GAIA was the goddess of the earth. This first part of this page describes her as the goddess of the elemental earth (i.e. of the soil, rocks, stones and caverns).
The second half outlines her ancient cults and oracles.
CAVERNS & CHASMS OF GAIA
I) HEKATONKHEIRES IMPRISONED IN CAVERNS OF GAIA
Hesiod, Theogony 126 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And again, three other sons were born of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven), great and doughty beyond telling, Kottos and Briareos and Gyes [the Hekatonkheires]. From their shoulders sprang a hundred arms, not to be approached, and each had fifty heads upon his shoulders on their strong limbs, and irresistible was the stubborn strength that was in their great forms. For of all the children that were born of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos, these were the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first. And he used to hide them all away in a secret place of Gaia (Earth) so soon as each was born, and would not suffer them to come up into the light: and Ouranos rejoiced in his evil doing. But vast Gaia (Earth) groaned within, being straitened."
II) GORGON AIX HIDDEN IN THE CAVERNS OF GAIA
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 13 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Some have called Aex the daughter of Sol [Helios the Sun], who surpassed many in beauty of body, but in contrast to this beauty, had a most horrible face. Terrified by it, the Titanes begged Terra (Earth) [Gaia] to hide her body, and Terra is said to have hidden her in a cave in the island of Crete [ie she hid her within her own body, the earth]. Later she became nurse of Jove [Zeus], as we have said before."
III) INFANT ZEUS HIDDEN IN THE CAVERNS OF GAIA
Hesiod, Theogony 881 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Him [the infant Zeus] did vast Gaia (Earth) receive from Rhea in wide Krete to nourish and to bring up.Thither came Gaia (Earth) carrying him swiftly through the black night to Lyktos [in Krete] first, and took him in her arms and hid him in a remote cave beneath the secret places of the holy earth on thick-wooded Mount Aigaion."
IV) AMPHIARAOS DEVOURED BY A CHASM OF GAIA
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 99 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"The earth [Gaia] yawned and swallowed him [Amphiaraos] up with his horses and the jointed chariot, far from deep-eddying Alpheius."
Statius, Thebaid 8. 295 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[The seer Theiodamas son of Melampos] prepares to appease Tellus [Gaia the Earth, after the earth had gaped open and swallowed the hero Amphiaraus] . . . He straightway bids altars twain to be wreathed with living trees and well-grown turf, and on them, in honour of the goddess, he flings countless flowers, her own bounty, and heaps of fruit and the new produce of the tireless year, and pouring untouched milk upon the altars he thus begins : ‘O eternal Createress of gods and men . . . with no effort carriest thyself star-bearing Atlas who staggers under the weight of the celestial realm; us alone, O goddess, dost thou refuse to bear? [Amphiaraus one of the Seven Against Thebes had just been swallowed up by the earth] Doth our weight vex thee? What crime, I pray, do we unwittingly atone? . . . Whelm not in burial so sudden our still-breathing bodies; haste not, for we shall come by the path all tread, by the permitted way; hearken but to our prayer, and keep firm for the Pelasgians the fickle plain, and forestall not the swift Parcae [Moirai, fates]. But thou [Amphiaraus], dear to the gods, whom no violence nor Sidonian [Theban] sword did slay, but mighty Natura (Nature) opened her bosom to enfold in union with herself, as though for thy merits she were entombing thee in Cirrha’s chasm, gladly vouchsafe, I pray, that I may learn thy supplications, conciliate me to the gods and the prophetic altars, an detach me what thou didst design to tell the peoples; I will perform thy rites of divination, and in Phoebus’ absence be the prophet of thy godhead and call upon thy name. That place whither thou speedest is mightier, I ween, than any Delos or Cirrha, and more august than any shrine.’ Having thus spoken he casts into the ground black sheep and dark-hued herds, and piles up heaps of billowy sand on their living bodies, duly paying to the seer the emblems of death."
For MORE information on the chthonian oracle Amphiaraos see AMPHIARAOS
GAIA THE EARTH MISCELLANEOUS
I) ROTTING OF THE DEAD
Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 3. 300 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"[Apollon addresses the corpse of Python :] But here, shall Gaia (Earth) and shining Hyperion [the Sun] make you rot."
II) BIRTH OF STREAMS
Gaia was the mother of Okeanos and Tethys, the Titan-Gods of rivers, fountains and streams. Tethys drew the waters of Okeanos (the earth-encircling stream) through the hollows of the earth.
Callimachus, Hymn 1 to Zeus 28 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And holden in distress [having given birth to Zeus in a parched waterless Arkadia and requiring cleansing] the lady Rheia said, ‘Dear Gaia (Earth), give birth thou also! Thy birthpangs are light.’ So spake the goddess, and lifting her great arm she smote the mountain with her staff; and it was greatly rent in twin for her and poured forth a mighty flood [the River Lymas]."
Statius, Thebaid 8. 295 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"O [Gaia] eternal Createress of gods and men, who bringest into being rivers and forests and seeds of life throughout the world."
III) STONES OF EARTH
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 10 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Amphion builds the walls of Thebes with the music of his lyre :] Certainly he keeps his mind intent on the harp, and shows his teeth a little, just enough for a singer. No doubt he is singing a hymn to Gê (Earth) because she, creator and mother of all things, is giving him his walls, which already are rising of their own accord."
N.B. Stones were described as the bones of Earth in the story of Deukalion and Pyrrha. The couple were instructed to cast these over their shoulders to form a new race of men after the Great Deluge.
IV) BURIED TREASURE
Aesop, Fables 84 (Chambry) & Avianus, Fabulae 12 (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"A farmer struggling as he plunged his plough-share into the earth saw a treasure-trove leap forth from the furrow. All in a rush, he immediately abandoned the shameful plow, leading his oxen to better seed. Straightaway he obediently built an altar to the Goddess Ge / Tellus (Earth), who had gladly bestowed on him the wealth contained within her. The Goddess Tykhe / Fortuna (Fortune), feeling slighted that he had not thought her likewise worthy of an offering of incense, admonished the farmer, thinking of the future while he was rejoicing in his new-found affairs: 'Now you do not offer the gifts that you have found to my shrine, but you prefer to make other gods the sharers of your good fortune. Yet when your gold is stolen and you are stricken with sadness, you will make your complaints to me first of all, weeping over your loss."
V) MAGIC OF WITCHES
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 192 (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[The witch] Medea [casts a spell] . . . in the deep stillness of the midnight hour . . . To the stars she stretched her arms, and thrice she turned about and thrice bedewed her locks with water, thrice a wailing cry she gave, then kneeling on the stony ground, `O Nox [Nyx the Night], Mother of Mysteries, and all ye golden Astra (Stars) . . . and thou, divine triceps (three-formed) Hecate, who . . . dost fortify the arts of magic, and thou, kindly Tellus [Gaia the Earth], who dost for magic potent herbs provide; ye Venti (Winds) and Aurae (Airs), ye Montes (mountains), Lacus (Lakes) and Amnes (streams), and all ye Di Omnes Nemorum (Forest-Gods) and Di Omnes Noctis (Gods of Night), be with me now! By your enabling power, at my behest . . . I bid the mountains quake, the deep earth groan and ghosts rise from their tombs.'"
GAIA SCORCHED BY PHAETHON DRIVING THE SUN-CHARIOT
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 11 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Description of an ancient Greek painting:] In his passion for driving this son of Helios (the Sun) [Phaethon] ventured to mount his father’s chariot, but because he did not keep a firm rein he came to grief and fell into the Eridanos . . . Look [at the painting]! . . . Despairing, Ge (the Earth) raises her hands in supplication, as the furious fire draws near her. Now the youth is thrown from the chariot and is falling headlong--for his hair is on fire and his breast smouldering with the heat; his fall will end in the river Eridanos."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 272 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[When Phaethon riding the chariot of the sun set the earth aflame] Mother Tellus (Earth) [Gaia], encompassed by the seas, between the ocean and her shrinking streams, that cowered for refuge in her lightless womb, lifted her smothered head and raised her hand to shield her tortured face; then with a quake, a mighty tremor that convulsed the world, sinking in shallow subsidence below her wonted place, in solemn tones appealed : `If this thy pleasure and my due, why now, Summus Deum (Supreme God) [Zeus], lie thy dread lightnings still? If fire destroy me, let the fire be thine : my doom were lighter dealt by thy design! Scarce can my throat find voice to speak’ the smoke and heat were choking her. `See my singed hair! Ash in my eyes, ash on my lips so deep! Are these the fruits of my fertility? Is this for duty done the due return? That I endure the wounds of pick and plough, year-long unceasing pain, that I supply grass for the flocks and crops, sweet sustenance, for humankind and incense for you gods? But, grant my doom deserved, what have the seas deserved and shat they brother? Why shrinks that main, his charge, and form the sky so far recoils? And if no grace can save they brother now, nor me, pity thine own fair sky! Look round! See, each pole smokes; if there the fire should gain, your royal roofs will fall. Even Atlas fails, his shoulders scarce sustain the flaming sky. If land and sea, if heaven’s high palaces perish, prime chaos will us all confound! Save from the flames whatever’s still alive, and prove you mean Creation to survive!’ Tellus (Earth) could speak no more, nor more endure the fiery heat and vapour, and sank back to her deep caverns next the Manes (Ghosts of the Underworld). But Pater Omnipotens (the Almighty Father) [Zeus], calling the gods and him who gave the chariot to attest creation doomed were now his aid not given, mounted the highest citadel of heaven [and struck down Phaethon with a thunderbolt]."
For MORE information on this demi-god see PHAETHON
GAIA THE ORACULAR VOICE OF EARTH
Gaia was frequently regarded as a prophetic goddess. Aiskhylos equated her with Themis of the oracles.
Hesiod, Theogony 462 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Kronos the wily was beguiled by the deep suggestions of Gaia (Earth), and brought up again his offspring [which he had swallowed as each was born]."
Hesiod, Theogony 617 ff :
"[Zeus and his brothers] brought them [the Kyklopes] up again to the light at Gaia's advising. For she herself recounted all things to the gods fully, how that with these they would gain victory."
Hesiod, Theogony 886 ff :
"Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife first . . . But when she was about to bring forth the goddess bright-eyed Athene, Zeus craftily deceived her with cunning words and put her in his own belly, as Gaia (Earth) and starry Ouranos (Heaven) advised. For they advised him so, to the end that no other should hold royal sway over the eternal gods in place of Zeus."
Homeric Hymn 3 To Pythian Apollo 300 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"Hera prayed, striking the ground flatwise with her hand, and speaking thus : `Hear now, I pray, Gaia (Earth) and wide Ouranos (Heaven) above, and you Titanes gods who dwell beneath the earth about great Tartaros, and from whom are sprung both gods and men! Harken you now to me, one and all, and grant that I may bear a child apart from Zeus no wit lesser than him in strength--nay, let him be as much stronger than Zeus as all-seeing Zeus than Kronos.' Thus she cried and lashed the earth with her strong hand. Then life-giving (pheresbios) Gaia was moved: and when Hera saw it she was glad in heart, for she thought her prayer would be fulfulled."
Pindar, Pythian Ode 7 ep 2 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"From the cleft summit of her father’s brow Athene sprang aloft, and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war. And Ouranos (Heaven) trembled to hear, and Mother Gaia (Earth)."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 211 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Often my [Prometheus'] mother Themis, or Gaia (Earth) (though one form, she had many names), had foretold to me the way in which the future was fated to come to pass [in the war of the Titanes with the gods]. That it was not by brute strength nor through violence, but by guile that those who should gain the upper hand were destined to prevail. And though I argued all this to them [the Titanes], they did not pay any attention to my words."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 10 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On what is called the Gaion (sanctuary of Ge) [at Olympia] is an altar of Ge (Earth); it too is of ashes. In more ancient days they say that there was an oracle also of Ge (Earth) in this place. On what is called the Stomion (Mouth) the altar to Themis has been built."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 71. 2 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Before the battle against the Gigantes in Krete [the Titanes], we are told, Zeus sacrificed a bull to Helios and to Ouranos (Heaven) and to Ge (Earth); and in connection with each of the rites there was revealed to him what was the will of the gods in the affair, the omens indicating the victory of the gods and a defection to them of the enemy [certain Titanes defected to the side of Zeus]."
GAIA & THE ORACLE OF DELPHOI
Pindar, Pythian Ode 4 str 4 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"That word spoken from tree-clad mother Gaia's (Earth’s) navel-stone [Delphoi]."
Aeschylus, Eumenides 1 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"The Pythia [prophetic priestess of the oracle at Delphoi]: First, in this prayer of mine, I give the place of highest honor among the gods to the first prophet, Gaia (Earth); and after her to Themis, for she was the second to take this oracular seat of her mother, as legend tells. And in the third allotment, with Themis' consent and not by force, another Titanis, child of Khthon (Earth), Phoibe, took her seat here. She gave it as a birthday gift to Phoibos [Apollon]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 5. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Many and different are the stories told about Delphoi, and even more son about the oracle of Apollon. For they say that in earliest times the oracular seat belonged to Ge (Earth), who appointed as prophetess at it Daphnis, one of the Nymphai of the mountains. There is extant among the Greeks an hexameter poem, the name of which is Eumolpia, and it is assigned to Musaeus, son of Antiophemos. In it the poet states that the oracle belonged to Poseidon and Ge (Earth) in common; that Ge (Earth) gave her oracles herself, but Poseidon used Pyrkon as his mouthpiece in giving responses. The verses are these:-- `Forthwith the voice of Khthonies uttered a wise word, And with her Pyrkon, servant of the renown Earthshaker.’
They say that afterwards Ge (Earth) gave her share to Themis, who gave it to Apollon as a gift. It is said that he to Poseidon Kalaureia, that lies off Troizenos, in exchange for his oracle."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 16. 3 :
"What is called the Omphalos (Navel) by the Delphians is made of white marble, and is said by the Delphians to be the centre of all the earth (Ge). Pindar in one of his odes supports their view."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 6. 5 :
"The most widespread tradition [for the naming of Pytho, Phokis] has it that the victim of Apollon’s arrows rotted here . . . The poets say that the victim of Apollon was a Drakon posted by Ge (Earth) to be a guard for the oracle."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 140 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Python, offspring of Terra (Earth) [Gaia], was a huge Draco who, before the time of Apollo, used to give oracular responses on Mount Parnassus [for Gaia]."
For MORE information on the priestess and guardians of Gaia's oracle see:
PYTHON, TITYOS and DAPHNIS
GAIA WITNESS OF OATHS
Homer, Iliad 15. 36 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"He [Zeus] spoke . . . : `Now let Gaia (Earth) be my witness in this, and wide Ouranos (Heaven) above us, and the dripping water of the Styx, which oath is the biggest and most terrible among the blessed immortals."
Homer, Iliad 3. 104 & 3. 278 ff :
"[King Agamemnon commands :] `Bring two lambs [for the making of an oath]: let one be white and the other black for Gaia (Earth) and Helios (Sun), and for Zeus we well bring yet another. Bring, that he may seal the pledges . . . Priamos himself, for his sons are outrageous, not to be trusted; lest some man overstep Zeus’ oaths, and make them be nothing. . . . '
The heralds led up the victims for the gods’ oaths, and in a great wine-bowl mixed the wine, and poured water over the hands of the princes. Atreus’ son [Agamemnon] laid hands upon his work-knife, and few it from where it hung ever beside the mighty sheath of his war sword and cut off hairs from the heads of the lambs; and the heralds thereafter passed these about to all the princes of the Trojans and Akhaians. Atreus’ son uplifting his hands then prayed in a great voice: `Father Zeus, watching over us from Ida, most high, most honoured, and Helios, you who see all things, who listen to all things, Gaia, and Potamoi (Rivers), and you who under the earth take vengeance on dead men [the Erinyes], whoever among them has sworn to falsehood, you shall be witnesses, to guard the oaths of fidelity . . . ‘
So he spoke, and with pitiless bronze he cut the lambs’ throats."
Homer, Iliad 19. 259 ff :
"[Agamemnon] cut first away the hairs from the boar, and lifting his hands up to Zeus, prayed . . . He spoke before them in prayer gazing into the wide sky : `Let Zeus first be my witness, highest of the gods and greatest, and Gaia (Earth), and Helios (Sun), and the Erinyes, who underground avenge dead men, when any man has sworn a falsehood, that I have never laid a hand on the girl Briseis . . . ‘
So he spoke, and with pitiless bronze he cut the boar’s throat."
Homeric Hymn 3 to Delian Apollo 84 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"And Leto sware the great oath of the gods: 'Now hear this, Gaia (Earth) and wide Ouranos (Heaven) above, and dropping water of Styx."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 88 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[The Titan Prometheus calls on all of nature to witness his torment:] O you bright sky of heaven (dios aithêr), you swift-winged breezes (takhypteroi pnoiai), you river-waters (pêgai potamôn), and infinite laughter of the waves of sea (pontos), O universal mother Earth (panmêtôr gê) [Gaia], and you, all-seeing orb of the sun (panoptês kyklos hêlios), to you I call! See what I, a god, endure from the gods."
Solon, Fragment 36 (trans. Gerber) (Greek elegiac C6th B.C.) :
"I will have as my best witness the mighty mother of the Olympian gods, dark Ge (Earth)."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 697 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Khalkiope addresses her sister Medea :] `Swear by Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven) that you will keep what I say to yourself and work in league with me.’ . . . [Medea to Khalkiope] `I will do as you ask and take the solemn oath of the Kolkians, swearing by mighty Ouranos (Heaven) and by Gaia (Earth) below, the Mother of the Gods, that provided your demands are not impossible I will help you as you wish, with all the power that in me lies."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 526 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Both [of the gods] took a binding oath, by Kronides [Zeus] and Gaia (Earth), by Aither (Sky) [Ouranos] and the floods of Styx; and the Moirai (Fates) formally witnessed the bargain."
GAIA & SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
Gaia was invoked when offerings were made to the dead, usually in the form of libations poured upon a grave. She was also invoked in prayers to avenge the crime of murder, for the earth was polluted by blood shed in crime.
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 30 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Intending to ward off evil with such a graceless grace, O mother Earth (gaia maia), she [Klytaimnestra waking from a nightmare sent by the ghost of her murdered husband] sends me forth, godless woman that she is [to pour libations as an offering to appease his ghost]. But I am afraid to utter the words she charged me to speak. For what atonement is there for blood fallen to earth? Ah, hearth of utter grief! Ah, house laid low in ruin! Sunless darkness, loathed by men, enshrouds our house due to the death of its master [Agamemnon]."
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 124 ff :
"Elektra [standing before the grave of her father] : `Supreme herald of the realm above and the realm below, O Hermes Khthonios (of the nether world), come to my aid, summon to me the [ancestral] spirits beneath the earth to hear my prayers, spirits that watch over my father's house, and Gaia (Earth) herself, who gives birth to all things, and having nurtured them receives their increase in turn. And meanwhile, as I pour these lustral offerings to the dead, I invoke my father . . . I utter these prayers on our behalf, but I ask that your avenger appear to our foes, father, and that your killers may be killed in just retribution. So I interrupt my prayer for good to offer them this prayer for evil. But be a bearer of blessings for us to the upper world, with the help of the gods and Ge (Earth) and Dike (Justice) crowned with victory."
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 394 ff :
"Elektra : `And when will mighty Zeus bring down his hand on them [the murderers Aigisthos and Klytaimestra] and split their heads open? Let it be a pledge to the land! After injustice I demand justice as my right. Hear, O Ge (Earth), and you honored powers below [the Erinyes]!'"
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 489 ff :
"Orestes [preparing to slay the murderers of his father] : O Gaia (Earth), send up my father [i.e. his ghost] to watch my battle!."
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 721 ff :
"O hallowed earth (khthôn), and hallowed barrow raised high that now lies on the royal form of the commander of the fleet [Agamemnon], now hear me, now lend me aid! Now is the hour for . . . Hermes Khthonios (of the nether world), who works in stealth, to direct this encounter of the deadly sword [in avenging Agamemnon's murder]."
GAIA & THE SPIRITS OF NIGHTMARES
In the following invocation in a play by Aiskhylos, Gaia is apparently called upon to draw away the vision of a nightmare. Presumably this was because dreams were believed to issue forth from the underworld, so Gaia the Earth needs take them back.
Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 886 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Like a spider, he [a rapist] is carrying me [a woman] seaward step by step--a nightmare (onar), a black nightmare (melas onar)! Oh! Oh! Mother Earth (Ma Ge), mother Earth (Ma Ge), avert his fearful cries! O father Zeus, son of Ge (Earth)!"
ENCYCLOPEDIA GAIA TITLES
ANESIDO′RA (Anêsidôra), the spender of gifts, a surname given to Gaea and to Demeter, the latter of whom had a temple under this name at Phlius in Attica. (Paus. i. 31. § 2; Hesych. s. v.; Plut. Sympos. p. 745.)
CALLIGENEIA (Kalligeneia), a surname of Demeter or of her nurse and companion, or of Gaea. (Aristoph. Thesm. 300, with the Schol.; Hesych. s. v.; Phot. Lex. s. v.)
EURYSTERNOS (Eurusternos), that is, the goddess with a broad chest, is a surname of Ge (Hes. Theog. 117), under which she had a sanctuary on the Crathis near Aegae in Achaia, with a very ancient statue. (Paus. vii. 25. § 8, v. 14. § 8.)
PANDO′RUS (Pandôros). A surname of the Earth, in the same sense as Pandora, and of Aesa, or Fate. (Hom. Epigr. 7. 1; Stob. Eclog. i. p. 165, ed. Heeren.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
TITLES & EPITHETS OF GAIA
Gaia had a number of alternate names, titles and epithets, both poetical and cultic.
||Nurse of the Young (kouros, trophos)
||Mother of All
GENERAL CULT OF GAIA
The Earth was usually worshipped in the guise of the Olympian goddess Demeter (Mother Earth). Gaia herself had little cult, and that which did exist was for the most part inseperable from that of Demeter. Black animals were sacrificed to Gaia and other chthonian gods.
Homer, Iliad 3. 104 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Bring two lambs [for sacrifices to the gods as witnesses of the oath] : let one be white and the other black for Gaia (Earth) and Helios (Sun)."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 29. 62 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Indian Deriades calls on his comrades to pray to the gods :] `Pray to both--stretch out your hands to the Water [of the River-God Hydsapes] and pray to Mother Gaia (Earth), and with truthful lips vow to both sacrifice after victory; at the altar let bullshaped Hydaspes hold a hornstrong bull, and let black Gaia receive a black ram [it was traditional to sacrifice black animals to the Khthonion or earthly gods]."
Suidas s.v. Ge (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Ge (Earth): Since the earth is a seat of every city, as, supporting the cities, her image is that of a tower-bearer."
Suidas s.v. Demeter :
"Demeter : The earth, as if being Ge-meter (earth-mother). Since the earth is a foundation of every city, as holding up the cities she is represented wearing towers [sc. as a crown]."
Suidas s.v. Ges agalma :
"Ges agalma (A statue of the earth) : They model Hestia as a woman, like the earth, holding up a kettledrum, since the earth encloses the winds below herself."
CULT IN ATTIKA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) ATHENS Chief City of Attika
Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae 280 (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Comedy-Play describing the Thesmophoria festival of Demeter and Persephone :]
Woman Herald: Silence! Silence! Pray to the Thesmophorai, Demeter and Koura [Persephone]; pray to Ploutos (Wealth), Kalligeneia, Kourotrophos [Hekate], Ge (the Earth), Hermes and the Kharites (Graces), that all may happen for the best at this gathering, both for the greatest advantage of Athens and for our own personal happiness! May the award be given her who, by both deeds and words, has most deserved it from the Athenian people and from the women! Address these prayers to heaven and demand happiness for yourselves. Io Paean! Io Paean! Let us rejoice!"
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 18. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Within the precincts [of the sanctuary of Zeus Olympios in the lower town of Athens] are antiquities: a bronze Zeus, a temple of Kronos and Rhea and an enclosure of Ge (Earth) surnamed Olympia. Here the floor opens to the width of a cubit, and they say that along this bed flowed off the water after the deluge that occurred in the time of Deukalion, and into it they cast every year wheat mixed with honey . . . The ancient sanctuary of Zeus Olympios the Athenians say was built by Deukalion, and they cite as evidence that Deukalion lived at Athens a grave which is not far from the present temple."
Pausanias, Description of Greece Greece 1. 22. 3 :
"There is also a sanctuary of Ge (Earth) Kourotrophe (Nurse of the Young) [at Athens], and of Demeter Khloe (Green). You can learn all about their names by conversing with the priests."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 28. 6 :
"Hard by [the court of the Areopagos in Athens] is a sanctuary of the goddesses which the Athenians call the Eumenides (August), but Hesiod in the Theogony calls them Erinyes (Furies) . . . There are images of Plouton (Earthly Wealth), Hermes and Ge (Earth), by which sacrifice those who have received an acquittal on the Areopagos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 24. 3 :
"[On the Akropolis, Athens] an image of Ge (Earth) beseeching Zeus to rain upon her; perhaps the Athenians themselves needed showers, or may be all the Greeks had been plagued with drought."
II) PHYLA & MYRRHINOS Villages in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 4 :
"Phlya and Myrrhinos have altars of Apollo Dionysodotos, Artemis Selasphoros (Light-bearer), Dionysus Flower-god, the Nymphai Ismenides(of the River Ismenos) and Ge (Earth), whom they name the Thea Megale (Great goddess); a second temple contains altars of Demeter Anesidora (Sender-up of Gifts), Zeus Ktesios (God of Gain), Tithrone Athena, Kore Protogones (the Maid First-born) and the goddesses styled Semnai (August). The wooden image at Myrrhinus is of Kolainis [Artemis]."
CULT IN LAKEDAIMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) SPARTA Chief City of Lakedaimonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 11. 9 :
"On their market-place the Spartans have images of Apollo Pythaios, of Artemis and of Leto . . . Not far from them is a sanctuary of Ge (Earth) and of Zeus Agoraios (of the Market-place,) another of Athena Agoraia (of the Market-place) and of Poseidon surnamed Asphalion (Securer), and likewise one of Apollon and of Hera.."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 8 :
"The Lakedaemonians have an altar of Apollon Akritas, and a sanctuary, surnamed Gasepton, of Ge (Earth). Above it is set up Apollon Maleates. At the end of the Aphetaid Road [leading from the market-place to one o the gates of Sparta], quite close to the wall, is a sanctuary of Diktynna."
CULT IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) OLYMPIA Sanctuary in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 10 :
"On what is called the Gaion (sanctuary of Ge) [at Olympia] is an altar of Ge (Earth); it too is of ashes. In more ancient days they say that there was an oracle also of Ge (Earth) in this place. On what is called the Stomion (Mouth) the altar to Themis has been built."
CULT IN AKHAIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) PATRAI City in Akhaia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 21. 11 :
"They [the Patraians of Akhaia] have also a grove by the sea, affording in summer weather very agreeable walks and a pleasant means generally of passing the time. In this grove are also two temples of divinities, one of Apollon, the other of Aphrodite . . . Next to the grove is a sanctuary of Demeter; she and her daughter [Persephone] are standing, but the image of Ge (Earth) is seated."
II) AIGAI City in Akhaia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 25. 13 :
"It is a journey of about thirty stades [from the stream of Krathis near the ruins of Aigai, Akhaia] to what is called the Gaion, a sanctuary of Ge (Earth) surnamed Eurysternos (Broad-bossomed), whose wooden image is one of the very oldest. The woman who from time to time is priestess henceforth remains chaste, and before her election must not have had intercourse with more than one man. The test applied is drinking bull’s blood. Any woman who may chance not to speak the truth is immediately punished as a result of this test. If several women compete for the priesthood, lots are cast for the honour."
CULT IN ARKADIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) TEGEA Town in Arkadia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 48. 8 :
"Close to the sanctuary of Eileithyia [in the market-place of Tegea] is an altar of Ge (Earth), next to which is a slab of white marble. On this is carved Polybios, the son of Lykortas, while on another slab is Elatos, one of the sons of Arkas [mythical eponymous king of Arkadia]."
CULT IN PHOKIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) DELPHOI Sanctuary of Phokis (Central Greece)
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Elegaic Solon, Fragments – Greek Elegaic C6th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Eumenides - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Libation Bearers - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Suppliant Women - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aesop, Fables - Greek Fables C6th B.C.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae - Greek Comedy C5th-4th B.C.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Geography C2nd A.D.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Art History C3rd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Suidas - Byzantine Lexicon C10th A.D.