry when she discovered that they had been fastened in the depths of the earth. She was not strong enough herself to set them free, so she could only try to punish Uranus for his cruelty. She gave her youngest son Cronus a sharp sickle for weapon, and told him to drive his father Uranus from the throne of the gods.

Cronus succeeded in wounding Uranus, and took the throne himself; and he and the other Titans ruled together for a long time. But Cronus never felt secure upon his throne; for he was always fearing that one of his own children would overthrow him, as he had overthrown his father. At last this really came to pass. Zeus and Hades and Poseidon were the children of Cronus; and after many years they rose against him, and drove him from the throne.

But although their king was conquered, the other Titans did not give up without a struggle. There were many of them, and they were still very strong and powerful; so they tried to regain what had been conquered by the younger gods. The battle between them lasted for ten long years, and the Titans seemed almost victorious. But at last Zeus set [69] free the hundred-handed and one-eyed giants from their prison in the earth, and asked them to help him. Then they came rushing to his aid, bringing thunder and lightning and earthquakes as weapons. With their help the Titans were conquered, and buried deep under the islands of the sea, so that they might never make further trouble.

Zeus kept the thunder and lightning, which the giants had brought, as his especial weapons, and ruled as king of the younger gods. But he felt as unsafe upon his throne as his father Cronus had felt before him. He was always fearing lest some one of the gods should become stronger than he and conquer him, as he had conquered Cronus, and Cronus had conquered Uranus.

Sometimes the gods were afraid of those who were not gods at all, and who were much less powerful than the Titans whom they had conquered. Perhaps you will remember Otus and Ephialtes, the two young giants who put Ares in a vase, and kept him shut up fro so many months. After they had succeeded so well with Ares they seemed to think that it would be a good plan to treat all the gods in the same way, so that men might be left to themselves upon the earth, with no one to rule over them, [70] or tell them what they should or should not do. So they set about making war upon the gods. As they were mortals, like the other men upon the earth, Otus and Ephialtes could not follow the gods high up in heaven; so to get at them they began to pile one mountain on top of another. When the gods saw the two young giants moving the great mountains of the earth, they were afraid for a while that they might be driven from their homes in the sky. But Apollo, the archer, came down from heaven in a cloud, and soon the two giants were shot dead by the arrows from his golden bow.


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