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In Greek mythology, Coeus was the Titan god of the inquisitive mind and intellect. He was a first generation Titan who ruled the cosmos with his siblings. Coeus hasn’t been mentioned in many sources so not much is known about him and only appears in lists of Titans. However, Coeus was known as the grandfather of two Olympian deities – Apollo and Artemis.
As a Titan, Coeus was the offspring of Gaia (the personification of the Earth) and Uranus (the god of the sky). As mentioned in Hesiod’s Theogony, there twelve original Titans. Coeus’ siblings included: Cronus, Hyperion, Oceanus, Iapetus and Crius and his sisters were: Mnemosyne, Rhea, Theia, Themis, Phoebe and Tethys.
Coeus was the god of an inquisitive mind, of resolve, intelligence and the North. He also embodied the axis around which the heavens revolved. His name was derived from the Greek word ‘koios’ meaning questioning, intelligence, or query. His alternate name was Polus, or Polos (meaning ‘of the northern pole).
According to ancient sources, Coeus was also the god of heavenly oracles. It’s said that he had the ability to hear the voice of his father just like his sister Phoebe could hear the voice of their mother.
Coeus and Phoebe
Coeus married his sister Phoebe, the goddess of the prophetic mind. He was the wisest of all the Titans and with Phoebe by his side, he was able to bring all knowledge to the cosmos. They had two daughters, Leto (who was the goddess of motherhood) and Asteria (the personification of the falling stars).
According to some sources, Phoebe and Coeus also had a son called Lelantos who was said to have been the god of air. Leto and Asteria became famous deities in Greek mythology but Lelantos remained an obscure character.
Through Leto, Coeus became the grandfather of Apollo, the sun god, and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Both Apollo and Artemis were very prominent characters and two of the most respected of all the deities of the Ancient Greek pantheon.
Apollo became a major Greek god associated not only with the sun but also with music, the bow and divination. He was said to have been the most loved of all Greek gods. His sister Artemis was the goddess of wilderness, wild animals, virginity and childbirth. She was also a protector of children and could bring and cure diseases in women. Like Apollo she, too, was loved by the Greeks and was one of the most revered goddesses.
The Castration of Uranus
When Gaia cajoled Coeus and his brothers into overthrowing their father Uranus, the six Titan brothers ambushed him. Coeus, Iapetus, Crius and Hyperion held their father down while Cronus used an adamantine sickle given to him by Gaia to castrate Uranus.
The four Titan brothers who restrained Uranus were personifications of the four great pillars that hold the heaven and earth apart. Coeus held his father down on the northern corner of the Earth which is why he came to be regarded as the ‘Pillar of the North’.
After Uranus was defeated, the Titans took over the cosmos, with Cronus as the supreme ruler. This period came to be known as the Golden Age of Greek mythology but it was soon to come to an end when Zeus and the Olympian deities decided to take over.
Coeus in the Titanomachy
According to the myth, Cronus’ son Zeus and the Olympians overthrew Cronus just as Cronus and his brothers had overthrown their own father. This resulted in the start of a war, known as the Titanomachy, a series of battles that lasted for ten long years during which the rule of the Titans came to an end.
Coeus fought valiantly alongside his brothers against Zeus and the rest of the Olympian deities but the Olympians won the war and Zeus became the supreme ruler of the cosmos. Zeus was known for being a very vengeful god and he punished all those who fought against him in the Titanomachy, casting Coeus and several other Titans into Tartarus, the Underworld prison.
Coeus in Tartarus
In the Argonautica, 1st century Roman Poet Valerius Flaccus, tells of how Coeus finally lost his sanity while in Tartarus and attempted to escape from the prison. He even managed to break out of his adamantine shackles. Sadly, he wasn’t able to get very far because Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the Underworld, and the Lernaean Hydra chased him down and recaptured him.
According to Aeschylus and Pindar, Zeus eventually pardoned the Titans and allowed them to go free. However, in some accounts they continued to be imprisoned in Tartarus for eternity as a punishment for fighting against the Olympians.
In an alternate version of the myth, Coeus was said to have taken the side of the Olympians in the Titanomachy but this version wasn’t wasn’t the most popular one. It was also said that after the Titans lost the war and were imprisoned in Tartarus, Coeus was released and fled to the North to escape from Zeus. There he was regarded as Polaris, the North Star.
Coeus wasn’t a famous deity of the Ancient Greek pantheon, unlike some of his brothers and sisters, and there were no statues or temples dedicated in his honor. However, he was mostly important because of his children and grandchildren who went on to become famous Greek deities, featured in many myths.