Ophion

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In some versions of Greek mythology, Ophion (Ὀφίων "serpent"), also called Ophioneus (Ὀφιονεύς) ruled the world with Eurynome before the two of them were cast down by Cronus and Rhea.

Sources

Pherecydes of Syros's Heptamychia is the first attested mention of Ophion.

The story was apparently popular in Orphic poetry, of which only fragments survive.

Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica (1.495f) summarizes a song of Orpheus:

Lycophron (1191) relates that Zeus' mother, that is Rhea, is skilled in wrestling, having cast the former queen Eurynome into Tartarus.

Nonnus in his Dionysiaca has Hera say (8.158f):

Harmonia here is probably an error in the text for Eurynome. Ophion is mentioned again by Nonnus (12.43):

We also have fragments of the writings of the early philosopher Pherecydes of Syros (6th century BCE) who devised a myth or legend in which powers known as Zas and Chronos 'Time' and Chthonie 'Of the Earth' existed from the beginning and in which Chronos creates the universe. Some fragments of this work mention a birth of Ophioneus and a battle of the gods between Cronus (not Chronos) on one side and Ophioneus and his children on the other in which an agreement is made that whoever pushes the other side into Ogenos will lose and the winner will hold heaven.

Eusebius of Caesarea in his Praeparatio Evangelica (1.10) cites Philo of Byblos as declaring that Pherecydes took Ophion and the Ophionidae from the Phoenicians.

Interpretations

Robert Graves in his book The Greek Myths (ISBN 0-14-017199-1) imaginatively reconstructs a Pelasgian creation myth involving Ophion as a serpent created by a supreme goddess called Eurynome dancing on the waves. She is fertilized by the serpent and in the form of a dove lays an egg on the waters about which Ophion entwines until it hatches and the world issues forth. Then Ophion and Eurynome dwell on Mt. Olympus until Ophion's boasting leads Eurynome to banish him to the darkness below the earth.

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