The name as well as the nature of this divinity is one of the most difficult points in ancient mythology. Some consider Rhea to be merely another form of era, the earth, while others connect it with rhea, I flow; but thus much seems undeniable, that Rhea, like Demeter, was a goddess of the earth. According to the Hesiodic Theogony, Rhea was a daughter of Uranus and Ge, and accordingly a sister of Oceanus, Coeus, Hyperion, Crius, Iapetus, Theia, Themis, and Mnemosyne. She became by Cronos the mother of Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Aides, Poseidon, and Zeus. According to some accounts Cronos and Rhea were preceded in their sovereignty over the world by Ophion and Eurynome ; but Ophion was overpowered by Cronos, and Rhea cast Eurynome into Tartarus. Cronos is said to have devoured all his children by Rhea, but when she was on the point of giving birth to Zeus, she, by the advice of her parents, went to Lyctus in Crete. When Zeus was born she gave to Cronos a stone wrapped up like an infant, and the god swallowed it as he had swallowed his other children.
Homer makes only a passing allusion to Rhea, and the passage of Hesiod, which accordingly must be regarded as the most ancient Greek legend about Rhea, seems to suggest that the mystic priests of Crete had already formed connections with the more northern parts of Greece. In this manner, it would seem, the mother of Zeus became known to the Thracians, with whom she became a divinity of far greater importance than she had been before in the south, for she was connected with the Thracian goddess Bendis or Cotys (Hecate), and identified with Demeter.
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