Gaea was the Ancient Greek personification of the Earth, and, for all intents and purposes, the Mother of Everything Beautiful in the world. Born spontaneously – either out of Nothingness or out of Chaos – Gaea brought forth (among others) Uranus, with whom she subsequently mated to give birth to the Titans, themselves parents of most of the Olympians. Gaea rebelled against the reigns of all three rulers of the universe (Uranus, Cronus, Zeus), but, ultimately, she had to accept her grandson Zeus as the supreme king of all gods and men.
Gaea (the Earth), “the ever-sure foundation of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus,” was the first deity to be born after Chaos, the gaping emptiness, came into being. She was followed by Tartarus (the Underworld) and Eros (Love). Some believe that these three were, in fact, all children of the dark primeval void, but, most probably, they belonged to the same – the very first – generation of gods.
Gaea’s First Children
First, she lay with her oldest son, Uranus, and gave birth to eighteen children. The first twelve of them were the Titans: six females (Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys), and six males (Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Cronus). Next, she bore the three Cyclopes (Brontes, Steropes, and Arges), and, finally, the three Hecatoncheires (Cottus, Briareos, and Gyges).
Gaea vs. Uranus
Though lustful and unrestrained, Uranus, the Sky, hated his children; so much so, in fact, that he pushed each of them back into the Earth (the womb of their mother) at the very moment of birth. After a while, devastated by grief and pain, Gaea fashioned an adamantine sickle and asked her children to help her oust Uranus from power.
Cronus – who despised his father – was the only one who wasn’t afraid to agree to her plan and, following Gaea’s advice, he hid at a different place in her womb and lay there in waiting for a chance to attack Uranus. The chance came the very same night when Uranus tried sleeping with Gaea yet again. Cronus stretched forth his hand and hacked off his father’s genitals. Afterward, he freed his brothers and his sisters and became the new king of the gods.
Gaea’s Later Progeny
The blood which spurted out of Uranus’ wound sprinkled Gaea and impregnated her with many more children: the three Erinnyes (or Fates), the numerous Gigantes (or Giants) and the even more numerous Meliads (the Nymphs of the Ash Trees).
Gaea vs. Cronus: the Titanomachy
After a brief period of harmony and bliss, Cronus started ruling the world the same way his father had ruled it before him: brutally and autocratically. Alarmed by a prophecy and fearing a rebellion, he imprisoned his brothers, the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, in Tartarus, and swallowed all but the youngest of his six children. The child – who will grow to become Zeus – was saved thanks to the shrewd advice which Gaea gave to Rhea, Cronus’ wife: to replace it with a stone.
However, even after successfully freeing his brothers and his sisters, Zeus was unable to overthrow Cronus – at least not until Gaea advised him to free the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires from Tartarus and form an alliance with them. This did the trick: after ten years, the Olympians finally won the war against the Titans (the Titanomachy), and Zeus became the third ruler of the gods.
Gaea vs. Zeus
Even at his tyrannical worst, Zeus was a far better ruler than his predecessors; however, this mattered not in the slightest to Gaea, since Zeus too dared to imprison some of her children. In his case, naturally, the prisoners were the Titans, left to rot away in Tartarus.
Consequently, Gaea summoned the best of the rest, the Gigantes, and commanded them to get rid of Zeus. That’s how the Gigantomachy started, a war which lasted for a long period, but which, nevertheless, ended with the Olympians prevailing and Zeus cementing his power.
The defeat enraged Gaea. Angered, she mated with her brother, Tartarus, and gave birth to one of the most fearsome creatures in all of Greek mythology: the fire-breathing dragon Typhoeus, the father of all monsters. Typhoeus was such a formidable opponent that he managed to singlehandedly fight off almost all Olympians (including Zeus), before Zeus’ lightning bolts finally overwhelmed him.
After Typhoeus’ demise, Gaea conceded defeat and accepted Zeus as the supreme leader of all gods. To prove her allegiance, she warned her grandson that the child his first wife (Metis) was pregnant with, was destined to overthrow him. Years later, Gaea attended Zeus’ wedding with his seventh – and final – wife, Hera, and gifted the Queen of Olympus the golden apples of the Hesperides.
Who was Gaea?
Gaea was the Ancient Greek personification of the Earth, and, for all intents and purposes, the Mother of Everything Beautiful in the world. Born spontaneously – either out of Nothingness or out of Chaos – Gaea brought forth (among others) Uranus, with whom she subsequently mated to give birth to the Titans, themselves parents of most of the Olympians.
What did Gaea rule over?
Gaea ruled over the Earth.