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Greek Mythology
Myths are traditional stories. The Greeks
used myths to explain things they did not
understand. Other myths taught moral lessons
or simply told entertaining stories. Since most
myths are older than writing, we don’t know
why people began to believe in myths, but we do
know that myths have been passed down from
generation to generation by word of mouth.
Greek poets told epic stories based on the
myths. An epic is a long poem about the gods
and their deeds.
Most ancient cultures practiced polytheism.
Polytheism is the worship of many gods. The
ancient Greeks were different from most other
cultures of their time because Greek gods and
goddesses looked and acted like human beings.
The Greeks told stories of their gods marrying
and having children. Greek gods would have
wars and celebrations and would often play
tricks on one another. Most people no longer
share the beliefs of the ancient Greeks, but they
still find great inspiration in the stories and
symbols of Greek mythology.
The ancient Greeks believed their gods lived
atop Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in
Greece. Zeus was the head of the pantheon, or
family of gods. Zeus ruled the sky with his
powerful thunderbolt. Many ancient Greeks
feared the anger of Zeus during violent
thunderstorms. Zeus's wife, Hera, was the
goddess of women and marriage.
Poseidon was said to be Zeus’ brother and
the ruler of the sea. Poseidon also had the
power to create earthquakes. Greek mariners
and fishermen believed that Poseidon would
strike the ground with his mighty trident when
he was ignored. A
trident is a threepronged spear used by
the ancient Greeks both
to spear fish and as a
weapon. Poseidon might
cause shipwrecks with
his trident, but Poseidon
could also create new
islands and favor sailors
with food and safe travel to other lands.
A third brother named Hades ruled the
underworld. The Greeks believed that people
passed to Hades’ territory when they died, and
while they were treated fairly in the
underworld, Hades would never allow them to
return to the world they once knew.
The ancient Greeks would honor Zeus at
great athletic contests called the Olympics. The
poli built temples where the Greek people
would make sacrifices or pray to the gods asking
for good health or a successful harvest.
The ancient Greeks would often consult
priests or priestesses called oracles before
making important decisions. Many ancient
Greeks believed that the gods spoke to the
oracles. The Greek oracles were said to be able
to read the rustling of leaves or marks on
animals as signs from the gods. The oracles
would often respond in unclear ways with
puzzling statements so it would be difficult for
people to prove them wrong.
Answer in complete sentences
1. How were the Greek gods different from the gods of most other ancient cultures?
*This is a higher order learning question. You must answer the question to the best of your ability, but any
reasonable answer will be graded as correct.
Fill in the Blanks
The Greeks told t__a__i__i__n__l stories called m________ to explain things they did not
understand. Greek poets recited e________ that told great stories about the gods. The ancient Greek
were p__l__t__e__s__ic, but the Greek gods were different from those of most ancient cultures
because the Greek gods and goddesses had many h__m__n qualities.
The ancient Greeks believed their gods and goddesses lived atop M__u__t O_y__p__s, where they
were led by Z______, the god of the sky who kept order with his powerful t__u__d__r__o__ts. Hera
was the w______ of Zeus and the goddess of w__m__n and m__r__ia__e. Poseidon was the
b__o__h__r of Zeus and the god of the s___. Another brother named Hades ruled the u__d__r__o__ld.
The Greeks honored the gods and goddesses at t__m__l__s where they might pray for good
h__a__th or a successful h__r__e__t. Often the Greeks would consult o__a__l__s, who were believed
to be able to c__n__u__t with the gods. Oracles were d__f__i__u__t to prove w__o__g because
they often a__s__e__ed in u__c__e__r ways with p__z__l__ng statements.
Answer in complete sentences
*1. If you are growing up in ancient Greece, how would you learn about an epic poem?
2. How were Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades related?
*3. Zeus was the most powerful Greek god. What do his powers suggest the people of ancient Greece
*4. Make a prediction about modern society that would be similar to what a Greek oracle would make.
Consider how the oracles madder sure they could not be proven wrong.
*This is a higher order learning question. You must answer the question to the best of your ability, but any
reasonable answer will be graded as correct.