Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily
5.5 Cults and Minor Myths: Gaia

Gaia or Gea is the earth, seen as the primordial element from which everything springs, even the divine lineages. great mothers, Gaia is probably the oldest. Gaia was born from Chaos, generated Uranus (the sky), the mountains and the bridge (the sea). After the birth of Uranus he joined him and from their union were born not powers of nature but of the real gods: the six Titans, the six Titanides and the Cyclops (Arge, Sterope, and Bronte who were divinities linked to lightning, lightning and thunder). Also from the union with Uranus were born the Hecatonchirs, giants with a hundred arms. But Uranus segregated the Hecatonchirs and the Cyclops in the depths of the earth, their mother. This did not please Gaia who decided to take revenge by instigating the youngest son, Cronos, to dethrone Uranus. To this end, he provided him with a sharp sickle with which Cronos castrated his father who was about to join Gaia. The blood that flowed made the earth fertile and, mixed with the waves of the sea, contributed to the birth of Aphrodite.

Gaia does not only represent the earth but also the dead, since whoever dies returns to the womb of mother earth. It is easy to imagine how the earth, from which everything springs, was soon considered the universal mother, the primordial generator of all the gods. Later, on the basis of the Hellenic conception that personified the various aspects of nature, the figure of Gaia with its characteristics was absorbed by other deities such as Demeter or Cybele, who had, compared to Gaia, a more human typology and therefore closer to the popular imagination.

In Sicily, there was an outdoor sanctuary, with an altar of Gaia, located in Syracuse, right on the tip of the island of Ortigia, outside the walls. From this sanctuary the departing sailors took a cup which was then thrown into the sea as soon as the last visible point of the earth disappeared, that is the golden shield of the pediment of the temple of Athena (Athenaeus, XI 462). The remains of a sanctuary, in which the cult of the goddess was associated with that of Dionysus and Pluto, are found in Morgantina, as we have seen when talking about Hermes.

Ignazio Caloggero


Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero



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