Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Rhea, in Greek religion and mythology from The Columbia Encyclopedia

in Greek religion and mythology, a Titan. She was the wife and sister of Kronos, by whom she bore Zeus, Poseidon, Pluto, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter. She eventually helped Zeus overthrow Kronos. Her worship, which was orgiastic and associated with fertility rites, was particularly prominent in Crete. The Greeks often identified her with Gaea and Cybele. In Rome, Rhea was worshiped as Magna Mater and identified with Ops. See Great Mother Goddess.


Summary Article: Rhea (῾Ρέα) from The Homer Encyclopedia

A goddess of the Titan generation, daughter of Earth (Gaia) and Sky (Ouranos). She is wife and sister of Kronos, and mother of the six older Olympians (Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus). Her important role in the unfolding of the cosmos is described in Hesiod's Theogony (135, 453-506). She is referred to twice in Homer's Iliad (and not at all in the Odyssey), both in speeches by her children (14.203, 15.187). In the first of these Hera alludes to her time living with her foster parents Ocean and Tethys. Rhea seems to have given Hera over to them when she was child, at a time “when Zeus cast Kronos down underneath earth and the barren sea” (14.203-204). The reference implies that Zeus is much older than Hera, whereas earlier in the poem (4.59) Hera is the oldest of Rhea's children (note too the order at Th. 453-458, which places Hera after Hestia and Demeter). R. Janko argues (1992, on 14.203-204) that the children swallowed by Kronos when they were given birth by Rhea (i.e., all but Zeus) did not mature inside him. Zeus therefore grows to manhood in the normal way, whereas Hera grows up only when she is disgorged by Kronos. This explanation seems also to lie behind Zeus' claim to be stronger and older than Poseidon (15.164-167), which Poseidon himself does not really challenge (185-199).

In the Homeric Hymns Rhea is a messenger of Zeus to Demeter (Hymn. Cer. 441-443), and plays a background role in the birth of Apollo (Hymn. Ap. 93).

See also Titans.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN MACKIE
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Rhea (1) or Rheia
Dictionary of Classical Mythology

One of the TITANS, daughter of Uranus (Heaven) and GAIA (Earth). She married her brother-Titan CRONUS and bore him five children, HESTIA, DEMETER, H

Full text Article Rhea
Who's Who in Classical Mythology, Routledge

She bore Cronos six divine children, Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus; but her husband, having learnt from Gaia that one...

Full text Article Rhea
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

In Greek mythology, the mother of the gods, daughter of URANUS and GAIA, and sister of KRONUS, the Titan, by whom she bore ZEUS, HADES, POSEIDON, HE

See more from Credo