If we’re getting into Greek mythology we need to understand the origin of the Gods and their myths:
“According to ancient greek legend, the creation of the world involved a battle between the earth gods, called titans, and the sky gods. The victors were the sky gods, whose home was believed to be atop the Mount Olympos in the northeast corner of the Greek mainland.” – excerpt from Marilyn Stockstad, Art: A Brief History, 5th Edition
This war between the sky gods and the titans was known as titanomachy. It continued on for a long 10 years. But before we get into more detail of this epic battle, understanding the reasons behind it would prove to bring a sense of clarity.
The titans and sky gods were all relatives, it was a battle consisting of aunts/uncles/parents vs. nieces/nephews/children – intriguing, right? There were 12 titans that were ruling, six brothers and six sisters. Each brother paired up with a sister and produced children (this is what they don’t show in our Disney’s Hercules). The titan pair that proves to be most significant of this story is between Kronos (Saturn or Father of Gods) and Rhae (Mother of Gods). Kronos was told by his parents (Earth and Sky) that he would be defeated by one of his children. So he did what he thought was a logical solution – he swallowed each child as soon as they were born (see what I mean by grotesque and explicit?). Because the children were immortal, this did not kill them – Kronos’ logical solution proved to be not-so-logical after all.
Rhae grieved the loss of her children and she searched for a means to prevent further grief. Before the birth of another child (the mighty Zeus), she went to the island of Crete. Here she gave birth to him and hid his cries with the banging of weapons so Kronos would not know about his whereabouts. Instead of giving him a child to swallow she gave him a stone wrapped in cloth. Expecting it to be a child, he swallowed it without any thought.
Zeus grew strong very quickly, and not long after his birth he was able to force Kronos to throw up his siblings. Now this has to be the finest example of sibling love, agreed? This is where the battle originated – straight from the gut of their father to the battlefield. The sons and daughters of the titans (aka, the Sky Gods) versus the their parents (the Titans).
Now venturing back to how this is all related to modern day entertainment, we can see a battle similar to this near the ending of Disney’s Hercules. Although this is a revengeful attack, it does illustrate the battle that once occurred between the two groups and it focuses on the significance that Zeus played because of the repetition of “Zeus” coming from the newly released Titans. In Greek mythology these titans took human shapes. They were much larger and more extravagant, but they did not take the forms of earth elements – like in Disney’s Hercules. Cyclope is the one titan who is appropriately resembled (in a sense). Contrasting with the original myths and this children’s movie, Cyclope was a titan who had actually helped Zeus with the take down of the titans. The portrayal of this Cyclope’s fighting against him is incorrect and is used to enhance the audience’s entertainment.
Now that we’ve established where the Greek Gods came from and understand some of their disturbing backgrounds we can get into further detail about how they were depicted in ancient art and how they are now viewed.