Web Theoi
EREBOS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Ερεβος Erebos Erebus Darkness (erebos)
Σκοτος Skotos Scotus Darkness (skotos)

EREBOS (or Erebus) was the Protogenos (primeval god) of darkness, consort of Nyx (Night), whose dark mists enveloped the edges of the world, and filled the deep hollows of the earth. His wife Nyx drew these mists across the heavens to bring night to the world, while his daughter Hemera scattered them bringing day : one blocking out the light of Aither (shining, blue heaven) and the other revealing it. The bright upper air (aither) was regarded as the source of day in the ancient cosmogonies rather than the sun.

The name Erebos was also used for the dismal, netherworld realm of Haides.

PARENTS
[1.1] KHAOS (no father) (Hesiod Theogony 123, Hyginus Preface)
[2.1] KHRONOS & ANANKE (Orphic Fragment 54)
OFFSPRING PROTOGENOI
[1.1] AITHER, HEMERA (by Nyx) (Hesiod Theogony 124, Cicero De Natura Deum 3.17)
[1.2] AITHER (Aristophanes Birds 1189)
[1.3] EROS (by Nyx) (Hyginus Preface)
[1.4] AITHER, HEMERA, EROS (by Nyx) (Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.17)
OFFSPRING DAIMONES
[1.1] MOROS (FATUM), GERAS (SENECTUS), THANATOS (MORS), KER (LETUM), SOPHROSYNE (CONTINENTIA), HYPNOS (SOMNUS), ONEIROI (SOMNIA), EROS (AMOR), EPIPHRON, PORPHYRION, EPAPHOS, ERIS (DISCORDIA), OIZYS (MISERIA), HYBRIS (PETULANTIA), NEMESIS, EUPHROSYNE, PHILOTES (AMICITIA), ELEOS (MISERICORDIA), STYX, MOIRAI (PARCAE), HESPERIDES (by Nyx) (Hyginus Preface)
[1.2] EROS (AMOR), DOLOS (DOLUS), DEIMOS (METUS), PONOS (LABOR), NEMESIS (INVIDENTIA), MOROS (FATUM), GERAS (SENECTUS), THANATOS (MORS), KERES (TENEBRAE), OIZYS (MISERIA), MOMOS (QUERELLA), PHILOTES (GRATIA), APATE (FRAUS), ? (OBSTINACIA), THE MOIRAI (PARCAE), THE HESPERIDES, THE ONEIROI (SOMNAI) (by Nyx) (Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.17)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

E′REBOS (Erebos), a son of Chaos, begot Aether and Hemera by Nyx, his sister. (Hesiod. Theog. 123.) Hyginus (Fab. p. 1) and Cicero (de Nat. Deor. iii. 17) enumerate many personifications of abstract notions as the offspring of Erebos. The name signifies darkness, and is therefore applied also to the dark and gloomy space under the earth, through which the shades pass into Hades. (Hom. Il. viii. p. 368.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


EREBOS & THE BIRTH OF THE COSMOS

I) THE HESIODIC COSMOGONY

Hesiod, Theogony 115 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Verily at first Khaos (Air) came to be, but next wide-bosomed Gaia (Earth) . . . and dim Tartaros (Hell) in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Khaos (Air) came forth Erebos (Darkness) and black Nyx (Night); but of Nyx (Night) were born Aither (Light) and Hemera (Day), whom she conceived and bore from union in love with Erebos. And Gaia (Earth) first bore starry Ouranos (Heaven), equal to herself, to cover her on every side."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Caligine (Mist) [was born]: Chaos. From Chaos [was born] : Nox (Night), Dies (Day), Erebus, Aether."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 17 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The parents of Caelus (Sky) [Ouranos], Aether (Upper Air) and Dies (Day) [Hemera] . . . fabled to be the children of Erebus (Darkness) and Nox (Night) [Nyx]."

II) THE COSMOGONY OF ALCMAN

Alcman, Fragment 5 (from Scholia) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek lyric C7th B.C.) :
"`[First came] Thetis (Creation). After that, ancient Poros (Contriver) [Khronos?] and Tekmor (Ordinance) [Ananke?]' : Tekmor came into being after Poros . . . thereupon . . . called him Poros (Contriver) since the beginning provided all things; for when the matter began to be set in order, a certain Poros came into being as a beginning. So Alkman represents the matter of all things as confused and unformed.
Then he says that one came into being who set all things in order, then that Poros came into being, and that when Poros had passed by Tekmor followed. And Poros is as a beginning, Tekmor like an end. When Thetis (Creation) had come into being, a beginning and end of all things came into being simultaneously, and all things have their nature resembling the matter of bronze, while Thetis has hers resembling that of a craftsman, Poros and Tekmor resembling a beginning and the end.
He uses the word ancient for old. ‘And the third, Skotos’ ( Darkness) [Erebos] : since neither sun nor moorn had come into being yet, but matter was still undifferentiated. So at the same moment there came into being Poros and Tekmor and Skotos. `Amar (Day) [Hemera] and Melana (Moon) [Selene] and third, Skotos (Darkness) as far as Marmarugas (Flashings)’ : days does not mean simply day, but contains the idea of the sun. Previously there was only darkness, and afterwards, when it had been differentiated, light came into being."

III) THE ORPHIC COSMOGONY

Aristophanes, Birds 685 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"At the beginning there was only Khaos (Air), Nyx (Night), dark Erebos (Darkness), and deep Tartaros (Hell's Pit). Ge (Earth), Aer (Air) [probably Aither] and Ouranos (Heaven) had no existence. Firstly, black-winged Nyx (Night) laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebos (Darkness), and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros [the elder Eros]."

Aristophanes, Birds 1189 ff :
"Aer (Air) [i.e. Aither], the son of Erebus, in which the clouds float."

Orphica, Theogonies Fragment 54 (from Damascius) (trans. West) (Greek hymns C3rd - C2nd B.C.) :
"Originally there was Hydros (Water), he [Orpheus] says, and Mud, from which Ge (the Earth) solidified: he posits these two as first principles, water and earth . . . The one before the two [Thesis], however, he leaves unexpressed, his very silence being an intimation of its ineffable nature. The third principle after the two was engendered by these--Ge (Earth) and Hydros (Water), that is - and was a Serpent (Drakon) with extra heads growing upon it of a bull and a lion, and a god’s countenance in the middle; it had wings upon its shoulders, and its name was Khronos (Unaging Time) and also Herakles. United with it was Ananke (Inevitability, Compulsion), being of the same nature, or Adrastea, incorporeal, her arms extended throughout the universe and touching its extremities. I think this stands for the third principle, occuping the place of essence, only he [Orpheus] made it bisexual [as Phanes] to symbolize the universal generative cause. And I assume that the theology of the [Orphic] Rhapsodies discarded the two first principles (together with the one before the two, that was left unspoken) [that is, the Orphics discarded the concepts of Thesis, Khronos and Ananke], and began from this third principle [Phanes] after the two, because this was the first that was expressible and acceptable to human ears. For this is the great Khronos (Unaging Time) that we found in it [the Rhapsodies], the father of Aither (Light) and Khaos (Air). Indeed, in this theology too [the Hieronyman], this Khronos (Time), the serpent has offspring, three in number: moist Aither (Light) (I quote), unbounded Khaos (Air), and as a third, misty Erebos (Darkness) . . . Among these, he says, Khronos (Time) generated an egg--this tradition too making it generated by Khronos, and born ‘among’ these because it is from these that the third Intelligible triad is produced [Protogonos-Phanes]. What is this triad, then? The egg; the dyad of the two natures inside it (male and female) [Ouranos, Heaven and Gaia, Earth], and the plurality of the various seeds between [Phanes, Life]; and thirdly an incorporeal god with golden wings on his shoulders, bulls’ heads growing upon his flanks, and on his head a monstrous serpent, presenting the appearance of all kinds of animal forms."


EREBOS FATHER OF DAIMONES (SPIRITS)

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Chaos and Caligine (Darkness) [were born]: Nox (Night), Dies (Day), Erebus, Aether.
From Nox (Night) and Erebus : Fatum (Fate), Senectus (Old Age), Mors (Death), Letum (Dissolution), Continentia (Continence), Somnus (Sleep), Somnia (Dreams), Amor--that is Lysimeles, Epiphron, Porphyrion, Epaphus, Discordia (Discord), Miseria (Wretchedness), Petulantia (Wantonness), Nemesis, Euphrosyne, Amicitia (Friendship), Misericordia (Compassion), Styx; the three Parcae (Fates), namely Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos; the Hesperides Aegle, Hesperie and Aerica."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 17 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[If Ouranos is a god then] the parents of Caelus (Sky) [Ouranos], Aether (Upper Air) and Dies (Day) [Hemera], must be held to be gods, and their brothers and sisters, whom the ancient genealogists name Amor (Love) [Eros], Dolus (Guile), Metus (Fear), Labor (Toil)], Invidentia (Envy), Fatum (Fate), Senectus (Old Age), Mors (Death), Tenebrae (Darknesses), Miseria (Misery), Querella (Lamentation), Gratia (Favour), Fraus (Fraud), Pertinacia (Obstinacy), the Parcae (Fates), the Hesperides, the Somnia (Dreams): all of these are fabled to be the children of Erebus (Darkness) and Nox (Night) [Nyx]. Either therefore you must accept these monstrosities or you must discard the first claimants also."


EREBOS THE UNDERWORLD

Hesiod, Theogony 514 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Zeus struck him [the Titan Menoitios] with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebos."

Hesiod, Theogony 669 ff :
"[The Hekatonkheires] whom Zeus brought up to the light from Erebos beneath the earth."

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 408 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"[Hermes came] bidding me [Persephone] come back from Erebos."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 12. 417 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Rose Eos (the dawn), and thrust back kindly Nyx (Night) to Erebos."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 403 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She [the witch Kirke] . . . out of Erebos (Darkness) and Chaos (Gloomy Air) called Nox (Night) and the Di Nocti (Gods of Night) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate."


Sources:

  • Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th B.C.
  • Greek Lyric II Alcman, Fragments - Greek Lyric C7th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, Birds - Greek Comedy C5th-4th B.C.
  • Orphica, Fragments - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
  • Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.