Coeus married his sister Phoebe, the Titan of radiance and prophecy. Together they had two daughters.
In addition to his daughters Leto and Asteria, Coeus had three divine grandchildren. A multitude of further descendants can be traced to him through his grandson Apollo, who was especially fruitful.
Coeus, son of the primordial deities Gaia and Uranus, was one of the original twelve Titans of Greek mythology. With his sister and lover Phoebe, Coeus fathered the goddesses Asteria and Leto, both of whom were courted by Zeus. Leto went on to give birth (by Zeus) to the Olympians Artemis and Apollo. Following the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Coeus and the other Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus.
The etymology of the name “Coeus” (Greek Κοῖος, translit. Koîos) is mysterious. In fact, he may have simply been an invention of early Greek poets who wanted to raise the number of Titans to twelve, the same as the total number of Olympians.1
Κοῖος (translit. Koîos)
Coeus’ attributes were never explicitly defined. However, like the other male Titans, he appears to have been viewed as fantastically strong and ruthless.
Coeus was the son of Gaia, the great earth mother, and Uranus, the father of the heavens.2 His siblings included the other Titans—Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus, Thea, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys—as well as the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires.
With his sister Phoebe, Coeus fathered Asteria, a goddess said to have assumed the shape of an island in order to escape Zeus’s advances, and Leto, one of Zeus’ early lovers.
Through his daughter Leto, Coeus was the grandfather of Apollo, the god of wisdom and music, and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and unspoiled nature. Through his other daughter Asteria, Coeus was (in most traditions) the grandfather of Hecate, the goddess of boundaries and crossroads.3
As with many secondary Titans, Coeus is rarely mentioned in Greek texts. In Hesiod’s Theogony, for example, he is named only twice: once as a child of Gaia and Uranus,4 and again as Phoebe’s consort and the father of “dark-gowned” Leto and Asteria “of happy name.”5 Elsewhere in Greek literature, Coeus appears almost exclusively in lists of Titans, with no particular myths of his own.6
There is one slightly more substantial tale involving Coeus in Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica, a Roman epic of the first century CE. Here, Coeus is said to have attempted to escape Tartarus, where he and his Titan brethren had been imprisoned by Zeus after losing the Titanomachy. However, this would-be prison break ended in failure:
Coeus in the lowest pit bursts the adamantine bonds and trailing Jove’s fettering chains invokes Saturn and Tityus, and in his madness conceives a hope of scaling heaven, yet though he repass the rivers and the gloom the hound of the Furies and the sprawling Hydra’s crest repel him.7
While this unique excerpt offers a tantalizing glimpse into a forgotten mythological tradition, it may have been little more than a fantastical story—one created to fill the void in our understanding of Coeus and the Titans as a whole.
Adding to the mystery, there were apparently traditions in antiquity in which Zeus eventually released the Titans (including Coeus), but those texts have been lost.8 Ultimately, there is little information on the mythology of the Titans in our surviving sources for Greek mythology.
Coeus makes an appearance in The House of Hades, the fourth book in Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series. In this iteration, “Koios” is a Titan anxious to reclaim the cosmos from Zeus and the Olympians.
Hesiod (eighth/seventh century BCE): Coeus’ genealogy is outlined in the epic poem the Theogony.
Homeric Hymns (seventh/sixth century BCE): In the second Homeric Hymn, which is dedicated to Apollo, Coeus is named as the father of Apollo’s mother Leto.
Aeschylus (ca. 525/524–ca. 456/455 BCE): The tragedy Prometheus Unbound had a chorus of freed Titans that may have included Coeus, but unfortunately this work has been lost.
Diodorus of Sicily (ca. 90–ca. 30 BCE): The Library of History, a work of universal history covering events from the creation of the cosmos to Diodorus’ own time, contains references to Coeus.
Apollodorus (first century BCE/first few centuries CE): The Library contains references to Coeus.
Virgil (70–19 BCE): There are brief references to Coeus in Book 1 of Virgil’s Georgics and Book 4 of the Aeneid.
Ovid (43 BCE–17/18 CE): In Book 6 of the Metamorphoses, Coeus is called the father of Leto.
Valerius Flaccus (first century CE): In Book 3 of the epic Argonautica, there is an allusion to a myth in which Coeus tries to break out of Tartarus.
Hyginus (first/second century CE): The Fabulae makes references to Coeus.
Stoffel, Eliane. “Coeus.” In Brill’s New Pauly, edited by Hubert Cancik, Helmuth Schneider, Christine F. Salazar, Manfred Landfester, and Francis G. Gentry. Published online 2006. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e618020.
Theoi Project. “Koios.” Published online 2000–2017. https://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanKoios.html