In Greek mythology, which deity was the personification of nothingness, and the first thing that ever existed?
And the answer: Chaos.
In Greek mythology, Chaos was the first entity to appear at the dawn of creation, emerging from a dark void. Chaos was followed by the deities Gaea, Tartaros, and Eros. While Gaea went on to become the mother of everything beautiful in the world, Chaos created Erebus and Nyx, who were the gods of darkness and night.
Coming from the Greek word for "abyss," Chaos was the first of the primordial gods. More than just a void, Chaos brought a dark realm of energy from which all that is powerful (and all that is bad and evil) would later stem forth. This deity is depicted in Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony as the lower atmosphere on earth – a gloomy and misty dark space. Hesiod even suggests that perhaps Chaos is some kind of dwelling place between Earth and Tartarus (which is the place of banishment for Titans).
Chaos has been conceived in many different ways throughout history. While some poets lay claim to the deity’s role as the original creator, others question this possibility considering that even it had to have been born. Roman poet Ovid saw Chaos as more of a concept than a deity, giving way to its association with mayhem from which the maker of the Cosmos produced the ordered universe. The latter association forms the basis for the word’s usage in English today.
Did you know?
There was no recorded, organized worship for Chaos in Ancient Greece. This might account for the greatly differing depictions of the deity throughout time – much of his/her/its form was left up to artistic interpretation!
Learn more about Chaos and its place in Hesiod’s Theogony below.