|“||I hate you! Ouranos was a horrible father, but at least he didn't swallow us!||”|
Rhea is the Greek Titaness of Motherhood, as well as the wife of the Titan King, Kronos, and therefore the Titan Queen of Mount Orthys. Through Kronos, she was also the mother of the six Elder Olympian gods (Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus). Her Roman form is Ops.
The Titans were the eldest of the three races born to Gaea the Earth and Ouranos the Sky, before the Hekatonkheires (Cottus, Gyges, and Briares) and the Elder Cyclopes (Arges, Brontes, and Steropes). All were detested by their father, but he detested the younger children so much (mainly for their ugliness) that he imprisoned them in the terrifying abyss of Tartarus, which was itself deep within the Earth. Enraged, Gaea told her remaining twelve children (including Rhea), the Titans, to avenge their brothers and overthrow their arrogant and sadistic father. Rhea seemed shocked at the prospect of murdering her own father (since she had not thought it possible to kill an immortal), and, along with her sisters Theia, Tethys, Themis, Phoebe, and Mnemosyne, refused to participate.
Around this time, very early in her life, Rhea planted the Grove of Dodona.
The Titaness of Motherhood
After Rhea's brother Kronos successfully murdered Ouranos (with some help from Hyperion, Iapetus, Krios, and Koios), the young Titan proceeded to crown himself Titan King of Mount Orthys, and usher in an era of peace and prosperity for the Titans, which would later become known as the "Golden Age." As he had promised, the new Titan King granted Hyperion, Iapetus, Krios, and Koios control of the four corners of the world, and released his Elder Cyclopes and Hekatonkheire brothers from Tartarus. As for Rhea herself, she became the Titaness of Motherhood, and always helped her sisters deliver all of their children (Eos, Helios, Selene, Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Leto, Perses, and others), and would often babysit. The Titaness came to love animals very much, though she favored lions, who pulled her golden chariot. Rhea was frequently very calm, and her presence alone was enough to calm everyone around her. As a result, Rhea's gentle and kind nature earned her the love of her entire family. Rhea would also frequently approach her wise and clairvoyant brother Koios with questions about the future.
Marriage to Kronos
However, Rhea was also the most beautiful Titaness of all, which quickly earned her the attention of Kronos himself. Since the Titan King feared his father's prediction that he would be overpowered by one of his own children, Kronos had initially vowed to stay a bachelor. However, after all eleven of Kronos' elder brothers and sisters got married (and gave birth to many Titanic children), they no longer visited him, not even during his weekly Sunday dinners. While they claimed to be too busy, Kronos knew that the actual reason was their secret fear of his might and infamous temper. While, as the Titan King of Mount Orthys, Kronos still relished all of the power and authority that he possessed, his new found loneliness, as well as his Titanic siblings' happy family lives, greatly depressed him. To make matters worse, Kronos began to fall deeply in love with Rhea. He seemed to believe that marrying her would improve his personality, and induce his siblings to fear him less, and visit him more often. In the end, Kronos invited Rhea to a romantic dinner on Mount Othrys, confessed his deep feelings for her, and proposed. To Kronos' great delight, Rhea accepted, and the newlyweds enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon together.
Birth of the Olympian Gods
A few weeks later, Rhea gave birth to their first child: a beautiful girl named Hestia. At first, Kronos seemed willing to be a good father, and not to resemble Ouranos. However, the Titan King suddenly realized that Hestia was not a Titaness, but rather, a more powerful and beautiful immortal (a goddess). Kronos, fearing that Hestia might one day overpower him, quickly swallowed her whole, to the horror of Rhea. Trying to cajole his beloved wife, Kronos would give her many gifts, and invite her to multiple magnificent dinners.
Rhea would give birth to two even more beautiful daughters (Demeter and Hera), as well as two even more handsome sons (Hades and Poseidon), all of whom were gods, not Titans. As before, Kronos feared that any one of them might one day overpower him, and swallowed all of them whole. Rhea pleaded with Kronos to spare their children but with no success, since even Kronos' great love for Rhea was not enough to overpower his selfish and evil nature.
A distraught Rhea soon heard the voice of Gaea, advising her to give birth to her final child (who would save his other siblings) on the island of Crete. Claiming that Koios, her clairvoyant brother advised her to do so, Rhea successfully departed for Crete. There, in a cave at the base of Mount Ida, Rhea gave birth to her sixth and final child. His name would be Zeus. Rhea gave her newborn son to the Nine Nymphs that attended his birth, and returned to Mount Orthys. She used a huge smooth boulder (given to her by Gaea) to deceive Kronos, by wrapping it up in swaddling clothes, and pretending that it was her final child. Kronos swallowed it without even looking (which gave him an intense stomachache), and was successfully deceived. Rhea would secretly visit Zeus on Crete, and helped the Nine Nymphs raise him. While he was growing he suckled the milk of Amaltheia.
Zeus Rescues His Siblings
When Zeus grew to adulthood, Rhea advised him to turn into a Titanic version of himself, and took him to Kronos on Mount Othrys. There, she introduced Zeus to him as a young Titan who wished to become his royal cup bearer. Kronos, very impressed by Zeus' excellent singing, dancing and joking skills, promptly hired him.
Shortly thereafter, Zeus encouraged the Titans to participate in drinking contests. As the Titan King of Mount Othrys, Kronos would always win, since he could not let his siblings or nephews overcome him in anything. Finally, the Titan King began trusting Zeus completely, which is exactly what the latter was waiting for.
One evening, when Kronos was dining together with his brothers and nephews, Zeus prepared a special set of drinks for them all. Zeus prepared nectar mixed with sleeping potion to Kronos' guests, while he prepared an extremely powerful emetic (made from nectar mixed with mustard) for Kronos himself. As before, Zeus entertained them all with his great singing, dancing, and jokes. Near the end of the Titanic banquet, Zeus encouraged all of the Titans to have yet another drinking contest, and handed out the prepared goblets. As before, Kronos won the contest, but Zeus' emetic was so powerful, that it forced him to instantly disgorge all of the contents of his stomach, in reverse order of swallowing: first the boulder, then Poseidon, followed by Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia. All of them had been growing undigested in Kronos' stomach, being gods.
Zeus quickly introduced himself to his elder siblings, and all of them quickly escaped Mount Othrys, before their Titanic uncles and cousins came to their senses. In Zeus' Cave, at the base of Mount Ida, Rhea happily reunited with her beloved children, tearfully embracing all of them individually. Shortly thereafter, all of her children accepted Zeus as their leader, and reached a unanimous consensus on declaring war against their tyrannical father. However, since they still had no weapons, Rhea advised them to release their Elder Cyclopes and Hekatonkheire uncles (all of whom were excellent blacksmiths) from Tartarus, and her eldest son Hades agreed to lead them there.
After returning from Tartarus with the freed Elder Cyclopes and Hekatonkheires, all six of Rhea's children quickly declared war against their father, as well as the other Titans. Shortly before the Titanomachy began, Rhea personally visited all of her Titanic nieces and nephews, and convinced all of them (except for General Atlas) to remain neutral in the upcoming conflict.
The resulting Titanomachy was utterly terrifying, and lasted for 11 long years. The Titans initially had the upper hand in their battles with the gods, since they were well armed, and much more experienced warriors. However, the gods quickly became skilled warriors as well, and with the help of their new extremely powerful weapons (Zeus' Master Bolt, Poseidon's Trident, and Hades' Helm of Darkness), as well as the aid of the Elder Cyclopes and Hekatonkheires, the gods finally prevailed. During the final battle, Zeus used his Master Bolt to shear off the top of Mount Othrys, and hurl Kronos from his Black Throne, defeating the Titan King. Shortly thereafter, the gods invaded the ruins of Mount Orthys, and finally overwhelmed the remaining Titans.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Titans were all chained up by the Elder Cyclopes, after which the Hekatonkheires forced them to kneel before Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Zeus proceeded to take his father's sharp Scythe, and slice Kronos into a thousand pieces, before casting him into Tartarus, along with the rest of his followers (except for General Atlas, who was forced to hold up the Sky).
After the War
It is reasonable and logical to deduce that, after the First Titanomachy, Rhea still retained a place of utter prominence in the new order, for she was able to make decisions regarding her children (who had become the new official rulers of the world): she advised Poseidon to explore his new domains of the seas when she sensed the tension between him and Zeus, and sent Hera to Oceanus and Tethys so she could learn to control her bad temper.
Most often Rhea's symbol is a pair of lions, the ones that pulled her golden celestial chariot, and were seen often, rampant, one on either side of the gateways through the walls to many cities in the ancient world. The one at Mycenae is most characteristic, with the lions placed on either side of a pillar that symbolizes the great Titaness.
The principal seat of her worship, which was always of a very riotous character, was in Crete. At her festivals, which took place at night, the wildest music of flutes, cymbals, and drums resounded, whilst joyful shouts and cries, accompanied by dancing and loud stamping of feet, filled the air.
Apparently, Rhea still keeps in touch with all six of her children, and they all have a strong mutual love (even Hades). Chiron mentions her while talking about Zeus and Poseidon quarreling, as one of their usual arguments involved which one of them their mother Rhea loves more. As before, she had managed to keep out of the Second Titanomachy, which her slowly rising husband, Kronos, was intending to implement.
Rhea first appeared to her grandson, Apollo, in a dream, and urged him to "follow the voices" and "find the gates" by all means. However, he only recognised her and understood her message later on while researching information about the Grove of Dodona. According to Chiron, she had not been seen for millennia.
When Apollo finally met Rhea face-to-face, she revealed that she had withdrawn from the world, started a pottery studio, and had once been a strong woman's rights advocate in the U.S.. After warning him in detail about the enemies he would definitely encounter in his quest, she wished him luck and transported him back to Camp Half-Blood.
In Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, Rhea was described to be the most beautiful Titaness of all, with dark curly hair that swept her shoulders, eyes as green as meadows, and a smile that was brighter than the sun. Her beauty and charm were such that her brother, Kronos, fell hopelessly in love with her and married her despite knowing of the curse that Ouranos had placed on him.
In The Hidden Oracle, when Apollo first saw Rhea in a dream, she was described as being dressed like a Libyan Queen of old: her gown swirled with red, black, and gold floral designs, and her long dark hair was crowned with a tiara that looked like a curved miniature ladder - two gold rails lined with rungs of silver. Rhea also looked like a benevolent queen, having a mature but stately face, a kind smile, and flashing gold eyes like a feline predator's. Though she had an elder-hippie vibe, she was so attractive that Apollo assumed that they must be related, though he was unaware of her true identity at that time.
When Apollo encountered her for the second time, he finally recognised her, but saw that she looked different than she had in his previous dream: she wore tinted glasses that changed from orange to purple, and there was a silver-and-gold tiara in her braided hair. Her batik dress swirled with images of fern fronds, and her arms and hands were covered in henna tattoos. A macrame belt cinched her waist, and around her neck was a chain on which a brass peace symbol hung.
Rhea was able to put those who surround her at total ease, and her very presence alone had a powerful calming effect. She also had a love of animals, though she favored lions. As the Titaness of Motherhood, Rhea naturally adored babies, and so would always help her sisters deliver their children. After she became a mother herself, she earned the title of "The Great Mother", and was shown to love all of her own children dearly (even Hades). In fact, her love for her children was what made her actually lose her temper for the first time, for witnessing Kronos brutally swallow them was too much for even her exceptionally calm and gentle disposition to tolerate.
Ultimately, Rhea's love for her children was what led her to secretly plot against Kronos, which in turn led to his eventual downfall in the hands of their six children. During the First Titanmoachy, she visited every Titan she could, and tried to persuade them to side with her children. Though some opted to remain neutral, Rhea proved persuasive enough to convince nearly all the female Titans to either side with her children or stay out of their way.
Rhea's oldest daughter, Hestia, shares many similarities to her in terms of personality, despite the latter vowing to remain an eternal virgin.
Rhea also passed certain aspects of her looks and personality on to her children:
- Hestia inherited her warm, comforting personality and her wise traits. All in all, Hestia was described as being most similar to her mother, with the only big difference being that Hestia, unlike the very motherly Rhea, never ever desired to become a mother herself, and chose to remain an eternal virgin.
- Demeter inherited her love of animals.
- Hera inherited her bright "sunny" smile, gorgeous beauty, and protective maternal instincts.
- Hades inherited her long shoulder-length black hair and her tendency to hold long grudges (which she held against Kronos).
- Poseidon inherited her brilliant green eyes.
- Zeus inherited her attitude of low tolerance, particularly of injustice.
In The Hidden Oracle, Apollo confirmed that Rhea was a gentle soul who sided with the gods in their first great war. However, she had always been something of a mystery among the gods, and even Zeus, who knew her best, did not often speak of his mother. During his and Rhea's conversation, Apollo observed that she had a tendency to confuse her own memories, and to get carried away from the main point. In fact, she later revealed that part of the reason for why she had withdrawn from the world was to evade the imperators, as she did not want to be entangled in another patriarchal institutional oppression that reminded her strongly of Kronos' tyranny.
However, it was still evident that, despite her going into seclusion to evade bad memories, Rhea still loved her family enough to intervene in their times of need: she gave Apollo (her grandson) good advice regarding how to deal with his enemies, provided him with sincere encouragement on his quest, and wished him good luck. She also demonstrated an excellent understanding of her children, given how she confirmed with Apollo that Zeus (her youngest son) was a father who firmly believed in expressing paternal love or concern in a strict way to make his children behave responsibly, and that Apollo's taking back Delphi was the only way that he could regain Zeus' favour.
The full extent of Rhea's abilities is unknown. However, as an Elder Titaness, the Titan Queen of Mount Othrys, and the mother of the six Elder Olympian gods, she is certainly an extremely powerful force in her own right.
- Motherhood: As the Titaness of Motherhood, Rhea adored children, and was an adept at delivering newborn babies and raising children. In fact, she personally delivered all of her sisters' Titan children, and when she became a mother herself, she earned the title of The Great Mother. Besides this, an ability that she had presumably derived from this province is:
- Fluency in Tongue of the Old Times: Rhea has perfect understanding of as well as perfect fluency in the ancient language that Gaea spoke to the Titans, the Elder Cyclops, and the Hekatonkheires before the birth of the Olympian gods.
- Comfort and Ease: Rhea always emitted a pleasant, protective, and comfortable aura that puts everyone around her at total ease. Her oldest daughter, Hestia, was later revealed to have inherited this power of hers.
- Control of Animals: Rhea was a lover of animals, particularly the lion, which is sacred to her. Hence, she was almost always depicted as being accompanied by lions. In The Hidden Oracle, when Apollo encountered her for the second time, he saw that she was accompanied by two lions.
- Persuasion: Rhea was shown to have remarkable skills of persuasion, given how she managed to convince nearly all the female Titans to either side with her children or stay out of their way during the First Titanmoachy.
- Prophecy and Premonition: As revealed in The Hidden Oracle, during the first days of the world, Rhea planted Dodona, a stand of sacred oaks that could actually speak and even issue prophecies occasionally, which proves that she actually possessed the ability to foretell the future, for Dodona's power emanated from her. Given how her first encounter with Apollo took place in a dream, it is reasonable and logical to deduce that she also had other psychic powers, being able to communicate with others through prophetic dreams. Since her daughters, Hestia and Hera, were also revealed later on to possess potent psychic powers, it is a plausible theory that they had inherited their powers from her.
- Rhea is also a moon surrounding Saturn (planet) that was discovered in 1672 and is named after her. It is also the ninth-largest moon in the Solar System.
- Rhea shares numerous similarities with her daughter, Hera: their names are anagrams of each other's names, they are both deities of motherhood, and they are among the most beautiful deities (Rhea is the most beautiful Elder Titaness, while Hera is the most beautiful Elder Olympian).
- Rhea was the favorite daughter of Gaea, which was why Gaea advised her on how to save baby Zeus from Kronos.
- Rhea was the only Titaness whose children were gods, not Titans. This was most likely due to her being the Titaness of Motherhood.
- Rhea, a species of flightless birds, is named after her.
- Rhea is known as "The Mother of Gods" since she is the mother of all six Elder Olympians.
- Rhea's son, Poseidon, was the only child to inherit her brilliant green eyes.
- She shares her name with Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus.
- Rhea is the only one who has always unconditionally loved her son, Hades, who was hated by his father, and greatly feared by his siblings, nephews, and nieces. Hence, despite their differences and intense family quarrels, one thing that all six Elder Olympians had in common was their strong love for their mother Rhea.