- Pronunciation: ee-ther
- Origin: Greece
- Abode: The heavens
- Role: Primordial god of light and air
- Parents: Erebus and Nyx
- Sister: Hemera
- Children: Gaia, Thalassa, Ouranos, Aergia, Pontus, Tartarus
Who Is Aether?
In the beginning, there was just Chaos. From the void emerged Erebus, the god of darkness, and Nyx, the goddess of the night. Their primordial children were Aether, the god of the heavenly air, and his sister Hemera, the goddess of the day and earthly light. They are the Protogenoi, the first born deities of the pantheon predating the well-known Olympians.
During the primordial time, according to the Greek legends, the pure air breathed by the gods was the domain of Aether. The upper air of the heavens was not the regular air of the mortals living on the Earth.
As the creation myth tells us, light and air were born from the darkness. The heavens that surrounded the planet were just below the dome of the sky. The gods breathed the air of Aether, the humans had their air on the Earth, and then there was the dark air of the underworld Tartarus, a dungeon-like place where giants were punished and souls were judged. It was as far below Hades as the heavens are above the Earth.
Aether and his sister Hemera worked together. The two were the opposite of their parents, the dark and the night who emerged each evening from Tartarus to take the planet over with darkness. In the morning, Hemara would come and clear away the darkness so the light of her brother could shine down on the Earth.
Family of Aether
The children of Aether were all primordial deities as well. The spirit of the Earth was Gaia, also known as Mother Earth. Thalassa and Pontus were the primeval spirits of the sea, and Ouenus the spirit of the sky. Aergia was the personification of laziness, while Tartarus was the spirit of the gloomy underworld. These gods predated the Olympians, who came later after everything else was created.
Aether and the other Protogenoi were the gods from which all others descended. They were largely replaced with newer gods, so there is no cult center or temples built in honor of Aether.
He does have a legacy, however. Aether was known in ancient science as the fifth element, after earth, water, air, and fire: the material that fills up the universe beyond earth, also later known as quintessence. In the 19th century, Aether was used to explain natural phenomena such as gravity and light.
Modern science has moved past the classical elements of ancient and medieval alchemy. However, the domain of the ancient god – the air of the heavens – is what we know today as the atmosphere . It prevents most of the dangerous rays of the sun reaching the earth, traps heat and keeps our planet at a reasonable temperature. In addition, the oxygen of the atmosphere is essential for all life on Earth.
Over the last few centuries, pollutants released into the atmosphere have been causing global warming and acid rain. Aether was the ancient name for the Earth’s atmosphere, and the ancient Greeks were aware if its existence and respectful of its value. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from 700 B.C. that is still important in the modern world.