In Greek mythology, a Titan, daughter of Uranus and Gaia. Known as mother of the gods, she was the wife and sister of Kronos, by whom she bore Hestia, Zeus, Poseidon, Pluto, Hera, and Demeter.

Rhea plotted Kronos' downfall and prevented him from eating Zeus, as he ate all of his other children. She hid Zeus in the Dictean Cave in Crete and eventually the big Z came back around and took care of business - forcing Kronos to release Zeus' siblings.

Worshiping Rhea was an orgy of fertility rites and particularly prominent in Crete. The Greeks often identified her with Gaea and Cybele (also Rhea Cybele). In Rome, Rhea was worshiped as Magna Mater (great mother) and identified with Ops.

Rhea is often depicted standing between two lions or driving a chariot pulled by lions.

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Greek and Roman Mythology

{ Moons of Saturn }
Discovered by            Giovanni Domenico Cassini
Date of Discovery        1672
Distance from Saturn     527,040 km
Radius                   764 km
Mass                     2.31 × 10^24 g
Orbital Eccentricity     0.00100
Orbital Inclination      0.35 degree
Orbital Period           4.517500436 days
Rotational Period        Synchronous
Density (gm/cm3)         1.33 

This icy moon is the largest airless satellite orbiting Saturn. Quite similar to Dione, it is rocky and heavily cratered. What is particularly interesting about Rhea is that based on its low density only 1/3 of its mass, at its core, is thought to be rock. The rest is water ice. Also interesting is that the leading face, as it orbits, is more densely cratered than the trailing face. This suggests a period of melting and refreezing at some point in its history.


Whilst there are several species of Rhea, this writeup will concern itself mainly with the Common Rhea: Rhea Americana. The other species of rhea are largely similar, but specifics of size and distribution for example are different. Nonetheless, all are large, flightless and South American.

The common rhea is a large, flightless bird. Taxonomically they are cousins to the ostrich, and share many characteristics with them. The common rhea, while larger than the other rheas is still somewhat smaller than an ostrich, usually reaching a height of only four or five feet. A typical rhea has a weight in the region of 60 or 70 lbs.

Rheas have a body shape very similar to that of the ostrich, but their plumage is a dirty grey colour. They use their wings more than many other flightless birds, using them to balance while running at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Their heavily muscled legs are also capable of dealing a very powerful kick. Rheas have hard spurs on their feet, and can bring about a force of 800 psi. Although not quite as dangerous as a cassowary rheas can seriously injure people.

Rheas live in small herds, and often react very agressivly to intrusion. At some times of the year males leave the herds and live on their own. Rheas naturally occur in areas of grassland and scrub in Argentina, but some have been introduced into North America by people who want to farm them. This is difficult, as rheas are very stubborn and violent. In their native habitat they eat a wide range of things, such as leaves, grubs and berries, but when hungry are pretty omnivorous.

After the large creamy eggs are layed by the female following mating they are incubated and guarded by the male. During this time, which may last more than a month he is especially agressive, and will charge almost anything that approaches closely, including other rheas.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Struthioniformes
Family: Rheidae
Genus Rhea

University of Michigan

Rhea, a variety of the nettle family, which grows luxuriantly in India. From the delicate fibers in its bark the finest and strongest textile fabrics can be produced. They can be worked into every variety of fabric, from velvets to laces. It is specially suitable, from its lightness and toughness, for tents and ship canvas, and it is found to be far more durable than linen.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912. I did not include the entries for Rhea as a figure of Greek mythology and a bird since they were better covered by existing E2 entries.

Rhe"a (?), n. Bot.

The ramie or grass-cloth plant. See Grass-cloth plant, under Grass.


© Webster 1913.

Rhe"a, n. [L., a proper name.] Zool.

Any one of three species of large South American ostrichlike birds of the genera Rhea and Pterocnemia. Called also the American ostrich.

⇒ The common rhea, or nandou (Rhea Americana), ranges from Brazil to Patagonia. Darwin's rhea (Pterocnemia Darwinii), of Patagonia, is smaller, and has the legs feathered below the knee.


© Webster 1913.

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