Uranus | Greek God

Uranus Greek Mythology

Uranus (Greek: Ουρανός, transl. Ouranós, lit. "the one who covers" or "the one who involves"), in Greek mythology, was the deity who personified the sky. The etymology possibly originates from the Sanskrit word that gives its name to Varuna, the Vedic god of Heaven and Night. His Latinized form is Uranus. He was spontaneously generated by Gaia (the Earth) and married his mother. Both were ancestors of most Greek gods, but no cult directly addressed to Uranus survived until classical times, and the god does not appear among the common subjects of ancient Greek pottery. Nevertheless, Earth, Heaven, and Styx could unite in a solemn invocation in the Homeric epic.

Uranus has several sons (and sisters), including the titans, cyclops, and hecatons (giant beings with 50 heads and 100 arms). Hating his children, he keeps them all imprisoned inside Gaia, the Earth. She then instigated her children to rebel against their father.

Kronos, the youngest, took the lead in the fight against Uranus and, using a scythe offered by Gaia, cut his father into several pieces. From the blood of Uranus that fell on the earth, the Giants, the Erinias and the Melias were born.

Most Greeks considered Uranus to be a primordial god (protogens) and did not attribute sonship to him. Cicero states in De Natura Deorum ("From the Nature of the Gods") that he was descended from the ancient gods Aether and Hemera, the Air and the Day. According to the Orphic hymns, Uranus was the son of the night, Nix.

His equivalent in Roman mythology is Caelus or Coelus - from which comes cælum (coelum), whose spelling is heaven.

Creation Myth

According to the myth of the creation of Olympus, related by Hesiod in the Theogony, Uranus came every night to cover the Earth (Gaia), but he hated the children generated.

Hesiod mentions as Uranus' descendants, the titans, six sons and six daughters, the Hecatons, hundred-armed giants, and the one-eyed giants, the Cyclops.

Uranus imprisoned Gaia's youngest children in Tartarus, in the bowels of the Earth, causing Gaia great pain. She forged a scythe and asked her children to castrate Uranus. Only Kronos, the youngest of the titans, agreed. He ambushed his father, castrated him, and threw the severed testicles into the sea.

From Uranus' spilled blood on the earth were born the three erinias, the meliades, and according to some, the Telquines.

From the testicles thrown into the sea was born Aphrodite. Some say that the bloody sickle was buried in the earth, and from this was born the fabulous tribe of the Phaeacians.

After Uranus was deposed, Kronos re- imprisoned the hecatons and cyclops in Tartarus. Uranus and Gaia prophesied that Kronos, in turn, was destined to be overthrown by his own son, and so the titan tried to avoid this fatality by devouring his children. Zeus, thanks to the wiles of his mother Reia, managed to avoid this fate.

These ancient myths of distant origins do not appear in cults in Ancient Greece (Kerenyi, p. 20). Uranus' role is that of a defeated god from a time before real time.

After his castration, the sky no longer came to cover the earth at night, sticking to its place, and "the original generation came to an end" (Kerenyi). Uranus was rarely considered anthropomorphic, apart from the genitalia of the castration myth. He was simply the sky, which was conceived by the ancients as a great bronze dome or ceiling, held up (or kept spinning on an axis) by the titan Atlas.

In archaic expressions in the Homeric poems, ouranos is sometimes an alternative to Olympus, as the home of the gods. An obvious occurrence would be the moment, at the end of Iliad I, when Thetis rises from the sea to plead with Zeus: "and early in the morning she rose to greet Ouranos-and-Olympus, and she found the son of Kronos..."

"'Olympus' is almost always used for home, but Ouranos often refers to the natural sky above us, without any suggestion of gods living there," William Sale commented;

Sale concluded that the gods' first seat was the present Mount Olympus, epic tradition in Homer's time having moved their residence to the sky, ouranos.

By the sixth century, when the "heavenly Aphrodite" was being distinguished from the "common Aphrodite of the people," ouranos meant only the heavenly sphere itself.

Spouses and children

All of Uranus' offspring originated from his union with Gaia, except Aphrodite, born when Kronos castrated him and threw his mutilated genitals into the sea (Thalassa).

Cyclops, one-eyed giants
Hecatons, giants with one hundred arms and fifty heads.

Titans, ancient gods


Erinias (Furies for the Romans)
Meliades, nymphs born of the ash tree

Planet Uranus

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew of only five 'wandering stars' (Greek: πλανήται, planētai): Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Following the discovery of a sixth planet in the 18th century, the name Uranus was chosen as the logical complement to the series: for Mars (Ares in Greek) was the son of Jupiter (Zeus), this one the son of Saturn (Cronos), and this one the son of Uranus.