EmbrACE Magazine

The primal source of creation (at least according to the Greeks)

05/07/2021

About the Author

Lara van der Maas is a first-year IBCoM student, who lives in Rotterdam, in the area of Delfshaven. She joined Embrace to meet new people, and write about things she likes. Her main passions are fashion and everything cooking/baking-related, and she really enjoys a good book, going sailing, or doing other fun stuff with friends.

The primal source of creation (at least according to the Greeks)

Chaos and order have been issues that are highlighted throughout the times. Different civilisations made sense out of it in different ways. Chaos was often seen as the beginning of times, being portrayed as a god, or made sense out of through the actions of God(s). For example, the old-Egyptians made sense of the world and its chaos due to their use of Gods like Ra, Osiris, Iris, Anubis and many more, who each embodied another element of life. For the area of Chaos, they had their own god called Seth, who was also the reason why storms existed. The old-Egyptians had a polytheistic religion, so they had multiple Gods, who each stand for a different phenomenon in life. On the contrary, a monotheistic religion like Christianity for example made sense out of Chaos through the work of God, stating that everything is organised the way he intended to.

Here I would like to highlight how the Greeks have made sense out of Chaos and what role it has played in their mythology. Like the old-Egyptians the Greeks had a polytheistic take on their mythology and religion, so they used multiple Gods to make sense out of the Chaos and the world it resides in. In their context, chaos stands for the big nothing. It was portrayed as being a big, black, empty space without a start and a beginning. Before Chaos nothing existed, at least that’s what they thought. Chaos was seen as the beginning of everything, the beginning of time but most importantly the beginning of the world. Chaos consisted out of five primal elements which in their place were responsible for the creation of the world and time, thus life.

Numerous stories have been told about the creation of the cosmos and different poets wrote them down, but the only story that has been recovered was written by Hesiodus in the 8th century B.C. Homerus has also talked often about the chaos in its stories about the world of the Greek gods. But in general, in the numerous stories that exist, Chaos is seen as the beginning of everything, it is the primal source of the world. How Chaos itself arose is not clear, but its importance was emphasised often because otherwise all the gods etc. would not have been born and the world would have looked different. An important thing is that Chaos was not seen as a primordial God with a personality. He was not like Cronos or Zeus who are embodied with attributes and power. But Chaos did give life to the five primal elements out of which the world was created. Those were Gaia (Earth), Tartarus (the Underworld), Erebus (the Darkness), Eros (Love) and the Nyx (the Night). Nyx gave birth to other elements like Hemera (Day) and Ether (Atmosphere). Gaia created Ourea (Mountains), Pontus (Sea) and Uranus (Heaven, Sky). With her son Uranus she created the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Giants. After the Titans the Olympians would be born like Zeus, Hera etc. but that’s another story.

Later, due to the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Chaos became a bit heated resulting in the creation of birds, which was done in collaboration with Eros. What this shows is that the Greek attributed a lot of importance to Chaos, since they saw it as their beginning, as the beginning of life in the world it created. Chaos has brought a lot of good things, but also bad things to keep the balance. Without Chaos they believed that the Titans, Olympians, but also earth and humanity would not have existed.

These days some people do not believe in such stories anymore because our existence can be explained scientifically (even though it is still a bit of a mystery) with research on the dinosaurs, Big Bang and so on. Other people do still believe in such stories often because of the religion they follow. That is the beauty of life, everyone can believe what he/she wants. Of course, some will scrutinise others for believing or not believing something but that’s their problem. For example, I do not believe that such stories are the real explanation for our existence, I find that the scientific route makes more sense, but I still enjoy reading these stories. Especially because it gives us an insight into how other civilisations and thus people in different times thought about the origin the world and the human beings that life in it.

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