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Lesser Gods


Aeacus was the son of Aegina and Zeus. He became king of the island of Aegina. Hera, jealous that Zeus had carried on with Aegina, sent a plague to the island. Zeus repopulated the island by turning ants into humans. Aeacus became the leader of these people, who were known as Myrmidons. Aeacus had two sons, Telamon and Peleus. After his death, he became a judge in the Underworld.

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Aeolus was the god of winds. He lived on a floating island. He had six daughters and six sons, who were married to one another. He gave Odysseus a bag of winds to aid him on his journey home from Troy. When Odysseus' men opened the bag and released the winds, Aeolus refused to help him again.

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A Nereid, granddaughter of Oceanus who was the wife of Poseidon. She was the mother of Triton. She was often a frequent subject in Roman mosaics.

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The god of healing. His symbol was a snake. His parents were Apollo and Coronis. His birth was accompanied by scandal. While carrying him, Coronis slept with Ischys. This was considered an insult. The act was reported to Apollo by a crow. Apollo turned all crows, until then white, to black to mark that they were untrustworthy. Apollo then felt compelled to slay Coronis with his arrows. He rescued Asclepius from her funeral pyre.

Asclepius was raised by Chiron. Chiron taught him healing which he went on to perfect. Athena gave him two vials of Gorgon's blood. Blood from the right side of the Gorgon revived life. Blood from the left killed. Asclepius started using the blood to raise dead mortals. For this overstepping of bounds, Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt.

Apollo could not take revenge on Zeus himself. So he killed the Cyclopes that forged the thunderbolt.

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Asopus was a river god. Sometimes, he was called the son of Oceanus and Tethys, sometimes the son of Poseidon and Pero, and sometimes the son of Zeus and Eurynome. He married Metope and became the father of Aegina. He caught Zeus lying with his daughter. Zeus fled, but later blasted Asopus with a thunderbolt. Aegina became the mother of Aeacus.

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Castor was the brother of Pollux and Helen. Leda was their mother. Castor and Pollux lived half of their time on earth and half of the time in heaven. Both Castor and Pollux were the protectors of sailors. They were also very powerful in battle.

It was said that only Pollux was divine but because of Pollux's love for Castor, the Gods allowed them to spend alternate days on Mount Olympus and in the underworld.

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Charon was the ferryman who takes the souls of the dead across the River Styx on a barge. It was customary in antiquity to bury a person with a coin between his or her teeth to pay Charon for passage across the river. Several living people managed to gain passage from Charon; Orpheus accomplished it by charming Charon with his singing, Hercules intimidated him, and Aeneas bribed him with the Golden Bough.

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Clymene was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. She was the mother of Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus by Iapetus. She was the mother of Phaethon and a number of girls known as the Heliades by Helius. She was married to King Merops of Egypt.

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Demeter was the goddess of corn, grain, and the harvest. She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. It was Demeter that makes the crops grow each year. The first loaf of bread from the harvest was sacrificed to her.

Demeter was intimately associated with the seasons. Her daughter, Persephone, was abducted by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. In her anger at her daughter's loss, Demeter laid a curse on the world that caused plants to wither and die, the land became desolate. Zeus became alarmed and sought Persephone's return. However, because she had eaten while in the underworld, Hades had a claim on her. Therefore, it was decreed that Persephone would spend four months each year in the underworld. During these months Demeter grieved her daughter's absence, and withdrew her gifts from the world, creating winter. Her return brought the spring.

Demeter was also known for founding the Eleusinian Mysteries. These were huge festivals held every five years. They were important events for many centuries. Yet, little was known of them as those attending were sworn to secrecy. The central tenant seemed to have been that just as grain returns every spring after its harvest and wintery death, so too the human soul could be reborn after the death of the body.

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Dionysus was the god of the vine. He invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes. He had a dual nature. On one hand, he brought joy and divine ecstasy. On the other hand, he brought brutality, thoughtlessness and rage. This reflected both sides of wine's nature. If he chooses, Dionysus can drive a man mad. No normal fetters can hold him or his followers.

Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele. He was the only god to have a mortal parent. Zeus came to Semele in the night, invisible, felt only as a divine presence. Semele was pleased to be a lover of a god, even though she did not know which one. Word soon got around and Hera quickly assumed who was responsible. Hera went to Semele in disguise and convinced her she should see her lover as he really was. When Zeus next came to her, she made him promise to grant her one wish. She went so far as to make him swear on the River Styx that he would grant her request. Zeus was madly in love and agreed. She then asked him to show her his true form. Zeus, was unhappy, and knew what would happen but, having sworn he had no choice. He appeared in his true form and Semele was instantly burnt to a crisp by the sight of his glory. Zeus did manage to rescue Dionysus and stitched him into his thigh to hold him until he was ready to be born. His birth from Zeus alone conferred immortality upon him.

Dionysus' problems with Hera were not yet over. She was still jealous and arranged for the Titans to kill him. The Titans ripped him into to pieces. However, Rhea brought him back to life. After this, Zeus arranged for his protection and turned him over the mountain nymphs to be raised.

Dionysus wandered the world actively encouraging his cult. He was accompanied by the Maenads, wild women, flush with wine, shoulders draped with a fawn skin, carrying rods tipped with pine cones. While other gods had temples, the followers of Dionysus worshipped him in the woods. Here, they might go into mad states where they would rip apart and eat raw any animal they came upon.

Dionysus was also one of the very few that was able to bring a dead person out of the underworld. Even though he had never seen Semele, he was concerned for her. Eventually he journeyed into the underworld to find her. He faced down Thanatos and brought her back to Mount Olympus.

Dionysus became one of the most important gods in everyday life. He became associated with several key concepts. One was rebirth after death. Here his dismemberment by the Titans and return to life is symbolically echoed in tending vines, where the vines must be pruned back sharply, and then become dormant in winter for them to bear fruit. The other is the idea that under the influence of wine, one could feel possessed by a greater power. Unlike the other gods, Dionysus was not only outside his believers but, also within them. At these times, a man might be greater then himself and do works he otherwise could not.

The festival for Dionysus is in the spring when the leaves begin to reappear on the vine. It became one of the most important events of the year. It's focus became the theater. Most of the great Greek plays were initially written to be performed at the feast of Dionysus. Those who took part including writers, actors and spectators were regarded as scared servants of Dionysus during the festival.

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Eos was the goddess of the dawn. She rode on Helius' chariot each day. Her first mate was Astraeus. Their offspring was Boreas (the North Wind), Notus (the South Wind), Zephyrus (the West Wind), and Eosphorus (the Morning Star).

She became a goddess with the bad habit of carrying off handsome young mortals to be her lovers. This may have been the result of a curse by Aphrodite who was angry with Eos for having an affair with her lover Ares. These included: Orion, Cleitus, Cephalus, and Tithonus.

Cephalus, a happily married man who was allowed to return to his wife only after he fathered Phaethon (not to be confused with Helius' son by the same name).

Tithonus was of royal Trojan blood. Their two sons were Emathion and Memnon. Tithonus came to an unfortunate end. Eos was so happy with him that she asked Zeus to make him an immortal. This Zeus granted. Unfortunately, she forgot to ask that he be made ageless as well. As a result he eventually ended up as a horribly shriveled, paralyzed, babbling old man. Eos finally changed him into the first cicada to put him out of his (and her) misery.

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