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Phoebe in Greek Mythology - Story, Family Tree & Facts

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Greek mythology was full of powerful figures, but not all of them were gods. In this lesson, we'll get to know Phoebe and see how she impacted Greek mythology.

Phoebe

Some of the Greek gods were associated with some pretty complex and even abstract ideas — time, memory, and prophesy. These attributes usually came through their connections to an older generation of deities, known as the Titans. In Greek mythology, Titans were parents of the gods who passed incredible powers through their lineages. One Titaness to have this kind of influence in Greek mythology was Phoebe.

Roman depiction of Phoebe, among several godesses
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Phoebe and Her Family

Phoebe was a Titaness and deity associated with prophecy, and specifically the shining light and bright intellect that Greeks attributed to the gift of prophesy. With such a special power, it's no surprise that Phoebe's lineage included some important figures. Her mother was Gaea, the personification of the earth and one of the oldest primordial deities in the Greek religion. Her father was Uranus, personification of the sky. This made Phoebe one of the 12 original Titans born to these parents.

Phoebe herself ended up marrying her brother Coeus, a Titan of intellect and embodiment of the inquisitive mind. So Phoebe represented the bright intellect, and he was inquisitiveness. They were a good match. It is worth noting that in later myths, Phoebe was prone to lustful attraction to mortal men, but nothing ever came of it.

Together, Phoebe and Coeus had two daughters. As with most of the older Titans, this was their main contribution to Greek mythology. Their first daughter was Asteria, a Titaness of oracles and prophecies. Asteria herself was the mother of Hecate, a goddess of magic. Asteria also plays an important role in Greek mythology as one of the many beautiful women to inspire Zeus' insatiable lust. Zeus pursued Asteria across the world until she transformed herself into an island to escape him. The Greeks know it as the island of Delos.

Phoebe's other daughter was Leto, a Titaness of modesty and motherhood. Leto was also very beautiful and also captured the attention of Zeus. From this union, she became pregnant with twins. She was chased around the world, however, by Zeus' wife, Hera. Hera was determined never to let Leto rest so that she could not give birth. Eventually, Leto came upon the island of Delos (her sister), which gave her shelter and refuge, hiding her from Hera. There, Leto gave birth to the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis.

From left to right: Leto, Apollo, and Artemis
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Phoebe and Prophecy

Through her own attributes and through her children and grandchildren, Phoebe was closely associated with the concept of prophecy. She was even said to have once held the rite of the oracle at Delphi. She was the third deity to do so; first Gaea had been in charge of overseeing the gift of prophecy at this sacred site, and then it passed to the Titaness Themis, who passed it to Phoebe. This was perhaps Phoebe's greatest significance in Greek mythology — not that she held the Oracle of Delphi but that she passed authority over prophetic light to her grandson, Apollo, and taught him how to use to the oracle.

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