Gaia: The Greek Goddess of the Earth

1st Century Roman bust of the earth-goddess Gaia
The Walters Art Museum

The culture of Greece has changed and evolved many times throughout its history, but perhaps the most famous cultural era of this European country is Ancient Greece when Greek gods and goddesses were worshipped throughout the land. The Greek Goddess of the Earth, Gaia, is considered the mother of all life yet many have not heard of her.

Legacy and Story

In Greek mythology, Gaia was the first deity from whom all others sprang. She was born of Chaos, but as Chaos receded, Gaia came into being. Lonely, she created a spouse named Uranus, but he became lusty and cruel, so Gaia persuaded her other children to help her subdue their father.

Cronos, her son, took a flint sickle and castrated Uranus, throwing his severed organs into the great sea; the goddess Aphrodite was then born of the mixing of the blood and foam. Gaia went on to have other mates including Tartarus and Pontus with whom she bore many children including Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, the Python of Delphi, and the Titans Hyperion and Iapetus.

Gaia is the primal mother goddess, complete in herself. The Greeks believed that an oath sworn by Gaia was the strongest since no one could escape from the Earth herself. In modern times, some earth scientists use the term "Gaia" to mean the complete living planet itself, as a complex organism. In fact, many institutes and scientific centers around Greece are named after Gaia in honor of this tie to the earth.

Temples and Places of Worship

Although there are no existing temples to the Greek Goddess of the Earth, Gaia, there are many great art pieces in galleries and museums across the country depicting the goddess. Sometimes depicted as half-buried in the earth, Gaia is portrayed as a beautiful voluptuous woman surrounded by fruits and the rich earth that nurtures the plant life.

Throughout history, Gaia was primarily worshipped in open nature or in caves, but the ancient ruins of Delphi, 100 miles northwest of Athens on Parnassus mountain, was one of the primary places she was celebrated. The people who would travel there in the times of ancient Greece would leave offerings on an altar in the city. Delphi served as a cultural meeting ground in the first millennium B.C. and was rumored to be the sacred place of the earth goddess.

Traveling to Delphi

Unfortunately, the city has been in ruin for most of the modern era, and there are no remaining statues of the goddess on the grounds. Still, people do come from near and far to visit this sacred site during their travels to Greece.

When planning to travel to Greece to see some of the ancient sites of worship for Gaia, fly into the Athens International Airport (airport code: ATH) and book a hotel between the city and Mount Parnassus. There are a number of excellent day trips around the city and short trips around Greece you can take if you have some extra time during your stay, too.

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