The War between the Gods and the Titans

Published May 7, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I was going to call the post “Titanomachy,” but I worried that people wouldn’t know what that meant and thus wouldn’t read it.

Anyway, keeping my word and following up on the defeat of Kronos with the defeat of his brothers.  (Oops, guess I shoulda put a spoiler warning on my intro!)  But I’ve had to make up most of it, on account of no surviving ancient texts that give any freakin’ details.  (The question is, why?  Were there–uh, wait, I’ll make a separate post about this later.)

Once all six of the gods had grown to full maturity, thanks to the ambrosia that Zeus shared with his elder siblings, they decided they needed a home; they couldn’t keep living in a cave on Crete, after all!  Their father had set up his court on the heights of Mt. Orthrys, so their first thought was to go and occupy his palace.

But as they approached Mt. Orthrys, they could see fires burning within the palace, and they could hear the angry mutterings of their uncles.  Looking around, Zeus could see another, taller mountain to the north.

“Let’s make our home on top of that one,” he suggested, and the six brothers and sisters set off towards that northern mountain, Olympos.  By the time they arrived, they found that their uncles the Cyclopes were already there, building them a fabulous palace atop the mountain’s peak.

“Mother heard your plan,” Brontes explained, “and she didn’t want her grandchildren living unprotected.”

“These walls will keep out all but the strongest of intruders,” Steropes added.

“Aren’t you supposed to be making our weapons and armor?” Zeus asked.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t grateful to have a home already made for him, but it wouldn’t do much good if he didn’t have anything to protect him from the weapons of his uncles.

“The armor is ready,” Arges answered, “but the weapons aren’t quite finished yet.  Don’t go picking any fights until they are!”

The gods agreed readily, and moved into their new palace on Mt. Olympos.

That night, as the new gods and goddesses settled in, picking rooms for themselves, the gods began to realize the same thing that boys of a certain age realize:  just what girls are for.  Zeus couldn’t bring himself to leave his sisters alone for a moment, and Poseidon wasn’t much more calm.  Hades, on the other hand, was more concerned with the battle to come.  He wanted to know just what would happen if they fell prey to the weapons of their uncles.

Eventually, Hestia slammed her door in their faces, and urged Demeter and Hera to do the same.  Demeter was more eager to do so than Hera was, but even she was getting tired.

Once the goddesses wouldn’t put up with them any longer, Zeus and Poseidon decided to spend the rest of the night talking to Hades, whether he liked it or not.  (And he did not.)

One point came up again and again as they talked through the night.  “If Father was ruling over everything, then who has the power now?”

No one was quite sure.  But they were sure they didn’t want any of their uncles to rule; they would surely be just as bad as Kronos had been.  They were his brothers, after all.

By the time morning came, and the light of Hyperion’s chariot shone down upon them, the gods had made a decision.  They told their sisters about it when they arose, and their sisters agreed.  An announcement had to be made.  And since Zeus had been the one who had freed them from their father’s belly, the other gods decided he could make the announcement.  So Zeus climbed up on the roof, and hailed Hyperion as he rode through the sky.  The Titan paused his chariot above Mt. Olympos, and looked down at his nephew in uncertain confusion.

“Who are you?” he asked.  “This palace wasn’t here yesterday.”

“I am Zeus, son and vanquisher of Kronos,” the other announced proudly.

“Oho, you’re a confident one!” Hyperion laughed.  “That’s my brother you’re talking about, you know.”

“I know.  But I need to make an announcement to all that exists, and I need your chariot to do it.”

“Oh?  And do you plan to vanquish me to get it?”

“If I have to,” Zeus replied, “but I’d rather have your cooperation.”

“For the moment, I suppose there’s no harm in it,” Hyperion said, after a moment’s thought.  “Hop in.”

So Zeus joined his uncle in the chariot, and it rose onwards towards its zenith.  Once the sun had reached its apex, Zeus asked Hyperion to stop the horses, and then he looked down at the world below him, before bellowing down at it in his loudest voice, thundering across all that existed:

“The tyranny of Kronos has been thrown down!” he shouted.  “The gods now rule all from Mt. Olympos!  Those without power who side with us will gain it!  Those who have power and side with us will retain it undiminished.  But those who oppose us will lose all they have, and join Kronos in the depths of Tartaros!”

Hyperion watched Zeus for a short time after he finished yelling.  “Is that it?” he asked.

“I see no need of more,” Zeus replied, and for a moment he seemed no longer a stripling, but fully grown and powerful indeed.

“Interesting.”  Hyperion shook his head.  “What about those who prefer to remain neutral?” he asked.

Zeus frowned.  They hadn’t discussed that possibility.  “We’ll see what happens,” he replied slowly.  “But if my father’s other brothers take this as badly as my brother Hades fears, I don’t think neutrality will be an option for anyone.”

“I’d prefer not to take sides,” Hyperion continued, as he urged his horses back into motion.  “Because without me, who would move the sun along its course?  If I side with the loser in such a conflict, the sun could disappear from the sky, and then what would happen?”

“Well, it’s not as though the sun serves any purpose,” Zeus pointed out.

“Perhaps not,” Hyperion admitted, “but it makes the day more pleasant.”

By the time Zeus returned to the palace on Mt. Olympos, he found an unfamiliar woman waiting for him, with her four children behind her.  “Who are you?” he asked, after his siblings explained that the woman had refused to identify herself until his return.

“I am Styx,” she replied, “a river who flows beneath the earth, not far from the entrance to Tartaros.  My father, Oceanos, suggested that I should come and offer you my support, as the Titans have treated me as lower than dirt.”

Zeus smiled warmly, and clasped her hand.  “You will have the greatest honors of all!” he promised her, though he couldn’t quite think what that would be.  Hades suggested that her waters should be sacred, and prized for their honor and truth above all else.  Everyone agreed readily.

Then Styx introduced her children to the gods:  Zelos, Nike, Kratos and Bia.  With Glory, Victory, Power and Force on their side, the gods were sure they could never lose, no matter what their uncles might do to hinder them.  Better still, soon afterwards, their aunts approached them, one by one, offering their support, for they had all feared that their own children might suffer the same fate as Kronos’ children, destroyed by a terrified father.

Though Oceanos never left the waters of Pontos his uncle–Styx explained that her father had difficulty functioning on land, because he had been beneath the water for so long–he sent his aid indirectly, by means of many more of his sons and daughters, and while Hyperion was not ready to take their side, he promised he would never take the side against them, and for the moment that seemed assurance enough.

There was little time to worry about Hyperion, in any case.  Because the other Titans were approaching them, armed for battle.  Most were accompanied by their sons, some of such prodigious size that their heads scraped against Ouranos as they walked upon Gaia’s surface.

The gods donned their armor, but they had no weapons, apart from the old sword that Zeus had used to cut open Kronos’ belly.  They decided to see if they could discover anything on the land around them that might serve them as weapons.  But around the base of Mt. Olympos they found nothing but stones and dirt.

“I suppose we can throw rocks at them,” Hades commented, in a droll tone.  “Perhaps we won’t die right away.”

“We’re not going to die,” Zeus insisted.  “We can’t die.”

“I don’t see how we can possibly win,” Poseidon countered glumly.

“But to die so young!” Demeter exclaimed, shedding tears of despair.  Where every one of her tears landed, a tree sprang up from the ground.  Her siblings were filled with delight, and they quickly began to make their plans.

As the Titans drew ever nearer, Demeter shed tears of joy at their clever plan, and each tear brought forth a new tree.  With a little more effort, she realized that the tears weren’t necessary, and she could make the trees grow of her own pure will, and soon Mt. Olympos was surrounded by a thick forest.  While the trees slowed the enormous Titans, the gods set to work arming themselves.

Hades found a lump of pure, heavy gold, and bound the soft metal to the end of a thick rod of stone, making a scepter of such weight that he was able to use it to easily knock over one of Demeter’s new trees.

Hestia used that tree to kindle a great fire, from which she made torches to use as weapons.

Poseidon pulled a huge branch down from one of the tallest trees, and plucked all its side-branches off, leaving only three at the end, which he then hardened in Hestia’s fire, until they were red-hot and hard as stone.

Hera tied a rope around the stone baby that had impersonated her brother Zeus, in order to use it as a weapon against their approaching uncles and cousins.

By the time the Titans arrived, the gods were ready for them, and the battle began.  It lasted for an entire year.  Every time a god was wounded, he would fall back and take a drink of ambrosia from the goat’s horn, and his wounds would heal.  When a Titan was wounded, he would fall back and leave the fighting to the others until his wound healed itself.

At the end of the year, the Titans reluctantly withdrew, and the gods limped, exhausted, back up to their palace on Mt. Olympos.

While they rested, the Cyclopes came, and fixed their weapons into proper ones.  They made Hades’ temporary scepter into a proper one, and provided Poseidon with a proper trident with sharp metal tips.  But they told Zeus that the special weapon they had been making for him still wasn’ ready yet.  They suggested that the gods should avoid entering combat against the Titans again until it was ready.

But the Titans weren’t willing to wait!

Soon enough, they were back for more, as mean as ever.

“The probem is that colossal one,” Poseidon growled, glaring hatred at his cousin Atlas.  “If only I could somehow drown him!”

“If he grabs me by my feet and mocks me one more time, I’ll skin him alive,” Hera promised.  “See how much he’d like having to blunder about with no skin!”‘

“Complaining is not defeating him any faster,” Hades pointed out.

“No, but they’re right,” Zeus agreed, “we need to be rid of Atlas more than any of the elder Titans.”

But though they tried and tried, they could not defeat Atlas, and at the end of the year, both sides withdrew, once again in a stalemate.

As they rested, the gods discussed the problem, and asked their mother and aunts for advice.

“We need to immobilize him,” Rheia said, “but I don’t think any of us have the strength to kill him.”

“I’ll ask Father for his help when I drive the moon chariot tonight,” Phoibe suggested.  “He must be tired of constantly being struck by Atlas’ clumsy head.”

“I’ll see if there’s anything my father can do,” Styx added.  “Or my father-in-law, Pontos.”

“And I’ll ask Mother for help,” Themis said.  “I know it breaks her heart to see us fighting like this.”

Everyone agreed to wait and see who was willing to help them defeat Atlas before they made any further plans.  And once they had heard, the plans were quickly and easily agreed upon.

When battle resumed for the third year of fighting, everyone was ready to play the predetermined role in taking down the mighty Atlas.

First, the goddesses–his favorite targets, because he liked to listen to their screams as he swung them about–lured him towards the edge of the sea.  Then Hyperion drove the chariot of the sun down into his face and blinded him.  While Atlas couldn’t see, all the rivers that Pontos and Oceanos had fathered over the years rolled up as one and shoved Atlas into the water, where he was pushed far out by their joined current.  Once he was in place, Gaia grabbed his feet fast, and sent the signal to her daughters, who broke all the supports holding their father up.  Ouranos plunged downwards towards Gaia, and Atlas had no choice but to catch him on his shoulders, or he would have been crushed!

But once Atlas was thus holding up his grandfather the sky, he could no longer move; if he let go, then the sky would continue its plummet and crush him.

The gods rejoiced to be rid of Atlas, but the Titans took advantage of their rejoicing, and beat them back, though the Titans could not figure out any way to save Atlas from his predicament, and at the end of the year, both sides retreated without further gains.

So it continued.  Each year they fought, and each year none achieved any lasting success.

Until the tenth year.  Then the Cyclopes were finally finished forging the new weapon for Zeus, and with it in hand, he led the charge against the Titans.  This time, the Cyclopes were fighting by the side of the gods, as were the Hundred-Handed Giants, who had left Styx in charge of guarding the sole prisoner in Tartaros.

The Hundred-Handed Giants pelted the Titans with enormous rocks, softening them up, as the Cyclopes and gods fought as one to round the Titans up into a single spot.  Then Zeus unleashed the mighty weapon that the Titans had created for him:  he hurled his thunderbolt at the assembled Titans, causing destruction and havoc all around them.

But the Titans were as immortal as the gods, and they were not destroyed by the thunderbolt.  They were merely dazed, unable to fight further.  Though the gods were depressed that their enemies had not been slain, they did not waste the opportunity that the Cyclopes had forged for them:  they quickly chained the Titans, and with the aid of the Cyclopes and Hundred-Handed Giants, transported all of them down to Tartaros, where the Hundred-Handers continued to play jailors over them.

Then the gods returned to Mount Olympos to celebrate.

To celebrate, and to carve up their newly won kingdom between them.

Hestia quickly announced that she had no desire to play any role in unseemly power politics; she would satisfy herself with the flames of the hearth.  Demeter wanted to spread more trees and plants across the surface of the world, and said that was enough for her; any power or holdings would chain her down and keep her from traveling to promote growth and birth.

Zeus was a little dismayed by their lack of ambition, and began to form harsh opinions about women based on their actions, despite how silly his opinions actually were.  He also found himself fondling the thunderbolt, thinking fondly of its power, and all he could gain with it…

“What about you, brothers?” Demeter asked, looking at the three gods, as they had been silent this whole time.  “What do you want now?”

“I’ve come to like the water,” Poseidon admitted.  “If we’re dividing up control of the world below, I think I’d like that as my share.”

“I have no objections,” Hades told him.  “Too damp for my tastes.  And as to this place,” he added, looking around at their palace, “it’s too bright.  I’ve got a headache already.  And there’s something in those forests that makes me sneeze.  I’ll control that which is underground.  Keep an eye on the opening to Tartaros, just in case.  And Styx told me that there’s the soul of a goat down there, near her banks.  More things might die and end up down there.  Someone should keep them from straying.”

“Then I suppose that leaves me in control of everything else,” Zeus concluded, hoping no one would argue.  He didn’t like the idea of having to fight his brothers and sisters…

“The world does need a king,” Hera agreed.

“If you insist,” Zeus said, with a falsely humble nod of his head, “I shall accept the role.”  He was just glad he hadn’t had to suggest it himself.  That might have sounded a touch arrogant, despite that he was, after all, the one who saved the day.  Twice.  “But I’ll need a queen by my side,” he added, looking over at his sisters.

“You impossible man!” Hera exclaimed.  “Very well, if you insist!”

Slightly perplexed by her assumption that he had been insisting, Zeus agreed to hold the wedding feast that very night.

After the feast was over, Poseidon, Hades and Demeter all left the palace, while Zeus and Hera were having their wedding night, and Hestia was tending to the hearth in the throne room.

“I don’t think he was insisting at all,” Demeter commented, shaking her head.

“I thought he was looking at you,” Hades agreed.

“This won’t end well,” Poseidon sighed.

Then they went their separate ways.

Hmm….ending still needs work.  But I like the idea of them picking their own domains.  Especially of letting the goddesses also pick their own domains.  Given the misogynistic bent of ancient Greek society, that was obviously never the case; the goddesses simply had to accept what they were given, the same way as human women did.  On the other hand, in some versions the gods really did divide things up of their own accord, while in other cases it was divided by lottery.

While I tried to punch up the battle a bit, one of the few sources–I’m pretty sure it was Hesiod, but not positive–does say that it took ten years, and was only settled when the Cyclopes finally handed over the thunderbolt to Zeus.  (Also, I apologize profusely for the Attack on Titan references with Atlas.  I just couldn’t help myself.)  That whole bit with Atlas was entirely my own creation, as there’s no surviving source that really explains that whole thing of how, when and why he ends up supporting the sky.  In fact, in Early Greek Myth, Gantz suggests that in the case of Atlas, “the punishment is older than the crime” and I think he’s probably more right than he may necessarily have meant:  I’ve read (though I have no idea if this is accurate) that Atlas may well have been based on an Anatolian god from the Late Bronze Age, or possibly even older.  In which case, the Greeks would have imported him as the giant who holds up the sky, and then they would have had to make up a reason for that to be the case.  Or at least that seems plausible.

And I don’t know why I gave Hades hayfever.  But…I kind of like the idea of a sneezing god of the dead.  (I couldn’t have him complain about pollen, though, what with plants being such a new thing and all.  Plus I’m not sure how the ancient Greeks perceived pollen.  For that matter, I have no idea how the pollen in Greece compares to the pollen around here, which coats cars in a sickly greenish-yellow every spring.)  In any case, since Hades eventually marries a goddess associated with making flowers grow, him having pollen allergies seemed amusing.

Also, I’m sorry that I made out that there aren’t any plants yet, despite there having been wheat fields in the previous story.  I gotta figure out how to handle that and change either that one or this one.  Maybe it’s just that there weren’t trees yet…?  But if there weren’t trees, then how could there have been a fire?  Hmm…yeah, I goofed up somewhere, that’s for sure.

Again, I feel a little conflicted about the way I’ve written Zeus here, but I did try to give a moment or two where he’s beginning to grow into the (lecherous) old god we’re more familiar with.


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