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THE OLYMPIAN GODS
All Olympian Gods were human-like. Not only did they have a human form, but they possessed the same types of emotion: jealousy, anger, lust, happiness, and revenge, amongst others. In this manner, the Greek Gods were different from many other cultures, whose gods bore little resemblance to the image of a man and his emotions. The Olympian Gods were called such because they lived in a very high mountain in central Greece, Mt. Olympus. Zeus and his brothers and sisters (Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter) were the first six of the twelve Olympian Gods. These Gods had meetings on Olympus to decide matters they felt were important, as well as partaking in feasts of ambrosia (food), and nectar (drink).
Much of Roman Mythology arises from the roots of Greek Mythology. Herein follows a list of the Greek Olympic Gods, with the Roman Mythology in parentheses, since the reader may be more familiar with the Roman equivalent.
1) ZEUS (Jupiter) 7) ATHENA (Minerva)
In this librette, only the Greek Gods will be discussed, but suffice to say the Roman equivalents had essentially the same role in their myhtology. Also, DYONYSUS (Bacchus) later replaced HESTIA amongst the Olympians.
Zeus was the undisputed king of the Olympians Gods. He had the final say on most matters involving other Gods, or mortals. Immediately after overthrowing Cronus, Zeus held a lottery to divide up the world with his two brothers, Hades and Poseidon. Zeus won the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon the seas.
Zeus, as master of the Sky caused rains, lightning and thunder. Besides being the final arbiter of justice, he ensured that all oaths were kept, an evil-doers punished. His main weapon was the almighty thunderbolt, which he received from the Cyclopds, made in the heat of the volcano of Mt. Maetna, in Sicily
His first marriage was to Metis, a daughter of Oceanus, the Titan. It was foretold to Zeus that any offspring from this marriage would dethrone him, so, when Metis became pregnant, he devoured her. However, in time Zeus developed a severe headache, and when Hephaestus split open Zeus' head with an axe to relieve the headache, out sprang Athena , fully clothed and armed, since she had developed inside Zeus' body after Zeus had eaten the pregnant Methis.
Zeus' next marriage was to Thetis, the Titan. By her, he had had three daughters, Eirene (Peace), Eunomia (Good Order), and Dike (Justice). By the goddess Eurynome, he had the three sisters goddesses, the Charities. By the goddess Mneumosyme, he fathered the famous Muses, sisters of song and poetry, later discussed. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he lay with Leto, to produce the two Olympians Apollo, and Artemis
Hera was the queen of Heaven , Zeus' wife , and mother to two fellow Olympians ,Ares and Hephasteus, as well as Hebe and Eileithyia . They were wedded in the garden of the Hesperides, where they receuved fromMother Earth , the gift of the "Golden Apples". Hera was Known as the protctor of marriage . In many myths, she is characterized as possessive,jealous and spiteful, ever keeping watch on Zeus' wandering ways, attempting to maintain the sanctity of the institution of marriage.
Hades spent most of his time in assigned kingdom, the underworld. When he did come above ground, he would ride a chariot led by four coal-black stallions, carrying a two pronged fork, which removed any object at which he pointed. In most myths, he is characterized as strict, sometimes mean, but always fair. He wore a helmet that made him invisible. As King of the Underworld, Hades was responsible for death, and all the riches that lay underground. Mortals feared Hades, since his presence only meant that he was in search of someone to drag to the underworld. In fact, he abducted his future wife, Perphone, the daughter of Demeter, in this manner
Demeter was the goddess of agriculture. which Zeus, she bore Persephone, a daughter who became infatuated at the mere sight of Persephone. Demeter declared to Zeus and the olympians that the earth woul be barren, unless Persephone was returned. Zeus agreed, providing that Persephone had not eaten while she was in the underworld, but, unfortunately, she had eaten some pomegranate seeds. Therefore, a compromise was reached. Persephone would spend half of the year in the underworld with her husband Hades, which corresponded with winter, when the fields were barren, and spend half in the Upper World with her mother Demeter,when the fields flourish. Since Demeter had spend much of her time waiting for Persephone in the town of Eleusis, in eastern Greece, she started the "Eleusinian Mysteries", a festival held to celebrate her daughter's return, where people taught to plough, reap,and sow.
Demeter is usually characterized with sickle, a longside a horn of plenty, overflowing with fruits and flowers. She regarded some trees as sacred, which were forbidden for mortals to touch. Her main importance in Greek Mythology is as the overseer of the crops, and her motherhood to Persephone.
Hestia was relatively unimportant goddes, but assumed more importance in Roman Mythology. She was the goddess of the home, and hearth, and, like Artemis and Athena, remained a virgin for life. She stayed, for the most part, very near to Mt. Olympus. She was later replaced on Olympus by Diionysus, the God of Wine.
Dionysus replaced Hestia in Oolympus, in later Greek writings. His mother, Semele, had been pursued by Zeus. Iniatilly, she repulsed him. But Zeus was not to be denied, eventually coupling with her.
Hera , Zeus' wife became suspicious by Zeus' long absences, and soon learned of his pursuit of Semele. Therefore, Hera, to enact revenge, appeared to Semele as an olf hag, advising her to ask Zeus in his royal armor, which Hera knew would be fatal to any mortal like Semele to see Zeus in this state.
Semele tricked Zeus into promising her own wish.Semele asked to see Zeus in his regal splendor, and Zeus , bound to do so, caused the death of Semele when she gazed upon him..But Zeus snatched Dionysus, who was in the womb of Semele, before she died, and put the immature child into his thigh, to complete his development. After his birth, Dionysus was appointed to be the God of Wine.
In his youth, Dionysus travelled throughout the world, accompanied by a motley train; the Maenads, frenzied, drunken females; Silenus, a satyr, usually so inebriated he had to ride a mule; and various others nymphs and fauns. Wherever he went, he taught the people the art of cultivating grapes, and making wine, travelling as far as India.
Dionysus was also considered to be the God of Inspiration. He was worshipped in processions where people wore masks. This rite eventually evolved into theatre productions of tragedy and comedy, introducing the Golden Age of Greek Litereature to the Greek public, with plays of Aristophanes, Sophocales, Euripedes, and Aeschylus.
Dionysus is characterized as possesing a dual character, like the effects of wine. At times, he could be king, and caring; at other times, cruel and meann, inciting men to acts of insanity.
Athena, daughter of Zeus' first wife, Metis, sprung from Zeus' forehead, fully armed. She was a lifelong virgin, dedicated to being a good warrior, and the goddess of peace, wisdom, and needlework.
She entered into a contest with Poseidon to name a large developing city, in eastern Greece. Zeus determined that the city would be named after the deity that created the most useful object for man. Poseidon created the horse. Athena produced the olive tree is the symbol of peace , and the horse the symbol of war, the Olympian Gods awarded her the prize of naming the new city, 'Athens', in her honor.
Athena was very close to her father, Zeus , fruquently seen traveling with a chariot, and an owl. She carried the 'aegis', a shield borrowed from Zeus when she engaged in battle .This aegis causes every living creature to turn to stone if they gazed at it.
Aphrodite was born of the sea, around the severed member Uranus, after Cronus cast it into the sea. (See Olympian Creation Myth). She was the goddess of love and beauty. For love to occur, Aphrodite must intervene.
She was raised on the Isle of Cyprus, and, due to her extreme beauty, was given a place on Mt.Olympus. When she arrived there, all the male gods were smitten, including Zeus. But Aphrodite gently denied Zeus, and Zeus punished her by decreeing that she must marry the ugliest god of Olympus-Hephaestus, the lame God of the Anvil.
Like Zeus, Aphrodite was faithless to her marriage , having affairs with Ares, the mortals Anchises (producing Aeneas, who founded Rome), and Adonis, as well as Zeus, to produce Eros. Aphrodite is usually represented entirely nude, seated in a shell made into a chariot, drawn by doves.
Artemis was born of the union of Leto and Zeus. Hera, jealous of Leda, made the delivery of Artemis and her twin. Apollo very difficult, chasing Leto all over Greece. Finally she gave birth on the Isle of DElos, which was created by Poseidon simply for Leto to give birth.
She was the goddess of the hunt . She spent most of her time in the forest, remaining a virgin all her life , devoting herself to hunting . Animals of the forest were sacred to her, as will be seen at the beginning of the Trojan War.
She was honored in the rural areas. At times, she is said to assume two other forms; Selene, representing the Moon, and Hecate, representing the Underworld Artemis is generally represented with a hunting dress, armed with bow and arrow, shooting with pinpoint accuracy.
Apollo was the twin brother of Artemis . He was the most beautiful male god in Olympus . He is considered the god of the sun , poetry, music, medicine, and generally all the fine arts.
In his youth, Apollo travel to Delphi in central Greece , where he slew the 'pynthon ' that had been plaguing the people. For this good deed , Apollo was given the responsability of presiding over the Oracle at Delphi, later to be the most famous oracle in Greece, where Greek mortals travelled to hea the will of the Gods.
One of the favorite subjects of painters and sculptors, Apollo is usually depicted as a handsome youth, wearing a laurel leaves, carrying a bow, or a lyre.
His main job was daily to drive the sun chariot across to the sky, which signified the sun rising, During the day Apollo would engage in many amorous pursuits , many of which will be later detailed in the various myths.
Apollo was also the leader of a group of nine women, known as the muses, goddessess of somg, and fine art, and in whose company he would frequently be found.
Hermes was born to Zeus and Maia. Shortly after birth, Hermes invented the first lyre by stringing a tortoise shell. He then secretly raided a herd of cattle owned by Apollo, and when finally caught, gave Apollo the lyre. Apollo like the lyre so much, that he gave to Hermes a magic wand with two snakes coiled around it, called Caduceus. This wand [ocessed the power of reconciliation.
Hermes was the God of Commerce, Travellers, Cheats, and Thieves. He also was a ferryer of souls to the underworld, and messenger of Zeus. To aid him in his role as messenger, he was given the Talaria, winged sandals, and the Petasus, winded cap to speed him in his journies.
He was the most honored of the Olympian Gods, even though he had a deceitful and cunning side. Many templkes and shrines are dedicated to him.
Hermes is usually depicted in artwork with his Talara and Petasus.
Hephastus was the God of fire and the Anvil, son of Zeus and Hera. He mainly performed as a weapon-maker, workman, and blacksmith. He was the only god that was downright ugly, as well as being lame . It was said that he acquired him lameness by being thrown by Zeus from Mt. Olympus for a slight, falling for two days, before landing on the Isle of Lemnos in the Aegan Sea.
He was married to the beautiful Aphrodite, arranged by Zeus because Aphrodite, when she first came to Olympus, rejected Zeus. In revenge, Zeus paired her with the ugly, lame Hephastus.