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 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.

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. Sometimes depicted as half-buried in the earth, Gaia is portrayed as a beautiful a voluptuous woman surrounded by fruits and the earth.

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. 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.

If you're planning to travel to Greece to see some of the ancient sites of worship for Gaia, you'll want to 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.

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 who she bore many children with 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.

Places to Worship Gaia in Greece

Unlike other Olympian gods and goddesses like ZeusApollo, and Hera, there aren't any existing temples in Greece you can visit to honor this Greek goddess. Since Gaia is the mother of earth, her followers typically worshipped her wherever they could find community with the planet and nature.

The ancient city of Delphi was considered the sacred grounds of Gaia, and the people who would travel there in ancient Greece would leave offerings on an altar in the city. However, 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 trip to Greece.