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The Gods of Mount Olympus

These are the twelve Gods and Goddesses considered to be the most important in Greek Mythology.

Aphrodite

She was the goddess of love and beauty who beguiled gods as well as men. Only three could resist: Hestia, Artemis, and Athena. In the Illiad, she was said to be the daughter of Zeus and Dione, but later in mythology, she was supposedly born from the sea foam. This sea birth was near the island of Cythera and from there she floated to Cyprus. Both islands were sacred to her. In early myths, she is shown as beautiful, but soft and weak. Later, though, she was more of a seductress, exerting trecherous or even deadly power over men.

 

Apollo (Phoebus Apollo)

He and his twin sister, Artemis were born on the tiny island of Delos, children of Zeus and Leto. Their mother hid there to escape the wrath of Zeus's real wife, Hera. Apollo was a beautiful character in myths. A master musician, he was very popular on Olympus when he played his lyre,providing music for the Graces and the Muses to dance to. He was also the Archer God and the one who taught healing to men. More than those things, he was the God of Light; within him there was no darkness. No false words ever crossed his lips. His oracle at Delphi was thought of as the center of the world. His name, Pheobus means brilliant or shining and often he is referred to as the sun god. Really, though, the sun god was Helios. The main animals sacred to him were the dolphin and the crow, and the laurel was his tree.

 

Ares

Both of his parents, Zeus and Hera, detested him. As the God of War, he was ruthless and cruel. He has a party of attendants with him on the battlefield: his sister Eris (meaning Discord), and her son, Strife, the Goddess of War, Enyo walks beside him and with her walk Terror, Trembling, and Panic. It was said that the earth runs with blood and the voice of groaning arises behind them as they move. Ares played little part in myths and is therefore not personified in detail. He was more just a symbol of war. His bird was the vulture, the dog his animal.

 

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Artemis

One of the three virgin goddesses, she was the twin sister of Apollo (Phoebus Apollo) and daughter of Zeus and Leto. Her role was chief huntsman among the gods. She was protector of the young animals. Yet she was in some stories, fierce and pitiless. Like all gods in greek mythology, she had two sides. As Phoebus was the sun, she was the moon, sometimes called Phoebe or Selene. Those names didn't originally belong to her; Phoebe was a titan as was Selene, the sister of Helios who Apollo is so often confused with. In later stories, Artemis is called Hecate, Goddess of the Dark of the Moon. She was supposedly responsible for nights when the moon never shown and for the dark deeds that happened then. This is a great change from the beautiful huntress in the forest. The cypress was her sacred tree and she loved all animals, especially the deer.

 

Athena (Pallas Athena)

The daughter of Zeus alone, she sprang from his head full grown and in full armor. She was the Goddess of the City, protector of handicrafts and agriculture and also the inventor of the bridle, which man first used to tame horses. She was mainly war-like only when defending the state and home from enemies. Since she was Zeus's favorite child, he trusted her to carry his buckler, the aegis and his thunderbolt. Along with Hestia and Artemis, she is one of the three virgin goddesses. Her sacred city was Athens, her tree the olive (which she created), and her bird the owl.

Hades

The third son of Cronus and Rhea along with Zeus and Poseidon. His kingdom was the underworld and he ruled over the spirits of the dead. He possessed an infamous helmet that made it's wearer invisible. He did not leave his realm often, but this was not a bad thing, because he was not very welcome anywhere else. He was a terrible god, but also just. His wife was Persephone who he swept away from her mother, Demeter, and took back to his dark home. He was not death himself, who was Thanatos.

 

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Hephaestus

He was sometimes said to be the son of Zeus and Hera and at other times Hera's child alone, retaliation for Zeus bringing forth Athena by himself. He was the God of Fire and the Smith God, the only immortal who was ugly and lame. Upon his birth it was said that Hera threw him down from the heavens after seeing he was deformed. In mythology, though, this happened long in the past. At that time, he was revered for his craftsmanship. He made all the dwellings and furnishings as well as the weapons for the other deities. In late myths, his forge was said to be under a volcano and that's what caused the eruptions. He had maidens that he forged of gold who could move and they helped him in his work. He and Athena were the patrons of handicrafts. He was protector of smiths and she of weavers. His wife in most stories was Aphrodite, but in others it was one of the three Graces, namely Aglaia.

Hera

Zeus's wife and sister, she was the goddess and protectoer of marriage. She is rarely personified as anything but revengeful. Only the story of the Quest for the Golden Fleece shows her as a protector of heroes. She spent most of her time punishing the women Zeus fell in love with. It did not matter to her if they only submitted because of his trickery. Sacred to her were the cow and peacock, and the city most favored by her was Argos.

Hermes

The son of Zeus and Atlas's daughter, Maia, he appears more often in myths than any other god. He was extremely fast and graceful. He wore wiged sandals on his feet and wings were on his hat and the wand, Caduceus, that he carrried with him. He was Zeus's messenger, flying "as fleet as thought to do his bidding." He was the most sly and cunning of the immortals; the Master Thief. He was said to have stolen Apollo's herds before nightfall on the day he was born. He won Apollo's forgiveness by making and giving him the lyre. He was also the God of Commerce, protector of traders and in some stories, the Divine Herald who led the souls of the dead to their final home.

 

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Hestia

Zeus's sister and one of the three maiden goddesses. She was never distinctly personified and there are no myths where she plays a role. Nevertheless, as Goddess of the Hearth, every meal in every household began and ended with an offering to her and each newborn child had to be carried around the hearth before it was accepted into the family. Each city had a hearth sacred to her as well; if a new city was to be colonized, coals had to be carried from the mother city to light the hearth since the fire was never allowed to go out.

Pallas Athena

See Athena.

 

Phoebus Apollo

See Apollo.

 

Poseidon

Second in power only to his brother, Zeus, he was king of the sea. His wife was Amphitrite, grandaughter of the Titan, Ocean. He was much revered for his sea kingdom as well as for the fact that he gave the first horse to man. He controlled the storm and calm. The trident was the item he was usually associated with. He used it to shake the earth whenever he pleased.

Zeus

The son of Cronus and Rhea, he overthrew his father and the other Titans to become supreme ruler of the gods, as well as the god of the sky, rain, and clouds. He weilded the mighty thunderbolt and his buckler was the awful aegis. Despite all this, he was not completely omnipotent. He was sometimes tricked by other gods, especially his wife, Hera. In myths, he fell in love with woman after woman and he would stoop to any low to hide it from his wife. He was revered by every mortal, though. His oracle was Dodona where his words were revealed in the rustling of oak leaves which was interpreted by priests there.


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