Hesiod's Theogony is a large-scale synthesis of a vast variety of local Greek traditions concerning the gods, organized as a narrative that tells how they came to be and how they established permanent control over the cosmos. In many cultures, narratives about the cosmos and about the gods that shaped it are a way for society to reaffirm its native cultural traditions. Specifically, theogonies tend to affirm kingship as the natural embodiment of society. What makes the Theogony of Hesiod unique is that it affirms no historical royal line. Such a gesture would have cited the Theogony in one time and one place. Rather, the Theogony affirms the kingship of the god Zeus himself over all the other gods and over the whole cosmos.
Further, Hesiod appropriates to himself the authority usually reserved to sacred kingship. The poet declares that it is he, where we might have expected some king instead, upon whom the Muses have bestowed the two gifts of a scepter and an authoritative voice (Hesiod, Theogony 30-3), which are the visible signs of kingship. It is not that this gesture is meant to make Hesiod a king. Rather, the point is that the authority of kingship now belongs to the poetic voice, the voice that is declaiming the Theogony.
Although it is often used as a sourcebook for Greek mythology, the Theogony is both more and less than that. In formal terms it is a hymn invoking Zeus and the Muses: parallel passages between it and the much shorter Homeric Hymn to the Muses make it clear that the Theogony developed out of a tradition of hymnic preludes with which an ancient Greek rhapsody would begin their performance at poetic competitions. It is necessary to see the Theogony not as the definitive source of Greek mythology, but rather as a snapshot of a dynamic tradition that happened to crystallize when Hesiod set the myths he knew down to writing - and to remember that the traditions have continued evolving since that time.
After the speaker declares that he has received the blessings of the Muses, and thanks them for giving him inspiration, he explains that spontaneously Chaos first came into existence. Gaia (Earth), the more orderly and safe foundation that would serve as a home for the gods and mortals, came afterwards. Tartarus (both a place below the earth as well as a deity) and Eros (Desire) also came into existence from nothing. Eros serves an important role in sexual reproduction, before which children had to be produced by means of parthenogenesis. From Chaos came Erebos (Darkness) and Nyx (Night). However, Erebos and Nyx reproduced to make Aither (Brightness) and Hemera (Day). From Gaia came Ouranos (Sky), the Ourea (Mountains), and Pontus (Sea).
Ouranos mated with Gaia to create twelve Titans: Okeanos, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetos, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, and Kronos; three Kyklopes: Brontes, Steropes, and Arges; and three Hundred-Handeds: Kottos, Briareos, and Gyges.
Because Ouranos foresaw that one of his children would overthrow him, he tried to imprison each of the children in Gaia, which greatly discomforted her. She asked her children to punish their father. Only Kronos was willing to do so. During Ouranos' attempt to mate with Gaia as he does every night Kronos, with a sickle from Gaia, castrated his father. The blood from Ouranos splattered onto the earth producing Erinyes (the Furies), Giants, and Meliai. Kronos takes the severed penis and throw them into Ocean (Thalassa), around which foams developed and they transformed into the goddess of Love, Aphrodite (which is why in some myths, Aphrodite was daughter of Ouranos and the goddess Thalassa).
Meanwhile, Nyx, though she mated with Erebos, produced fifteen children parthenogenically: Moros (Doom), Oneiroi (Dreams), Keres (Destinies), Eris (Discord), Ker (Destiny), Momos (Blame), Philotes (Love), Geras (Old Age), Thanatos (Death), Moirai (Fates), Nemesis (Retribution), Hesperides (Daughters of Night), Hypnos (Sleep), Oizys (Pain), and Apate (Deceit).
From Eris, following her mother's footstep, came Ponos (Hardship), Hysmine (Battles),the Neikea (Quarrels), the Phonoi (Murders), Lethe (Forgetfulness), Makhai (Wars), Pseudologos (Lies), Amphilogia (Disputes), Limos (Famine), Androktasia (Manslaughters), Ate (Ruin), Dysnomia (Anarchy and Disobedience), the Algea (Pains), Horkos (Oaths), and Logoi (Stories).
After Ouranos had been castrated, Gaia mated with Pontos to create a descendent line consisting of sea deities, sea nymphs, and hybrid monsters. One child of Gaia and Pontos is Nereus (Old Man of the Sea), who marries Doris, a daughter of Okeanos and Tethys, to produce the Nereids, the fifty nymphs of the sea. Another child of Gaia and Pontos is Thaumas, who marries Electra, a sister of Doris, to produce Iris (Rainbow) and three Harpies.
Phorkys and Keto, two siblings, marry each other and produce the Graiae, the Gorgons, Echidna, and Ophion. Medusa, one of the Gorgons, produced two children with Poseidon, the winged-horse Pegasus and giant Chrysaor, at the instant of her decapitation by Perseus. Chrysaor marries Callirhoe, another daughter of Okeanos, to make three-headed Geryon.
Gaia also mates with Tartaros to produce Typhoeus, whom Echidna marries to produce Orthos, Kerberos, Hydra, and Chimaira. From Orthos and either Chimaira or Echidna were born the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion.
In the family of the Titans, Okeanos and Tethys marry to make three thousand rivers and three thousand Okeanid Nymphs. Theia and Hyperion marry to bear Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn). Kreios and Eurybia marry to bear Astraios, Pallas, and Perses. Eos and Astraios would later marry to produce Zephyros, Boreas, Notos,Eosphoros,Hesperos, Phosphoros and the Stars(Foremost of which Phaenon, Phaethon, Pyroeis, Stilbon, those of the Zodiac and those three acknowledged before). From Pallas and Styx (another Okeanid) came Zelos (Zeal), Nike (Victory), Cratos (Strength), Bia (Force). Koios and Phoibe marry to make Leto, Asteria (who later marries Perses to produce Hekate). Iapetos marries Klymene (an Okeanid Nymph) to sire Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus.
Third and final generation
Kronos, having taken control of the Cosmos, wanted to ensure that he maintained power, as Metis, Oceanid goddess of wisdom, prophesied to him that a son would overthrow him. When he married Rhea, he made sure to swallow each of the children she birthed: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Zeus(in that order). However, Rhea asks Gaia and Ouranos for help in saving Zeus by sending Rhea to Crete to nurture Zeus and giving Kronos a huge stone to swallow thinking that it was another of Rhea's children. Rhea then sets Zeus on a tree that sat on a ledge (between sky, earth and sea, making him invisible) with the Curetes constantly clanging their swords on their shield to keep Kronos from hearing the infant Zeus's crying.
After Zeus had grown up, he consults Metis, who concocts a potion which forces Kronos to disgorge his siblings and thereafter waged a great war on the Titans for control of the Cosmos. The war lasted ten years, with the Olympian gods, Cyclopes, Prometheus and Epimetheus, the children of Pallas on one side, and the Titans and the Giants on the other (with only Oceanos as a neutral force) Eventually Zeus releases the Hundred-Handed ones to shake the earth, allowing him to gain the upper hand, cast the fury of his thunderbolts and throw the Titans into Tartaros. Zeus later must battle Typhoeus, a son of Gaia and Tartaros created because Gaia was angry that the Titans were defeated, and is victorious again.
Because Prometheus helped Zeus, he was not sent to Tartaros like the other Titans. However, he later stole fire from the Olympian gods to give to mortals, along with other knowledge, which angered Zeus. Zeus punishes Prometheus by chaining him to a column and invokes a long-winged eagle that would feed on his ever-regenerating liver. Prometheus would not be freed until Heracles, a son of Zeus, comes to free him and encourage him to tell Zeus the prophecy of who would overthrow Zeus. (A digression: It would later turn out that Thetis, a nymph that Zeus was chasing, would have a son that would be greater than his father. Zeus promptly married her off to Peleus, who ended up fathering to Achilleus.At the wedding, Eris, who resented not being invited, rolled a golden apple for the inscribed "For the Fairest". The apple rolled between the three loveliest goddesses (Hera, Aphrodite, and Athene). The three goddesses asked Zeus to decide who was loveliest, but he was afraid of what either of them might do if they were not chosen. So he sat the responsibility on the Trojan Prince Paris. He chose Aphrodite over Athena and Hera to get the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, and start the Trojan War. Another trickery Prometheus made was to divide an animal sacrifice, giving meat to humans and bone and skin to the gods. It forms the origin of sacrificing animals to a deity.
Zeus, because of the loss of fire, would later punish the men on earth by making a woman with Hephaistos and Athena, Pandora, who, through her good charms and beauty, would bring about all the miseries of diseases and deaths into the world by opening a box from Zeus, but she closed the box before Elpis (Hope) was released. It would not be until Prometheus came and opened the box to free Elpis (Hope).
Zeus marries seven wives. The first is Oceanid Metis, whom he swallowed to avoid getting a son that, like as what happened with Kronos and Ouranos, would overthrow him. He later would give birth from the head to Athena, which would anger Hera enough for her to produce her own son parthenogenically, Hephaistos, the crippled god of fire, smithing, artisans, and masonry. The second wife is Themis, who bears the three Horae (Hours) – Eunomia (Order), Dike (Justice), Eirene (Peace) and the three Moirae (Fates) – Klotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Alotter), Atropos (Unturned), as well as Tyche. Zeus then married his third wife Eurynome, who bears the three Charites (Graces). The fourth wife is his sister Demeter, who bears Persephone. Persephone would later marry Hades, and bear Melinoe, Goddess of Ghosts, and Zagreus, God of the Orphic Mysteries, and Macaria, Goddess of the Blessed Afterlife. The fifth wife of Zeus is another aunt, Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses – Kleio, Euterpe, Thaleia, Melpomene, Terpsikhore, Erato, Polymnia, Urania, and Kalliope. The sixth wife is Leto, who gives birth to Apollo and Artemis. The seventh and final wife is Hera, who gives birth to Hebe, Ares,Enyo and Eileithyia. Of course, though Zeus no longer marries, he still has affairs with many other women, such as Semele, who would give birth to Dionysus, and Alkmene, the mother of Heracles, who marries Hebe.
Poseidon marries Amphitrite and produces Triton. Ares and Aphrodite would marry to make Phobos (Fear), Deimos (Cowardice), and Harmonia(Harmony), who would later marry Kadmos to sire Ino (who with her son, Melicertes would become a sea deity) Semele (Mother of Dionysos), Agaue (Mother of Actaeon), Polydorus, and Autonoe(Who would later be driven in to perpetual Bacchic Frenzy by her nephew, Dionysos). Helios and Perseis birth Kirke (Circe), who with Poseidon would mother Phaunos, God of the Forest, and with Dionysos mother Comos, God of Revelry and Festivity . And with Odysseus , she would later give birth to Agrius,and who would kill his father while raiding Ithaca. Atlas' daughter Calypso would with Odysseus give birth to Telegonos,Teledamus, Latinos, Nausithoos and Nausinous.