Titanomachy: Zeus vs Cronus

Cronos dethroned his father, but as he ruled with the same evil spirit he was himself dethroned by his own son.

Uranus dethroned

It is told that Uranus, the first ruler of the universe, hated his own offspring and kept the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES imprisoned in the depth of the earth. This cruelty grieved their mother Gaia who encouraged the TITANS to revolt against their father.

They did overthrow him, but the new ruler Cronos abstained from restoring justice, and shut his brethren up in the same dark depth again. Revolt breeds revolt in ever swifter succession, and that may be the reason why both Gaia and Uranus foretold Cronos that in turn he would be dethroned by his own son.

Having heard the prophecy, Cronos began to swallow his children at birth, a method that, while seeming to prevent fate, enraged his wife Rhea, who saw herself always pregnant and yet never a mother. So while expecting Zeus, she went to Crete, and gave him birth in a cave, giving Cronos a stone wrapped in clothes to swallow, as if it were the newborn child. This is how Zeus escaped being devoured by his father.

When he had grown up, he asked Metis to help him against his father, and she gave Cronos a drug that forced him to disgorge first the stone, and then the children he had previously swallowed. Some affirm that Cronos did not swallow all of them, but cast Hades in Tartarus, and Poseidon under the sea. Others assert that Rhea, having given birth to Poseidon, declared to Cronos that she had given birth to a horse, and gave him a foal to swallow instead of the child.

When Zeus grew to maturity, he decided to wage the war against Cronos and the TITANS, declaring that he who was without office or right under Cronos, should be raised to both office and rights. And on becoming the ruler of the universe, Zeus did not deprive Hecate of the privileges either.

So Styx came first to Olympus, and together with her children rallied to his side. This is why Zeus granted her special honours, and appointed her to be the great oath of the gods, and her children Nike, Zelos, Cratos, and Bia, to live near him always.

Prisoners released

The TITANS fought from Mount Othrys, and the gods from Mount Olympus, but after ten years of continuous fight, the issue of the war hung evenly balanced. It was then that Gaia prophesied victory to Zeus if he should have as allies those who had been hurled down to Tartarus by Cronos: the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES. Cronos had imprisoned the HECATONCHEIRES because he was jealous of their manhood and comeliness, as they say.

He made them live beneath the earth, being set to dwell under the ground for a long time and with great suffering. But Zeus and his brothers decided to bring them up again at Gaia's advising. Consequently, Zeus slew their jailoress Campe, and freed them. Zeus then provided the HECATONCHEIRES with nectar and ambrosia, and their spirit revived.

Then he addressed them:
"Hear me, bright children of Earth and Heaven, that I may say what my heart within me bids. A long while now have we, who are sprung from Cronos and the Titan gods, fought with each other every day to get victory and to prevail. But show your great might and unconquerable strength, and face the Titans in bitter strife; for remember our friendly kindness, and from what sufferings you are come back to the light from your cruel bondage under misty gloom through our counsels." (Zeus to the HECATONCHEIRES. Hesiod, Theogony 645).

The CYCLOPES gave Zeus thunder and lightning and a thunderbolt, with which the god smote Menoetius (brother of Atlas and Prometheus). And they gave Hades a helmet, and Poseidon a trident.

The war

It is told that during this great war the sea rang terribly, the earth crashed loudly, heaven was shaken, and Olympus reeled from its foundation: The HECATONCHEIRES held huge rocks with their hundred arms, and Zeus hurled his lightning, while the earth burned and the woods crakled with fire. The streams of Ocean seethed, and the vapor lapped round the TITANS. A huge flame rose to the upper air, and that the glare of thunderstone and lightining blinded the eyes of the TITANS. And it is said that heat seized Chaos, and that it seemed as if earth and heaven came together in a mighty crash, amid earthquakes and dust storms.

But the HECATONCHEIRES overshadowed the TITANS with the many rocks that their hundred arms hurled at them, and having defeated them, they chained them as far beneath the earth as heaven is above earth. That is, in Tartarus, a place of deep darkness with a bronze fence around it that even the gods abhor.

Two TITANS who sided with Zeus:

The titaness Themis sided with Zeus because she knew that neither the brute nor the violent would prevail, but the clever. Prometheus listened to her words, and sided with Zeus too. However, after the war, when Zeus had Prometheus chained for having given fire to mortals, he lamented his choice:

"Thus I helped the tyrant of the gods and with this foul payment he has responded; for it is a disease that is somehow inherent in tyranny to have no faith in friends." (Prometheus. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 225).

The victors divide the spoil

Zeus appointed the HECATONCHEIRES to guard them, and in time Poseidon gave the hecatoncheire Briareus his daughter Cymopolea as wife. Having thus won victory, the gods cast lots for the sovereignty, and to Zeus was allotted the dominion of the sky, to Poseidon the dominion of the sea, and to Hades the dominion of the Underworld.

It is also told that, as time went by, Zeus issued an amnesty and set the TITANS free, except for Atlas, who still holds the sky. A rumour has it that the TITANS, encouraged by Hera who was jealous on account of Io, once tried to mount to heaven and restore the kingdom to Cronos, but that Zeus aided by Athena, Apollo, and Artemis, cast them back to Tartarus.

It is said that it was then that the gods put the vault of the sky on Atlas, for having been their leader.


A more detailed approach

The Titanomachy is a series of wars in Greek mythology. These wars took place in Thessaly, and were also called the War of the Titans, the Battle of the TITANS, the Battle of the Gods or just the Titan War. These wars were between the Titans, the older gods, and the OLYMPIANS, a newer generation of gods. The Titans ruled Mount Othrys, and the Olympians would rule Mount Olympus. The Titans and the Olympians fought to decide who would rule the universe. In the end, the Olympians who were led by ZEUS won.

There were several poems about the war between the gods during the Classical Greek Age. Only one poem has survived. It is called the THEOGONY and is said to be written by Hesiod. The Titans and Olympians are mentioned in many other poems, particularly those of Orpheus.

Before the war started the Titans were in power, and Uranus was in charge of the universe. Uranus made his wife, Gaea angry because he locked up some of her children. These children were the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires. He locked them up in the Tartarus, which was a prison deep below the earth. Gaea was very mad that Uranus had locked up her children, so she made them a giant weapon and told them to castrate their father. CRONUS was the only child that would do as his mother told him. So Cronus and his mother made a plan to overthrow Uranus.

The plan worked, and when Uranus was castrated his blood fell to earth and into the sea. From this blood, several sets of children were born. The Gigantes, the Erinyes, and the Meliae were all made from Uranus’ blood that fell to the earth. Aphrodite was born from Uranus’ blood that fell into the sea.

Cronus, with his mother’s help, managed to overthrow his father, Uranus. But Uranus made a prediction that Cronus would be overthrown by his sons. Because Cronus was afraid of losing the kingdom, he made the same mistakes his father did and turned into a terrible, angry king and did lots of horrible things to stay in power. He put his brothers back into prison and ate his children, just to keep them from overthrowing him. But Rhea, his wife, managed to fool Cronus and keep one of his children safe. This child was named Zeus. Rhea hid him away in a cave on the island of Crete so he would be safe. On the island, Zeus was raised by a goat, named Amalthea.

Once Zeus grew up, he went to his father’s mountain and served him as a cupbearer. His father did not know that Zeus was his son. A Titan goddess named Metis helped Zeus fool his father into drinking a mixture of mustard in his wine. This caused Cronus to feel sick, and he threw up all of his children that he had eaten, one by one. Once Cronus had expelled all of Zeus’ brothers and sisters, Zeus talked them into rebelling against Cronus, their father.

This is what started the Titanomachy, or the Titan’s War. Zeus and his brothers and sisters rebelled against his father, Cronus. Zeus set the CYCLOPES and the Hecatonchires free from their underground prison and convinced them to join the rebellion against Cronus too. Remember, Cronus had been the one who locked up his siblings, so they agreed to join Zeus. The Hecatonchires used rocks as weapons, and the Cyclopes made Zeus’ thunderbolts. Together they also made POSEIDON‘s trident and HADES‘ helm of darkness.

The only Titians (the older generation) to fight with Zeus were Themis and Prometheus. This war lasted ten years. ATLAS was a major leader on the side of the Titans and Cronus. After the war was over, Zeus imprisoned all of the Titans, except for Themis and Prometheus who fought for him. These Titans were imprisoned in the earth the same way that Cronus, Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes once were. Hecatonchires guarded the Titans in their prison. Because Atlas was such an important fighter for the opposition, Zeus gave him the special punishment of holding up the world.

After the Titans’ War Zeus and his brothers, Hades and Poseidon decided to divide the universe into three parts. They drew straws to see who would rule over which part. Zeus drew the longest straw, so he was given the title of king of the sky. This also meant that he was the head of mortals and all the gods, too. Poseidon got the middle straw, so he became king of the sea. Hades drew the shortest straw, so he became the ruler of the Underworld.

The Underworld is also known as the realm of the dead. There are some differently told versions of the Titanomachy, one of which says that Zeus eventually let the Titans go free.

Once Zeus had reign over the earth, he decided to ask Prometheus and Themis to create man and animals to populate the earth as a new generation of mortal beings. Themis created animals, and Prometheus was given the job of creating man. Themis took his job very seriously and finished all of the animals before Prometheus had even decided what gifts to give mankind. By the time Prometheus was ready to give mankind the gifts, Themis had already used them all on the animals!

Prometheus was so angry that he stole the godly fire back from Zeus, and gave it to man. Zeus was so angry that he chained Prometheus to a mountain forever. Zeus was still so angry that he wanted to punish mankind. He did this by creating a beautiful woman, named Pandora. Pandora was given a box with a little bit of each of the gods’ powers. Pandora then married, and lived a very happy life, until one day she got very curious. Pandora and her husband decided to open the box.

When they opened this box, all the evils of the world came spilling out. According to Greek mythology, this is where we get pride, envy, greed, pain, suffering and anything bad. Pandora and her husband managed to close the box before every horror escaped. They only opened it one more time because the box whispered that it had hope inside, and wanted to let it out. They did open the box then, and hope was released for all of mankind.

A list of the key players in the Titanomachy:

Titans – Older generation of gods.

Olympians – Younger generation of gods.

Uranus – Ruler of the universe before the Titans War. Married to Gaea. Father to the Cyclopes, the Hecatonchires and Cronus

Cronus – Overthrew his father, Uranus. Father to Zeus. Married to Rhea.

Zeus – Overthrows father Cronus. Starts Titans war. Eventually rules entire universe.

Prometheus – Titan that fought on the side of Zeus. Brother to Themis. Created man and stole godly fire from Zeus.

Themis – Titan that fought on the side of Zeus. Brother to Prometheus. Created animals.

Pandora – Created by Zeus and a punishment for mankind. Opened the box.

A short timeline of events of the Titanomachy:

Cronus over throws Uranus.

Cronus becomes a tyrant.

Cronus eats all of his children, except one, Zeus.

Zeus grows up hidden in Crete. He eventually fools Cronus into vomiting up all his children.

Zeus rebells against Cronus, along with all his brothers and sisters. These are the Olympians.

Prometheus and Themis are the only Titans to fight with Zeus.

The war lasts for 10 years.

After the Olympians win the war, Zeus, Posedian and Hades divide up the world.

Zeus becomes ruler of the sky and the earth.

He asks Prometheus and Themis to create man and animals.



The war did come to an end and as promised Zeus punished those who had opposed him. The male Titans were sent to Tartarus to be imprisoned by new bronze gates crafted by Poseidon and the Cyclopes, and the Hecatonchires were given the position of prison guards.

Atlas was given special punishment though for he was charged with holding up the damaged sky (Ouranos) for all eternity. The Cyclopes would not return to Tartarus though and would become craftsmen for the gods with forges upon Mount Olympus and beneath various volcanoes.

The female Titans remained free for they had taken no part in the war, Oceanus retained his privileged position as god of freshwater, and Prometheus and Epimetheus were given the job of bringing forth life to the earth.

The allies of Zeus were rewarded Styx, was made a power river goddess whose name was invoked for unbreakable oaths, whilst her children would be given privileged positions upon Mount Olympus. Metis would become the first wife of Zeus.

The cosmos was itself divided amongst the three male Olympians through the drawing of lots. So Hades was given dominion over the Underworld, Poseidon became lord of the world’s waters, and Zeus became lord of the heavens, and with it the position of supreme deity.

One deity though who was not satisfied with the outcome of the Titanomachy was Gaia, for although her children, the Hecatonchires and Cyclopes had been released, they had been replaced in Tartarus with other children of Gaia. Ultimately, Gaia would cajole the Gigantes, another set of children of Mother Earth, to rise up against Zeus in the Gigantomachy.


[1] "Maicar"

"Hes.The.390, 420, 630-745; Hyg.Fab.150; Pin.Pyth.4.290"

[2] "Greek Gods and Goddesses"

Our Mobile Application

Check out Our Mobile Application "Ancient Greece Reloaded"