The Greek Titans were the first race of Greek gods. There were 12 Elder Titans who were born from the union of Uranus, God of the sky, and Gaia, God of the earth.
The Greeks thought of the titans as extremely huge beings with a human form who controlled and manipulated the universe. There were 6 male Elder Titans, Cronus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus. And there were 6 female Elder Titans, Rhea, Tethys, Themis, Theia, Phoebe, Mnemosyne.
There were also a number of Titan children who came from the union of different Elder Titans. Prometheus, Epimetheus and Atlas were just a few of them.
The 12 Elder Greek Titans each have some interesting powers, symbols, stories and facts. So, lets dive in!
The 12 Titans in Greek Mythology
1. Cronus (Kronus) – Titan God of the Universe and Time
Cronus was the youngest son of the 12 titan children of Uranus and Gaia. He married his elder sister, Rhea, and had 6 children who became the Olympian gods Zeus, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Demeter. Cronus was strongly associated with time or destructive time.
Uranus, the father of Cronus, was a cruel king. In one of the major Greek myths, Uranus imprisoned the one hundred-handed giants and the one-eyed giants. They were brothers to Cronus and sons to Gaia. Gaia was greatly angered by this act and persuaded Cronus to overthrow his father. Cronus along with 4 brothers, Hyperion, Crius , Coeus and Iapetus, held down Uranus. Cronus then castrated him with a sickle. Thus Cronus became king and ruler of the universe.
In the end Cronus wasn’t a much better ruler than his father. When Cronus took power, both Uranus and Gaia gave a prophecy that one of the sons of Cronus would eventually overthrow him. Because of this, every time Rhea gave birth to a child, Cronus would swallow the child. When Zeus was born, Rhea managed to switch him for a rock which Cronus swallowed thinking it to be his son. Rhea then hid Zeus with some nymphs. When Zeus grew up, he returned and forced Cronus to vomit up his brothers and sisters. Then began the Titanomachy, a great battle with the Olympian gods against the Titans. Zeus and the Olympians were eventually victorious.
Cronus disappeared, and the Greeks believed he was either hiding in the mountains or he was killed by Zeus and his body along with that of his father Uranus was thrown into the ocean. Another story is that he was thrown into the pit of Tartarus along with the other Titans and there he was guarded by the one hundred-hand giants.
Cronus (Kronus) – Quick Facts
- Personality – Vengeful, cruel, angry.
- God of – The universe, time, the other titans.
- Symbols – The sickle
- Children – Zeus, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Demeter
- Roman Name – Saturn
2. Coeus (Koios) – Titan God of the North, the Rational Mind and Intellect
Coeus was the son of Uranus and Gaia. He married his sister Phoebe and together they had three children, Lelantos, Leto and Asteria. In a later myth, Leto would have an affair with the Olympian god Zeus and together they would have 2 very important children, Apollo and Artemis. These children were both part of the Olympian pantheon and were major characters in many of the Greek myths.
Coeus is the Titan god of the North and the celestial axis. He was also thought to be the Titan god of intellect, the rational mind, the inquisitive mind, reason and foresight. Along with his wife he is also associated with prophecy, a trait they passed down to their grandson Apollo. Coeus was one of the 4 brothers that helps Cronus to overthrow Uranus. He held down one of the corners of the sky which represents Uranus while Cronus castrated him.
Coeus was thrown into Tartarus along with his brothers. While down there, he went mad and tried to escape. He broke free from his chains, however the multi-headed guard dog Cerberus stopped him from leaving.
Coeus (Koios) – Quick Facts
- God of – The north, intellect, the rational mind, the inquisitive mind, reason and foresight.
- Children – Lelantos, Leto and Asteria
3. Crius (Krios) – Titan God of the South and Constellations
Crius was the son of Uranus and Gaia. He married his half sister Eurybia who was the goddess of mastery of the seas. Together they had 3 children, Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses.
He is god of the South and often described as the god of constellations. He is often described as being ram-shaped and his children also are described as having animal features.
Crius was another of the titan brothers who helped Cronus to overthrow Uranus. He held down the South corner of the sky while Cronus castrated Uranus.
He is said to have possibly been involved in the War of the Giants, and along with his brother spent much of his latter days in Tartarus.
Crius (Krios) – Quick Facts
- God of – The south and constellations
- Symbols – The ram
- Children – Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses
4. Hyperion – Titan God of the East and Watching from Above
Hyperion was the eldest son of Uranus and Gaia. He married his sister, Theia and together they had 3 children. These were Helios, god of the sun, Semele, goddess of the moon and Eos, goddess of the dawn. His sons and daughters played significant roles in later Greek myths. Hyperion translates as he who watches from above.
Hyperion was the god of the eastern pillar holding up the sky. He was also the god of heavenly light. He is believed to have put into order the cycles of the sun and moon and therefore to have fixed days and months. Both he, his wife and his children are associated with sight and light. They are seen as always watching. In the later myths, Helios is often consulted as a witness to any events that take place on earth.
Hyperion was involved in the overthrow of Uranus, and he held down his father from the east when Cronus castrated him. When the titans were overthrown by Zeus, Hyperion was cast into the pit of Tartarus.
Hyperion – Quick Facts
- God of – The east and watching from above.
- Symbols – Heavenly light
- Children – Helios, Semele and Eos
5. Iapetus (Iapetos) – Titan God of the West, Death and Craftsmanship
Iapetus was another son of Uranus and Gaia. He married Themis and together they produced some very famous titan children, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas and Menoitios. Prometheus was famous for taking the side of Zeus in the Titanomachy and also as the creator of the first men and the giver of fire. Epimetheus was famed for being a bit of a fool and went on to marry Pandora. Atlas was famous as the titan who held up the sky in the time of the Olympians.
Iapetus was the god of mortality, death and possibly craftsmanship. Craftsmanship and mortality are important as his sons, in particular Prometheus was often creating and crafting things including the first mortal humans. Iapetus was also the god of the west from where he held up the sky. Later, his son Titan would take over this role.
Hyperion was the fourth and final titan to help Cronus overthrow their father Uranus. He held down his father from the west. When Zeus overthrew Cronus, Hyperion was imprisoned in Tartarus.
Iapetus – Quick Facts
- God of – The west, mortality, death and craftmanship.
- Children – Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas and Menoitios
6. Oceanus – Titan God of the Ocean and Rivers
Oceanus was the son of Uranus and Gaia. He married his sister Tethys and together they gave birth to the Potamoi, 3000 sons, and the Oceanids, 3000 daughters, some of whom gave their names to areas of the earth and rivers.
Oceanus was the god of the ocean and the source of all fresh water. He was believed to encircled the disc like earth. He was usually depicted as a serpent or fish-like with a long tail.
Oceanus is different from his fellow titan brothers in that he didn’t participate in the overthrow and castration of his father Uranus. He also wasn’t involved in the Titanomarchy in which Zeus overthrew Cronus. Subsequently, he wasn’t thrown into Tartarus. Oceanus also features in 1 of the 12 Labours of Heracles. The god gives Heracles the golden cup of Helios which he uses to reach the island on which Geyron lives and steal all of his cattle.
Oceanus – Quick Facts
- God of – The ocean, rivers and fresh water.
- Children – The Potamoi and Oceanids
7. Rhea (Rheia) – Titaness of Fertitlity, the Flow of Time and Mountains
Rhea was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. She was also the sister and wife of the Titan Cronus. Together they had 6 children, the major Olympian gods, Zeus, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Demeter. She was described as the queen of the Titans as well as being the goddess of fertility, motherhood and mountains.
Her most famous myth is that of the deception of Cronus, her husband. When Cronus had overthrown his own father, Uranus, he had received a prophecy stating that he too would be overthrown by his own child. As with many of the Greek myths, those subject to a prophecy believe they can defy fate.
Thus, every time Rhea fell pregnant and then gave birth, Cronus would swallow his child. By the time Rhea was to give birth to her 6th child, Zeus, she had had enough. She tricked Cronus into eating a rock thinking it was the child. She then hid Zeus until he was fully grown. Upon returning, he fought his father, rescued his brothers and sisters and became king himself.
In the age of the Olympian gods, Rhea reigned as the earth-goddess and seldom meddled in the affairs of the Gods. That being said, she was always happy to give advice and counsel to her sons and daughters.
Rhea (Rheia) – Quick Facts
- Goddess of – Fertility, the flow of time, motherhood, the mountains.
- Symbols – The cymbal, the lion
- Children – Zeus, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Demeter
8. Tethys – Titaness of Nursing and Fresh Water
Tethys was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia as well as the wife of the Titan Oceanus. She had a lot of children who went on to become minor gods and goddesses. There were the 3000 ocean nymphs called the Oceanids, also Metis the first wife of Zeus, Electra mother of Iris the Goddess of the rainbow and finally the Harpies. She was believed to be the primal source of all fresh water.
Unlike many of the other Titans, Tethys and Oceanus were not involved in the overthrow of Uranus or also in the Titanomarchy and the overthrow of Cronus. Therefore she maintained her goddess role along with her husband throughout the ages. She cared for all the inhabitants of water, including fish, dolphins, and other sea monsters and creatures.
Tethys – Quick Facts
- Goddess of – Nursing, Fresh water, the rivers.
- Children – The Potamoi, Oceanids and the Harpies.
9. Themis – Titaness of Divine Law and Prophecy
Themis was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. Her first husband was the Titan Iapetus, by whom she bore some famous sons including the father of man, Prometheus. To him she gave the gifts of wisdom and and prophecy. She also become the lover of Zeus and bore him the Fates and Hours.
Themis was one of the more important Titans in the Greek myths. As the mother of Prometheus she gave him many gifts and much advice to help him with his many challenges. She also warned her son Titan that one day a son of Zeus would try to steal the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. As a Goddesses of prophecy she watched over the famous oracle at Delphi. She also represented law and justice, governance and cordiality.
Themis – Quick Facts
- Goddess of – Divine law, justice, oracles, prophecy
- Children – Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, Menoitios, the Fates and the Hours.
10. Theia – Titaness of Sight and Precious Metals
Theia was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia and the wife of Hyperion. Together they had three children, Helios the Sun, Eos the Dawn, and Selene the Moon. She was the goddess of the blue sky along with sight. She, along with her husband and children are often associated with sight and light. She was said to have also given gold, silver and precious stones their value through her radiance.
Her son Helios was said to ride a blazing chariot dragging the sun across the blue sky from east to west, at night he would ride the ocean that circled the earth back to the east. Her daughter Eos was said to travel before her brother announcing his arrival. Selene was said to ride a chariot with the moon at night.
Theia – Quick Facts
- Goddess of – Sight, precious metals and stones, the light of the blue sky
- Children – Helios, Eos and Selene.
11. Phoebe – Titaness of the Bright Intellect
Phoebe was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia and the wife of Coeus and together they had 3 children, Lelantos, Leto and Asteria. Leto was important in later Greek myths as the mother of the 2 Olympian gods Apollo and Artemis. She was said to be the 3rd protector of the Oracle at Delphi. She later passed on this role to her grandson, Apollo.
Her daughter Leto was the lover of Zeus and when she was pregnant with the twins Apollo and Artemis she was relentlessly attacked by the wife of Zeus, Hera. She eventually found safety on the island of Delos and gave birth to her son and daughter.
Phoebe – Quick Facts
- Goddess of – The Oracle of Delphi, the bright intellect
- Children – Lelantos, Leto and Asteria.
12. Mnemosyne – Titaness of Memory and Language
Mnemosyne was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. She partnered with Zeus to produce the 9 Muses. The Muses were Greek deities who inspired musicians, artists, poets and dancers to produce and perform great works. She was the goddess of memory, memorisation, language and words.
She was also seen as one of the guardians of the oracle. Her name translates as memory. And as the goddess of remembrance and recollection she was seen as very important to the continuation of oral history.
Mnemosyne – Quick Facts
- God of – Memory, memorisation, language and words
- Children – The muses.
The Greek myths are forever introducing us to some weird and wonderful characters. The 12 Greek Titans are no exception. While their back stories haven’t been as fleshed out as those of the 12 Olympian gods, they are still a fascinating foundation from which many of the most important characters in Greek mythology come from.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of the 12 Greek Titans, please feel free to criticise and comment below. Thanks!