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The Four Elements in Greek Philosophy

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    The task of the Gods was to govern the four elements and control the natural forces of the universe “According to the Empedocles, a Greek philosopher, scientist and healer who lived in Sicily in the fifth century B. C. , all matter is comprised of four “roots” or elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Fire and air are outwardly reaching elements, reaching up and out, whereas earth and water turn inward and downward” (Tracy, 1998). The Gods and Goddesses in mythology give nations structure and illustration to live.

    Fear undoubtedly has been instilled through mythology to keep people in control. As the Gods reach out to mankind through their historical recordings, the recordings establish a foundation for our existence. Fear sets in as we hear the name of the God of Air, Zeus. His stature dominating as he carries the thunderbolt in his hand. “Zeus was the supreme god and ruler of Olympus. He was known by many titles: Lord of the Sky, the Cloud- gatherer, the Rain-god and Zeus the Thunderer, all of which show which force of nature was considered to be the most important in Ancient World – rain.

    His weapon is, of course the thunderbolt which he hurled at whoever displeased him” (Subsidy Publishing, 2002). Zeus and his two brothers divided the firmaments after they conquered their father. The portion of the air and sky was drawn by Zeus and he is the ruler over the society of Gods. He presides over the heavenly manifestations causing rain, thunder, lightning, and maintains order and justice in the world. Zeus allotted good and evil, rebuked murderers, and sheltered the weak. He judiciously observed the actions on the Earth. Zeus’s brother was the God of fire. Haides (Aides, Aidoneus, or Hades) was the King of the Underworld, the god of death and the dead. He presided over funeral rites and defended the right of the dead to due burial. Haides was also the god of the hidden wealth of the earth, from the fertile soil which nourished the seed-grain, to the mined wealth of gold, silver and other metals” (Atsma, 2008). The actions of this God are self-explanatory as it is well known he holds the key to Hades. This was a shadowy dark realm that lurked beneath the earthen foundation walked upon.

    Hades defines a place of punishment awaiting all evildoers. The God Hades was a deceitful character who abode in this dreadful place. “Hades desired a bride and petitioned his brother Zeus to grant him one of his daughters. The god offered him Persephone, the daughter of Demeter” (Atsma, 2008). “Demeter was the Goddess of Earth, agriculture and fertility. Known as the corn goddess, she symbolizes regenerative earth power over all living things. A sheaf of ripe wheat was her primary symbol. She presided over the harvest and all the agricultural labors.

    She was often sculpted as a matronly figure, seated. Demeter is connected with the Eleusinian Mysteries–a ritual celebrating the annual birth and death of corn. She is connected with the perpetuation of the food supply for large populations” (Nancy Creations, 2011). The Goddess of Earth kept the vegetation flourished and green bringing fresh crops each year. She has nurturing powers and cares for family bonds. Demeter, the mother of Persephone, disagreed with the arrangement Zeus had made with Hades concerning the union of Persephone the Goddess of Water to Hades.

    According to myths, Hades uncontrollable anger caused him to kidnap Persephone and take her to the underworld with him. Demeter, in her distress, caused the vegetation to shrivel and die. Demeter convinced Zeus to have Persephone returned. Hades agreed to release Persephone if she had not eaten anything in the netherworld. “It turned out Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds. So they agreed that Persephone could spend six months a year above ground with her mother, but she would have to spend the other six months in the land of the dead with her uncle/husband.

    And that is how it has been since then, according to the story: that’s why we have the seasons” (Carr, 2011). Together every spring, Demeter and Persephone bring forth new buds and greenery for everyone to enjoy letting the world know mother and daughter are together again. The four elements are essential for our survival. The elements nurture mankind in more ways than one. A culture’s faith believes in the Gods for the foundation of their lives. Throughout these historical events we gain understanding of life’s natural wonders.


    Atsma, Aaron. (2008). Theoi Project. Hades. Retrieved from, ttp://www. theoi. com/Khthonios/Haides. html Carr, Karen Dr. (2010). Kidipede, History for Kids. Persephone. Retrieved from, http://www. historyforkids. org/learn/greeks/religion/persephone. htm Nancy Creations. (2011). Goddess Archetype Demeter. A Brief Psychological Overview of Demeter. Retrieved from, http://goddess-power. com/demeter. htm Subsidy Publishing. (2002). Information about the Greek God Zeus. Retrieved from, http://www. zeus-publications. com/zeusgod. htm Tracy, Marks. (1998). Elemental: The Four Elements. Retrieved from, http://www. webwinds. com/thalassa/elemental. htm

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