I've gotten another reader question, this time concerning the nature of the Gods and how They came to be. The question, in full, was: "Do you believe the gods created us? How do you believe they came to be?"

I have explained before how I differentiate between mythology and philosophy, where I feel myth was inspired by the Theoi Themselves, while philosophy was created by humans who saw society and drew conclusions from it. These conclusions often included a religious aspect because society was religious (even though the ancient Hellenes didn't have a word for 'religion'), but at its core, they deal not with religious matters. They deal with the influence of religion on humanity and society. As such, philosophy--of which I am a great fan, by the way--will never be the foundation of my faith, because religion and philosophy have a different goal; one to guide mankind in the way of the Theoi, the other to understand mankind. There is nothing religious about the latter.

The ancient Hellenic philosophers and mythographers were pretty much in agreement, however, that the Gods, indeed, created us. How, exactly, that happened varies greatly. Let's do a bit of cosmology first, however. The most famous account of how everything came to be comes from Hesiod. His 'Theogogy' is a complete recounting of the story, starting with Khaos:

"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all  the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros, fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love. But afterwards she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire." [ll. 116-138]

He goes on to list a great many deities, cutting out a rough shape of the cosmos while doing so. There are many variations of this family tree, and in the ancient writings, there are also creation stories that range beyond this basic framework. In the Orphic Theogonies, for example, the universe does not start with Khaos, but with Thesis and Hydros, reaching back to Hómēros:

"Originally there was Hydros (Water), he [Orpheus] says, and Mud, from which Ge (the Earth) solidified: he posits these two as first principles, water and earth . . . The one before the two [Thesis], however, he leaves unexpressed, his very silence being an intimation of its ineffable nature. The third principle after the two was engendered by these--Ge (Earth) and Hydros (Water), that is--and was a Serpent (Drakon) with extra heads growing upon it of a bull and a lion, and a god’s countenance in the middle; it had wings upon its shoulders, and its name was Khronos (Unaging Time) and also Herakles. United with it was Ananke (Inevitability, Compulsion) , being of the same nature, or Adrastea, incorporeal, her arms extended throughout the universe and touching its extremities. I think this stands for the third principle, occuping the place of essence, only he [Orpheus] made it bisexual [as Phanes] to symbolize the universal generative cause." [Theogonies Fragment 54]

Or, also from the Theogonies:

"The gods, as they [the Greeks] say, did not exist from the beginning, but each of them was born just as we are born. And this is agreed by them all, Homer saying `Okeanos the genesis of the gods, and mother Tethys [Thesis],’ and Orpheus--who was the original inventor of the gods’ names and recounted their births and said what they have all done, and who enjoys some credit among them as a true theologian, and is generally followed by Homer, above all about the gods--also making their first genesis from water : `Okeanos, who is the genesis of the all.’ For Hydros (Water) was according to him the origin of everything, and from Hydros (the Water) Mud [primordial Gaia] formed, and from the pair of them a living creature was generated with an extra head growing upon it of a lion, and another of a bull, and in the middle of them a god’s countenance; its name was Herakles and Khronos (Time). This Herakles generated a huge egg [which formed the earth, sea and sky]." [Fragment 57]

Obviously, there are many others as well, and which version of mythology you accept as truth is mostly up to you. There are so many versions of the birth of the universe floating around, as well as stories of who sired whom, choosing one really is a gamble.

As for our creation, the most well known is most likely the one where we were created by Prometheus from the mud. It's the start of the story of Pandôra. From Plato's Protagoras we know of this account of how we came to be:

"Once upon a time there were gods only, and no mortal creatures. But when the time came that these also should be created, the gods fashioned them out of earth and fire and various mixtures of both elements in the interior of the earth; and when they were about to bring them into the light of day, they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus to equip them, and to distribute to them severally their proper qualities. Epimetheus said to Prometheus: "Let me distribute, and do you inspect." This was agreed, and Epimetheus made the distribution. There were some to whom he gave strength without swiftness, while he equipped the weaker with swiftness; some he armed, and others he left unarmed; and devised for the latter some other means of preservation, making some large, and having their size as a protection, and others small, whose nature was to fly in the air or burrow in the ground; this was to be their way of escape. Thus did he compensate them with the view of preventing any race from becoming extinct. And when he had provided against their destruction by one another, he contrived also a means of protecting them against the seasons of heaven; clothing them with close hair and thick skins sufficient to defend them against the winter cold and able to resist the summer heat, so that they might have a natural bed of their own when they wanted to rest; also he furnished them with hoofs and hair and hard and callous skins under their feet. Then he gave them varieties of food-herb of the soil to some, to others fruits of trees, and to others roots, and to some again he gave other animals as food. And some he made to have few young ones, while those who were their prey were very prolific; and in this manner the race was preserved.
Thus did Epimetheus, who, not being very wise, forgot that he had distributed among the brute animals all the qualities which he had to give-and when he came to man, who was still unprovided, he was terribly perplexed. Now while he was in this perplexity, Prometheus came to inspect the distribution, and he found that the other animals were suitably furnished, but that man alone was naked and shoeless, and had neither bed nor arms of defence. The appointed hour was approaching when man in his turn was to go forth into the light of day; and Prometheus, not knowing how he could devise his salvation, stole the mechanical arts of Hephaestus and Athene, and fire with them (they could neither have been acquired nor used without fire), and gave them to man. Thus man had the wisdom necessary to the support of life, but political wisdom he had not; for that was in the keeping of Zeus, and the power of Prometheus did not extend to entering into the citadel of heaven, where Zeus dwelt, who moreover had terrible sentinels; but he did enter by stealth into the common workshop of Athene and Hephaestus, in which they used to practise their favourite arts, and carried off Hephaestus' art of working by fire, and also the art of Athene, and gave them to man. And in this way man was supplied with the means of life. But Prometheus is said to have been afterwards prosecuted for theft, owing to the blunder of Epimetheus." [320c - 322a]

In much the same manner, women came to be. According to Hesiod:

"Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very famous Limping God formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Cronos willed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athene girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and down from her head she spread with her hands a broidered veil, a wonder to see; and she, Pallas Athene, put about her head lovely garlands, flowers of new-grown herbs. Also she put upon her head a crown of gold which the very famous Limping God made himself and worked with his own hands as a favour to Zeus his father. On it was much curious work, wonderful to see; for of the many creatures which the land and sea rear up, he put most upon it, wonderful things, like living beings with voices: and great beauty shone out from it.
But when he had made the beautiful evil to be the price for the blessing, he brought her out, delighting in the finery which the bright-eyed daughter of a mighty father had given her, to the place where the other gods and men were. And wonder took hold of the deathless gods and mortal men when they saw that which was sheer guile, not to be withstood by men. For from her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth." [561 - 612]

Years later, when Zeus would flood the earth, Pyrrha and her husband Deukalion would survive and re-create the human race by throwing pebbles behind themselves as they walked; Deukalion would create the men and Pyrrha the women.

I believe in the theory of the Big Bang, where the universe was in an extremely hot and dense state and began expanding rapidly. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. [...] Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies, and the heavier elements were synthesized either within stars or during supernovae (courtesy of Wikipedia, because of ease). I see no issue in overlaying this theory with Heiod's cosmology, however. The Big Bang theory does sound like first there was Khaos, and from that, matter came into being to eventually form the Earth as it is now. So as far as the creation of the universe and the Gods goes, I will go with Hesiod and his explanation, although a variation of his work is also fine by me.

As for how we came to be, I believe in evolution. I don't think we were put on the Earth ready-made by the Gods. That said, the proposal that one type of animal could descend from an animal of another type goes back to some of the first pre-Socratic Hellenic philosophers, such as Anaximander and Empedocles, so it's not an odd frame of mind to have for a Hellenist; even the ancient Hellenes flirted with the idea that at least animal species evolved from one another. I love the myth of Prometheus, but no, that is not how I think we came to be, although I won't rule out that the Gods had a hand in our formation through evolution.