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Olympian Gods

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The Olympians are a group of 12 gods who ruled after the overthrow of the Titans. All the Olympians are related in some way. They are named after their dwelling place, Mount Olympus. Note that the Roman names for the Olympian Gods are in brackets.

Zeus

Zeus (Jupiter) overthrew his Father Cronus to become the supreme ruler of the gods. He was lord of the sky, the rain god and the cloud gatherer. His weapon was a thunderbolt which he hurls at those who displease him. He was married to Hera but, was famous for his many affairs. An eagle attended him as a minister of his will and for page and cup-bearer he had Ganymede, a boy so beautiful that Zeus had him stolen from Mount Ida to make him immortal in heaven. He was also known to punish those that lie or break oaths. His tree was the oak and his oracle was at Dodona, the land of the oak trees.

Read about Zeus' rise to power in the story of The Creation of the World and Mankind.

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Poseidon

Poseidon (Neptune) was the brother of Zeus. Poseidon was a son of Cronus and Rhea. Like his brothers and sisters except for Zeus, Poseidon was swallowed by his father. Find out more about this in the The Creation of the World and Mankind.

He was the lord of the sea. He was widely worshiped by seamen. He married Amphitrite, a granddaughter of the Titan Oceanus. His weapon was a trident, which could shake the earth, and shatter any object. He was second only to Zeus in power amongst the gods. Under the ocean, he had a marvelous golden palace, its grottos adorned with corals and the sea-flowers, and lit with a phosphorescent glow. He rose forth in a chariot drawn by dolphins, sea-horses other marine creatures.

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Hades

Hades (Pluto) was the brother of Zeus. He was made lord of the underworld, ruling over the dead. He was a greedy god who was greatly concerned with increasing his subjects. Those whose calling increase the number of dead were seen favorably by him. The Erinyes were welcomed guests.

He was also the god of wealth, due to the precious metals mined from the earth. He had a helmet that made him invisible. He rarely left the underworld. He was unpitying and terrible, but not capricious. His wife was Persephone whom Hades abducted. He was the King of the dead but, death itself is another god, Thanatos.

Hades obtained his eventual consort, Persephone, through trickery, a story that connected the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries with the Olympian pantheon. Hades ruled the dead, assisted by demons over whom he had complete authority. He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal his prey from him. Very few have gone to the underworld and returned.

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Hestia

Hestia (Vesta) was Zeus' sister. She was a virgin goddess. She was the Goddess of the Hearth, the symbol of the house around which a new born child was carried before it was received into the family. In the Greek and Roman households, the hearth fire was not allowed to go out, unless it was ritually extinguished and ritually renewed, accompanied by impressive rituals of completion, purification and renewal. Each city also had a public hearth sacred to Hestia. Hestia symbolizes the alliance between the colonies and their mother-cities.

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Hera

Hera (Juno) was Zeus' wife and sister. She was raised by the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. She was the protector of marriage and takes special care of married women.

Most stories concerning Hera have to do with her jealous revenge for Zeus' infidelities. Her sacred animals were the cow and the peacock. Her favorite city was Argos.

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Ares

Ares (Mars) was the son of Zeus and Hera. He was disliked by both parents. He was the god of war. He is considered murderous and bloodstained but, also a coward. When caught in an act of adultery with Aphrodite, her husband Hephaestus was able publicly ridicule him. His bird was the vulture. His animal was the dog.

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Athena

Athena (Minerva) was the daughter of Zeus. She sprang full grown in armor from his forehead, thus has no mother. She was fierce and brave in battle but, only fights to protect the state and home from outside enemies. She was the goddess of the city, handicrafts, and agriculture. She invented the bridle, which permitted man to tame horses, the trumpet, the flute, the pot, the rake, the plow, the yoke, the ship, and the chariot. She was the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. She was Zeus's favorite child and was allowed to use his weapons including his thunderbolt. Her favorite city was Athens. Her tree was the olive. The owl was her bird. She was a virgin goddess.

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Apollo

Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto. His twin sister was Artemis. He was the god of music, playing a golden lyre. He was the god of the archer, far shooting with a silver bow. The god of healing who taught man medicine. The god of light. The god of truth, who can not speak a lie. Apollo was considered to have dominion over disease, beauty, light, healing, colonists, medicine, archery, poetry, prophecy, dance, reason, intellectualism, and shamans, and was the patron defender of herds and flocks.

One of Apollo's more important daily tasks was to harness his chariot with four horses an drive the Sun across the sky.

He was famous for his oracle at Delphi. People traveled to it from all over the Greek world to divine the future.

His tree was the laurel. The crow was his bird. The dolphin was his animal.

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Aphrodite

Aphrodite (Venus) was the goddess of love, desire and beauty. In addition to her natural gifts, she had a magical girdle that compelled anyone she wished to desire her. There were two accounts of her birth.

One says she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

The other went back to the time when Cronus castrated Uranus and tossed his severed genitals into the sea. Aphrodite then arose from the sea foam on a giant scallop and walked to shore in Cyprus.

Aphrodite, in many of the myths involving her, is characterized as vain, ill-tempered and easily offended.

She was the wife of Hephaestus. The myrtle was her tree. The dove, the swan, and the sparrow were her birds.

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Hermes

Hermes (Mercury) was the son of Zeus and Maia. He was Zeus' messenger. He was the fastest of the gods. He wore winged sandals, a winged hat, and carried a magic wand. He was the god of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of orators, literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures and invention and commerce in general, of liars, and of the cunning of thieves. He was the guide for the dead to go to the underworld. He invented the lyre, the pipes, the musical scale, astronomy , weights and measures, boxing, gymnastics, and the care of olive trees.

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Artemis

Artemis (Diana) was the daughter of Zeus and Leto. Her twin brother was Apollo. She was the lady of the wild things. She was the huntsman of the gods. She was the protector of the young. Like Apollo, she hunted with silver arrows. She became associated with the moon. She was a virgin goddess, and the goddess of chastity. She also presided over childbirth, which may seem odd for a virgin, but goes back to causing Leto no pain when she was born. The cypress was her tree. All wild animals were scared to her, especially the deer.

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Hephaestus

Hephaestus (Vulcan or Mulciber) was the son of Zeus and Hera. Sometimes, it was said that Hera alone produced him and that he had no father. He was the only god to be physically ugly. He was also lame. He was the god of fire and the forge. He was the smith and armorer of the gods. He used a volcano as his forge. He was the patron god of both smiths and weavers. He was kind and peace loving. His wife was Aphrodite. Sometimes, his wife was identified as Aglaia.

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