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Theogony | Symbols



Early in the Theogony, the Muses give Hesiod a shoot of laurel as they breathe "a sacred voice into [his] mouth / With which to celebrate the things to come / And things which were before." In other words, the laurel is the symbol of the poet's power of song, which is seen to be divinely inspired and to come from the Muses. The Muses have the power to make lords speak well and confer upon poets the ability to free their listeners from pain and grief. In Ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were presented to winners of athletic and poetry competitions. Today, the term "laurels" refers to one's accomplishments, and a "poet laureate" is an officially appointed poet of a nation or state. In this way, one can see the Muses officially appointing him to tell this story.


Zeus's uncles, the Cyclopes, give him the thunderbolt, a key weapon he uses in his war against the Titans as well as in his battle with Typhoeus. The thunderbolt is a fitting symbol of Zeus's role as a sky-god who causes rain to fall upon the earth, thereby allowing life-giving crops to grow. But the thunderbolt is also an effective symbol of nature's capacity for destruction. In various stories in Greek mythology, Zeus uses the thunderbolt as a symbol of his power over others. For example, in the myth of Phaethon, Zeus uses his thunderbolt to end Phaethon's erratic journey with the chariot of the sun.


Gaia gives Kronos a sickle made of flint in order to castrate his father. The sickle, however, is not normally a weapon, but a tool used in the harvest of grain. In that sense the act of harvesting can be seen as killing something that is mature and ripe, whose time has come, but harvesting is also closely associated with life, fertility, and prosperity. Ancient Athenians worshipped Kronos as the Titan of the harvest during the harvest festival. The figure of Kronos with the sickle or scythe survives to this day in the guise of Father Time, an image that often consists of an old man holding a sickle or scythe and an hourglass.

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