OPHION was the first Titan-king of heaven. Kronos (Cronus) wrestled him for the throne and cast him defeated into the Ocean-Stream. Ophion's wife Eurynome was simultaneously overcome in a wrestling-mach with the Titaness Rheia.
FAMILY OF OPHION
OPHION (Ophiôn), a Titan, was married to Eurynome, with whom he shared the supremacy previous to the reign of Cronos and Rhea; but being conquered by the latter, he and Eurynome were thrown into Oceanus or Tartarus. (Apollon. Rhod. i. 503, &c.; Tzetz, ad Lyc. 1191.) There are two other mythical beings of the same name. (Ov. Met. xii. 245; Claudian. Rapt. Pros. iii. 348.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
OPHION KING OF HEAVEN
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 498 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"He [Orpheus] sang of . . . how, in the beginning, Ophion and Eurynome, daughter of Okeanos (Oceanus), governed the world from snow-clad Olympos; how they were forcibly supplanted, Ophion by Kronos (Cronus), Eurynome by Rhea; of their fall into the waters of Okeanos; and how their successors ruled the happy Titan gods."
Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 177 (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"As he [Helios the Sun] shines on the descendants of Ophionides (Sons of Ophion) . . ((lacuna)) the older gods [the Titanes]." [N.B. Ophion is here equated with Ouranos the father of the Titanes.]
Lycophron, Alexandra 1191 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Him [Zeus] who is lord of Ophion's throne [i.e. the king wrestled and deposed by Kronos (Cronus)] . . . his [Zeus'] mother [Rhea], skilled in wrestling, having cast into Tartaros the former queen [Eurynome]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 2. 563 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Zeus gloats over the body of the vanquished giant Typhoeus which was sent by Gaia (the Earth) to champion the vanquished Titanes :] Kronides (Cronides) laughed aloud, and taunted him like this in a flood of words from his mocking throat : ‘A fine ally has old Kronos found in you, Typhoeus! Gaia could scarcely bring forth that great son for Iapetos! A jolly champion of Titanes! . . . Bring back Astraios to heaven; if you wish, let Eurynome and Ophion return to the sky, and Kronos in the train of that pair!’"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 8. 110 ff :
"[Hera speaks :] ‘I am afraid Kronides (Cronides) [Zeus], who is called my husband and brother, will banish me from heaven for a woman's bed . . . I will leave heaven because of their earthly marriage, I will go to the uttermost bounds of Okeanos (Oceanus) and share the hearth of primeval Tethys; thence I will pass to the house of and abide with Ophion.’" [N.B. In this passage Ophion is equated with Okeanos husband of Tethys.]
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 43 ff :
"[Inscribed on the tablets of Phanes, telling the story of the cosmos :] The first tablet, old as the infinite past, containing all things in one : upon it was all that Ophion lord paramount had done, all that ancient Kronos (Cronus) accomplished : when he cut off his father's [Ouranos'] male plowshare." [N.B. Ophion is apparently equated with Ouranos in this passage.]
THE ORACLULAR TABLETS OF OPHION
The tablets of Ophion were identical to the tablets of Phanes--a primordial serpentine-god from the Orphic Theogonies who prophesied the future of the cosmos.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 339 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The goddess Harmonia addresses Aphrodite :] ‘I have oracles of history on seven tablets, and the tablets bear the names of the seven Planets [i.e. five planets, the sun and the moon]. The first has the name of revolving Selene (the Moon); the second is called of Hermes [the planet Mercury], a shining tabled of gold, upon which are wrought all the secrets of law; the third has your name [i.e. Aphrodite, the planet Venus], a rosy tablet, for it has the shape of your star in the East; the fourth is Helios (the Sun), cental navel of the seven travelling planets; the fifth is called Ares [the planet Mars], red and fiery; the sixth is called Phaethon [the planet Jupiter], the planet of Kronides (Cronides) [Zeus]; the seventh shows the name of highmoving Kronos (Cronus) [the planet Saturn]. Upon these, ancient Ophion has engraved in red letters all the divers oracles of fate for the universe. But since you ask me about the directing laws, this prerogative I keep for the eldest of cities. Whether then Arkadia (Arcadia) is first or Hera's city [Argos], whether Sardis be the oldest, or even Tarsos celebrated in song be the first city, or some other, I have not been told. The tabled of Kronos will teach you all this, which first arose, which was coeval with Dawn.’
She spoke; and led the way to the glorious oracles of the wall, until she saw the place where Ophion's art had engraved in ruddy vermilion on the tablet of Kronos the oracle to be fulfilled in time about Beroe's country. ‘Beroe came the first, coeval with the universe her agemate, bearing the name of the Nymphe later born, which the colonizing sons of the Ausonians, the consular lights of Rome, shall call Berytos (Beruit), since here fell a neighbour of Lebanon . . .’
Such was the word of prophecy that she learnt. But when the deity had scanned the prophetic beginning of the seventh tablet, she looked at the second, where on the neighbouring wall many strange signs were engraved with varied art in oracular speech : how first Shepherd Pan will invent the syrinx, Helikonian Hermes the harp, tender Hyagnis the music of the double pipes with their clever holes, Orpheus the streams of mystic song with divine voice, Apollon's Linos eloquent speech; how Arkas (Arcas) the traveller will find out the measures of the twelve months, and the sun's circuit which is the mother of the years brought forth by his fourhorse team; how wise Endymion with changing bends of his fingers will calculate the three varying phases of Selene; how Kadmos (Cadmus) will combine consonant with vowel and teach the secrets of correct speech; how Solon will invent inviolable laws, and Kekrops (Cecrops) the union of two yoked together under the sacred yoke of marriage made lawful with Attic torch.
Now the Phaphian [Aphrodite], after all these manifold wonders of the Mousa (Muse), scanned the various deeds of the scattered cities; and on the written tabled which lay in the midst on the circuit of the universe, she found the words of wisdom inscribed in many lines of Grecian verse : ‘When Augustus shall hold the sceptre of the world, Ausonian Zeus will give to divine Rome the lordship, and to Beroe he will grant the reins of law, when armed in her fleet of shielded ships she shall pacify the strife of battlestirring Kleopatra (Cleopatra) . . .’
Then the goddess, having learnt all the oracles of Ophion, returned to her own house."
1. Apollonius' story of the fall of Ophion and Eurynome was derived from the Orphic cosmogonies. According to the Orphics creation began with Hydros, the primordial "Water," from which Gaia "the earth" arose. In Apollonius, this becomes Eurynome, daughter of Okeanos, that is "She of the Broad Pastures" daughter of the Primal Waters (Okeanos). Her consort Ouranos (Uranus) (the Sky) is wrestled and castrated by Kronos (Cronus). Apollonius describes this as Ophion and Eurynome (Earth) wrestled and cast into the primordial waters (okeanos) by Kronos and Rheia.
2. Alternatively, Ophion may have been identified with the Titan Okeanos (Oceanus) and his wife Eurynome with Tethys. Okeanos was usually named as the eldest Titan-son of Ouranos who was estranged from his brothers. He was depicted with a serpentine (ophion) fish-tail in place of legs and holding a snake (ophis) in his hands.
3. Ophion was also identified with the primordial Orphic gods Phanes and Khronos (Chronos). Serpentine Khronos and his mate Ananke--the counterpart of Eurynome--were said to encircle the cosmos with their coils.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Lycophron, Alexandra - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.