Long before the rise of the Olympians, Titans ruled the world. In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of elder gods. The earliest generation of Titans was born from Chaos. Known as primordial deities, the first Titans represented fundamental principles of the Earth and universe. However, their children and subsequent generations resembled humans and giants with great mystical powers.
As a whole, the Titans are not as well-known as the more famous Olympians of the Greek Pantheon. However, they still play an important role in Greek Mythology.
One Titan whose story is largely lost to the sands of time is Perses. A second-generation Titan god, Perses is the god of destruction. He represents the devastation and disorder that can come from war, depicting the obliteration of land and lives in the process.
The Origins of Perses
Information about Perses is sparse. He did not play a significant role in Greek mythology. Despite his importance to ancient Greeks, he’s only briefly mentioned in poems and texts. Most information comes from “The Theogony” by Hesiod, which is the most trusted source for tracing immortal lineage. Perses is mentioned in the Homeric Hymns and works by Apollodorus as well.
Perses is the son of Titans Crius and Eurybia. Crius was the god of constellations, and Eurybia was the goddess of mastery of the seas. The two elder Titans came from the first primordial deities. Together they bore Perses, Pallas, and Astraeus.
There’s very little information about Perses’ upbringing or personal history. Like many Titans, Greeks didn’t actively worship Perses. The only time Greeks would ask for assistance was during times of war. But outside of that, Perses didn’t have any temples, sanctuaries, or cults.
Few artistic depictions exist of Perses exist throughout history. Unlike the Twelve Olympians, Perses and other Titans didn’t get many paintings, sculptures, or pottery. As a result, modern artists have taken many creative liberties with the god’s appearance.
Generally, Perses is shown as a destructive force in the midst of war. As with many other Titans, Perses is usually depicted as a giant among men.
Some scholars believe that Perses was envisioned with animalistic features. The Titan Crius and his three sons have a strong connection to a group of interconnected star constellations, which also hold animal-like qualities. Perses takes the form of a canine. Meanwhile, his brothers Pallas and Astraeus had the form of a goat-like giant and an equine, respectively. Their father, Crius was a ram.
The son of the Titan Crius was the personification of destruction. He was a violent and aggressive deity who represented all of the war’s darker aspects. Perses is just one of many war gods. While not as famous as Ares, he certainly made his mark.
Perses had a reputation for his bloodlust. Ancient Greeks knew him as “The Destroyer,” accompanying soldiers in the heat of battle to conquer nations. He had a fondness for chaotic battle, reveling in the ensuing violence.
As mentioned earlier, Perses didn’t have a cult of temples dedicated to his honor. But, that didn’t stop Greeks from praying for his favor. Soldiers often prayed to Perses for assistance during battle. They didn’t just ask for his protection. Greeks turned to Perses for strength and strategy, ensuring that they had what it took to take out their biggest enemies.
According to Hesiod, Perses was also a master of strategy. He reportedly had wisdom that could win battles even if the odds were stacked in his favor. The god was particularly helpful with military strategy, but he also had wisdom that surpassed all men.
Interestingly enough, some versions of Perses’ tale say that he didn’t just focus on destruction. Some scholars believe that Perses was the god of both destruction and peace. In ancient Greece, war was constant. Towns were ransacked frequently as death loomed over territory disputes and simple disagreements.
Many in ancient Greece turned to Perses for more than just success during the war. They asked for a swift end to battle so that they could enjoy the peace that followed. Even if the pause was brief, many saw Perses as a symbol of what came after conflicts were resolved.
Marriage and Children
Perses married Asteria. Asteria was a Titan goddess born from Coeus (Polus) and Phoebe. She was an immortal inhabitant of Olympus and a dark goddess of necromancy.
Asteria was known to practice witchcraft and communicate with the dead. According to legend, she also predicted the future.
The union of the goddess of necromancy and the god of the destruction resulted in a powerful child. The pair gave birth to Hecate, the Greek goddess of magic, specters, witchcraft, and more.
Hecate governed over all things dark and mysterious. She followed in the footsteps of her mother, practicing necromancy and sorcery. She even developed knowledge of poisonous plants and communicated with spirits. For that reason, Hecate earned the nickname “Queen of Ghosts.”
Hecate is, without a doubt, more well-known than her parents. Her domain extended beyond Earth, covering both the heavens and hell. She was supremely divine, even earning the respect of Zeus.
Perses did not have any other children beyond Hecate. However, his legacy lived on through Hecate’s children Circe, Scylla, Empusa, Medea, and Aegialeus.
Confusion with King Perses
The Titan god Perses is often confused with King Perses of Colchis. Because there’s not much information about the Titan, some elements of the figures’ stories overlap.
King Perses is a minor figure in Greek mythology. He’s the son of Helios and Perseis, an Oceanid. Helios and Perseis gave birth to multiple children, making Perses the brother of Aeetes, Circe, and Pasiphae.
Of his four siblings, this Perses is one of the least famous. He became the king of Tauric Chersonese. Tauric Chersonese doesn’t exist anymore, but it’s thought to be in the modern-day Crimean peninsula. However, his brother and sisters have a more significant part in Greek mythology. Aeetes became the king of Colchis and is most commonly associated with the Argonauts. Meanwhile, Circe became a famous sorceress, and Pasiphae married King Minos of Crete.
Eventually, this Perses did become the king of Colchis. His brother, Aeetes, feared that he would lose his kingdom if the Golden Fleece ever left Colchis. If you’re familiar with the story of the hero Jason and his Argonauts, you know what ended up happening with the famed Golden Fleece. It left Colchis, and Perses seized the opportunity to take the throne. Perses threw Aeetes into a prison cell as the sons of Helios fell into a full-blown civil war.
Of course, Perses’ rule didn’t last long.
Aeetes’ daughter, Medea, returned to Colchis with her son Medus. The two lied, giving false identities. Perses didn’t recognize his own niece, giving her plenty of opportunities to kill Perses. She gave her son Medus a sword to slay the king of Colchis. Then, she freed her father Aeetes to help him regain his rightful place on the throne.
The story of King Perses doesn’t have any relation to the Titan god Perses. But because their names are the same, many confuse the two. It doesn’t help that names like “Circe” and “Medea” occur in both tales. While there are similarities even in the family tree, most scholars agree that the two Perses’ are unique entities deserving of their own spot in the mythology.
The Legacy of Perses
The Titan Perses doesn’t have much significance in Greek mythology, but he’s important to the earlier history and lore of the ancient religion. Perses was one of the first war gods to exist. As a second-generation Titan, he is an early deity that existed long before the uprising of the Olympians.
He helped ancient Greeks create a path of destruction during war before Ares or Athena ever came into the mix. He exhibits the primal nature of warriors and a never-ending lust for blood. The god also represented the powers of war, for better or worse. Even in the wake of massive annihilation, the end of conflicts brought a period of peace that ancient Greeks always longed for.
The Titans eventually fell to Zeus and the Olympians. How Perses fared in the Titanomachy is unknown. Whether or not he participated in the great war is up for debate. One thing scholars do know is that he is not listed among the Titans that were banished to Tartarus. As a result, most assume that the figure faded into obscurity or served the people of Greece in some other way. He fails to appear in later stories, further cementing the idea that other Greek gods like Ares took over his role.
- Perses was the Titan god of destruction.
- Not to be confused with King Perses of Colchis, Perseus, the slayer of Medusa, or Perses, the ancestor of the Persians.
- The name Perses comes from the ancient Greek words “perso” and “pertho,” which has an English translation of “to sack” or “to destroy.”
- Perses is the progeny of Titans Crius and Eurybia.
- The Titan god Perses belongs to the second generation of Titan gods.
- Asteria is Perses’ wife.
- With Asteria, Perses had one child: Hecate.
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