The Greek God Ouranos: Mythology & Overview

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the Greek god, Ouranos. The ancient Greek god that personified the sky, Ouranos was considered the father to many of the earlier gods of Greek mythology.

Gods In Everything

Many of the modern religions see their version of God in everyday life. Whether it is through protecting a loved one, curing an illness, or just helping someone through a day, many religious believers see their minor miracles everywhere.

While many civilizations of ancient times saw the world through this same lens, each thing had its own god. Even inanimate fixtures in our daily life - rocks, fire, storms - often had their own god in ancient cultures. Another example featured - the sky - is one of Greek mythology's oldest gods: Ouranos.

Who Was Ouranos?

Ouranos was the god which personified the sky in ancient Greek mythology. Together with the mother of the Earth, Gaia, Ouranos fathered the Titans as well as the hundred-handed Hecatoncheires, whom he imprisoned in the pit below Hades, Tartarus. Some stories also claim Gaia fathered Ouranos, as well, as Gaia is usually considered the only entity to have emerged from the Chaos, a Greek term used to describe the void that existed prior to the current universe.

According to myth, prior to the creation of this world, the sky and earth (Ouranos and Gaia, respectively) came together each day, making love and creating children, who existed in the dark space in between them. It was only after the events of the creation myth that the sky became fixed above the earth, as it is today.

Creation Myth

According to myth, Ouranos imprisoned his children, the Titans, within the womb of Gaia, fearing they would overthrow him, as his wife, Gaia, had prophesied. This caused Gaia great pain, and she implored her children to slay Ouranos, even crafting a giant sickle for the purpose. Though most of the children were reluctant, Cronus took the sickle and castrated Ouranos, freeing the rest of the Titans. Additionally, the blood of Ouranos' wound created several orders of nymphs and monsters. In Hesiod's Thogony, the myth claims the event even bore the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. Cronos tossed the castrated genitalia into the sea, and she rose from the froth. This episode is similar in nature to how Zeus would later overthrow Cronus - to the point that Gaia even prophesied Cronus' deposing.

The sickle used to castrate Ouranos was a point of contention and conjecture in the ancient world. Several historians and travelers claimed to know exactly where it had been cast into the sea by Cronus, while others claimed it had been buried deep within the earth below Sicily.

Parallels

Ouranos, as one of the primordial gods of ancient Greece and the personification of the sky, was similar to several other creator and/or sky gods of the ancient world. For example, the Romans, who largely appropriated Greek mythology as their own, simply Latinized his name to Uranus, and observed the same creation story as the Greeks.

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