At the very centre of Greek Mythology lies the Pantheon of deities who are believed to live on Mount Olympus, which is the highest summit in Greece. From up here, the Gods ruled every aspect of human life. They attempt to represent an answer to the chaos in the universe through human nature.
There are twelve main Olympians. Read on to find out more about them:
After having overthrown his father, Cronus with the help of his brothers, Hades and Poseidon, Zeus took the role of chief deity in a fresh Pantheon which comprised mostly of his children and siblings. Known as the “Cloud Gatherer”, Zeus is known to the Romans as Jupiter. Zeus is known for his unpredictable wrath as depicted through his storms on earth. He is considered to be the Lord of thunder, lighting and the skies. He is also the Lord of law, order and justice.
After having overthrown his father, Cronus along with Zeus and Hades, he was bestowed with the prize of being lord of the seas, earthquakes and tidal waves. At a certain point, Poseidon desired Demeter. In order to put him off, Demeter asked Poseidon to create the most magnificent animal which the world has ever seen. In order to impress Demeter, Poseidon created the very first horse in the world. In this quest, Poseidon ended up creating several more creatures and his desire for Demeter had died down by now. Known for being greedy, Poseidon is known for his difficult and quarrelsome persona. He is the equivalent of Neptune.
A pastoral figure, Hermes was responsible for the protection of livestock and was associated with luck, fertility, music and deception. Hermes is son to Zeus and the nymph Maia. Hermes is the Messenger of the Gods and is the fastest of all. He is depicted with winged sandals, a winged had and is carrying the caduceus, which is a wand entwined with two serpents. He is also the God of Commerce and also the protector of thieves. Hermes acts as the guide to the dead during their final journey towards the underworld. Hermes is known for inventing astronomy, the musical scale, pipes, weights and measures, boxing and gymnastics. He is the equivalent of Mercury.
She is the Queen goddess of Olympus and both wife and sister to Zeus. Depicted although as being reserved and austere, Hera was ruthlessly vindictive of her husband’s extramarital relations and therefore, tended to create troubles for the “other women” rather than tormenting Zeus himself. Hera is considered to be the God of marriage and family. She is symbolised by the cuckoo, peacock and cow. Her Roman equivalent is Juno.
Hades was synonymous with the world of the dead and ruled it. The icy lord of the underworld is one of the few amongst the Greek Gods to come across as being quite dispassionate and aloof. He is known for being cunning and had once tricked Persephone into consuming magical pomegranate seeds which compelled her to remain with Hades for a certain portion of the year. Hades would rarely leave the underworld and was deeply concerned about increasing his subjects. Those who were in favour of increasing the number of dead were seen with a loving eye by Hades.
Born to Zeus and a mortal mother, Semele, the cult of Dionysus circled around sex, intoxication and savage ritual sacrifice. Zeus accidentally killed his mother and therefore, had sewn Dionysus into his thigh and once the young God had emerged, Zeus left him to the maenads. Dionysus is considered to be the God of wine, ecstasy and celebrations. The symbols of Dionysus include the grapevine, bull and leopard amongst others.
The agricultural goddess mothered Persephone, who had been abducted by Hades, ruler of the underworld to be his bride. While in search for her stolen daughter, Demeter had accepted the hospitality offered by the royal family of Eleusis. Perhaps the most important religious rites in ancient Greence was the Eleusian Mysteries, which are attributed to Demeter’s teachings. Ceres is her Roman equivalent.
Considered to be one of the most important Gods, Apollo was the twin brother of Artemis. Son to Zeus, Apollo spread far and wide the will of his divine compatriots notably through oracles and various other means. His mouthpiece was the Oracle at Delphi. Considered to be the God of light and inspiration, Apollo does for the soul what light does for the world. One of his most important daily tasks is to harness his chariot with the four horses and then have them drive the Sun across the sky. Apollo is also the God of Prophecy, who would raise men above their common level by sudden access to power or enlightenment.
The Greek God of bloodlust, Ares was son to Hera and Zeus. With the exception of Aphrodite, all the Gods despised Ares. Considered to be murderous and bloodstained. Ares was the God of War, and the Spartans had once donated prisoners of war to his worship. Ares had seduced Aphrodite, unsuccessfully battled Hercules and had enraged Poseidon by slaughtering his son, Halirrhothios.
Considered to be the Goddess of the hunt, Artemis is often depicted with a deer or hunting dog. She was both a huntress and protectress of the living world. Daughter to Zeus and Leto, Artemis is also the protector of the young. She is a virgin and Goddess to childbirth. Therefore, her mother Leto felt no pain at all while giving her birth. Artemis, like Apollo, hunts with silver arrows. Her symbols include deer, moon and the hound amongst others.
Goddess of wisdom, reason and war, Athena famously sprung fully formed from the forehead of Zeus after he had swallowed her mother. Fierce and brave in battle, Athena would only fight to defend her home from outside enemies. Protector of Athens, she is the Goddess of agriculture and handicrafts. An inventor to the bridle, Athena permitted the mortal man to tame the horse, ship and chariot amongst others. She is the favourite child of Zeus and was allowed to use his weapons including the thunderbolt. Athena is symbolised by the owl and the olive tree.
Greek Goddess of love, sex, beauty and desire, Aphrodite possesses a magical girdle which compels anyone she pleases to desire her. One of her most notable affairs was with Ares. Her tree is the myrtle and rose is her flower. Aphrodite is symbolised by the swan and apple amongst others.
Greek mythology is incredibly rich and this list of the twelve Olympians should give you a glance at the incredible tales and myths which were intricately connected to religion in the Greek world. Myths were utilised to retell many historical events so that people maintain contact with their ancestors, the wars they battled and the many places they explored.