The Greek Goddess Rhea: Mythology, Overview

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  • 0:00 Rhea, a Greek Goddess
  • 0:25 The Family of Rhea
  • 1:33 Mother Rhea & Her Lost…
  • 3:04 The Legacy of Rhea
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Deering

Mary has a Master's Degree in History with 18 advanced hours in Government. She has taught college History and Government courses.

In this lesson, you'll meet Rhea, one of the Greek Titans and the mother of the famous Zeus. You'll discover the tale of the young mother who lost five of her children to a fearful husband and learn how she gained them back.

Rhea, a Greek Goddess

Many ancient cultures told myths and legends about gods or goddesses who influenced and protected humankind. The ancient Greeks developed a complex web of myths and told many different stories about the immortal beings who populated their tales. Rhea was part of the first generation of Greek gods, a group of beautiful immortals called the Titans.

The Family of Rhea

Rhea was the daughter of Gaea, or Mother Earth, and Uranus, the god of the sky. She and 12 brothers and sisters were the first group of Greek gods. Helios, her brother, controlled the movements of the sun, and Selene, her sister, controlled the movements of the moon each night. Her brother Oceanus controlled the river that surrounded the earth, and another brother, Atlas, the strongest of all the Titans, held the sky up so that it would not fall on Earth. Prometheus, her most clever sibling, created humankind out of clay. Like her mother, Rhea was considered a goddess of the earth.

Rhea was also married to her youngest brother, Cronus. It was common in the myths of some ancient societies, like Egypt and Greece, for siblings to marry one another. In some societies, the myths were created to explain and mimic the marriage and family practices of the rulers of the society. In other cases, the marriage of siblings in mythology merely indicated the importance of family and community ties.

Mother Rhea and Her Lost Children

Rhea and Cronus had several children; however, each time Rhea gave birth to a new baby her husband would look down at the infant and grow fearful of the strength and power that the child would grow to possess. More than anything else, Cronus was afraid of being overpowered and replaced by one of his children and so he would swallow each infant whole. Rhea was devastated at the loss of her children, and when she became pregnant for the sixth time she went to her mother and asked for help.

Gaea, who had also lost children because of a fearful husband, agreed to hide the new baby when Rhea gave birth. Rhea gave the infant god Zeus to her mother and presented a stone wrapped in his baby blanket to Cronus. The father did not even bother to look upon the face of his baby before swallowing the rock whole. Meanwhile, Gaea hid the infant safely in a deep cave on the island of Crete and found nymphs to nurse him. Eventually, the baby grew into a strong and clever young god.

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