In the beginning…
Many people in classical Greece believed that at the beginning of time there was only one being, which they called Chaos. (This is not unlike the Jewish idea that “the earth was without form, and void.”)
Gaia and Ouranos
Then came the earth, a goddess called Gaia, and the sky, a god called Ouranos (OO-ran-ohs) (like our planet Uranus). The Greeks thought of the earth as a woman and the sky as a man, because seeds go in the earth and yet it takes both the sky (the rain and the sun) and the earth to grow a crop.
Rhea and Kronos
Mnemosyne, who was the mother of the Muses, was another of Gaia and Ouranos’ children.
The Enuma Elish
Creation in ancient Egypt
And in India
The Bible and Genesis
Native American creation stories
The birth of Aphrodite
Ouranos though was not a good father. He kept his children prisoners in caves inside the Earth (which was Rhea’s womb). So Gaia convinced her youngest son Kronos to attack his father with a flint sickle. Ouranos fled, and Rhea and Kronos became the new rulers of the gods. (Compare this to the older Babylonian story of the Enuma Elish.)
Here’s a video showing the story of Zeus and Cronos
Cronus eats his children
But Kronos was also a bad father. He ate all of his children, to keep them from overthrowing him. Rhea and Gaia hid the little baby Zeus away in a cave on the island of Crete, in Mount Ida, and gave Kronos a rock to eat instead.
Zeus defeats Kronos
When Zeus grew up, he defeated his father Kronos and killed him, and saved all his brothers and sisters. That is how he became the king of the gods.
Learn by doing: Compare this creation story to the Bible and the Enuma Elish
In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World, by Virginia Hamilton (1991).
D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire.
Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1987). By a leading expert. He has sections on each of the Greek gods, and discusses their deeper meanings, and their function in Greek society.