Rhea: The Eternal Mother And Goddess Of The Cosmos

Greek Mythology is incredibly complex and rooted in ancient cultures and beliefs. With this complexity come several Gods and Goddesses who were known for having an incredible amount of power that affected the universe and all of its movements. Rhea, the daughter of the Earth Goddess Gaia, and the Sky God Uranus were one of the more well-known Gods who played a significant role in the institutions of Greek Mythology. Traditionally, Rhea was considered to be the mother of the Gods, even though she was not seen as an Olympian herself. Because of this, there are a few discrepancies that can be seen in the way that Rhea was perceived by the masses.

According to Greek mythology, Gaia and Uranus set out to create six twins, who were later conferred upon the name of ‘Titans’. Rhea was among these titans and was destined to be someone who held a great amount of power. Another notable child that played a large role in Rhea’s dynasty was Cronus, who was also Rhea’s brother. However, their intertwined faiths led them towards marriage, which further led to six children being born. These children were Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, Hades and Zeus.

Protection Of The Child

One of the most notable acts that Rhea was known to perform was her act of saving one of her children, Zeus. Before the children were born, Cronus was informed by an oracle that one of his six children would overthrow his rule. At that time, Cronus was one of the highest powered Titans in the world, which is why the prospect of him being ousted seemed so grave. To prevent this fate from taking place, Cronus decided to vanquish the children that he bore, which led him to swallow five out of the six children soon after they were born.

The swallowing of her children had a big impact on Rhea; She was devastated, showcasing her emotional side as a mother who wanted to care and protect her children, even if it was from their father. When her sixth child Zeus was born, she decided that she would do everything in her power to prevent the same fate from being bestowed onto him. Not being able to take care of her own children who she bore was something that affected her deeply, which is why she decided to come up with a plan that could help save her youngest son.

Whenever Rhea bore children, it was customary for Cronus to take quick action and eliminate their prevalent threat. Every time a child was born, the baby would be handed over to Cronus so that he could protect his dynasty. Knowing this, Rhea decided to use it to her advantage and trick Cronus. Uranus served as the mediator in this situation, mostly siding with Cronus and supporting him in his decision to safeguard his interests. When Rhea bore her final child, she decided to hand over a rock that was covered entirely in a blanket to Uranus, who was supposed to give the ‘child’ to Cronus then. Because of the disguise, neither Cronus nor Uranus realized that it was not, in fact, the baby, which led to him swallowing a rock clothed in linen.

After the incident took place, Rhea knew that it would not be safe for the child to stay in the presence of Cronus, which is why she then had to come up with a plan to safeguard him, while keeping him away from his father who would do everything to make sure that he was dead. This culminated into Rhea deciding to take Zeus to Crete, which is where the story of Zeus begins. Zeus was not rained by Rhea herself but did go on to do great things. The prophecy eventually came true wherein Zeus overthrew Cronus, in spite of the efforts made to eliminate the possibility of this fate.

Poseiden was also one of the children who bore a similar destiny as Zeus, even though there is contradictory evidence to state whether or not he did succumb to cannibalism at the hands of his father. However, it is believed that Posiden too escaped the clutches of Cronus, and was then handed over to Telchines, who proceeded to bring him up.

Nature And Depiction

Because of her will to protect her son and the love she shared for her children, Rhea came to be known as the Goddess of Fertility and Motherhood. She was primarily associated with the feeling of comfort, protection, and safety, which is also significant because of the meaning of her name. Rhea means ‘to be at ease,’ which is what resonated with the qualities that she showcased. Being a titan, she had a significant amount of power which she used to overcome a number of obstacles. Rhea is also traditionally referred to as the Queen of the Cosmos. When she and Cronus were joined in marriage, they were considered to be the two titans that would restore the eternal flow to the world. Rhea, with her motherly instinct and caring nature, and Cronus, with his indomitable will and drive to lead, were considered to be two of the people that would be able to rule the entire world.

The drive to be a mother is what motivated many of the actions that Rhea partook in during this time. She bears a striking resemblance to her mother Gaia who is also considered to be one of the biggest symbols of motherhood in Greek Mythology. The desire to bring up children of her own was something that stayed with her all through her life, especially because of the implications of the prophecy that was perpetuated. Rhea is claimed to have wanted children, in spite of the hurdles that stood in her way, and proceeded to turn to other nurturing sources to fulfill her need for motherhood. She is considered to be a titan who would regularly be in the company of animals such as lions, which she also looked after as her children.

Because of this association, Rhea is often depicted with lions in the early drawings and sculptures that were showcased around the 4th century. Often, Rhea is shown as riding or standing near a lion, which is often perceived as one that she brought up on her own.

There are also some literary works that depict Rhea and her traits, one of which was in Homer, wherein she was showcased as a mother to some of the most notable Gods in Greek Mythology. She is also featured in The Argonautica by Apollonius wherein the intricacies of her life are delved into further.