Mothers in Mythology

by Erin on May 13, 2012

In honor of Mother’s Day this year, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a few famous mothers from mythology.

In the Beginning…

Gaia (or Gaea) was the original Earth Mother - or should I say, Mother Earth - in Greek mythology. Her fertility was quite literally legendary. Indeed, Gaia gave birth to a plethora of important children. In the opening lines of his epic that details the genealogy of the gods, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod writes of Gaia:

“With their divine voices
they first sing the glory of the sublime races of the gods
from the beginning, the children born to Gaia and vast Ouranos
and to their offspring, the gods who give blessings.”

(Hesiod, Theogony, lines 43-46)

A comprehensive list of Gaia’s children would easily be an entire post, so for today, I will stick with some of the more memorable offspring.

With Ouranos (the personification of Heaven), Gaia gave birth to the Cyclopes, Hecatoncheires, and the Titans. Later, from the blood of Ouranos, Gaia produced the Erinyes and the Giants.

All this talk leads me to the next group of mythological mothers…

The Mothers of All Monsters

Monsters of many varieties haunted the imaginations of the ancient Greeks. These creatures are found inhabiting works such as the Odyssey of Homer and the Theogony of Hesiod. But don’t forget that monsters had mothers too. Indeed, many monsters were the offspring of two noteworthy mythological figures, specifically Echidna and Nyx.

Echidna was depicted as either a serpent, or half woman and half snake, in Greek myth. Some of her monstrous spawn include legends like Cerberus, the Chimera, the Hydra of Lerna, and Orthrus.

Nyx is the personification of Night in Greek mythology. Her motley brood features such notables as Hypnos, Thanatos, Eris, Nemesis, and the Moirai (the Fates).

Other Famous Mothers in Mythology

Finally, let’s end this survey of mythological mothers with some of the females who gave birth to legendary heroes and heroines, and in some cases even gods and goddesses. This select list include some of my favorite moms from myth.

Alcmene - The mother of the hero Herakles. Alcmene was especially praised by Hesiod in his work called The Shield.

Leto - Who could forget the lovely Leto in a list of famous mothers? After all, she gave birth to two Olympians, Apollo and Artemis.

Semele - She also bore a divine son to the god Zeus. Semele was the mother of Dionysos.

Thetis - This Nereid married the mortal man Peleus, to whom she bore the hero Achilles.

{ 1 comment }

Nathaniel 10.29.12 at 10:40 am

you forget hera

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