There were two types of Olympic Gods: Celestial Deities and Earth Deities. The Celestial Deities dwelled on Mount Olympus while the Earth Deities resided on, or under, Earth. There were twelve Olympic Gods; however, because the tales of these gods started out orally, the gods and goddesses classified as Olympians are not totally clear.
Because the Twelve Olympians are not totally clear, there are a possible fourteen gods and goddesses that could be classified as Olympians. The gods and goddesses all had their place in Ancient Greece and were either worshipped or hated because of their responsibilities and talents. The Greek Gods and Goddesses all had a great influence and importance to Greek culture.When Zeus, Jupiter in Roman Mythology, was young, he overthrew his father, Cronus, to become the Supreme Ruler and Protector God. Zeuss power, which included him as the Lord of the Sky, Rain God, God of Thunder, God of the Winds, and Cloud-Gatherer, was greater than that of all of the other gods and goddesses ascendancy combined.(Guirand 105; Hamilton 25-26) Zeus married and made mistresses of many women. Metis was his first wife.
Gaea and Uranus warned Zeus that if Metis had the child she was pregnant with at the time, the child would be more powerful than he and overthrow him just as he overthrew his father. Zeus swallowed Metis when she was about to give birth to prevent this. A few of Zeuss wives included: Themis, Uranus and Gaeas daughter, Mnemosyne, which gave birth to the nine muses with Zeus, Oceanid Eurynome, who gave birth to the three graces with Zeus, and Hera. Many of Zeus’s children were given birth by his mistresses, some of which were mortals.(Guirand 105-106)The god was normally depicted as a man in the fullness of maturity, of robust body, a grave countenance and a broad forehead jutting out above his deeply set eyes. His face is framed by thick waving hair and a finely curled beardHe usually wears a long mantle which leaves his chest and right arm free. His attributes are the sceptre in his left hand, in his right hand the thunderbolt and at his feet the eagle.
Often he wears a crown of oak-leaves. (Guirand 105)Hera, or Juno in Roman mythology, was Zeuss main wife and was his sister. Although her parents were Cronus and Rhea, Titans Oceans and Tethys brought her up.
(Hamilton 26-27) She was the Celestial Virgin, Queen of the Sky, the Protector of Marriage, especially married women, Goddess of maternity, and presided over all of the phases of womens existence. (Guirand 113; Hamilton 26-27) Hera was very jealous of Zeuss many other women, and revenged on them with some sort of a punishment. (Hamilton 26-27) In her favorite city of Argos, there were five temples to her. In Stymphalus, there were three temples to her: child-goddess, wife-goddess, and widow-goddess.
(Guirand 113-114; Hamilton 27) Hera was depicted as a young woman, fully developed, or a chaste and severe beauty. Her forehead is normally crowned with a diadem or with a high crown of cylindrical shape, the polos. She wears a long tunic of chiton and is enveloped in a veil which adds to her bearing of nobility, reserved and full of modesty. Her attributes are a sceptre surmounted by a cuckoo (in allusion to the circumstances of her nuptials) and a pomegranate, symbol of conjugal love and fruitfulness.
(Guirand 113)Hera and Zeuss brother Poseidon, Neptune in Roman mythology, was second, only to Zeus, in power and importance. Poseidon was the Ruler of the Sea and gave the first horse to man. His nickname, The Earth-Shaker, was given to him because of his ability to shake and shatter what he pleased with his trident that he always carried. (Hamilton 27-28) He was portrayed as a man with less serene features, a thick beard, and disorderly hair. (Guirand 151) Hades was also the son of Cronus and Rhea.
When Zeus took over as the Supreme Ruler from his father, he divided the world giving the Underworld to Hades. (Hades 1) Hades was the King of the Underworld and ruled the dead with Persephone, his chosen wife, as the Queen. (Hades 1; Hamilton 42) Hades was viewed as a pitless, grim god; however, he was not evil. In fact, he was also known as Pluto, Lord of the Riches, because crops and precious metals were both believed to have come from his kingdom below the ground. (Hades 1)The oldest Olympian, Hestia, also called Vesta, was an offspring of Cronus and Rhea also. She was a Virgin Goddess, the Fire-Divinity, Goddess of the Household, and Goddess of the Hearth. (Guirand 156; Hamilton 37) Because of her responsibilities, she was considered a symbol of the home.
Every city in Greece had a public hearth where the fire could not go out in honor of her. (Hamilton 37)Another of Zeuss sisters, Demeter, also known as Ceres, was one of the two supreme deities on Earth. (Hamilton 53) She was the Goddess of Corn, Goddess of Fruits, and Goddess of the Riches of the Fields. (Hamilton 53; Guirand 174) Her temples, called Megaras, were found in the forests. (Guirand 174)She appears sometimes seated, sometimes walking, dressed in a long robe and often wearing a veil which covers the back of her head.
Sometimes she is crowned with ears of corn or a ribbon, and holds in her hand either a sceptre, ears of corn, or a torch. (Guirand 174)The other Supreme Deity on Earth was Dionysus, called Bacchus in Roman mythology. He was the only god whose parents were not both divines with Zeus and the Theban Princess Semele as his parents. He was the God of Wine and the God of Vine and Thebes was his city. (Hamilton 64-65)He was first depicted as a bearded man, of mature age, with brow generally crowned with ivy.
Later he appears as a beardless youth of rather effeminate aspect. Sometimes the delicate nudity of his adolescent body is half covered by the nebris, a skin of a panther or fawns; sometimes he wears a long robe such as a woman wore. His head with its long curly hair is crowned with vine leaves and bunches of grapes. In one hand he holds the thyrsus, and in the other, grapes or a wine cup.
(Guirand 178)One of Dionysus sisters, Athena, or Minerva, was Zeuss favorite child. (Guirand 118) Before Athena was born, Zeus swallowed her mother. She was born from Zeuss head full grown and in armor. Because of her fathers favoritism to her, he allowed Athena to use any of his weapons, including the thunderbolt, his favorite, awful aegis, and his buckler when she pleased. (Hamilton 29) She was the Warrior Goddess, Goddess of the Art Piece, Goddess of Intelligence, Goddess of Wisdom, Goddess of Reason, Goddess of Purity, Protector of Towns, Guardian of Acropolises, Goddess of the City, and Protector of Civilized Life, Handicrafts, and Agriculture.
As the Chief Virgin Goddess, Athena was called the Maiden of Parthenos. While she had one temple in Parthenos, in her favorite city of Athens there were three temples for her. (Hamilton 29; Guirand 117) Athena was depicted as either wearing tight draperies covering her body and a shield and spear in her hands or she wore a long chiton, had a helmet on her head, aegis, and a spear in her right hand and winged victor in her left hand. (Guirand 117) She was often described as gray-eyed or flashing-eyed. Her favorite plant was the olive because she created it and her favorite bird was the owl, which was her symbol. (Hamilton 29)Hera wanted revenge on Zeus for giving birth to Athena on his own, so Hera gave birth to Hephaestus, or Vulcan, by herself.
(Hamilton 36) He was born lame though, and his mother kicked him out of Heaven because of it. (Bulfinch 10) Hephaestus was the God of Fire, Divine Blacksmith, Workman of Immortals, and Armorer and Smith to Immortals. (Hamilton 36; Guirand 139) He made immortals dwellings, furniture, weapons, and other miscellaneous items.
(Hamilton 36) Some of his work included: palaces on Mount Olympus, Zeuss thunderbolt, golden throne, and scepter, Aegis (Helios winged chariot), Apollo and Artemis arrows, Demeters sickle, Hercules cuirass, and Achilles armor. (Guirand 139) He was kind, peace loving, and popular on Earth and in Heaven. (Hamilton 37)(Hephaestus was)traditionally represented as a robust smith, with bearded face, powerful neck and hairy chest.
His short and sleeveless chiton leaves his right shoulder bare; on his head he wears a conical bonnet and in his hands he grasps a hammer and tongs. (Guirand 139)Ares was hated by his parents, Zeus and Hera, because he was murderous and bloody. (Hamilton 35) He was the God of Blind, God of Brutal, God of Courage, God of Bloody Rage, God of War, and God of Carnage.
(Guirand 137) Although he was the God of all of these brutal and hateful elements of life, he was a coward. (Hamilton 35) At first he was depicted as a bearded warrior wearing a helmet with a tall crest and dressed in heavy armor. Later he appears as a young man, almost nude, who has retained little of his warlike attributes except the spear and helmet.
(Guirand 137)The most Greek of all the gods was Apollo. Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto and twins with Artemis. (Hamilton 29-31) He was the Healer God, God of Sudden Death, God of Divination, God of Prophecy, Shepherd God, Musician God, God of Song, God of the Lyre, Builder God, Colonizing God, Lord of the Silver Bow, Archery God, God of Light, and God of Truth.
Apollo also ripened the fruits on Earth, protected flocks, first taught men the art of healing, and protected crops by destroying mice and driving off locusts. (Hamilton 29; Guirand 120-121) As the master musician, Apollo delighted the Gods on Mount Olympus playing his Golden Lyre. Because of his role as the God of Truth, Apollo had to tell the truth at all times and could not tell a lie. (Hamilton 29) At Delphi, his Oracle, a priestess would fall under Apollos influence and speak broken phrases of prophecy. His main attributes included: the bow, the lyre, shepherds crook, and the quiver. (Guirand120-121) He was depicted as a young man of realized beauty, with a vigorous body, a broad chest and thin hips. His beardless face with its delicate features is surmounted by a high forehead ad thick, long hair which sometimes falls freely behind him, sometimes is knotted on top or at the nape of his neck so that only a few curls fall to his shoulders.
He is generally nude or wears only a chlamys thrown over his shoulder. (Guirand 121)Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twins with Apollo, although she was one day older than he was. (Hamilton 31; Guirand 130) She was also one of the three main goddesses.
(Hamilton 31) Artemis was the Agriculture Deity, Goddess of the Chase, Goddess of Forests, Divinity of Light because of her connection with Apollo, Deity of Sudden Death because of Apollo, Lady of Wild Things, Virgin Goddess, Huntsman-in-Chief to the gods, Goddess of the Moon, and Protectress of Dewy Youth. (Hamilton 31; Guirand 130; Bulfinch 7) She liked to shoot arrows, including shooting them at mortals and killing them and brought prosperity to anyone who honored her. (Guirand 130) During the Trojan War, Artemis kept Greek fleets from sailing to Troy until they sacrificed a maiden to her. (Hamilton 31) All animals were sacred to her, especially the deer, and the dog, which usually accompanied her.
(Hamilton 31; Guirand 130)She appears as a young virgin, slim and supple, with narrow hips and regular features. Her beauty is a little severe, with her hair drawn back or partly gathered in a knot on her head. She wears a short tunic which does not fall below her kneesHer feet are shod with the cuthurnus or laced buckskin.
(Guirand 130)Aphrodite, also called Venus, was born one of two ways: as a daughter of Zeus and Dione or she rose from the foam in the sea. She was Goddess of Love and Goddess of Beauty. She finessed all men and Gods with her amazing beauty; ironically, she married the ugliest god, Hephaestus. She was laughter loving, irresistible, and often described as (A) beautiful, golden goddess. (Hamilton 33-34) Hermes, also titled Mercury, was Zeus and Maias son. (Hamilton 34) He was Zeuss personal messenger, God of Commerce, God of the Market, Protector of Traders, Guide of the Dead, Divine Herald, Master Thief, and God of Lawful or Unlawful Profit.
He was also God of Travelers, of which he guided on their way, God of Games of Chance, Benefactor of Mankind, Protector of Mankinds Flocks, and God of Eloquence. (Hamilton 34-35; Guirand 133) He was labeled as the shrewdest, most cunning, graceful, and swift god. (Hamilton 25) In primitive times he had been represented as a mature man with a thick, long beard, his hair bound with a fillet and falling in curls to his shoulders (Later) His hair is short and crisp, his features fine; he carries his hand slightly inclined as though listening with friendly interest. His nervous and supple body is largely exposed by the chlamys tossed over his shoulder or wound round his left arm. He often wears a round, winged hata petasusand on his feet there are winged sandals.
In his hand he holds a winged staff around which serpents are entwines; this is the caduceus. (133-135)As you can see, the Greek Gods had a great importance and influence to Greek culture. They each had their own areas of life that they were to be responsible for and preside over.
These fourteen gods were the most important, with twelve of them as the highest ranking of Greek Gods possible, Olympians.BIBLIOGRAPHYBulfinch, Thomas. Golden Age of Myth ; Legend. Atlanta: Stokes; 1923.Guirand F. Greek Mythology.
Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. 1959 ed.Hades. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Little, Brown and Company; 1942.