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Greek Mythology The Gods and Goddesses The men and women, the myths, and the legends… Gods and Goddesses MOUNT OLYMPUS HOME OF THE GODS Mount Olympus is both an actual mountain in Greece and the mythical home of the Greek gods. In Zeus' palace on its peak resided the Twelve Olympians, which consisted of the major gods and goddesses. Depending on whom you asked, the exact names of those twelve changed. Below are the major gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. Be sure to click on any highlighted names if you want to find out more about that particular god or goddess. Enjoy! Gods and Goddesses APHRODITE ROMAN NAME: VENUS GODDESS OF LOVE AND BEAUTY Aphrodite was so lovely that the Greeks couldn't imagine her being born in the usual way. Instead she sprang from the white beauty of the sea foam. In an odd arrangement, this most beautiful goddess was married to the only ugly Olympian, HEPHAESTUS, the deformed forge god. Some said that ZEUS forced her into the marriage; others, that she chose him herself. Either way, her vows did not stop her from having many affairs. Gods and mortal men found her charms simply irresistible. Whenever on business abroad, Aphrodite was pulled through the sky by a swan-drawn cart. The swan and the dove were both symbols of her grace. In Greece her worship was popular, although the temple priestesses were rumored to be prostitutes. Our word aphrodisiac, a passion-inducing substance, is derived from her name. Gods and Goddesses APOLLO ROMAN NAME: PHOEBUS APOLLO GOD OF LIGHT, TRUTH, POETRY, PROPHECY, & MUSIC From all the important titles laid at Apollo's feet, you can see the Greeks thought very highly of him. He is called the "most Greek of all the gods". He, above all others, represented the ideal man: handsome, athletic, intelligent, talented, and good. His twin sister is ARTEMIS, Goddess of the Moon. Over time, Apollo came to replace the Greek god Helios as God of the Sun as well. The lyre is Apollo's instrument, as he is the master musician. Apollo's tree is the laurel. A wreath of laurels was awarded in Greece to those who won a contest of poetry. Apollo's oracle in Delphi was the most reliable and the most popular. Gods and Goddesses ARES ROMAN NAME: MARS GOD OF WAR Ares is the cruelest member of the Olympians, hated by all (even his mother, HERA). This god is known for his ruthlessness when he has the upper-hand and his cowardice when the tides turn against him. Even the Greeks disliked this terrible god. There were no temples to Ares in ancient Greece.APHRODITE, in one of her many infidelities, started an affair with Ares, which was his motivation to fight for the Trojans in the great war. Martial (having to do with war) and March are coined from his Latin name. Gods and Goddesses ARTEMIS ROMAN NAME: DIANA VIRGIN GODDESS OF THE HUNT, PROTECTOR OF MAIDENS AND WILD CREATURES Artemis is often called upon by maidens who want nothing to do with men. Her silver arrows have slain many overzealous suitors. Artemis was also the twin sister of APOLLO and revered as the Goddess of the Moon. At times her different duties contradict one other. Even though she is a hunter of animals herself, she often demands that mortals pay for killing defenseless beasts. In the most famous case, she demands that a Greek army offer her a human sacrifice in apology for trampling a family of rabbits. She asks for the life of the general's young daughter, a maiden. This is strange behavior for the protector of maidens. Gods and Goddesses ATHENA ROMAN NAME: MINERVA, PALLAS ATHENA GODDESS OF WISDOM AND BATTLE According to one tale, Athena was not actually born, but sprang fully-grown from ZEUS' head. This is symbolic of her distinction as Goddess of Wisdom. Athena's animal was the wisest of birds, the owl. As the leader of the Virgin Goddesses, those who will never marry, Athena refuses to let any man to be her master. When a new city-state was founded, there was a contest between Athena and her uncle POSEIDON over who should be its patron god. The competition was fierce. To win the people over to his side, Poseidon formed the first horse from the crest of a wave. In order to one-up his gift, Athena created the bridle, a tool man could use to subdue Poseidon's creation. Since her gift was the wiser, the city chose Athena as their patron goddess. From this point on the citystate was called Athens. Gods and Goddesses DEMETER ROMAN NAME: CERES GODDESS OF AGRICULTURE The Greeks and Romans felt an extremely strong connection with Demeter. The goddess was responsible for providing them with their sustenance and livelihood. In addition to this, Demeter was one of the few gods who did not reside on Olympus. She lived on earth, where she could be close to those who needed her most. Also unlike the other gods, Demeter's existence was bittersweet. In the fall and winter, she mourned her daughter, PERSEPHONE. Only during the spring and summer was she truly happy. All of these qualities endeared her to her worshipers. Her sacred cult at Eleusis was one of the most popular, and the secrets kept so well that to this day researchers have no clue what their rites consisted of. From Ceres comes our word for grain-based food, cereal. Gods and Goddesses DIONYSUS ROMAN NAME: BACCHUS GOD OF THE VINE AND WINE, PATRON GOD OF THE THEATRE Dionysus was a latecomer to Mount Olympus. He was the only god to have a mortal parent. Dionysus was a two-sided god. On one side, he is the gentle planter of the vine. On the other, he is a wild drinker, inspiring his followers to commit terrible acts through their intoxication. Satyrs, halfmen half-goat creatures, were said to be the companions of Dionysus, along with his fanatical female followers the maenads. Followers of Dionysus gathered in the wilderness and drank themselves into a wild frenzy. More often than not their gatherings ended with violence. In many stories, kings, who do not approve of the new god or the behavior he promotes, forbids his worship. This probably reflects Greek society's displeasure with the worshipers of Dionysus, whom many viewed as hedonistic drunks. Despite his late addition by the gods and his initial opposition from men, Dionysus became one of the most popular additions to the Greek pantheon. Athens dedicated its springtime drama festival to the god, solidifying his place as patron of the theatre. Gods and Goddesses HADES ROMAN NAME: PLUTO, DIS RULER OF THE DEAD, LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD Although he has been presented as one before, Hades is no villain. He is cold and calculating. He keeps to himself, only showing up in myth when he is sought out. Hades is more a recluse than anything else. He has little to do with mortals' lives. Their deaths are a different story. Hades is not Death himself; in other words he is not responsible for deciding when mortals die. A mortal's death is an assembly line: The Fates snip the threads of life, Thanatos (or death) causes the mortal to die, HERMES leads the soul to the banks of the Styx. After the gods defeated their forbearers, the Titans, Hades was presented with a helmet of invisibility and given the Underworld to rule. Hades' Roman name Pluto came from the Greek word for wealth. The god was considered rich because of all the precious metals that are found beneath the earth. Gods and Goddesses HEBE ROMAN NAME: NONE GODDESS OF YOUTH Hebe is the most easily-overlooked Greek goddess. Her only job was to hold her father, ZEUS' cup, which contained the nectar of the gods. She was later married to Heracles after he became a god himself. Gods and Goddesses HEPHAESTUS ROMAN NAME: VULCAN SMITH-GOD OF THE FORGE, GOD OF FIRE Hephaestus, a peace-loving god, was the patron of practical arts. He was renowned for his metal-working abilities. The unparalleled armor of the gods and heroes come from his forge. His lame leg and grizzled appearance earn him the distinction of being the only ugly god. In fact, when Hera gave birth to such an unattractive son, she hurled him out of heaven, laming his leg. Ironically, APHRODITE, Goddess of Beauty, is his wife. The Romans pictured the fiery god Vulcan working his forge beneath the mountains, and when they saw a hilltop erupt with flame, they labeled it a volcano. Gods and Goddesses HERA ROMAN NAME: JUNO GODDESS OF MARRIAGE, QUEEN OF OLYMPUS Hera is usually shown as a crafty schemer and jealous wife. She is the mother of a few of the second generation gods: ARES, HEPHAESTUS, and HEBE. ZEUS and his frequent affairs are enough to keep her busy, punishing his many lovers and cursing his illegitimate children. Even though she cannot protect her own marriage, Hera is labeled as the protector of the institution. Wives with unfaithful husbands could definitely sympathize with her. Hera has a fiery temper and enough venom for her anger to last centuries. Her animal is the cow, and her bird is the peacock. The Romans named June, the season for marriage, after Hera (Juno). Gods and Goddesses HERMES ROMAN NAME: MERCURY MESSENGER OF THE GODS Hermes, the most mischievous and clever of the gods, also served as a psychopomp, a guide of dead souls to the Underworld. One of the youngest gods, Hermes showed his ability to cause both trouble and delight at an early age. On the day of his birth, Hermes snuck out from his cradle and whisked away the cattle of his elder brother APOLLO. A witness soon reported this to Apollo, who came to Maia, Hermes's mother, demanding the return of his livestock. Maia insisted that Hermes had been in his cradle the entire time. Hermes was quickly found out and forced to return the cattle. But in reparation for his actions against Apollo, the newborn god created a lyre from the shell of a turtle. He presented the stringed instrument to his older brother. His anger melted away, Apollo presented Hermes with a magical sleep-inducing staff called the Caduceus. Once ZEUS realized his young son would cause nothing but trouble if his mind weren't constantly occupied, he gave him with the job of Olympian Messenger. He was given a winged cap and sandals to assist him in his duties. Due to the nature of his job, Hermes appears most often of all the gods. Gods and Goddesses HESTIA ROMAN NAME: VESTA GODDESS OF THE HEARTH AND HOME Hestia never plays a part in any Greek myth. Even though she wasn't exciting enough to make it into their stories, the Greeks honored Hestia with their dinnertime prayers, asking her to bless their food and protect their homes. City-states had a central hearth dedicated to the goddess, where the fire never went out. She was the third of the virgin goddesses. To the Romans she was the patron goddess of the Vestal Virgins, who in the Temple of Vesta kept the hearth fire of Rome forever burning. Hestia is one of three virgin goddess, along with ATHENA and ARTEMIS. Gods and Goddesses PERSEPHONE ROMAN NAME: PROSERPINE GODDESS OF SPRINGTIME Persephone was the daughter of ZEUS and his sister DEMETER, the Goddess of the Harvest. One day while Persephone was gathering flowers, HADES spied her in the meadow. Not wasting a second, he drove his team of coal-black steeds up through the earth and pulled her into his chariot. Back in the Underworld, Hades forced her to be his queen. Gods and Goddesses POSEIDON ROMAN NAME: NEPTUNE BLUE-MANED GOD OF THE SEAS AND OCEANS Next to his brother ZEUS, Poseidon is the god the Greeks most feared. As a sea-faring people, they knew the hazards of a stormy sea. The god was known for his mood swings, violent rage one minute, calm the next--just like the waters he controlled. In the Trojan War he favored the Greeks because of their love of ship-building, yet legend had it that generations before, he and APOLLO had helped build the walls of Ilium (Troy). When an earthquake, the Greeks recognized it as the work of Poseidon Earthshaker. Poseidon was married to the Daughter of Ocean and commanded the waves with his mighty trident. Gods and Goddesses ZEUS ROMAN NAME: JOVE, JUPITER LORD OF THE SKY, RAIN-BRINGER, CLOUDGATHERER After leading his brother and sister gods in a revolt against their parents, the Titans, Zeus became the unquestioned ruler of the Heavens. His feared weapon is the Thunderbolt, and his palace on Mount Olympus is a place of peace, where all gods are welcome. Zeus is the husband of the goddess HERA, but it's not in his nature to be faithful. Time and time again, he enters into disastrous affairs with other goddesses, nymphs, and mortal women. Zeus is the all-father. Almost all the second generation of gods claim Zeus as their father. Many of the mortal heroes are children of the god as well. Zeus' bird is the eagle.