The Titans were gigantic, powerful, and primeval beings that loomed in the background of many Greek myths and tales. Children of Uranus (the sky) and Gaia (the earth), the Titans ruled the world before they were overthrown by the god Zeus* and his five brothers and sisters.
The Greek writer Hesiod* listed six male Titans—Oceanus, Coeus, Cronus, Crius, Hyperion, and Iapetus—and six female Titanesses—Tethys, Themis, Phoebe, Mnemosyne, Theia, and Rhea. Some accounts add the brothers Prometheus*, Epimetheus, and Atlas* and the moon goddess Selene to this group of Titans. These four gods and a few others, however, are more often described as children of the original 12 Titans.
Zeus and his siblings, the first of the Olympian gods, were the children of Cronus and Rhea. Their battle to overthrow the Titans and take possession of the universe is the backdrop of Greek mythology. The Olympian gods eventually won, and Zeus is said to have thrown those who stood against him into Tartarus, a deep pit in the underworld.
primeval from the earliest times
underworld land of the dead
The Titans represent huge, primitive, and hard-to-control forces. They also symbolize a spirit of rebellion against the authority of the gods, as in the story of the Titan Prometheus, who helped human beings against Zeus's will. The immense size of the Titans is the source of the modern word titanic, meaning extremely large.