Table of Contents
In Greek mythology, Theia was one of the Titanides (the female Titans) and the Greek goddess of sight and shining elements. The Ancient Greeks believed that Theia’s eyes were light beams which helped them to see with their own eyes. She was one of the most popular goddesses for this reason. Theia was also famous for being the mother of Helios, the sun god who brought light to the mortals every day.
Theia’s Origins and Name
Theia was one of twelve children born to Gaia (the personification of the Earth) and Uranus (the god of the sky). Her siblings included Cronus, Rhea, Themis, Iapetus, Hyperion, Coeus, Crius, Oceanus, Phoebe, Tethys and Mnemosyne and they were the 12 original Titans.
Unlike almost all the other deities whose name had a connection with their role, Theia’s name was different. It was derived from the Greek word ‘theos’ which simply means ‘divine’ or ‘goddess’. She was also called ‘Euryphaessa’ which means ‘all-bright’ or ‘wide-shining’. Therefore, Theia Euryphaessa means goddess of brightness or light.
Since it was believed that sight existed only because of the beams of light that projected from her eyes, it’s possible the goddess Theia was associated with a particular kind of light. Perhaps this is why her name Euryphaessa means light.
Theia married her brother Hyperion, the Titan god of light and they had three children who became important deities of the Greek pantheon. All three were in some way connected with light:
- Helios was the god of the sun. His role was to travel in his golden chariot, pulled by winged horses from the east to the west bringing sunlight to the mortals. In the evening he would return to his palace in the east corner of the earth to rest for the night. This was his daily routine until Apollo took over his role.
- Selene was the goddess of the moon, also associated with certain lunar elements such as the calendar months, the tides of the ocean and lunacy. Like her brother Helios, she rode a chariot across the sky, also pulled by winged horses, every night. Selene was later replaced by the goddess Artemis, Apollo’s sister.
- Eos was the personification of dawn and her role was to rise each morning from the edge of Oceanus and ride across the sky in her chariot drawn by winged horses, bringing in the sun, her brother Helios. Because of a curse placed on her by the goddess Aphrodite, she became obsessed with young men. She fell in love with a mortal man called Tithonus and asked Zeus to grant him eternal life but she forgot to ask for eternal youth and her husband grew old forever.
Because Theia had a connection with light, she was often depicted as a considerably beautiful woman with very long hair and light either surrounding her or held in her hands. She was said to have been a kind goddess and was highly popular amongst mortals.
Role of Theia in Greek Mythology
According to the myths, Theia was an oracular goddess which means she had the gift of prophecy, something she shared in common with her sisters. She embodied the glittering of the sky and was associated with other things that glistened.
The Greeks believed that it was she who gave the precious metals, like gold and silver, their luminous, shimmering qualities. This is why gold was an important metal to the Greeks with an intrinsic value – it was the divine reflection of the goddess Theia.
Theia and the Titanomachy
According to some sources, Theia kept a neutral stance during the Titanomachy (the 10 year war fought between the Titans and the Olympians). After the war ended with the Olympians gaining victory, it’s possible that she went unpunished with the rest of her sisters who took no part in the war. There’s hardly any reference to Theia after the Titanomachy, and she eventually loses her position as an important deity.
Over time, the goddess Theia disappeared from the ancient myths and was only praised for the role she played as a mother, especially as the mother of Helios. She’s one of the lesser known deities of the Greek pantheon but many who know her believe that she still lives in the realm of Oceanus, the place to where Helios disappears at the end of each day.