“The Earth shook, mountains were formed and the landscape was ravaged…”
“Clash of the Titans” and its sequel “Wrath of the Titans” have (in my humble opinion) provided the general public with a very confused and misleading view of the role of the Titans in Greek mythology. Some might say the films do a disservice to one of the greatest wars ever conjured up; a family war which ravaged on for ten brutal years and led to seismic shifts in the world order.
Readers of this blog may recall from “Keeping up with the Greek Deities” that we left it at the point at which Cronus, the leader of the Titans, was poisoned by his son, Zeus, and forced to throw up the rest of his children (I’ll let you read the blog to discover how and why they found themselves inside of Cronus in the first place) and that this sparked the war. Before we carry on, let’s meet the key players…
Fighting for the Titans on Mount Othrys we have:
• Cronus – first generation Titan and ruler of the Titans. Slightly crazy with unusual eating habits.
• Coeus – brother to Cronus. God of the North (but no relation to the Starks).
• Crius – brother to Cronus. God of heavenly constellations.
• Iapetus – nicknamed “the Piercer”. The God of death. Brother of Cronus and father to Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius.
• Atlas – leader of the rebellion against Zeus. Son of Iapetus. Large bloke with broad shoulders.
• Menoetius – his name means prideful and impetuous to the very end; take from that what you will. Son on Iapetus and brother of Atlas, Prometheus and Epimetheus.
Fighting for the Olympians on Mount Olympus we have:
• Zeus – leader of the Olympians. Handy with a lightning bolt. Son of Cronus.
• Hades – brother of Zeus. The oldest male child of Cronus and Rhea.
• Poseidon – brother of Zeus. Known to have a temper.
• Prometheus – the Titan God of forethought so perhaps not surprising he sided with the Olympians. Zeus’ BFF…until the incident (but that’s a story for another day). His father Iapetus and brothers, Atlas and Menoetius, fought for the Titans. He (along with his brother, Epimetheus) remained broadly neutral during the war, but it is still worth introducing him here.
• The Cyclopes – one eyed giants and brothers to the Titans (think Sloth in “The Goonies”).
• The Hecatonchires – giant monsters with one hundred arms of incredible strength. Great jugglers.
Picture the scene: a nice family meal around the table. Cronus is sat with his arm around his wife (and sister) Rhea, laughing at a joke his brother Iapetus has just told about piercing some poor unsuspecting fool with a spear. To his left sits his brother Coeus and his wife (and sister) Phoebe; they are enjoying a rare moment of peace having left their children – Lelantos and Leto – to play in the children’s play area. Crius is sat to Cronus’ right feeling light headed after drinking too much mead and spouting inappropriate jokes, much to his wife, Eurbia’s, embarrassment.
Oceanus and Tethys look lovingly at their daughter Clymene and their grandchildren, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas and Menoetius as they shovel food into their faces. Hyperion sits glumly, wondering whether his brother Cronus will insist on splitting the bill again, despite the fact he has eaten far more than anyone else at the table. The other first generation Titans – Mnemosyne, Theia and Themis – engage in general chit chat at the far end of the table, carefully avoiding the elephant in the room as to the whereabouts of their father. Their children have grown bored by the conversation and so have reverted to throwing food at each other.
All of a sudden there is an almighty coughing noise, loud enough to shake the mountains. It’s Cronus and he’s on his hands and knees. Coeus goes over to help his brother. He pats him on the back. Nothing. He pats him a little harder and Cronus starts vomiting violently on the floor. Out pops a stone wrapped in cloth and Hyperion mutters that his brother will eat anything these days. Rhea looks awkwardly to one side, suddenly fascinated by the fabric of the table cloth. Cronus’ vomiting episode hasn’t finished though. The next thing to come out looks alive; a female, fully grown and covered in bile and slime. She’s followed by four others. There are a few gasps.
Cronus’ cupbearer stands with his hands on his hips and looks gleefully around at the stunned Titans. “Ha ha,” he shouts throwing off his fake glasses and prosthetic nose. “It is I, Zeus.”
The table look around confused; no-one has head of a Zeus before.
“It was I that poisoned your leader – the vile, cretinous Cronus – to free my brothers and sisters – Hestia, Poseidon, Hades, Hera and Demeter – from their prison of eternal damnation, and now here they stand before you. Your superiors. Bend the knee to me and I shall spare your lives.”
Iapetus starts laughing uncontrollably and he’s soon joined by his brothers Coeus and Crias. Hyperion, meanwhile, takes advantage of being placed on the end of the table and quietly leaves with his wife Theia and their children. As far as he’s concerned the meal has been ruined and there’s no way he’s paying for anything now.
“You expect us to bend the knee to you?” Cronus says having managed to recover his senses. “You and those slippery fools? We outnumber and outsmart you.”
“Bend the knee, and I will spare your lives.” Zeus is now surrounded by his brothers and sisters, and they look a formidable force.
“Perhaps you should hear them out,” Oceanus starts and then falls silent at the look on Cronus’ face.
“I will never bend the knee.”
“Then it’s war!” says Zeus, before leaving for Mount Olympus with his siblings.
The first few battles didn’t go well for the Olympians. The Titans – in particular Atlas who came into his own on the battlefield – matched them in strength and guile. The Earth shook, mountains were formed and the landscape was ravaged, but neither side made any ground.
Then Grandma Gaia (Mother Earth) stepped in (meddling again) and hinted that Zeus might be aided by the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires, who were locked up in Tartarus on Cronus’ orders. There was one slight problem: they were being guarded by a dragon. Such a trifling obstacle didn’t bother Zeus though and off he went to the centre of the Earth to speak to his weird uncles.
The Hecatonchires weren’t the brightest of beasts and, whilst they had a hundred hands and arms, they had little control over them. Zeus’ first job was therefore to teach them – from a distance – how to control their rage and their limbs. Once they had achieved this they made little work of the bronze cage surrounding them. Zeus then set them three tasks to prove themselves worthy of being set free: first to wrestle and defeat the dragon guarding them; second to hurl a boulder to the highest point of Mount Olympus; and third to assist the Cyclopes in forging weapons for the Olympians to help defeat the Titans. Zeus then sat back and completed a crossword as the Hecatonchires did his bidding.
Campe the dragon defeated, rock hurled and freshly armed with kick-ass weapons of thunderbolts, a trident and a helmet of darkness, Zeus returned to Mount Olympus with the (now rather polite and charming) Hecatonchires feeling rather smug. He decided to give the trident to Poseidon and the helmet of darkness to Hades and off they went to visit the Titans again.
The following battles were akin to the Falklands War. With Zeus throwing thunderbolts from his chariot and the Hecatonchires constantly launching rocks with their combined 300 arms, the Titans were pinned back and didn’t have the weaponry to compete. Add to that Poseidon causing havoc with his trident and Hades…quietly watching the Titanesses in the shower with his helmet of darkness, the Titans were slowly being ground down.
And then Menoetius fell to one of Zeus’ thunderbolts (and, one can assume, regenerated in Tartarus given that the Titans are purportedly immortal) and the Titans lost an important warrior. It was the start of the end. The rocks rained down until the Titans were buried in them. Dazed, confused and exhausted, Kronos was forced to wave a white flag from the rubble of Mount Othrys.
The Titans were defeated.
We’ll look at the aftermath in the next blog…