100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Mythological Mother Earth

A number of mythological women have already graced our blog series covering Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest Women On Coins. However, this next may be more or less familiar, depending on your affinity for Greek mythology. Along with author Ron Guth, let us explore what he says is the “big bang” theory of the Greeks when it comes to this next female figure.

#33 - Mythological Mother Earth

The story of Gaia (Earth) is considered shocking but was a story that gave Greeks a way to explain the creation of the Earth and everything around them. Gaia, in Greek mythology, literally means the mother of everything. Guth’s explanation of her story is based on Hesiod’s Theogony.

Before Gaia, only Chaos existed. There was nothing, not even Time. Gaia, in an attempt to combat her loneliness, created a son called Uranus (Heaven or Sky). She would mate with Uranus and give birth to the Titans, but Uranus would get jealous of her children and force her to hide them. In order to do this, she would go on to create a new element, adamantine, and make a sickle (blade or knife) out of it. Her son Cronos (Time) would get the sickle and the next time Uranus tried to mate with her, Cronos castrated him. The blood would end up fertilizing Gaia and she would give birth to the Erinyes, the Giants, and the Meliae (forerunners of the human race). Gaia had other children with Uranus, creating Cyclopes and Hecatonchires. She also mated with her son Pontus to create the sea god.

Cronos and Rhea, two of the Titans Gaia originally gave birth to, ended up creating 12 of the Greek gods. This included Hera, Zeus, Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Demeter, and lesser known ones. Zeus would be the source of Athena, Hermes, Apollo, Dionysus, and Artemis.

As part of a 12-coin series produced by the Marshall Islands in 1994, mythological Mother Earth was featured as part of the Wonders of the Solar System. The reverse of the coin features her with a child on her lap and the zodiac symbol for Earth in the foreground. She is also depicted on a number of Roman coins and medallions showing Tellus (or Tellvstarii, her Roman name) reclining with her hand on a globe.

Guth concludes that the collecting difficulty for coins featuring Gaia is moderate. The $10 brass coins from the Marshall Islands (1994) are somewhat difficult because they were sold as a 12-coin set. Getting your hands on the individual coin is challenging. Roman coins, however, are scarce and expensive.