In Greek mythology, Aether (//; Ancient Greek: Αἰθήρ, romanized: Aithḗr, pronounced [ai̯tʰɛ̌ːr]) is one of the primordial deities. Aether is the personification of the "upper sky". He embodies the pure upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to the normal air (Ancient Greek: ἀήρ, Latin: aer) breathed by mortals. Like Tartarus and Erebus, Aether may have had shrines in ancient Greece, but he had no temples and is unlikely to have had a cult.
Primordial god of the upper sky
|Parents||Erebus and Nyx (Hesiod) or|
Chronos and Ananke (Orphic Hymns) or
Chaos (Ovid, Hyginus)
|Siblings||Hemera, Hypnos, Thanatos, Eris (Hesiod), Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, Apate, Nemesis, Eleos, the Keres, Hecate, Alecto (variant accounts), Megaera (variant accounts), Tisiphone (variant accounts), Lyssa, Dolos, Momus, Moros, Oizys|
|Children||Gaia, Thalassa, Uranus, Aergia, Pontus, Tartarus|
- "Hyginus ... started his Fabulae with a strange hodgepodge of Greek and Roman cosmogonies and early genealogies. It begins as follows: Ex Caligine Chaos. Ex Chao et Caligine Nox Dies Erebus Aether (Praefatio 1). His genealogy looks like a derivation from Hesiod, but it starts with the un-Hesiodic and un-Roman Caligo, ‘Darkness’. Darkness probably did occur in a cosmogonic poem of Alcman, but it seems only fair to say that it was not prominent in Greek cosmogonies."
Hyginus says further that the children of Aether and Day were Earth, Heaven, and Sea, while the children of Aether and Earth were "Grief, Deceit, Wrath, Lamentation, Falsehood, Oath, Vengeance, Intemperance, Altercation, Forgetfulness, Sloth, Fear, Pride, Incest, Combat, Ocean, Themis, Tartarus, Pontus; and the Titans, Briareus, Gyges, Steropes, Atlas, Hyperion, and Polus, Saturn, Ops, Moneta, Dione; and three Furies – namely, Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone."
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Aristophanes states that Aether was the son of Erebus. However, Damascius says that Aether, Erebus and Chaos were siblings, and the offspring of Chronos (Father Time). According to Epiphanius, the world began as a cosmic egg, encircled by Time and Inevitability (most likely Chronos and Ananke) in serpent fashion. Together they constricted the egg, squeezing its matter with great force, until the world divided into two hemispheres. After that, the atoms sorted themselves out. The lighter and finer ones floated above and became the Bright Air (Aether and/or Uranus) and the rarefied Wind (Chaos), while the heavier and denser atoms sank and became the Earth (Gaia) and the Ocean (Pontos and/or Oceanus). See also Plato's Myth of Er.
The fifth Orphic hymn to Aether describes the substance as "the high-reigning, ever indestructible power of Zeus," "the best element," and "the life-spark of all creatures." Though attributed to the legendary poet Orpheus who lived before the time of Homer, the likely composition of the hymns in the 6th-4th centuries BCE make them contemporary with natural philosophers, such as Empedocles, who theorized the material forces of nature as identical with the gods and superior to the anthropomorphic divinities of Homeric religion.
- Bremmer, Jan N. (2008). Greek Religion and Culture, the Bible and the Ancient Near East. Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture. Brill. ISBN 9789004164734. LCCN 2008005742.
- Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes: ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3 (Vol. 2).
- Grimal, Pierre, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 9780631201021.
- Hammond, N. G. L., and H. H. Scullard (editors), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Second Edition, Oxford University Press. (1992).
- Hesiod, Theogony from The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
- Hyginus, Fabulae from The Myths of Hyginus translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Aether"