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The Most Prolific Couples in Ancient Greek Mythology

oceanus tethys greek mythology couples
Oceanus and Tethys. There are many couples in ancient Greek mythology that had countless children. Credit: William Neuheisel/Wikimedia Commons/ CC-BY 2.0

Greek mythology has captured people’s imaginations for millennia, particularly the stories of love that feature adoring and often tragic couples, some of which produced countless children.

Oceanus and Tethys

Oceanus and Tethys seem to be one of the few monogamous couples on the family tree of the Titans, the pre-Olympian, primordial gods of ancient Greek Mythology. Oceanus was the son of Ouranos and Gaea.

His consort was his sister Tethys, who purportedly gave birth to the chief rivers of the world known to the Greeks, such as the Nile, the Alpheus, the Maeander, and about 3,000 daughters called the Oceanids.

Each Oceanid was assigned a particular body of water, pasture, or cloud.

Zeus and his many lovers

zeus couples greek mythology
“Zeus and Hera on Mount Ida,” Andries Lens. Credit: Public Domain

Zeus, the Father of Gods and Men who ruled the Olympians gave birth to at least 21 children to nine different goddesses, including Athena, who emerged from his head.

Known for his thunder bolt and erotic escapades, Zeus’ wild sex life resulted in many immortal, demigod, and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone, Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the nine Muses, while by his traditional consort Hera is said to have given birth to Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.

He was definitely the most adulterous god, though, with his list of consorts and children being the biggest in Greek mythology.

Atlas and Pleione

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“The Pleiades” by Elihu Vedder. Credit: Public Domain

Pleione bore Atlas seven sisters called the Pleiades, who were half-sisters of the Hyades and perhaps also half-sisters of the Hesperides, who were believed to be either the daughters of Nyx alone, or of Atlas and Hesperis.

The Pleiades, also called the Seven Holy Sisters, were associated with clusters of star and rain, and often accompanied the goddess Artemis.

The Pleiades themselves had children with some of the most prominent male Olympian gods (including Zeus, Poseidon, and Ares).

Maia, eldest of the seven Pleiades, was the mother of Hermes, whose father was Zeus, and her sister Electra was the mother of Dardanus and Iasion, both by Zeus.

Taygete, another of the Pleiades, gave birth to Lacedaemon with Zeus, and Alcyone gave birth to Hyrieus, Hyperenor and Aethusa, who were fathered by Poseidon.

Celaeno had of Lycus and Eurypylus with Poseidon, and Sterope was the mother of Oenomaus, who was fathere by Ares.

Finally, Merope, youngest of the seven Pleiades, was wooed by Orion.  In other mythic contexts she married Sisyphus and, becoming mortal, faded away. She bore to several sons to Sisyphus.

Mnemosyne

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“Mnemosyne” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Credit: Public Domain

Mnemosyne, one of the titans, was recognized as the goddess of memory. Although not a long lasting couple, She and Zeus had a small affair and gave birth to some of the most important figures in ancient Greek mythology–the nine Muses.

The Muses were the deities of art, or rather, those who inspired art – music, poetry, stage, and dance, in particular.

Uranus

Uranus, one of the original deities, was born to Gaia, who is the inspiration for modern-day Mother Earth. He had 12 children with his mother. These were all the Titans.

At first, they gave birth to a horrid beast with 50 heads and a hundred hands.

Its name was Hecatonchires. They were so repulsed by this monster that they threw him into Tartarus. After that, they tried again, but were gifted with the horrible Cyclopes.

Again, they threw him into Tartarus. On the third try, they succeeded. And soon enough, they 12 children. Eventually, Cronus kills his father Uranus, and curses his son to have the same fate as he.

Cronus and Rhea, the original couple in ancient Greek mythology

Cronus, the titan, who is often considered to be father time, fathered six children with his sister, Rhea. Chronus, whose father, Uranus, cursed him to meet the same fate as he, to be murdered by his own son, ate all of his children to avoid this fate.

Eventually, Rhea gets tired of her children being eaten, and she set her youngest son, Zeus, off to live as a mortal. Eventually, she finds him and tells him to poison his own father. Cronus eventually spits up all five children he had swallowed, and then was thrown into Tartarus by his sons.

Erebus and Nyx

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Nyx, the Ancient Greek goddess of the Night, as portrayed by William Adolphe Bouguereau. Credit: Public Domain

Erebus was the personification of darkness, and son to Chaos. He and his sister, Nyx, had 14 children in all. The most well known of their children are Hypnos, god of sleep, and Eris, the goddess of discord.

His wife Nyx drew mists across the heavens to bring night to the world, while his daughter Hemera scattered them, bringing day.

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