Web Theoi
METIS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Μητις Mêtis Metis Counsel (mêtis)

METIS was one of the Okeanides and the Titan goddess of good counsel, advise, planning, cunning, craftiness and wisdom. She functioned as the counsellor of Zeus during the Titan War, and devised the plan which forced Kronos to regurgitate his children. However, Zeus, in fear of a prophecy that she would bear a son more powerful than himself, swallowed the pregnant Metis whole. Their daughter, Athena, was later born fully grown from the god's head. Zeus is himself titled Mêtieta, "the wise counsellor," in the Homeric poems.

It should be noted that most poets and mythographers represent Athena as a "motherless goddess," with no mention made of Metis.

PARENTS
[1.1] OKEANOS & TETHYS (Hesiod Theogony 358,924; Apollodorus 1.6, 1.8; Hyginus Pref)
OFFSPRING
[1.1] ATHENE (by Zeus) (Hesiod Theogony 887, 924; Apollodorus 1.20)
[1.2] POROS (Plato Symposium 203)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

METIS (Mêtis). The personification of prudence, is described as a daughter of Oceanus and Thetys. At the instigation of Zeus, she gave to Cronos a vomitive, whereupon he brought back his children whom he had devoured (Apollod. i. 2. § 1, &c.; Hes. Theog. 471). She was the first love and wife of Zeus, from whom she had at first endeavoured to withdraw by metamorphosing herself in various ways. She prophesied to him that she would give birth first to a girl and afterwards to a boy, to whom the rule of the world was destined by fate. For this reason Zeus devoured her, when she was pregnant with Athena, and afterwards he himself gave birth to a daughter, who issued from his head (Apollod. i. 3. § 6; Hes. Theog. 886). Plato (Sympos. p. 203, b.) speaks of Porus as a son of Metis, and according to Hesiod, Zeus devoured Metis on the advice of Uranus and Ge, who also revealed to him the destiny of his son.

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Hesiod, Theogony 346 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"She [Tethys] brought forth also a race apart of daughters . . . They are . . . Europa, Metis and Eurynome [three in a long list of names] . . . Now these are the eldest of the daughters who were born to Tethys and Okeanos."

Hesiod, Theogony 886 ff :
"Zeus, as king of the gods, took as his first wife Metis, and she knew more than all the gods or mortal people. But when she was about to be delivered of the goddess, gray-eyed Athene, then Zeus, deceiving her perception by treachery and by slippery speeches, put her away inside his own belly. This was by the advices of Gaia (Earth) and starry Ouranos (Sky), for so they counselled, in order that no other everlasting god, beside Zeus, should ever be given kingly position. For it had been arranged that, from her, children surpassing in wisdom should be born, first the gray-eyed girl, the Tritogeneia Athene . . . but then a son to be king over gods and mortals was to be born to her and his heart would be overmastering; but before this, Zeus put her away inside his own belly so that this goddess should think for him, for good and for evil."

Hesiod, Theogony 924 ff :
"[Zeus], apart from Hera, had lain in love with a fair-faced daughter of Okeanos and lovley-haired Tethys, Metis, whom he deceived, for all she was so resourceful, for he snatched her up in his hands and put her inside his belly for fear that she might bring forth a thunderbolt stronger than his own; therefore the son of Kronos . . . swallowed her down of a sudden, but she then conceived Pallas Athene, but the father of gods and men gave birth to her near the summit of Triton beside the banks of the river. But Metis herself, hidden away under the vitals of Zeus, stayed there; she was Athene's mother; worker of right actions, beyond all the gods and beyond all mortal people in knowledge; and there Athene had given to her hands what made her supreme over all other immortals who have their homes on Olympos; for Metis made that armor of Athene, terror of armies, in which Athene was born."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 8 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The Titanes had children. Those of Okeanos and Tethys were called Okeanides : Asia, Styx, Elektra, Doris, Eurynome, Amphitrite, and Metis."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 6 :
"When Zeus was grown, he engaged Okeanos' daughter Metis as a colleague. She gave Kronos a drug, by which he was forced to vomit forth first the stone and then the children he had swallowed."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 20 :
"Zeus slept with Metis, although she turned herself into many forms in order to avoid having sex with him. When she was pregnant, Zeus took the precaution of swallowing her, because she had said that, after giving birth to the daughter presently in her womb, she would bear a son who would gain the lordship of the sky. In fear of this he swallowed her. When it came time for the birth, Prometheus (or Hephaistos, according to some) by the river Triton struck the head of Zeus with an axe, and from his crown Athena sprang up, clad in her armour."

Plato, Symposium 178 (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"The god Poros (Expediency), who is the son of Metis (Wisdom)."
[N.B. Plato's "Metis" is apparently derived from the primordial Thesis (Creation) of Alcman's cosmogony. Poros, the son of both, was a primordial being, akin to Hesiod's Eros. In the Orphic Theogonies, the creator spirit, now named Phanes, is swallowed by Zeus--an apparent echo of the Metis myth.]

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Oceanus and Tethys the Okeanides--namely . . . Metis, Menippe, Argia . . . [amongst a list of names]."


Sources:

  • Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Plato, Symposium - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.