Rhea (also known as Rheia) is an ancient Greek goddess belonging to an earlier generation of deities. She's a fertile, crafty maternal figure and the mother of some of the most well-known Greek gods and goddesses, yet she is often forgotten.
Rhea was married to Kronos (also spelled Cronus) who feared that his own child would replace him as King of the Gods, just as he had done with his own father Ouranos. So when Rhea gave birth, he gobbled up the children. They did not die but remained trapped in his body. Rhea finally grew tired of losing her children in this way and managed to get Kronos to swallow a wrapped rock instead of her most recent baby, Zeus. Zeus was raised in a cave on Crete by the goat nymph Almatheia and guarded by a group of militant men called the kouretes, who concealed his cries by banging together their shields, keeping Kronos from learning of his existence.
Zeus ultimately fought and defeated his father, freeing his brothers and sisters.
Rhea is considered to be one of The Titans, the generation of gods preceding the Olympians of which her son Zeus became the leader. Her parents are Gaia and Ouranos and she is most renowned as the mother of Zeus, but many of The 12 Olympians are her offspring Demeter, Hades, Hera, Hestia, and Poseidon. Once she bore her children, she had little to do with their later myths.
Symbolism and Temples
Statues and images of Rhea may show her holding a wrapped stone which she pretended was the baby Zeus and is sometimes seated in a throne on in a chariot. A pair of lions or lionesses, found in Greece in ancient times, may be in attendance with her. Some statues with these traits are identified as the Mother of the Gods or Cybele and may actually be Rhea instead.
Rhea had a temple at Phaistos on the island of Crete and was believed by some to have originated from Crete; other sources associate her specifically with Mount Ida which is visible from Phaistos. The Archaeological Museum in Piraeus has a partial statue and some stones from a temple to the Mother of the Gods, a common title used with Rhea.
Rhea is sometimes confused with Gaia; both are strong mother goddesses believed to rule over heaven and earth.
The names of the goddesses Rhea and Hera are anagrams of each other, by rearranging the letters you can spell either name.