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Greek Mythology: Gods and Goddesses

By: Molly Schwichtenberg

The people in ancient Greece had many strong beliefs and ritual observances that governed how they lived. Their mythology centered around gods that resembled humans and displayed human-like feelings. Greek gods lived within a society of their own, which ranked them according to their powers and authority. The gods were divided according to their domains, which included the earth, the sea, and the heavens, but they were free to roam as they pleased. Greek mythology was not focused on spiritual teachings; rather, it told stories about why the world was as it was.

Gods and Goddesses

The gods and goddesses of Greek mythology were in charge of the universe, ruling from their place at the top of Mount Olympus. The leader, Zeus, ascended to power when he overthrew the leader of the Titans, Cronus, who was also his father.

  • Zeus was the god of the sky and the king of all gods. If he was unhappy, he threw thunderbolts.
  • Hera was Zeus's wife and a queen goddess. Greek mythology includes legends of her revenge when Zeus was unfaithful.
  • Poseidon was the god of the seas, and he was the second most popular god behind Zeus. When Poseidon became angry, earthquakes were the result.
  • Hades was a brother of Zeus and the king of the dead. He lived in the underworld.
  • Aphrodite was in charge of protecting sailors, and she was the goddess of love and beauty.
  • Apollo was a son of Zeus and the god of healing and music.
  • Ares was another son of Zeus and the god of war.
  • Artemis was Apollo's twin and the goddess of the hunt. Artemis was also the protector of women in childbirth.
  • Athena was said to be Zeus's favorite child, and she was the goddess of wisdom.
  • Hephaestus was another son of Zeus, and he was the god of fire.
  • Hestia doesn't feature prominently in Greek mythology, and she was said to be the most gentle of all of the gods. Hestia was the goddess of the hearth.
  • Hermes, a son of Zeus, was the messenger god.
  • The goddess of the harvest, Demeter, was a sister of Zeus.
  • Dionysus invented wine and so was the god of wine. Dionysus was a son of Zeus.

Demigods and Demigoddesses

When the Greek gods united with mortals and had children, the resulting descendants were known as demigods and demigoddesses. These individuals were mortals with extraordinary qualities and powers.

  • Aeacus was a judge of the underworld.
  • Aeneas was a Trojan warrior.
  • Agenor was the king of Phoenicia.
  • Amphion was involved with the construction of Thebes.
  • Arcas was the king of Arcadia.
  • Castor and Pollux were twin brothers who were said to share their immortality.
  • Cycnus had a reputation for his brutality.
  • Epaphus was a king of Egypt.
  • Hercules was a popular Greek hero known for his strength and courage. Many people choose Hercules for modern-day Halloween costumes.
  • Lacedaemon was king of Laconia.
  • Minos was the king of Crete and an underworld judge.
  • Memnon was an Ethiopian king who earned immortality.
  • Orion was a huntsman.
  • Orpheus was a poet and musician who was said to have charmed stones.
  • Perseus was the founder of the Mycenae kingdom.
  • Pirithous was said to have been detained by Hades when he tried to take Persephone and Theseus away.
  • Polydorus was the king of Thebes.
  • Rhadamanthus was another judge in the underworld.
  • Sarpedon was involved in the Trojan War.
  • Theseus was the founder and king of Athena.
  • Tityos was a child of Zeus and Elara.
  • Britomartis was a mountain nymph.
  • Helen's claim to fame was being the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • Hippolyta was the queen of the Amazons.
  • Semele was Dionysus's mother.

Titans

The Greek Titans were the children of Uranus and Gaea, primordial deities who personified the sky and the earth, and their descendants. The original Titans were Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Tethys, Thea, and Themis.

  • Coeus was a Titan who was a pillar that held the earth and heavens apart.
  • Crius represented another pillar that held the earth in place.
  • Cronus was the youngest son of Uranus and Gaea and involved in the rebellion against his father.
  • Hyperion was a pillar and represented watchfulness, wisdom, and light.
  • Iapetus represented another pillar and is associated with craftsmanship.
  • Oceanus is portrayed as having a serpentine fish tail and bull horns and is known as being a sea god.
  • Mnemosyne was the goddess of memory.
  • Phoebe was known as a goddess of prophecy and also associated with the moon.
  • Rhea was the wife of her brother Cronus and mother of Zeus.
  • Tethys was the mother of many river gods, including Alpheus and Nile.
  • Thea was a beautiful Titan and the goddess of light.
  • Themis represented law and order.

Trials and Tribulations

The demigods and demigoddesses were said to have gone through a variety of trials and tribulations at the hands of the Greek gods.

  • According to mythology, Ixion married Dia, but because he failed to deliver a bride price, his horses were stolen from him. He retaliated by killing his father-in-law, which resulted in his banishment. When Zeus rescued him and invited him to Olympus, Ixion lusted after Zeus's wife Hera. As a result, Zeus bound him to a solar wheel for eternity.
  • Perseus was one of Zeus's sons and had a difficult life filled with numerous trials. During a battle, Perseus was said to have brandished the head of Medusa, which caused his opponents to turn to stone.
  • Hades kidnapped Persephone and held her captive in the underworld. Eventually, Persephone's mother negotiated her release during the spring and summer months, thereby instituting the agricultural growing cycles. During autumn and winter, Persephone had to return to the underworld.
  • Niobe was known for her fertility, but she gloated about it so much that she angered the gods. Apollo and Artemis were dispatched to kill Niobe's children, causing her to fast for nine days.
  • Perseus had to rescue his future wife Andromeda from a sea monster by shooting arrows.
  • Asclepius suffered abandonment after his mother Coronis died during childbirth. Eventually, he became the god of medicine.
  • Orpheus used songs to charm Hades and Persephone to convince them to release Eurydice so she could return to Orpheus. The agreement stipulated that Orpheus couldn't look at Eurydice until she had reached the upper world. Unfortunately, Orpheus accidentally looked at Eurydice too soon, so she disappeared.

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