In Greek mythology “golden-wreathed” Phoebe (Greek Φοιβη, Phoibe pronounced /‘fiː.biː/ in English), in her name simply the feminine counterpart of Phoebus, was one of the original Titans, one set of sons and daughters of Uranus and Gaia. She was traditionally associated with the moon (see Selene), as in Michael Drayton‘s Endimion and Phœbe, (1595), the first extended treatment of the Endymion myth in English. Her consort was her brother Coeus, with whom she had two daughters, Leto, who bore Artemis and Apollo, and Asteria, a star-goddess who bore an only daughter Hekate.
Through Leto she was the grandmother of Apollo and Artemis. The names Phoebe and Phoebus came to be applied as a synonym for Artemis and an epithet of Apollo. According to a speech that Aeschylus, in Eumenides, puts in the mouth of the Delphic priestess herself, she received control of the Oracle at Delphi from Themis: “Phoebe in this succession seems to be his private invention,” D.S. Robertson noted, reasoning that in the three great allotments of oracular powers at Delphi, corresponding to the three generations of the gods, “Ouranos, as was fitting, gave the oracle to his wife Gaia and Kronos appropriately allotted it to his sister Themis.” In Zeus’ turn to make the gift, however, Aeschylus could not report that the oracle was given directly to Apollo, who had not yet been born, Robertson notes, and thus Phoebe was interposed. These supposed male delegations of the powers at Delphi as expressed by Aeschylus are not borne out by the usual modern reconstruction of the sacred site’s pre-Olympian history.
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