List Of The Major Greek Gods
The tales associated with Greek Gods are the cornerstones of classical literature and beliefs. The summaries that I offer below are taken from a number of different sources, which includes Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles and Aeschylus.
It seems that myths and motifs were added and removed from the gods’ repertoire of characteristics as their stories moved through time. Most likely characteristics were added and removed to reflect the needs of the audience that they inspired. Perhaps, much was lost due to the workings of memory, which is its primary storage container in the oral tradition.
What I have listed below are mostly the well-known myths regarding the gods and I have included some other interesting tidbits from Greek classical authors.
Aeolus is the god of the winds. He lived on the floating island of Aeolia, and had six daughters and six sons. Aeolus is the ancestor of the Aeolian Greeks.
Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. Hesiod says she rose from the severed genitals of Ouranos, and her name is said to mean “foam-risen.” She is the wife of Hephaestus.
Apollo Homer portrays him chiefly as the god of prophecy. His twin sister is Artemis, the guardian of young women and is the virgin huntress. His parents are Zeus and the titan Leto. Apollo is also recognized as god of the Sun. He excels at music, poetry, agriculture, and bucolic living.
Ares is the god of war. He is the son of Zeus and Hera. He personifies the fighting and brutal aspect of war. He is not favored by gods and man, and is surprising not invincible. He is the ancestral deity of Thebes and worship of him is said to have originated in Thrace.
Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the chase, forrests, and wild animals. She is guardian of young women, chastity and is the eternal virgin huntress. She has some connection with childbirth.
Asclepius is the god of medicine. He is the son of Apollo and Coronis. His crest is the staff of Asclepius, which is a rod with a sacred snake coiled around it. Chiron taught him the art of healing. Zeus killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt when he discovered that his powers were so great that he could raise the dead.
Athena or Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom and the strategic aspect of war. She is the favorite child of Zeus and was born from his head. She is a virgin goddess and was the mightiest supporter of the Greeks during the Trojan War. She is the patron god of Athens.
Cronos or Chronos is the youngest son of Ouranos and Gaia. He was ruler of the universe during the Greek Golden Age, and was overthrown by his youngest son Zeus. He is associated with fertility and he castrated his father whose severed part fell to the sea and created foam from which Aphrodite is said to have been born.
Demeter is one of several earth goddesses and is associated with fecundity. She is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and the mother of Persephone by Zeus.
Dione is a goddess worshiped alongside Zeus at his most ancient shrine at Dodona; said to be the daughter of Okeanos and Tethys and mother of Aphrodite.
Dionysus (Bakkhos) is the god of wine, orgiastic excess, mystic ecstasy and individual salvation. He is the son of Semele and Zeus. He is usually accompanied woodland spirits such as satyrs, centaurs and sileni. His human female followers were the maenads (frenzied ones). Dionysus was said to have been born from Zeus’ thigh after he rescued him from his burning mother’s womb, when Hera deceived her into asking Zeus to show her his glory; a state that no human could bare due to its brightness, which subsequently set her aflame. Dionysus’ cult is particularly appealing to women and the oppressed.
Eos is goddess of the dawn. She is the daughter of Hyperion and Thea. Her brother is Helios, the sun, and her sister is Silene, the moon. She is a very amorous goddess. She drives a chariot steered by two horses, called Phaeton (shiner) and Lampos (bright), across the sky at dawn each day.
Erebos is the primordial god of darkness who sprang from Chaos. He is the father of Aither (upper air) and Hemera (day)
Eros is the god of sexual love. His parentage is hard to discern. Some say he is a primordial god born from Gaia and Chaos, while others claim that he is the son of Ares and Aphrodite. Most accounts site that Aphrodite’s birth precedes his, and this is probably why some authors claim that she is his adopted mother. However some connection between Aphrodite and Eros seems logical, since she is the goddess of passionate love. In most cases, Eros is thematically linked as the counterpoint to Thanatos, who is the personification of death.
Erinyes (the angry ones) are a group of goddesses known as the female avengers of wrong whose name literally means “the angry ones.” They are commonly referred to as The Furies. They are have fearsome faces and snakes for hair, and they visit retribution upon those who have done wrong, especially through the murder of a family member. They are said to have sprang from the blood that fell on Gaia (mother earth) when Ournaos castrated of Uranus. Their names were Alecto (relentless), Megara (resentful), and Tisiphone (revengeful). Their code of justice is generally “blood for blood.” Their commonly drove their victims mad. Even the gods were subject to their wrath because of the sisters’ primeval birth. In the Oresteia, they eventually became the Eumenides (the soothed ones) after they changed their nature as a result of Athena’s persuasion.
Gaea or Gaia is the primordal earth goddess who bore the first generation of gods. She sprang from Chaos and produced Uranus, with whom she mothered the Cyclopes and Titans
Graces (Charities) are the goddesses who personified beauty, grace, and good nature; named Aglaia (splendor), Euphrosyne (rejoicing of the heart), and Thaleia (blossom).
Hades is the Lord of the underworld, ruler of the dead and lives in the domain, Hades, which was named after him. Hades is the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. He rules the underworld with his wife Persephone, who is the daughter of the goddess Demeter. Because jewels are usually mined and considered possessions of the bowels of the earth, which is Hades domain, he is frequently referred to as “the rich one.” According to Hesiod, the underworld in Greek lore is divided into two main realms: Erebus, where the dead pass, and Tartarus, which is the infernal region of suffering. Elysium, is located at the most western point of the world, and it the final dwelling of heroes and gods. Occasionally, Elysium is associated with Hades, because all who make it their abode are dead.
Hebe is the goddess of youth and cup-bearer to the gods. She served nectar and ambrosia at Olympian banquets. She was the dutiful daughter of Zeus and Hera, and the wife of Heracles.
Hecate is a goddess associated with darkness, magic and ghosts. She ruled the night hours and is also associated with fertility. Zeus and the other gods had great respect for her. She was wise, and could bestow wealth and good luck or powerful horors. Hecate usually practised black magic, and she is the mother of Circe. She later became associated with the moon, and as a companion of Artemis.
Helios is the sun god. He make his daily journey across the sky in a great chariot where he rises in the east and rests at the end of day in the west. His father is Hyperion and his mother is Phoebus. He is the father of Phaethon.
Hephaestus is the god of fire and metalcraft, and is also associated with volcanic fires. He is the son of Zeus and Hera. Hera threw Hephaestus out of Olympus when he was born because she was offended by his ugliness. He was saved by nymphs and raised secretly in the caves. He would eventually become the divine craftsman and was brought back to Olympus to live. He is the husband of Aphrodite.
Hera is the goddess of women and marriage. She is queen of the gods, the older sister and consort of Zeus, and mother of ilithyia, Hephaestus, Hebe, and Ares. Her parents are Chronos and Rhea.
Hermes is the messenger of the gods, escort of the dead to Hades, and lord of merchants, thieves, and travelers. He invented the lyre, syrinx and flute. Hermes carried a winged staff around which serpents coiled called the caduceus. He is the son of Zeus and Maia. Zeus often relied on Hermes wit, and was very fond of him. In fact, Hermes saved Zeus in his fight against the Typhon.
Hestia is goddess of the hearth and by some accounts home. She is the daughter of Chronos and Rhea, and the sister of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter and Hades. She is a loyal and virginal goddess.
Hygieia is the goddess of health, whose sacred creature is a snake. She is the daughter of Asklepios and the granddaughter of Apollo. The staff of Asklepios along with her sacred snake is the symbol for the medical field. It is frequently confused with Hermes’ caduceus, and today both symbols are widely used by the medical professions.
Hypnos is the god of sleep, and is often depicted as carrying a poppy. He is the son of Nyx, the brother of Thanatos, and father of Morpheus. At night he changes into a bird and distributes rest to mortals. According to legend, he’s a night dweller and is not seen by day.
Irene is the goddess of peace and wealth. sometimes regarded as one of the Horae, who presided over the seasons and the order of nature, and were the daughters of Zeus and Themis
Iris is the virgin goddess of the rainbow, who also served as the messenger of Zeus and Hera, and is usually depicted with wings and a staff. She was known for cutting the threads of life on women who were dying in order to let their souls leave their bodies. Physiologically, the name “iris,” which describes the colorful part of our eyes that opens and closes to regulate the amount of light entering through the pupil, was derived from her name and her association with the rainbow.
Kybele is the great mother goddess, who was originally from Phrygia and was later identified with Rhea.
Metis is a Titaness who helped Zeus overthrow Chronos. She is the daughter of Okeanos and Tethys. It was Metis who gave Chronos the drink that made him regurgitate Zeus’ brothers and sisters. She later became his lover (some say wife). Zeus swallowed Metis when she was pregnant because it was prophesized that she would give birth to a powerful child who would overthrow him. The child she was pregnant with was eventually born through Zeus’ head, and was named Athena (the goddess of wisdom). Metis means “counsel.”
Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory. She is the daughter of Ouranos and Gaia. Fathered by Zeus, she gave birth to the nine muses. Her name means “memory.”
Moirai (the Fates) are the three goddesses who controlled human life: Klotho (spinner) who spun the thread of life, Lachesis (caster of lots) who tended the thread, and Atropos (death’s inevitability) who cut the thread.
Muses are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who are associated with the arts and sciences: Calliope – epic poetry; Clio – history; Erato – love poetry; Euterpe – music; Terpsichore – lyric, poetry and dance; Melpomene – tragedy; Thalia – comedy; Polymnia – mime; and Urania – astronomy.
Nemesis is the goddess of retribution. She embodied the gods’ anger and particularly punished mortals who succumbed to hubris. She is often associated with the gods’ revenge. She is frequently depicted with scales in one hand and a weapon, usually an ax or whip, in the other.
Nike is the goddess of victory, who is inspirational to both athletes and musicians. She fought on the side of the gods against the Titans.
Nereus is a water god older than Poseidon. He is the truthful son of Gaia and Pontus (sea), and he was known as “the old man of the sea” who told no lies. His fifty daughters by the sea nymph Doris were the Nereids (divine sea nymphs).
Okeanos god who embodied the ocean, believed to be a great river encircling the earth
Pan god of flocks and herds, shown as a man with the horns, ears, and hoofed legs of a goat, and playing a shepherd’s panpipe
Persephone (Kore) goddess and queen of the underworld: daughter of Zeus and Demeter
Phaethon son of Helios, the sun god, who was allowed to drive his father’s chariot of the sun across the sky for one day; he lost control and plunged too close to the earth, scorching parts of it and blackening the skin of some humans; he was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt
Plutos (Pluto) a minor god of wealth, sometimes identified with the underworld
Poseidon is the Lord of the Seas. He is the brother of Zeus and Hades. Poseidon is the father of Orion and the Cyclops. His wife is the Nereid, Amphitrite. He helped the Greeks during the Trojan War, and he fought in vain against Athena for control of Athens. He is also known as the god of earthquakes.
Priapus god of fertility, represented as grotesquely ugly with an exaggerated phallus; son of Dionysus and Aphrodite; he was later a Roman god of gardens
Proteus a sea god with oracular powers; he could assume any shape and would do so to avoid answering questions.
Rhea a fertility goddess, one of the Titans; wife of Chronos and mother of several gods, including Zeus
Selena goddess of the moon; daughter of a Titan, and sister of Helios
Tethys sea goddess; daughter of Uranus and Gaia
Triton a merman sea god; son of Poseidon and the sea goddess Amphitrite
Uranus or Ouranos (Heaven) the primeval sky god; son and husband of the earth goddess Gaia, and father of Chronos and the Titans
Zephyrus god of the west wind; husband of Iris
Zeus is Lord of Olympus and the sky gods. Zeus epitomizes our higher and lower instincts. He is known for his wisdom as well as his lusts. At a younger age he overthrew his father Chronos, and set free his brothers and sisters. He is the Lord of hospitality, the protector of laws and morals for both gods and man, and his compassionate nature makes him benevolent to the poor, weak, fugitives and prisoners. Zeus inflicts terrible punishment on those who offend him.
Also see: The origins of the Greek Gods
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