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Theia in Greek Mythology - Story, Powers & Facts

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

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

How did the Greeks explain shimmering? With Theia, of course! In this lesson, we'll get to know this divine figure and see what her role was in Greek mythology.

Theia

Have you ever noticed how parts of the sky almost seem to shimmer? Well, the ancient Greeks had an explanation for that. They called it the aether or ether. It was air of the upper atmosphere which was so pure that it was breathed by the gods (as opposed to the heavy, dirty stuff we mortals breath down here). The aether was originally personified in the primordial deity Aether. However, he was somewhat replaced by a Titaness named Theia. Theia became the female equivalent of Aether, exercising jurisdiction over this shimmering and pure air of the gods, but she was also so much more.

Theia personified the shimmering upper atmosphere
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Origins and Place in Mythology

Two of the oldest primordial deities in Greek mythology were Gaia (the Earth) and Uranus (the sky). These two timeless beings had twelve children, collectively called the Titans. Theia was one of these children, and perhaps the eldest of the six daughters according to some accounts.

As a Titaness, Theia personified a sacred aspect of nature, in this case the aether. Considering that the aether is trapped between the sky and the world, this makes sense for a daughter of Uranus and Gaia. She eventually married her brother Hyperion, a Titan of heavenly light, which also compliments her association with shimmering sky.

Powers and Roles

As we've mentioned, Theia was largely associated with the aether, but that was far from her only role in mythology. Her name actually means ''sight,'' a reference to the unobstructed clearness of the pure skies, as well as her wisdom. It's also worth noting that the Greeks believed sight existed because of beams of light that project from our eyes, and Theia was likely associated with that specific kind of light.

The name is also a reference to the fact that Theia is prophetic— a gift she shares with her sisters. The connection between clarity of sight, wisdom, prophesy, and divinity is actually found all throughout Greek mythology.

Since Theia embodies the shimmering of the sky, she was also associated with other things that glisten. In particular, the Greeks believed it was Theia who gave silver and gold their luminous qualities. This is actually why gold had intrinsic value to the Greeks; it was a divine reflection of Theia.

To the Greeks, Theia gave gold its shimmer and its intrinsic value
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