The Succession Myth in Greek Mythology
The Greek succession myth takes place early in the timeline of Greek mythology, before humans or animals existed. The story revolves around cruel fathers, vengeful mothers and ambitious sons, but it also deals with the ethics of wrongful imprisonment. By ensuring the innocent went free, Zeus proved himself a more just god than his father or grandfather.
1 Uranus Imprisons His Children
Uranus, the sky, was the first ruler of the universe. He and his wife, Gaia, produced a number of children, but while Uranus loved his children the Titans, he found found the others repugnant. The three Cyclops had only one eye each, while Kottos, Briareos and Gyges possessed fifty sets of shoulders, fifty heads and one hundred arms.
Ashamed, Uranus gathered his malformed, though innocent, offspring and imprisoned them in the subterranean dungeon of Tartarus. His wife Gaia, the earth, mourned for her children's loss of freedom and swore revenge against her husband.
2 Cronus Betrays Both Parents
Cronus was the youngest of the Titans, and Gaia entrusted him with the task of deposing his father. Rather than killing her husband outright, Gaia created adamant, a legendary metal, and forged a sickle with serrated edges.
Before handing the weapon to Cronus, she asked her son to promise to free his siblings from their prisons. Cronus agreed, and used the sickle to castrate Uranus. In retaliation, Uranus prophesied that Cronus, too, would be deposed by he youngest child. When Cronus took his father's seat, he refused to release the prisoners of Tartarus.
3 Gaia and Rheia Collude
The prophecy of Uranus haunted Cronus, so instead of allowing his children to live, he swallowed them whole at birth. His wife Rhea wished to free her children, so she turned to her mother for help.
Still furious that Cronus had gone back on his promise to free her imprisoned children, Gaia worked with Uranus. They told Rhea to feed Cronus a stone instead of her next child, Zeus. She hid her youngest son on the island of Crete, where Gaia raised him to adulthood.
4 The Last Son
Zeus worked with the daughter of the ocean, Metis, to free his siblings. Metis fed Cronus a potion that caused him to vomit. He immediately coughed up the stone and his other children. After securing the freedom of his siblings, Zeus freed the prisoners of Tartarus. The Cyclops brothers forged him lightning bolts in gratitude.
With his army in place, Zeus fought against Cronus in a war lasting 10 years, eventually imprisoning his father and his supporters in Tartarus. Soon thereafter, Zeus took his father place as the main god in the Greek pantheon, a position he would maintain for the whole of Greek mythology.