Chaos (mythology)

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In Greek mythology, Chaos, the primeval void, was the first thing which existed. According to Hesiod,[1] "at first Chaos came to be" (or was)[2] "but next" (possibly out of Chaos) came Gaia, Tartarus, and Eros.[3] Unambiguously born "from Chaos" were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night).[4]

The Greek word "chaos" (χάος), a neuter noun, means "yawning" or "gap", but what, if anything, was located on either side of this chasm is unclear.[5] For Hesiod, Chaos, like Tartarus, though personified enough to have born children, was also a place, far away, underground and "gloomy", beyond which lived the Titans.[6] And, like the earth, the ocean, and the upper air, It was also capable of being affected by Zeus' thunderbolts.[7]

For the Roman poet Ovid, Chaos was an unformed mass, where all the elements were jumbled up together in a "shapeless heap".[8]

According to Hyginus, Chaos was born of Mist, and from Chaos and Caligine, came Night, Day, Erebus and Aether.[9] An Orphic tradition apparently had Chaos as the son of Chronus and Ananke.[10]

See also


  1. Hesiod, Theogony 116–122.
  2. Gantz, p. 3, says "the Greek will allow both".
  3. Tripp, p. 159; Morford, p. 57.
  4. Gantz, p. 4; Hesiod, Theogony 123.
  5. Gantz, p. 3.
  6. Hesiod, Theogony 814: "And beyond, away from all the gods, live the Titans, beyond gloomy Chaos".
  7. Hesiod, Theogony 700.
  8. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.5 ff..
  9. Hyginus, Fabulae Preface. According to Bremmer, p. 5, "Hyginus ... started his Fabulae with a strange hodgepodge of Greek and Roman cosmogonies and early genealogies. It begins as follows: Ex Caligine Chaos. Ex Chao et Caligine Nox Dies Erebus Aether (Praefatio 1). His genealogy looks like a derivation from Hesiod, but it starts with the un-Hesiodic and un-Roman Caligo, ‘Darkness’. Darkness probably did occur in a cosmogonic poem of Alcman, but it seems only fair to say that it was not prominent in Greek cosmogonies."
  10. Ogden, pp. 36–37.


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