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Chaos (Greek ; in English pronounced /ˈkeɪ.ɒs/[1]) in Greek mythology and cosmology referred to a gap or abyss at the beginning of the world, or more generally the initial, formless state of the universe.[2] (the antithetical, or possibly complementary, concept was cosmos).

Later uses of the term by philosophers varied over time. In modern English, the word is used in classical studies with the original meaning; in mathematics and science to refer to a very specific kind of unpredictability; and informally to mean a state of confusion.[3] In philosophy, and in popular culture, the word can occur with all three meanings.


Chaos in mythology, philosophy, literature, and religion

Cosmogonies and early philosophy

In Greek mythical cosmogony, particularly in the Theogony (Origin of the Gods) of Hesiod (8th–7th century BC), Chaos is the original dark void from which everything else appeared. First came Gaia (Earth) and Eros (Love), then Erebus and his sister Nyx (Night). These siblings produced children together which included Aether, Hemera (Day), and Nemesis.[4] Other cosmogonies, such as the lost Heptamychos of Pherecydes of Syros, also have the gods being born from Chaos, but in a different way.

Hesiod's cosmogony may have influenced the 6th century BC philosopher Anaximander,[5] although this is debated.[6] Anaximander taught that the indefinite or apeiron was the source of all things.[7] Some ideas similar to those of Hesiod also appear in the Hiranyagarbha of Vedic cosmogony, and in the Babylonian Enûma Eliš.[8] The book of Genesis in the Bible refers to the earliest conditions of the Earth as "without form, and void",[9] while Ovid's Metamorphoses describes the initial state of the Universe as a disorganised mixture of the four elements:

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