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In Greek mythology, Hyperion was the Titan god of heavenly light. He was a highly prominent deity during the Golden Age, before Zeus and the Olympians came into power. This period was closely associated with light (Hyperion’s domain) and the sun. Here’s a closer look at Hyperion’s story.
- Cronus – the Titan king and god of time
- Crius – the god of heavenly constellations
- Coeus – the Titan of intelligence and resolve
- Iapetus – he was believed to have been the god of craftsmanship or mortality
- Oceanus – the father of the Oceanids and the river gods
- Phoebe – the goddess of bright intellect
- Rhea – the goddess of female fertility, generation and motherhood
- Mnemosyne – the Titaness of memory
- Theia – the personification of sight
- Tethys – the Titan goddess of the fresh water that nourishes the earth
- Themis – the personification of fairness, law, natural law and divine order
Hyperion married his sister, Theia and together they had three children: Helios (god of the sun), Eos (the goddess of the dawn) and Selene (goddess of the moon). Hyperion was also grandfather to the Three Graces (also known as the Charites) by his son, Helios.
Hyperion’s Role in Greek Mythology
Hyperion’s name means ‘the watcher from above’ or ‘he who goes before the sun’ and he was strongly associated with the sun and the heavenly light. It was said that he created the patterns of months and days by controlling the cycles of the sun and moon. He was often mistaken for Helios, his son, who was the sun god. However, the difference between father and son was that Helios was the physical representation of the sun whereas Hyperion presided over heavenly light.
According to Diodorus of Sicily, Hyperion also brought order to the seasons and stars, but this was more commonly associated with his brother Crius. Hyperion was considered ot be one of the four main pillars that held the earth and heavens apart (possibly the east pillar, since his daughter was the goddess of the dawn. Crius was the pillar of the south, Iapetus, the west and Coeus, the pillar of the north.
Hyperion in the Golden Age of Greek Mythology
During the Golden Age, the Titans ruled the cosmos under Cronus, Hyperion’s brother. According to the myth, Uranus angered Gaia by mistreating their children, and she began to plot against him. Gaia convinced Hyperion and his siblings to overthrow Uranus.
Of the twelve children, Cronus was the only one who was willing to use a weapon against his own father. However, when Uranus came down from the heavens to be with Gaia, Hyperion, Crius, Coeus and Iapetus held him down and Cronus castrated him with a flint sickle his mother had made.
Hyperion in the Titanomachy
The Titanomachy was a series of battles that were fought over a period of ten years between the Titans (the older generation of deities) and the Olympians (the younger generation). The purpose of the war was to decide which generation would dominate the universe and it ended with Zeus and the other Olympians overthrowing the Titans. There is little reference to Hyperion during this epic battle.
The Titans who continued to side with Cronus after the end of the Titanomachy were incarcerated in Tartarus, the dungeon of torment in the Underworld, but it was said that those who took the side of Zeus were allowed to remain free. Hyperion fought against the Olympians during the war and as mentioned in ancient sources, he too was sent to Tartarus for eternity after the Titans were defeated.
During Zeus’ rule, however, Hyperion’s children continued to hold their prominent and respected position in the cosmos.
Hyperion in Literature
John Keats famously wrote and later abandoned a poem called Hyperion, which dealt with the subject of the Titanomachy. In the poem, Hyperion is given importance as a powerful Titan. The poem ends in mid-line, as Keats never completed it.
Here’s an extract from the poem, words spoken by Hyperion:
Saturn is fallen, am I too to fall?…
I cannot see—but darkness, death and darkness.
Even here, into my centre of repose,
The shady visions come to domineer,
Insult, and blind, and stifle up my pomp.—
Fall!—No, by Tellus and her briny robes!
Over the fiery frontier of my realms
I will advance a terrible right arm
Shall scare that infant thunderer, rebel Jove,
And bid old Saturn take his throne again.
Hyperion was a minor deity in Greek mythology which is why not much is known about him. However, his children became famous since they all played important roles within the cosmos. What exactly became of Hyperion is unclear, but it’s believed that he remains imprisoned in the pit of Tartarus, suffering and tormented for all eternity.