Greek Titan

Thea

Thea was one of the Greek Titans who fought against the Olympians in their celestial war, the Titanomachy. The wife of her brother Hyperion, Thea gave birth to the gods of the sun, the moon, and the dawn.

By Thomas Apel and Avi KapachLast updated on Nov. 21st, 2021
  • What was Thea the goddess of?

    Thea was associated with light and the celestial sphere, especially because her children were the sun, moon, and dawn, as well as with the light emitted by precious metals such as gold.

  • To whom was Theia married?

    Thea was married to her brother Hyperion, another one of the Titans.

  • Who were Thea’s children?

    Thea had three children, named Helios, Selene, and Eos (the sun, moon, and dawn, respectively).

The daughter of Uranus and Gaia, Thea belonged to the first generation of twelve Titans. Wither her lover and brother Hyperion, Thea had the sun good Helios, the moon goddess Selene, and the dawn goddess Eos. As the mother of the sun, moon, and dawn, Theia was regarded as a goddess of light.

Etymology

The name “Thea,” alternatively spelled Theia or Thia, simply means “goddess” or “divine” and is linguistically related to the ancient Greek word theos (“god” or “goddess”). This ancient Greek word is also the root of modern English terms such as “theism” and “theology.”

Pronunciation

  • English
    Greek

    Thea

    Θεία

  • Phonetic
    IPA

    [THEY-uh]

    /ˈθiːə/

Other Names

An alternative name for Thea, which appears only in the 31st Homeric Hymn, is Euryphaessa (“wide-shining”).1 Thea may also be identical with Aethra, the name the Roman mythographer Hyginus gives the wife of Hyperion and the mother of the sun, moon, and dawn.2

Attributes

Thea appears to have had an association with heavenly bodies and other forms of light; such an association was further supported by her motherhood of Helios (sun), Selene (moon), and Eos (dawn). The fifth-century BCE poet Pindar further connected Thea with the light that shines off gold and athletic competitions:

Mother of the Sun, Theia of many names, for your sake men honor gold as more powerful than anything else; and through the value you bestow on them, o queen, ships contending on the sea and yoked teams of horses in swift-whirling contests become marvels. And in athletic contests, someone who has wreathed his hair with many garlands has achieved longed-for fame, when he has been victorious with his hands or with the swiftness of his feet.3

Family

The daughter of primordial deities Gaia, who embodied mother earth, and Uranus, who personified the heavens above, Thea was one of twelve children known as the Titans. Among her brothers and sisters were the other Titans—CoeusCriusCronus, HyperionIapetusOceanusMnemosynePhoebeTethysTheaThemis, and Rhea—as well as the Hecatoncheires and the Cyclopes, baneful monsters who terrorized gods and mortals alike.

In her womanhood, Thea took her brother Hyperion as her lover. They had three children, each associated with the light of a celestial body: Helios, the incarnation of the sun; Selene, who embodied the moon and gave off pale light; and Eos, the dawn, whose light preceded Helios every morning.4

In some traditions, Thea was also the lover of Oceanus, another one of her brothers, and had the Cercopes by him. These were monkey-like twins who were known for their mischief and for stealing.5

Family Tree

Mythology

Thea appeared only a few times in Greek mythical literature, and even then only thanks to her position as mother of the sun god Helios, and, to a lesser extent, mother of Selene and Eos. Hence Hesiod the eighth century BCE:

marble Relief of Sun God Helios Circa 300 BCE Altes Museum

Marble relief showing the sun god Helios with rays of sun as a crown (ca. 300 BCE). Helios' mother Thea was often associated with heavenly bodies and other forms of light.

Gary Todd / CC0

And Theia was subject in love to Hyperion and bare great Helius (Sun) and clear Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn) who shines upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless Gods who live in the wide heaven.6

The 31st Homeric Hymn, dedicated to Helios, elaborates slightly on the unsung Thea, piling epithets on her and even renaming her Euryphaessa (see above):

And now, O Muse Calliope, daughter of Zeus, begin to sing of glowing Helios whom mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far- shining one, bare to the Son of Earth and starry Heaven. For Hyperion wedded glorious Euryphaessa, his own sister, who bare him lovely children, rosy-armed Eos and rich-tressed Selene and tireless Helios who is like the deathless gods.7

Aside from these and a handful of other scattered references, little was said about Thea in antiquity.

Pop Culture

Though not otherwise commonly depicted in popular culture, Thea appeared in the seventh episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, where she was awakened from a centuries-long slumber alongside Crius and Hyperion.

Further Reading

Primary Sources

Greek

  • Hesiod: The Theogony (seventh century BCE) is the first literary text to name Theia and her genealogy.

  • Homeric Hymns: The 31st Homeric Hymn (seventh or sixth century BCE), dedicated to Theia’s son Helios, refers to Theia as Euryphaessa.

  • Pindar: Theia appears at the beginning of Isthmian Ode 5 (possibly 478 BCE). 

Roman

  • Catullus: There is an allusive mention of Theia in Ode 66 (at line 44).

Mythological Handbooks (Greek and Roman)

  • Apollodorus: The Library (1st century BCE or first few centuries CE) mentions the mythology and genealogy of Theia.

  • Hyginus: The Fabulae (1st century CE or after) seems to equate Theia with Aethra.

Secondary Sources

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