Uranus – The Sky God, One of The Greek Primordial Deities.

Uranus was the Greek god of the sky and heavens. He was one of the first-born supreme deities that emerged from Gaia (Earth). He ruled the starry dome that covered the earth and represented power and masculinity. 

Father of the Titans, the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, he was betrayed by his offspring and dethroned as high ruler of the Greek gods and all of the cosmos. His symbols are the male symbol and the zodiac wheel.

Key Facts

Family tree

ParentsGaia
Partner(s)Gaia
SiblingsOurea and Pontus
OffspringTitans: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Rhea, Phoebe, Tethys, Theia, and Themis
Cyclopes: Arges, Brontes, and Steropes
Hecatoncheires: Briareus, Cottus, and Gyges

Names & Others

Roman NameCaelum, Caelus or Coelus
Other NamesOuranos
Ancient GreekΟυρανός
The God ofCosmic dome, dominion, heavens, masculinity, power, sky, and stars
SymbolsMale symbol, zodiac wheel

Uranus’ Origins

Uranus history
Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Uranus – along with his siblings Ourea (Mountains) and Pontus (Sea) – was born from Gaia, his later consort. As an equal to Gaia, Uranus covered her entirely and was supposed to provide a great residence for the next generation of gods. 

In later sources, Aether, the embodiment of the Upper Sky, was believed to be Uranus’ father. Aether was the one who brought Uranus to life instead of Gaia. In Orphic cosmogony, Uranus appears as the son of Nyx (Night), daughter of Phanes, the Protogonos (the first-born deity). Additionally, in other sources, the obscure deity Acmon or Akmon poses as the father of Uranus.

Uranus’ reign

Having established himself as the all-powerful sovereign of the world, he mated with Gaia and fathered three races of magnificently divine creatures. His first offspring were the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. The Cyclopes were giant one-eyed beings, master blacksmiths and craftsmen whose names were Arges, Brontes, and Steropes. 

The Hecatoncheires on the other hand were stronger and more monstrous in appearance than their other siblings. They were called Briareus, Cottus, and Gyges, and each had fifty heads and one hundred arms. 

Last came the in-famous Titans, the generation of gods preceding the Olympians. They were twelve; Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Rhea, Phoebe, Tethys, Theia, and Themis.

The fair and beautiful Uranus wasn’t at all proud of his children, especially the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. He despised and loathed his eldest for their terrible looks, thus failing to see their uniqueness and potential. For that, he cast them into the very depths of the earth, deep inside the body of their mother to keep them out of his sight. 

Gaia however suffered greatly from this cruelty, both physically and mentally. Day after day she was in pain having to keep six of the children locked up inside her. Unable to tolerate such malice she devised a plan to dethrone her once-beloved husband.

Uranus’ fall

In a dark and secret place, Gaia forged a razor-sharp adamantine sickle and gathered the rest of her offspring, the Titans. She presented them with the sickle and asked them to use it against their father. But, the Titans were too afraid of the supreme sky to even consider such an act. 

Only one was brave enough to perform the deed. His name was Cronus and he was the youngest of the Titans. Cronus took the adamantine sickle in his hands and with fiery words of vengeance inspired courage in his siblings.

When Uranus, unaware of the plot against him, lay to sleep with Gaia, Cronus and his siblings emerged from the hiding place his mother had provided them with. 

The attack was swift. As the rest of the Titans held Uranus down to the ground, Cronus at a decisive moment swung the adamantine sickle and castrated his father thus ending his reign once and for all.

After he had lost dominion of the cosmos, Uranus withdrew from the proscenium of the Greek Mythos. He only appeared a few times in the course of the following events. 

He is mentioned with Gaia as he warns his son, Cronus, that he is bound by Fate to be deposed by his offspring. Uranus later advises his daughter Rhea to give birth to Zeus far away from Cronus to save her son from his father’s madness. 

He even urges an adult Zeus to kill his first wife Metis in order to avoid being overthrown by one of his children. Uranus’ last manifestation, although it is nowhere written, is in the Gigantomachy fighting alongside the Olympians against the terrible giants.

Uranus’ Legacy

Uranus legacy
DerekGil, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After Cronus had mutilated his father, he quickly set out and liberated his other siblings from their underground prison. Cyclopes and Hecatoncheires saw the light of day again, and Cronus became the king of the cosmos. As it turned out, Uranus wasn’t killed but instead rendered weak and powerless. His legacy however carried on.

As the god Heaven’s blood fell on the earth, Gaia gave birth to three more races of remarkable creatures. Those were the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants, and the Meliads. The Erinyes were female chthonic deities of vengeance, the Giants were strong and aggressive beings, and the Meliads were the fabled tree nymphs. 

It is also stated that a spectacular creation took place after Uranus’ dethronement. When Cronus tossed his father’s severed genitals into the sea white foam began to rise and spread. Soon, that divine spume took the form of the most beautiful woman in the world. Her name was Aphrodite, and she was the astounding goddess of beauty and love.

Etymology

Many suggestions indicate that Uranus or Ouranos is derived from a Proto-Greek word Worsanos (Forsanos) meaning to ‘pour’, to ‘rain’. If the word Ouranos is split we get the parts ‘Oura’ and ‘Anos’ – Oura-nos (from ‘anos’). ‘Oura’ means urine and ‘anos’ means above

So, it takes little to no imagination for one to see that Uranus is the god who urinates from above (the earth). Yet, the Indo-European root of the word Oura is ‘uers’, which means to rain. Consequently, Ouranos can be safely translated as the ‘ruler of rain’ or ‘rain-maker’.

Roles and Responsibilities

As the ruler of the sky and heavens, Uranus was responsible for everything above the ground. During his rule, he commanded the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds, the clouds, the night and the day, the rain, the hail, and the snow. 

His role as the heavenly master was seriously diminished after he was overthrown by Cronus. He continued living, but as a silent and weak outcast of the Titans and the gods who came afterwards.

Uranus’ symbols

Uranus symbols were the wheel or the zodiac wheel in particular, and the symbol of man. The zodiac wheel was attested to Uranus because he controlled the movement of the stars and the subsequent relativity of the zodiac signs. 

According to the myth of his dethronement, the symbol of man was Uranus’ symbol until the Olympians came. Then it was that Ares, the god of war (Mars in Latin) assumed the symbol of masculinity. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other symbols attributed to him. Some scholars mention the eagle as the god Heaven’s sacred animal, but that cannot be proved in any of the old texts.

Uranus’ powers

Controlling everything from above, Uranus was a very powerful deity. His omnipotence was remarkable and worthy of mention. To think that Sky could shape the Earth, imprison the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in her bowels, and be feared by the Titans showed his vast abilities. 

It took a scheme orchestrated by Gaia and the combined efforts of Cronus and his siblings to depose such a powerful god.

In the old texts

Uranus in text
Antoine Coypel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Greek

Uranus is attested in Hesiod’s Theogony as Gaia’s son and later her husband. Ourea and Pontos are mentioned as his siblings. The Cyclopes, the Hecatoncheires, and the Titans are Uranus’ children with Gaia.

In Titanomachy, Uranus is the son of Aether, the personification of the upper sky.

In the Orphic texts, Uranus and Gaia are the children of Nyx (Night) and the first-born god Phanes.

Sappho, the famous poet from the island of Lesbos, presents Uranus as the father of Eros.

According to Apollodorus, Uranus was the first who ruled over the whole world, implying that he was the first entity to have ever existed in the cosmos.

The philosopher Plato also mentions Uranus in his notable work Timaeus as being the grandfather of Cronus rather than his father.

Roman

Cicero notes that Caelus (Uranus) was the son of Aether and Dies (Day). 

FAQs

Who was Uranus?

Uranus was the god of the heavens. A clear personification of the sky and its features. In Hesiod’s Theogony, which was considered by the Greeks to be the regular account, he is Gaia’s son and husband, father of the Titans, and grandfather of Zeus.

What happened to Uranus after his castration?

When Uranus lost his authority over the world, he was removed from the front stage of Greek mythology. Apart from his unofficial active involvement in the Gigantomachy, Uranus appears now briefly warning and advising his children and grandchildren.

Did Uranus live on Mount Olympus?

The top of Mount Olympus is high up in the sky, hidden in the clouds. Twelve gods live there and nothing whatsoever offers the slightest hint that Zeus accommodates his grandfather. Yes, Uranus did live in the skies prior to his dethronement. But, after it, who knows? There is a possibility that he sought refuge in his wife’s domain. That can be proven by the warning Uranus and Gaia give to Cronus about his future, and the advice to Rhea regarding the birth of Zeus.

Featured Image Credit: Giorgio Vasari, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons