Greek Gods and Goddesses
You must have already heard aout Greek mythology of Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo, Poseidon and the other Gods and Goddesses of Greek mythology. But what is their legend and what were their powers? The point on the main Greek Gods.
Typology of the main Greek Gods and Goddesses
1. Cosmogonies: the creation of the world
The Greeks knew several cosmogonies, that is to say stories relating the birth and the progressive ordering of the cosmos, the organized world. The one we know best, because it has come down to us in its entirety, is that which Hesiod composes in the Theogony and according to which Chaos exists (or appears) first, then Eros and Gaia (Earth), which engenders Ouranos (Heaven), Pontos (Sea Flow) and other deities, while Chaos engenders others, the different lineages giving birth little by little, over the generations, to all the deities embodying the fundamental aspects of nature (Helios, Selene), to the sovereign deities (Cronos then Zeus), but also to monstrous beings who are then eliminated or locked up by the gods or the heroes (most of the children of Nyx, but also Typheus and his offspring).
2. Anthropogonies: the creation of humanity
An anthropogony (from anthrôpos, “man”, and gonos, “creation”) is an account of the appearance of humanity. Just as the Greeks had several cosmogonies, they knew several anthropogonies. The best preserved mythological poems remain relatively vague on this subject. In Homer’s epics, no indication is given of the origins of humanity, and the gods do not feel responsible for the existence of mortals: they are content to respond to the manifestations of their piety, while Zeus exercises the functions of judge of mortals and mediator between gods and mortals. Hesiod, in the Theogony, does not explain the creation of men: they appear in his poem at the time of the division of Mekone and the ruse of Prometheus, a story which explains above all the methods of sacrifice, one of the fundamental worship practices of Greek religion. In Works and Days, Hesiod recounts the myth of the races, describing several humanities (several genos) each composed of a different metal, the first, the golden race, dating back to the reign of Cronus; but his story is less about the creation of these humanities than about their virtues and the gradual deterioration of their living conditions, which rather makes this story seem like the origins of the myth of the golden age. There was also a tradition on the origin of humanity called the myth of autochthony, according to which the first men came directly from the earth. This myth was used by the Athenians, who used it in classical times to justify their superiority over other city-states, but no source clearly presents a story that all of humanity was created in this way. .
The sources of mythology remain obscure on the creation of the very first men, but most agree on the names of the ancestors of current humanity: Deucalion and Pyrrha, who survived the flood and reborn humans from the stones, as reported by Pindar in the ninth Olympic. But this is a rebirth of humanity rather than its earliest origins, and how men appear before Deucalion’s Flood is far less clear.
3. Primordial deities (the first generation of Greek Gods and Goddesses)
Primordial deities or Protogonos (Πρωτογόνος / Prōtogónos):
1. Ananké (Ἀνάγκη / Anánkē): Goddess of destiny and fate. Goddess of the inevitable, compulsion and necessity. She was born to Gaia and Ouranos and is the second wife of the weather god Chronos. She is tasked by Rhea with protecting Zeus from his father, Cronos.
2. Chaos (Χάος / Kháos): primordial entity, the first to appear. Emptiness where everything else comes from. In its modern sense, chaos means chaos, the absence of order or order.
3. Chronos (Χρόνος / Khrónos): God of time from Orphic traditions. Born of Gaia and Ouranos, he is the husband of the goddess of necessity Ananké and the titanide of motherhood Rhea.
4. Erebus (Ἔρεβος / Erebos): god of darkness, arises from Chaos. Husband of Nyx and father of Hemera and Ether.
5. Eros (Ἔρως / Érōs; corresponding to the Latin Cupid): god of love and the sexual act arises from Chaos or son of Aphrodite and Ares (origin varying from one text to another).
6. Ether (Αἰθήρ / Aithḗr): god of celestial light, son of Nyx and Erebus and brother of Hemera.
7. Gaïa (Γαῖα / Gaîa): arises from the original Chaos, she is the personification of the earth, mother of the Titans and the Giants, as well as the Hecatonchires and the first Cyclops.
8. Hemera (Ἡμέρα / Hēmera): goddess of terrestrial light, daughter of Nyx and Erebus, sister of Ether.
9. Hypnos (Ὕπνος / Hýpnos): god of sleep, son of Nyx, brother of Thanatos and Moros.
10. Moros (Μόρος / Móros): god of fatal fate or brutal death; brother of Hypnos and Thanatos. Son of Nyx.
11. The Nèsoi (Νῆσοι / Nêsoi): goddesses of the islands and the sea.
12. Nyx (Νύξ / Nýx): divinity of the night, first to arise from primordial Chaos.
13. Oléthros (Ὄλεθρος / Ólethros): another name for Moros.
14. Ouranos (Οὐρανός / Ouranós): god of the skies, father of the Titans. Son and husband of Gaia.
15. The Ourea (Οὔρεα / Oúrea): gods of the mountains.
16. Phanes (Φάνης / Phánēs): god of procreation in the Orphic tradition.
17. Pontos (Πόντος / Póntos): divinity of the sea, father of fish and sea creatures. Son of Gaia.
18. Tartarus (Τάρταρος / Tártaros): god of the darkest and deepest part of the underworld, Tartarus. Father of the Giants.
19. Thalassa (Θάλασσα / Thálassa): spirit of the sea and consort of Pontos.
20. Thanatos (Θάνατος / Thánatos): god of natural death; brother of Hypnos and Moros. Son of Nyx.
The twelve Titans, children of Ouranos and Gaia:
1. Ceos (Κοῖος / Koîos): Titan of the intellect and the constellations; brother and husband of Phébé, father of Léto and Astéria.
2. Crios (Κρεῖος / Kreîos): Titan of astronomy, husband of Eurybia, father of Astreos, Pallas and Perses.
3. Cronos (Κρόνος / Krónos): King of the Titans, brother and husband of Rhea, father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia.
4. Hyperion (Ὑπερίων / Hyperíōn): Titan of Light; brother and husband of Theia, father of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon) and Eos (the Dawn).
5. Lapetus (Ἰαπετός / Iapetós): Titan of Mortality and the West; husband of Clymene, father of Prometheus, Epimetheus, Menetios and Atlas.
6. Mnemosyne (Μνημοσύνη / Mnēmosýnē): Titanide of memory and remembrance; lover of Zeus, mother of the Muses.
7. Ocean (Ὠκεανός / Ōkeanós): Titan of rivers, seas and oceans. Brother and husband of Tethys, father of the 3,000 Rivers and the 3,000 Oceanids.
8. Phébé (Φοίβη / Phoíbē): Titanide of intellect and prophecy, sister and wife of Ceos; mother of Leto and Asteria.
9. Rhea (Ῥέα / Rhea): Titanide of fertility, motherhood and animals; sister and first wife of Cronos and mother of Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia.
10. Tethys (Τηθύς / Tēthýs): Titanide of water, rivers and springs, sister and wife of Ocean; mother of the 3000 Rivers and 3000 Oceanids.
11. Theia (Θεία / Theía): Titanide of sight and the brilliant light of the blue sky; sister and wife of Hyperion, mother of Helios, Selene and Eos.
12. Themis (Θέμις / Themis): Titanide of order, law and justice, second wife of Zeus, mother of the Moirai, the Hours and Astrea.
5. Twelve Olympian Gods
The twelve Olympian Gods are the main Gods that the ancient Greeks revered. They take their name from their home, which was Mount Olympus – the highest mountain in Greece – on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia. In Greek mythology, there were small gods, large gods as well as many different divinities, but in Greek antiquity we did not really care to count them. The first sources come to us from Homer and Hesiod (8th century BC)
The set of Greek gods is referred to as the “pantheon”, while the list of twelve is often referred to as “the dodecatheon”. The composition of the list of the dodecatheon therefore varies according to the times, thus there are fourteen gods who appear more or less regularly in the different lists. In general, the gods of Greek mythology are distributed in the lists in equal numbers, six gods and six goddesses.
The 12 gods of Olympus in order of their importance:
Zeus (Ζεύς) or Dias (Δίας) is the king and father of all the gods. He is the master of the weather, throws thunderbolts when he is angry, but protects strangers and family and he is the guarantor of moral order. Having slept with many other women than his official wife Hera and thus had a large number of offspring, he is summoned in case of fertility concerns.
Hera (Ήρα) is the wife of Zeus (she is also his sister, since they both have Cronos and Rhea for parents). Hera symbolizes fidelity and protects women and marriage.
Athena (Αθηνά), is the favorite daughter of Zeus that he had with Metis. Afraid of being dethroned by one of his sons to come with Metis, Zeus swallowed Metis when she was still pregnant. But Zeus seized with a terrible headache, Athena came out of his skull. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, which she symbolizes with an owl, but also of war.
Demeter (Δήμητρα) is also daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She is the goddess of fertility and harvests. She often carries an ear of wheat.
Aphrodite (Αφροδίτη) is the goddess of love and beauty. She was born from the seed of Ouranos whose genitals Cronus threw into the sea.
Hermes (Ερμής), messenger of the gods, bringer of luck, guardian of roads and crossroads, companion of souls in the other world, he is the protector of commerce and travellers, but also of bandits and liars.
Apollo (Απόλλων), son of Zeus born on the island of Delos, god of light and music. He is also considered the god of the divinatory art.
Hestia (Εστία), protector of the family home, daughter of Cronos and Rea.
Hephaestus (Ήφαιστος), often represented ugly and lame, son of Zeus and Hera, he is the master of volcanoes, god of fire and blacksmiths.
Poseidon (Ποσειδών), brother of Zeus, he is the god of the seas, rivers and all the waters he commands with his trident.
Ares (Άρης), son of Zeus and Hera, he is the god of war, often in dispute with Athena, the other goddess of war.
Artemis (Άρτεμις), goddess of hunting and wild nature, she is the twin sister of Apollo.
According to the authors, Hestia and Demeter are replaced by Dionysus and Hades, respectively god of wine and god of the underworld.
6. Demigods of Greek Gods and Goddesses
This is the incarnation of God, also called Demigod. This is a term used to refer to characters in mythology whose parents are gods.
1. Achilles (Ἀχιλλεύς / Akhilleús): almost invincible hero. He fought during the Trojan War and was considered to be the greatest warrior in the Iliad.
2. Amphiaraos (Ἀμφιάραος / Amphiáraos): hero of the war of the Seven against Thebes, oracular spirit after his death.
3. Aristaeus (Ἀρισταῖος / Aristaîos): hero of Thessaly, his inventions immortalized him as the god of beekeeping, cheese making, flocks, olive growing and hunting.
4. Asclepios (Ἀσκληπιός / Asklēpiós): physician from Thessaly struck by lightning by Zeus, later restored by him by placing him in the heavens (constellation of the Serpentarius or Ophiuchus, traversed by the Sun from November 29 to December 18).
5. Attis (Ἄττις / Áttis): consort of Cybèle.
6. Bolina (Βολίνα / Bolína): mortal woman transformed into an immortal nymph by Apollo.
7. The Dioscuri (Διόσκουροι / Dióskouroi):
7. A. Castor (Κάστωρ / Kástōr): son of Leda and Tyndareus
7. B. Pollux (Πολυδεύκης / Polydeúkēs): son of Leda and Zeus
8. Eacus (Αἰακός / Aiakós): king of Aegina, became judge of the Underworld after his death.
9. Endymion (Ἐνδυμίων / Endymíōn): lover of Selene, receives eternal sleep so as not to grow old or die.
10. Aeolus (Αἴολος / Aíolos): appointed by Zeus to be the ruler of the winds.
11. Ganymede (Γανυμήδης / Ganymḗdēs): Trojan prince, abducted by Zeus and became cupbearer of the gods.
12. Glaucos (Γλαῦκος / Glaûkos): sinner, made immortal after swallowing a magical herb.
13. Hemithea (Ἡμιθέα / Hēmithéa) and Parthenos (Παρθένος / Parthénos): princesses of Naxos who threw themselves into the sea to escape the wrath of their father, transformed into demigoddesses by Apollo.
14. Heracles (Ἡρακλῆς / Hēraklês): hero famous for his 12 labors. We call them Hercules too.
15. Ino (Ἰνώ / Inṓ): princess of Thebes, who became the sea goddess Leucothea.
16. Lampsaque (Λαμψάκη / Lampsákē): semi-historical Bebryce princess, honored as a goddess for her assistance to the Greeks
17. The Leucippides (Λευκιππίδες / Leukippides): wives of the Dioscuri:
Hilaire (Ἱλάειρα / Hiláeira): Castor’s wife.
Phoebe (Φοίβη / Phoíbē): wife of Pollux.
18. Mélicertes (Μελικέρτης / Melikértēs) or Palaemon (Παλαίμων / Palaímōn): prince of Thebes, who became a sea god with his mother, Ino.
19. Minos (Μίνως / Mínōs): king of Crete, became judge of the Underworld after his death.
20. Orithye (Ὠρείθυια / Ōreíthyia): Athenian princess kidnapped by Boreus, who became the goddess of the cold gusts of the mountains.
21. Philonoé (Φυλονόη / Phylonóē): daughter of Tyndareus and Leda, made immortal by Artemis
22. Psyche (Ψυχή / Psykhḗ): goddess of the Soul.
Heracles is a divine protector of mankind, patron of gymnasium
Heracles, the most famous of the Greek heroes, is famous for his courage, his strength, his compassion and his generous character, as great in his benefits as in his excesses. Often invoked under the name of alexikakos, the one who diverts evils, he embodies the being who acts for the good of men. Photo taken by www.PinterPandai.com in National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece. Pinterpandai.com, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
- Pluto (ruler of the underworld, agricultural fertility, and underground wealth).
- Dionysus (the grape-harvest, winemaking, orchards and fruit, vegetation, fertility, festivity, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre).
- Pan: God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, rustic music and impromptus, and companion of the nymphs.
- Eros: God of love, lust, desire and sex.
- Helios: God of sun, sometimes called a Titan.
- Muses: Goddesses of literature, science, and the arts.
- Nereids: Goddesses of the sea’s rich bounty and protectors of sailors and fishermen, coming to the aid of those in distress.
- Hecate: Goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, light, ghosts, necromancy, and the moon.
- Eris: Goddess of strife and discord. This is condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony. Discord implies an intrinsic or essential lack of harmony producing quarreling, factiousness, or antagonism. STRIFE emphasizes a struggle for superiority rather than the incongruity or incompatibility of the persons or things involved.
- Orpheus: God of music.
- Heracles: God of strength and heroes.
- Theseus: God of divine intelligence and wisdom.
- Jason: best known as the leader of the Argonauts. The Argonauts were a group of people in Greek mythology who accompanied Jason on his journey to find the golden fleece to Colchis (west of modern Georgia). The name Argonaut comes from the name of the ship they used to sail, namely the Argo ship, so Argonaut means “Argo sailor”. The Argo ship itself is named after the name of its maker, namely Argus. The Argonauts are sometimes referred to as the Minya, who are a tribe in the area.
- Perseus: God of war.
- Bellerophon: God of the sea.
- Meleager: a great hunter and warrior.
Photo credit: Artist: Louis-Marie Baader. Title: Greek mythological figures on a boat near a pier. Source: https://www.lempertz.com/en/catalogues/lot/1037-1/104-after-charles-gleyre.html (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons