|“||Thus the whole day long till the setting of the sun the Olympians feasted, nor did their heart lack anything of the equal feast.||„|
|~ Homer; The Iliad|
The Elder Gods, sometimes called The Children of Cronus, are the primary figures in Greek mythology around which the entire pantheon is based. While all Gods in Greek mythology are seen as powerful the eldest of them, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter and Hestia are seen as the strongest of their ilk and unsurpassed in power. While not all six possess "heroic" standing all six are vital to the world order, not just in terms of the elements but the social structure of the pantheon.
The era of the Titans
Prior to the birth of the gods the world was ruled by the Titans, giant gods of considerable beauty and power but also capable of tremendous savagery. Cronus the youngest of the titans and titan of time and agriculture ruled over his siblings as the king. Cronus had use a scythe his mother, Gaea, the Earth, had carved for him from her bones to injure, castrate and dethrone his father Uranus, the Sky. Gaea loved her husband but supported the coup to free her Hekegigas and Cyclops children, who like the titans were giants with great power but unlike the titans were also monstrous looking, all of whom Uranus had locked away in the fiery Tartarus because he considered them to be too ugly to walk on his beloved Earth. Cronus however did not free his siblings as promised, sharing his father's opinion that his monstrous siblings were far too ugly to be associated with, instead Cronus took his father's title and powers to become the unquestioned ruler of the universe, keeping his mother's scythe as well so that he could harm even immortals if any opposed him.
- It should be noted that though by all accounts Cronus was cruel and vain, his rule was peaceful for both the titans and mortals, this however is due to 1; the titans being too afraid to oppose him in anyway and 2; the mortal world had no sentient life at the time.
Cronus married his sister Rhea, titaness of woman-hood and light and eventually Rhea became pregnant. However prior to the birth Cronus was told a prophesy, that one of his children would overthrow him, just as he had done to his father (in some myths this was the prediction of Prometheus the titan of foresight, in others it is predicted by the Fates, embodiments of destiny). Fearing for his rule Cronus awaited the birth and then ate his newly born daughter, Hestia. With Hestia absorbed into his body Cronus had effectively incapacitated his child circumventing the prophecy, however his continued relations with his wife would eventually give birth to his second child, Poseidon, whom Cronus proceeded to incapacitate in the same way he had done to Hestia. Following, Cronus would birth Hades, followed by Demeter and then Hera. Rhea became more and more heart-broken with each birth for she knew what awaited each of her children. While expecting the birth of her sixth child, Zeus, Rhea met and conspired with Gaea to arrange for Zeus' safety. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in a small cave hidden away by Gaea and then gave him to Gaea to raise in secrecy on Crete. Gaea hid Zeus in a Cretan cave and had several of her nymphs hammering in the cave frequently to prevent Cronus from hearing young Zeus's cries and took care of him in hopes of using him to fulfill the prophesy and get her revenge on Cronus, meanwhile Rhea had warped a small rock in baby's swaddling and took it with her to see Cronus, who had been looking for her. Cronus, anxious about the child being born, quickly grabbed Rhea's bundle and ate it, so quickly he did not even notice it was a rock.
Gaea raised Zeus, telling him of his destiny and his father's rise to power. Zeus was trained by Gaea to be a great and powerful warrior but she also made him promise routinely that once he fulfilled his destiny that he would free his aunts and uncles, the Cyclopes and Hekegigas from Tartarus. When he was an adult Zeus left Crete to confront his father. Before encountering Cronus Zeus met Metis, titaness of prudence and the two fell in love. Metis advised Zeus on how best to take on Cronus, for confronting him head on was a hopeless fight no matter how strong Zeus had become. Metis said that titans were immortal and so of course defeating Cronus would be pointless unless Zeus also banished him someplace he could not return from, but the thing to keep in mind was gods were immortal too and that meant Zeus' siblings were still alive in Cronus's stomach. Armed with the knowledge of his siblings' continued existence Zeus decided to free his siblings and have them join the fight.
By some accounts Metis gave Cronus a potion that made him vomit up his children and drained his strength by other accounts Zeus stole Cronus's scythe and sliced open his father's stomach, freeing his siblings, each of whom had absorbed a good portion of their father's strength, sapping him of much power.- Either way Zeus soon freed his siblings and weakened his father. As Zeus and his siblings reunited Cronus had escaped and called out to his fellow titans to destroy his children. While Hestia, Poseidon, Demeter and Hera held off the titans Zeus fled to Tartarus to free his aunts and uncles as he had promised Gaea. Zeus not only freed Cronus's monstrous siblings to keep his promises to Gaea, but also because he needed the back-up to take on the titans. The Hekegigas quickly joined the fight but before Zeus joined them the Cyclops's gave him weapons they had forged in Tartarus weapons which like Cronus's scythe could affect even immortals.
Zeus arrived with the Cyclops to find not only the Hekegigas and his siblings fighting but also several of the titans themselves were fighting along side the gods for many had been dissatisfied with Cronus's rule. Joining the gods were the titans Prometheus Epimethius, Hecate, Helios and Metis. Prometheus had foreseen Zeus would win the battle and wanted to be on the winning team, he had advised his brother Epimethius, titan of hindsight, to join the battle. Helios, titan of the sun, sided with Zeus because he found Cronus to be a tyrant he disliked being subject to. Hecate titaness of witchcraft sided with the Elder Gods to oppose her parents, who fought for Cronus. Metis of course sided with the Elder Gods because she had fallen in love with Zeus. Though she did not fight, Mnemosyne, titaness of inspiration, stood to the sidelines cheering on the Children of Cronus. Even joined by the titans and Hekegigas, the gods were just holding off the titans but unable to gain an upper-hand. Zeus distributed the items forged by the Cyclops, giving to Hades a helmet that rendered him in-perceptible, Poseidon was given a Trident that could split earth and Zeus took for himself a blade of pure electricity called a Lightning-Bolt. With the new items and their considerable powers the Gods began turning back the titans. Eventually the titans were defeated and Zeus promptly locked them in Tartarus, leaving the Hekegigas to guard the gates against their callous siblings. Gaea was strongly opposed to the situation, wishing for all her children to be free, but Zeus reminded her he had only promised to free her Hekegigas and Cyclops children, not the titans, who were too dangerous and wild to be left free.
Zeus established himself and his siblings as the new rulers of the universe each was given a base of the world to rule.
- Poseidon was the god of sea and given the oceans to rule. Zeus told Poseidon he would need to rest control of the sea from Nereus, son of Gaea's second husband Pontus, an embodiment of the oceans. Poseidon confronted Nereus but found the old titan had no intent to oppose the new rule and gladly gave Poseidon his title and his choice of wife from one of his one-hundred daughters, the Nereids. Poseidon would choose the Nereid Ampthetrite as his wife and Nereus retired to a small underwater grotto to live out his days.
- Hades was the god of wealth. Zeus assigned Hades rule over the Underworld where he would rule over the dead and keep a watch on the gates of Tartarus to make sure the titans never broke free. Hades had the Elder Cyclops construct unbreakable doors to Tartarus, ones that no god or titan could touch, let alone open once finished. Hades turned the afterlife from a chaotic undefined netherworld to a highly structured headquarters of spiritual checks and balances. Punishing evil souls and rewarding good ones.
- Demeter was goddess of flora and took the earth as her domain. While many other gods took up residence in the heavens or on mountains or cloistered away locations Demeter decided to live in a simple farmhouse in the thick of the mortal world. Zeus gave Demeter control of the planet's overall environment, which Demeter used to create temperate grassy plains and steady weather patterns. Though many gods might alter the weather of Demeter's preferred environment from time to time she established the status-quo of nature and could easily override both Zeus and Poseidon's storms.
- Hera was goddess of marriage and womanhood. Zeus took Hera as his wife, though Hera was hesitant to accept the title. Zeus eventually snuck into Hera's bed while she slept and had his way with her robbing Hera of her virginity. After losing her virginity Hera was quite eager to marry Zeus as she considered it highly improper to sleep with a man she was not married too. Thus did Hera become Zeus's queen, ruling with him. Once queen of Olympus, Hera spent most of her time keeping other gods, including her husband, in line.
- Zeus was god of storms and shared rule of the mortal world with his siblings and later his children but took the sky as his personal domain. Zeus and his sisters built a massive palace on Greece's highest mountain top, mount Olympus and retitled himself and his vassals as Olympians. Since all Zeus's siblings other than Hades decided to live on Olympus with Zeus he held authority over nearly all the gods.
- Hestia was goddess of fire and home. She swore to remain a virgin for all eternity and gladly forwent any official realm to rule, agreeing instead to remain completely subservient to Zeus. As reward for her humility and will-power, and also because she was the eldest of the Children of Cronus, Zeus gave Hestia the keys to Olympus leaving the doors, windows, floors and walls of Olympus entirely at her beck-and-call, though this meant she was the safeguard of the home of the gods, mostly Hestia used this title to gain access to every corner of Olympus to clean it and prepare living quarters for her siblings.
The remaining titans who helped in the battle were pardoned by Zeus from sharing the fate of the other titans but in addition would allow each a place of honor if not official authority, in the world. Zeus asked Prometheus and Epimethius to remake all life on the planet for him, creating mortals that lived in balance with each-other instead of the slew of predators that existed as the titan's subjects. Prometheus crafted every creature and Epimethius gave each a natural gift or defense that allowed them to prosper, among these creations would be humans. Hecate was heiress to the underworld under her parents but due to Hades' needing a kingdom of his own Hecate was denied her birthright, to make up for this Zeus gave Hecate the one thing she craved most, freedom. Hecate was permitted to come and go as she pleased and to freely pass from Olympus, to the heavens, earth, the ocean depths and even the underworld. Zeus also granted Hecate permission to subvert the otherwise solid rules of nature with her power, thus defining the concept of magic. Helios helped build Olympus and was charged with pulling the sun across the sky everyday and as such he was free to join the feasts and parties on Olympus at the end of everyday once his rounds were complete. Though Metis and Zeus were married first, Metis stepped aside to let Zeus and Hera wed but stayed on as Zeus's personal adviser. Rhea retired to Zeus's old home on Crete where the Cretans worshiped her as their patron and was the only titan Zeus allowed to be openly worshiped without any acknowledgement to him or the other Olympians needed, though frequently the Children of Cronus were included in rites to Rhea anyway out of respect. Mnemosyne was given no special treatment but allowed to remain free in thanks for her support. She would arrange many plays and stories in honor of the Titanomachy, most of which were picked up and preformed by her future children the Muses.
The Twelve Olympians
Zeus is seen as the king of all gods that made their home on mount Olympus and invited any who wished to share in his power to be his vassals, creating twelve seats in the hall of Olympus one for each god and extra ones for any important offspring they might have. The Twelve Olympians would share dominion of the earth and be worshiped by mortals, the only condition for sharing in this power was for all such gods to pledge their service to Zeus as the founder of Olympus. Demeter and Hestia pledged their loyalty with no fuss. Hera had been enamored with Zeus and took her place by his side as a vassal at first and later as his wife. Poseidon had his own kingdom to rule and disliked being subject to Zeus, however the promises of being worshiped by mortals was too great a prize for Poseidon to pass up and he was willing to settle for being Zeus's vassal, although Poseidon would frequently get into fights with Zeus over just how much of his loyalty he actually owed him. Hades, unlike Poseidon, refused outright to accept a place on Olympus instead preferring to be left alone but in complete authority over his kingdom; This meant Hades had next to no worshipers and did not come to any meetings or celebrations on Olympus unless specifically requested but considered it a small price to pay for being one of the only gods with absolutely no subservience to Zeus. To maintain his understanding with Hades, Zeus did not interfere in the Underworld, thus ensuring that even gods did not disturb mortal souls once they had passed on. The remaining seven seats of Olympus were reserved for future gods and goddesses, since it was assumed any children of the Elder Gods would be subservient to Zeus by proxy. Even with the main gods and goddesses that would join the Olympians and grow in the world, the six Elder Gods are established to always be the most powerful and easily able to defeat other gods with minimal effort.
While Zeus is seen as the god with most authority he is not the most powerful of his siblings but still one of the most powerful gods. Zeus's power comes partially from being a divine, as all gods are naturally powerful, but the two factors that put his power over that of normal gods are 1: his intense life-long training with Gaea and her nymphs and 2: his theft of Cronus's remaining powers upon his dethroning. The other five Children of Cronus are all as strong as they are because they absorbed bits of their father's power while inside him, growing in power as he did. Because of absorbing Cronus's power while inside him, the older a god is the stronger they are seen, though other factors like intense training or powerful items may off-set this. As such Hestia is seen as the naturally strongest, followed by Poseidon, then Hades, then Demeter and lastly Hera. Since Zeus was not eaten it is speculative where Zeus would fall on that scale but he and his brothers' sacred items each raised them considerably in power, in the otherwise age based scale.
The Children of Cronus
As goddess of fire and home, Hestia had omnipotent control over all fire, and by some accounts all heat. She never left the halls of Olympus, but watched over all homes with ease. It is said that the hearth of each Greek home was Hestia's window to the mortals' world that she watched over them through. To honor her, each Greek City-state had a hearth in the center of town attended by her priestess, the Vestal Virgins. The Vestals kept the flame burning all day everyday and it was considered a bad sign if the fire was ever put out, signifying ruin. Because of this, the Greeks considered the single greatest offense to the Olympians being harming a Vestal or putting out the flame at the center of town. Hestia was seen as the most caring and empathetic of her siblings and she is the only deity that was worshiped uniformly through-out Greece, with a smaller shrine inside every other temple to every other god. Worship of Hestia signified prosperity and divine protection. The later Christian concept of claiming Sanctuary in a Church was based on a rite the temples of Hestia offered before-hand, protecting the poor or even criminals from being harmed if they came seeking safety and redemption.