Aether (mythology)

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Primordial god of the upper sky
Aether in battle with a lion-headed Giant.jpg
Aether in battle with a lion-headed Giant
Personal information
ParentsErebus and Nyx (Hesiod) or
Chronos and Ananke (Orphic Hymns) or
Chaos (Ovid, Hyginus)
SiblingsHemera, Hypnos, Thanatos, Eris (Hesiod), Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, Apate, Nemesis, Eleos, the Keres, Hecate, Alecto (variant accounts), Megaera (variant accounts) , Tisiphone (variant accounts), Lyssa, Apate, Dolos, Momus, Moros, Oizys
ChildrenGaia, Thalassa, Uranus, Aergia, Pontus, Tartarus

In Greek mythology, Aether (/ˈθər/; Ancient Greek: Αἰθήρ, romanizedAithḗr, pronounced [aitʰɛ̌ːr]) is one of the primordial deities. Aether is the personification of the "upper sky".[1] He embodies the pure upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to the normal air (ἀήρ, aer) breathed by mortals. Like Tartarus and Erebus, Aether may have had shrines in ancient Greece, but he had no temples and is unlikely to have had a cult.



In Hesiod's Theogony, Aether (Light), was the son of Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night), and the brother of Hemera (Day).[2]


The Roman mythographer Hyginus, says Aether was the son of Chaos and Caligo (Darkness).[3] According to Jan Bremmer,[4]

"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."

Hyginus says further that the children of Aether and Day were Earth, Heaven, and Sea, while the children of Aether and Earth were "Grief, Deceit, Wrath, Lamentation, Falsehood, Oath, Vengeance, Intemperance, Altercation, Forgetfulness, Sloth, Fear, Pride, Incest, Combat, Ocean, Themis, Tartarus, Pontus; and the Titans, Briareus, Gyges, Steropes, Atlas, Hyperion, and Polus, Saturn, Ops, Moneta, Dione; and three Furies – namely, Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone."[3]

Orphic Hymns[edit]

Aristophanes states that Aether was the son of Erebus. However, Damascius says that Aether, Erebus and Chaos were siblings, and the offspring of Chronos (Father Time). According to Epiphanius, the world began as a cosmic egg, encircled by Time and Inevitability (most likely Chronos and Ananke) in serpent fashion. Together they constricted the egg, squeezing its matter with great force, until the world divided into two hemispheres. After that, the atoms sorted themselves out. The lighter and finer ones floated above and became the Bright Air (Aether and/or Uranus) and the rarefied Wind (Chaos), while the heavier and denser atoms sank and became the Earth (Gaia) and the Ocean (Pontos and/or Oceanus). See also Plato's Myth of Er.

The fifth Orphic hymn to Aether describes the substance as "the high-reigning, ever indestructible power of Zeus," "the best element," and "the life-spark of all creatures."[5] Though attributed to the mythological poet Orpheus who lived before the time of Homer, the likely composition of the hymns in the 6th-4th centuries BCE make them contemporary with natural philosophers, such as Empedocles, who theorized the material forces of nature as identical with the gods and superior to the anthropomorphic divinities of Homeric religion.


  1. ^ Grimal p. 22; The Oxford Classical Dictionary, "Aither", p. 33.
  2. ^ Hesiod. Theogony, 124–125; Gantz, p. 4.
  3. ^ a b Hyginus. Fabulae, Preface.
  4. ^ Bremmer, p. 5.
  5. ^ "ORPHIC HYMNS - ὈΡΦΙΚΟῚ ὝΜΝΟΙ". Retrieved 15 January 2015.