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Generalities Concerning Rǽa

Rǽa - (Rhea, Ῥέα). Rǽa is one of the most important deities of all Ællinismόs (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, for, in addition to many other awesome qualities, she is the mother of Zefs (Ζεὺς), the greatest of all Gods.

Etymology of her name

Various etymologies have been proposed for Ῥέα. The Κρατύλος Πλάτωνος at 402b suggests that she was named after a stream. The Stoic philosopher Krýsippos (Chrysippus, Χρύσιππος) suggested ῥέω "to flow, stream," because rivers flow from the earth (Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta [SVF] 2.318). The Λεξικόν Σταματάκου offers ἔρα "earth" as the etymological source of her name.

The parentage of Rǽa

According to the Orphic theogony, Yaia (Gaia or Earth, Γαῖα) and Ouranós (Uranus or Sky, Οὐρανός) produced the three Kýklôpæs (Cyclôpes, Κύκλωπες) and the three giant Hundred-Handers (Hecatoncheires, Ἑκατόγχειρες), but these children were hated by their father who cast them into the bowels of the earth. This greatly angered Yaia who then produced the Titánæs (Titans, Τιτᾶνες). Rǽa is one of the Titans; her brother is Krónos (Cronus, Κρόνος), their leader. [1]

The ascent of Rǽa and Krónos

At the instigation of his mother, Krónos conspired with his brothers against their father. When Ouranós came to lie with Yaia, they bound and castrated him. This being done, the Titánæs married in pairs and Rǽa and Krónos became the rulers of the Kózmos. Their reign was glorious and is called the Silver Age of the Íroæs (Heroes, Ἥρωες) [2].

The offspring of Rǽa

With Krónos, Rǽa begot Æstía (Hestia, Ἑστία), Íra (Hera, Ήρα), Ploutôn (Plutô, Πλούτων), and Poseidóhn (Poseidôn, Ποσειδῶν) [3]. Rǽa alone gave birth to the Kourítæs (Curetes, Κουρῆτες) [5].

Rǽa and the Rise of Zefs

Krónos was warned by an oracle that he would sire a child who would usurp him [6]. To prevent the fulfillment of this prophecy, and since he did not know which of his offspring would be the one to steal his throne, Krónos began devouring his children as each was born. After five of her children had been consumed, Rǽa conceived a trick to save her next baby. When she gave birth to mighty Zefs (Ζεύς), Rǽa became Dîmítîr (Demeter, Δημήτηρ) [4]. She wrapped a rock in swaddling clothes and presented it to her husband as though it were the newborn child. Krónos promptly swallowed this rock causing him to vomit up all the children. Ploutôn took his seat on earth and Poseidóhn his throne in the sea.

Rǽa now rushed the infant Zefs to the Cave of Nyx (Night, Νύξ) and placed him in the care of the divine goat Amáltheia (Ἀμάλθεια) and the Kourítæs (Couretes, Κουρῆτες) who danced and clanged their armor to prevent Krónos hearing the baby cry. When Zefs grew sufficiently in strength, Nyx advised him to intoxicate Krónos with honey and subdue him in an oaken wood. He related this intelligence to his mother and she held a great banquet for her husband, giving him generous drafts of honey. Krónos became drunk; he wandered into the oaken wood and fell asleep, snoring loudly. Zefs and his comrades bound him and Zefs castrated him, just as Krónos had castrated his own father [7]. From this point forward, Zefs and Íra reign supreme in what is called the Titanic Age...our age...and, together with the Olympians, have dominion over the Kózmos forever. [8]

Rǽa is the Mother of the Gods and the Mother of the Mysteries

Rǽa is deeply connected to the teachings of Orphismós for she is equated with the Mother of the Gods (Μήτηρ Θεῶν), the Phrygian Kyvǽlî (Cybelê, Κυβέλη), who taught Diónysos the Mystíria (Mysteries, Μυστήρια) [9]. Diónysos in turn taught the Mysteries to Khárôps (Charôps, Χάρωψ) to whom he gave the kingdom of Thrákî (Thracê, Θρᾴκη). Khárôps taught the Mystíria to his son Íagros (Oeagros, Οἴαγρος). Íagros taught the Mysteries to his own son, Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς). Orphéfs, in turn, disseminated the Mystíria throughout the world, for whose kindness we are the beneficiaries. [10]

Rǽa and the Three Vasíleiai

Rǽa is second in the progression of personal deities who embody the mystic Earth. These three deities are known as the Three Vasíleiai (Basileiai, βασίλειαι), the Three Queens. The Three Vasíleiai are Yaia, Rǽa, and Íra. Rǽa is, therefore, a pre-form of Íra, which can be illustrated in her Orphic hymn in which she is called the Mother of Gods and men:

μήτηρ μέν τε θεῶν ἠδὲ θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων· (line 9)

"mother of Gods and mortal men"

...the like being said of her consort, in the hymn to Krónos:

Ἀιθαλής [11], μακάρων τε θεῶν πάτερ ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν (line 1)

"Aithír, father of the blessed Gods and men"

...these attributions usually and famously applied only to Íra and Zefs.

The Three Vasíleiai along with their Divine Consorts are:

Yaia (Gaia, Γαῖα) and Ouranós (Uranus, Οὐρανός)

Rǽa (Rhea, Ῥέα) and Krónos (Cronus, Κρόνος)

Íra (Hêra, Ήρα) and Zefs (Ζεύς)

The Orphic Hymn to Rǽa [12]

14. Rǽa [Rhea, Ῥέα]

The Fumigation from Aromatics.

Daughter of great Protogonus, divine,

Illustrious Rhea, to my pray'r incline,

Who driv'st thy holy car with speed along,

Drawn by fierce lions, terrible and strong.

Mother of Jove, whose mighty arm can wield

Th' avenging bolt, and shake the dreadful shield.

Drum-beating, frantic, of a splendid mien,

Brass-sounding, honor'd, Saturn's blessed queen.

Thou joy'st in mountains and tumultuous fight,

And mankind's horrid howlings, thee delight.

War's parent, mighty, of majestic frame,

Deceitful saviour, liberating dame.

Mother of Gods and men, from whom the earth

And lofty heav'ns derive their glorious birth;

Th' ætherial gales, the deeply spreading sea

Goddess ærial form'd, proceed from thee.

Come, pleas'd with wand'rings, blessed and divine,

With peace attended on our labours shine;

Bring rich abundance, and wherever found

Drive dire disease, to earth's remotest bound.

14. Ῥέας

θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.

Πότνα Ῥέα, θύγατερ πολυμόρφου Πρωτογόνοιο,

ἥτ’ ἐπὶ ταυροφόνων ἱερότροχον ἅρμα τιταίνεις,

τυμπανόδουπε, φιλοιστρομανές, χαλκόκροτε κούρη,

μῆτερ Ζηνὸς ἄνακτος Ὀλυμπίου, αἰγιόχοιο,

πάντιμ', ἀγλαόμορφε, Κρόνου σύλλεκτρε μάκαιρα,

οὔρεσιν ἣ χαίρεις θνητῶν τ' ὀλολύγμασι φρικτοῖς,

παμβασίλεια Ῥέα, πολεμόκλονε, ὀμβριμόθυμε,

ψευδομένη σώτειρα, λυτηριάς, ἀρχιγένεθλε·

μήτηρ μέν τε θεῶν ἠδὲ θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·

ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ καὶ γαῖα καὶ οὐρανὸς εὐρὺς ὕπερθεν

καὶ πόντος πνοαί τε φιλόδρομε, ἀερόμορφε·

ἐλθέ, μάκαιρα θεά, σωτήριος εὔφρονι βουλῆι,

εἰρήνην κατάγουσα σὺν εὐόλβοις κτεάτεσσιν,

λύματα καὶ κῆρας πέμπουσ' ἐπὶ τέρματα γαίης

Thomas Taylor's notes to the Orphic hymn to Rǽa:

* Rhea, according to the Orphic and Platonic theology, is one of the zoogonic (producing offspring from within the body of the parent) or vivific (giving life) principles of the universe; having a maternal rank among the universal paternal orders, i. e. between Saturn (Κρόνος) and Jupiter (Ζεύς). Hence she calls forth the causes latent in Saturn to the procreation of the universe; and definitely unfolds all the genera of the Gods. So that she is filled from Saturn, with an intelligible and prolific power, which she imparts to Jupiter, the Demiurgus (Dimiourgós) of the universe; filling his essence with a vivific abundance. Since this Goddess then is a medium between the two intellectual parents of the universe, Saturn and Jupiter, the former of which collects intellectual multitude into one, but the other scatters and divides it. Hence says Proclus, in Theol. Plat. p. 266. this Goddess produces in herself the demiurgic (generative) causes of the universe; but imparts her diffusive power abundantly to secondary natures. On p. 138 this account Plato assimilates her prolific abundance to the flowing of waters; signifying nothing more by the word flowing, than that fontal power, by which she singularly contains the divine rivers of life. And, p. 267. Proclus informs us, that this Goddess, according to Orpheus, when considered as united to Saturn by the most exalted part of her essence, is called Rhea: but considered as producing Jupiter, and, together with Jove (Ζεύς), unfolding the universal and particular orders of the Gods, she is called Ceres (Δημήτηρ).

Ver. 1.] Daughter of great Protogonus. In the note to Hercules (Heracles, Ἡρακλῆς) it appears that Rhea is one of the progeny of the intellectual earth, resident in Phanes; and from the note to Hymn 5, to Protogonus, we learn from Proclus, that Phanes is to be considered in the intelligible as well as in the intellectual orders. Hence Rhea is, with perfect agreement to the Orphic theology, the daughter of Protogonus, considered as subsisting among the intelligible Gods.

Ver. 4.] Drawn by fierce lions, &c. I have here followed the correction of Pierson, who reads ταυροφόνων for ταυροφόρον: for Rhea is the same with the mother of the Gods, who is celebrated in the Hymn to her, as seated in a car drawn by lions.

Ver. 7.] Drum-beating. Rhea, in the Orphic theology, is among the mundane divinities, the earth. Hence, according to Varro, she is represented with a drum; because that instrument is a symbol of the earth. (Marcus Terentius Varro apud Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis De Civitate Dei, liber 7)

XIII Ver. 12.] Deceitful saviour. When Jupiter was born (says the fable) his mother Rhea in order to deceive Saturn, gave him a stone wrapped in swaddling bands, in the place of Jove; informing him that was her offspring. Saturn immediately devoured the stone; and Jupiter who was privately educated, at length obtained the government of the world. With great propriety, therefore, is she called by the poet a deceitful saviour. This fable, according to Phurnutus, signifies the creation of the world. For at that time Nature (which among elementary essences is the same with Jupiter) was then nourished in the world, and at length prevailed. The stone devoured by Saturn is the earth, alluding to its firmly occupying the middle place: for says Phurnutus, beings could not abide without such a foundation for their support. From this all things are produced, and derive their proper aliment. Opusc. Mythol. p. 147.


[1] Orphic fragment 114. (95) σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Τιμαίου Πλάτωνος 40e (III 184, 1 Diehl):

ἑπτὰ μὲν εὐειδεῖς κούρας (ἑλικώπιδας, ἁγνάς,)

ἑπτὰ δὲ παῖδας ἄνακτας (ἐγείνατο λαχνήεντας

θυγατέρας μὲν (τίκτε?) Θέμιν καὶ ἐΰφρονα Τηθὺν

Μνημοσύνην τε βαθυπλόκαμον Θείαν τε μάκαιραν,

ἠδὲ Διώνην τίκτεν ἀριπρεπὲς εἶδος ἔχουσαν

Φοίβην τε Ῥείην τε, Διὸς γενέτειραν ἄνακτος·

παῖδας δὲ ἄλλους τοσούτους·

Κοῖόν τε Κρῖόν τε μέγαν Φόρκυν τε κραταιὸν

καὶ Κρόνον Ὠκεανόν θ' Ὑπερίονά τ' Ἰαπετόν τε.

(Yaia begot:) “Indeed seven comely daughters (with rolling eyes, holy)

Daughters indeed (begotten) Thǽmis (θέμις) and cheerful Tîthýs (Τηθύς)

Both thick-haired Mnîmosýnî (Μνημοσύνη) and happy Theia (Φεία),

And she begot Dióhnî (Διώνη) possessed of splendid form,

And Phívî (Φοίβη) and Rǽa (Ῥέα), the mother of Zefs (Ζεὺς) the king.

"Now the other children were as many,

'Kíos (Κοῖος) and Kreios (Κρεῖος) and mighty Phórkys (Φόρκυς) and Krónos (Κρόνος), Okæanós (Ὠκεανός), both Ypæríôn (Ὑπερίων) and Iapætós (Ἰαπετός).' ”

(trans. by the author)

Cf. Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 133.

[2] Orphic frag. 140. σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Πολιτείας Πλάτωνος II 74, 26 Kr.

ὁ μὲν θεολόγος Ὀρφεύς τρία γένη παραδέδωκεν ἀνθρώπων· πρώτιστον τὸ χρυσούν, ὅπερ ὑποστῆσαι τὸν Φάνητά φησιν· δεύτερον τὸ ἀργυροῦν, οὗ φησιν ἄρχαι τὸν μέγιστον Κρόνον· τρίτον τὸ Τιτανικόν, ὅ φησιν ἐκ τῶν Τιτανικών μελῶν τὸν Δία συστήσασθαι

"The theologian Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς) taught that there are three generations of men: the very first a golden age, which, he says, Phánîs (Φάνης) was the very one to create; the second is silver, where he says that the sovereignty was with mighty Krónos (Κρόνος); the third is the Titanic age, he says, which Zefs (Ζεύς) composed from the limbs of the Titans."

(trans. by the author)

Orphic frag. 141. σχόλιον Πρόκλου επὶ Ἔργων καὶ Ἡμερῶν Ἡσιόδου 126 (Gaisf. II 121, 18):

ὁ μὲν Ὀρφεὺς τοῦ ἀργυροῦ γένους βασιλεύειν φησὶ τὸν Κρόνον

“Truly, Orphéfs (Ὀρφεὺς) says Krónos reigns over the silver race.”

(trans. by the author)

In Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι Ἡσιόδου (Works and Days) 109 and elsewhere, the reign of Rǽa and Krónos is called the Golden Age.

[3] As the Orphic evidence of the progeny of Rǽa and Krónos is fragmentary, for convenience we are assuming the progeny to be the same as found in Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 453.

[4] Orphic frag. 145. (106. 128) σχόλιον Πρόκλου επί Κρατύλου Πλάτωνος 403e, (90, 28 Pasqu.):

Ῥείη τὸ πρὶν ἐοῦσα, ἐπεὶ Διὸς ἔπλετο μήτηρ, Δημήτηρ γέγονε.

“Formerly she was Rǽa, but having become mother of Zefs, she became Dîmítîr.”

(trans. by the author)

[5] Orphic frag.150. ἀπορίαι καὶ λύσεις περὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀρχῶν Δαμασκίου 278 (II 150, 22 Rue.):

μόνη δὲ ἡ Ῥέα τους Κούρητας ἀπογεννᾶι,

"while by herself, Rǽa generates the Kourítæs" (trans. by the author)

[6] Orphic frag. 56b. Tyrannius Rufinus’ trans. of Recognitiones (pseudo-Clement) X 18 (Ed. Basil. 156, Migne PG 1, 1429):

"sed de illis sex maribus unus, qui dicitur Saturnus, in coniugium accepit Rheam, et cum responso quodam commonitus esset, quod qui ex ea naseratur for | tior ipso futurus esset regnoque eum depelleret, omnes qui ei nascerentur filios deuorare instituit."

"But of these six (Titanic) males, the one who is called Saturn (Κρόνος) received in marriage Rhea, and having been warned by a certain oracle that he who should be born of her should be more powerful than himself, and should drive him from his kingdom, he determined to devour all the sons that should be born to him." (trans. Thomas Smith, 1886.)

[7] This according to the Orphic theogony. A different version of the story can be found in Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 459-506, where the stone which Krónos ate did not cause him to disgorge the children, but, rather, he was given an emetic later when Zefs grew in strength.

[8] The acquisition of power by Zefs is told differently in Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου where, after the children are vomited up from an emetic, there is no castration, but, rather, Zefs defeats Krónos in a ten year war known as the Titanomakhía (Titanomachy or Battle of the Titans, Τιτανομαχία). Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 617-735.

[9] Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου 3.5.1.

[10] Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική Διοδώρου 3.65.4-6.

[11] Perhaps from αἰθάλη which can mean "sublimed vapour," i.e. αἰθήρ (Liddell and Scott), or perhaps an alternate spelling of ἀειθαλής meaning "ever-blooming."

[12] trans. Thomas Taylor, 1792.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

This logo is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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