The Titans were the second group of gods to rule the universe in ancient Greek mythology. Like the other gods and supernatural beings, they represented either physical objects or events in nature, forces of nature, and abstract concepts.

Origins of the Titans

The Titans can be divided into two generations with the first one born from the primordial goddess Gaia, mother earth, and sired by her son, Uranus, father sky. This first brood consisted of twelve offspring evenly divided by sex into six gods, Cronus, Hyperion, Crius, Coeus, Iapetus, and Oceanus, and six goddesses, Rhea, Phoebe, Themis, Theia, Mnemosyne, and Tethys. The remaining Titans are the results of couplings between the first twelve Titans. The pairing of Hyperion and Theia produced the Titans Helios, Selene, and Eos. The mating of Crius and Eurybia, a non-titan goddess, created the gods Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses. The union between Coeus and Phoebe produced the goddesses Leto and Asteria. Oceanus and Tethys spawned 3,000 sons, the Potamoi or gods of all the world’s rivers, and 3,000 daughters, the Oceanids or water nymphs. One of these Oceanids, Clymene, paired with Iapetus to produce the remaining Titan gods Atlas, Prometheus, Menoetius, and Epimetheus. The coupling of Cronus and Rhea produced the Olympian gods.

Rise of the Titans

Conflict arose between Uranus and Gaia when he banished her non-Titan offspring, the Hecatoncheires and the Cyclopes, to Tartarus. The Titans gained control of the universe after Gaia convinced Cronus to overthrow Uranus. During their reign from Mount Othrys, the Titans oversaw a golden age in which the earliest men, created by the Titan Prometheus, enjoyed peace and prosperity.

Fall of the Titans

After his defeat, Uranus warned Cronus that his own children, the Olympian gods, would seize his kingdom from him. To prevent this, Cronus consumed them, but he failed to devour Zeus due to a deception by Gaia. When Zeus was old enough, he liberated the Cyclopes and Hecatoncheires from Tartarus while the Titan goddess Metis, an Oceanid, gave Cronus poisoned wine that caused him to regurgitate his children. Led by Zeus, the Olympians, Cyclopes, Hecatoncheires, and some of the Titans fought the remaining Titans for a decade before gaining victory. Ruling from Mt. Olympus, they cast the defeated Titans into Tartarus. Soon afterwards, the golden age ended when Prometheus passed the secret of fire to humans for which he was punished.

First-generation Titans

Divided into two generations, the original 12 Titans are those directly born from Gaia.

*Cronus: This god’s first role was as ruler of all existence despite being the youngest of the Gaia’s sons. Because he also presided over a golden age of plentiful crops, he also represents a successful harvest and is usually depicted holding a farmer’s scythe.

*Hyperion: One of the first six Titan gods, Hyperion is thought to represent wisdom, observation, and heavenly light.

*Crius: Another of the original Titans, his purpose is not completely clear, but it’s thought he represents the constellations. His wife, Eurybia, is not considered a Titan since she’s fathered by Pontus, the god of the waters and brother of Uranus, instead of Uranus.

*Coeus: A brother of Cronus, his name means inquiry or rational intelligence. Along with these qualities, Coeus also might represent the axis the constellations in the night sky revolve around.

*Iapetus: Another brother of Cronus, this god’s name refers to a piercing wound, and he represents mortality in all living things. In fact, his work might have included deciding the lifespan of each creature on Earth.

*Oceanus: This first-generation Titan represented the sea. In ancient Greek beliefs, the sea was a single ring of water surrounding the continents. It’s also noted that Oceanus stayed neutral in both the Titan uprising against Uranus and the Olympian war against the Titans.

*Rhea: One of the first-born Titans, Rhea served as their queen. Since she gave birth to the Olympians, she is seen to represent fertility and motherhood. In art, Rhea is usually accompanied by lions.

*Phoebe: Wife and sister of Coeus, she represented prophecy and served as an Oracle of Delphi after Themis, her sister.

*Themis: Although one of the first-generation Titans, Themis coupled with Zeus to produce the three Horae or goddesses of the seasons. She represents divine order, natural law, and fairness. Themis is shown in art holding a sword and balancing scales.

*Theia: The first of the Titan goddesses delivered by Gaia, Theia is not given a particular purpose. She is recognized as the mother of Helios, the sun.

*Mnemosyne: A first-generation Titaness, Mnemosyne is the embodiment of memory. She also mated with Zeus to give birth to the nine Muses.

*Tethys: Wedded to Oceanus, Tethys is only recognized for producing the second-generation Titans known as the Potamoi and Oceanids.

Second-generation Titans

A much larger number of second-generation Titans were birthed by the first 12 Titans, and some of them played important roles in mythology.

*Prometheus: One of the most famous second-generation Titans, this god used clay to create the first men. He also gives them fire which makes
civilization possible.

*Atlas: The brother of Prometheus, Atlas was punished for opposing the
Olympian gods by being forced to support the heavens, portrayed as a sphere, on his shoulders.

*Epimetheus: Another brother of Prometheus, this Titan was assigned the work of gifting animals with useful qualities. His failure to grant a helpful ability to men prompted Prometheus to equip them with fire.

*Menoetius: The third brother of Prometheus, Menoetius is noted for having a severe temper and being very impulsive.

*Astraeus: The son of Crius, this Titan is viewed as the embodiment of dusk. He also plays a valuable role as father of the wandering stars or planets and winds.

*Pallas: The brother of Astraeus, Pallas represents warcraft. Wedded to the Oceanid Titan Styx, his children represented the militaristic qualities of zeal, victory, strength, and force.

*Perses: The third son of Crius, this Titan embodies destruction. His daughter, Hecate, became the goddess of magic and was favored by Zeus.

*Helios: The son of Hyperion and Theia, Helios represents the sun and rides across the sky in a radiant chariot.

*Selene: Sister to Helios, she embodies the Moon. At night, she rides a glowing white chariot.

*Eos: The other sister of Helios, Eos represents the dawn. In stories, she either rides a chariot that radiates the morning light or flies using her own wings.

*Asterias: This second-generation Titan is noted as the mother of Hecate.

*Eurynome: Another of the Oceanid Titans, this goddess is known for being one of Zeus’ wives who gave birth to the Graces.