Aphrodite Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty By N. S. Gill, About com Guide Who Is Aphrodite?


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Aphrodite - Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Aphrodite?

Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love, and sexuality. She is sometimes known as the Cyprian because there was a cult center of Aphrodite on Cyprus [See Map Jc-d3]. Aphrodite is the mother of the god of love, Eros (more familiar as Cupid). She is the wife of the ugliest of the gods, Hephaestus4. Unlike the powerful virginal goddesses, Athena5 and Artemis6, or the faithful goddess of marriage, Hera7, she has love affairs with gods and mortals. Aphrodite's birth story makes her relation to the other gods and goddesses of Mt. Olympus ambiguous.

Myths Involving Aphrodite (Venus):

  • Venus and Adonis 11

  • Meleager and Atalanta 12

  • Cupid and Psyche13

  • Adventures of Aeneas14

  • Venus and Adonis 15

  • Prometheus and Pandora16

  • Monsters17

  • Proserpine - Glaucus and Scylla18

  • Homer on Mars and Venus Caught in a Net19

Family of Origin:

Hesiod20 says Aphrodite arose from the foam that gathered around the genitals of Uranus. They just happened to be floating in the sea -- after his son Cronus castrated his father.

The poet known as Homer21 calls Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus and Dione. She is also described as the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys (both Titans22).

If Aphrodite is the cast-offspring of Uranus, she is of the same generation as Zeus' parents. If she is the daughter of the Titans, she is Zeus' cousin.

Roman Equivalent:

Aphrodite was called Venus by the Romans -- as in the famous Venus de Milo statue.

Attributes And Associations:

Mirror, of course -- she is the goddess of beauty. Also, the apple24, which has lots of associations with love or beauty (as in Sleeping Beauty) and especially the golden apple. Aphrodite is associated with a magic girdle (belt), the dove, myrrh and myrtle, the dolphin, and more. In the famous Botticelli painting, Aphrodite is seen rising from a clam shell.

Trojan War and Aeneid's Aphrodite / Venus:

The story of the Trojan War begins with the story of the apple of discord, which naturally was made of gold: Each of 3 goddesses:

  1. Hera - marriage goddess and wife of Zeus

  2. Athena - Zeus' daughter, wisdom goddess, and one of the powerful virginal goddesses mentioned above, and

  3. Aphrodite - thought she deserved the golden apple, by virtue of being kallista 'the most beautiful'. Since the goddesses couldn't decide among themselves and Zeus wasn't willing to suffer the wrath of the females in his family, the goddesses appealed to Paris25, son of King Priam of Troy. They asked him to judge which of them was the most beautiful. Paris judged the goddess of beauty to be the loveliest. In return for his verdict, Aphrodite promised Paris the fairest woman. Unfortunately, this fairest mortal was Helen of Sparta, wife of Menelaus. Paris took the prize that had been awarded him by Aphrodite, despite her prior commitments, and so started the most famous war in history, that between the Greeks and Trojans.

Virgil's Aeneid tells a Trojan War sequel story about a surviving Trojan prince, Aeneas, transporting his household gods from the burning city of Troy to Italy, where he founds the race of the Romans. In the Aeneid, the Roman version of Aphrodite, Venus, is Aeneas' mother. In the Iliad, she protected her son, even at the cost of suffering a wound inflicted by Diomedes.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Aphrodite.htm

Artemis - Greek Goddess Artemis

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Artemis?

Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo. She is a goddess of transitions, a hunter, a virgin, and one of the goddesses who assists at childbirth. She was on the Trojan side in Homer's Iliad.

Myths about Artemis (Diana):

  • Diana and Actaeon3

  • Camilla4

  • Meleager and Atalanta5

  • Theseus -- Daedalus -- Castor and Pollux6

  • Monsters 7

  • Pallas, Camilla, Turnus8

  • Echo and Narcissus9

  • Niobe10


Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Although a virgin herself, Artemis helps women in childbirth. Artemis watches over streets and harbors.

Family of Origin:

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo. Their parents were Zeus and Leto. Artemis was born on Delos3.

Roman Equivalent:

The Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis was Diana.


Golden arrows, bow, and fawn.

Temple of Artemis:

One of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, built around 550 B.C. The temple of Artemis was deliberately burned down by Herostratus in an attempt to gain fame in 356 B.C.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Artemis.htm

Profile of the Greek Goddess Athena

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Athena?

Athena is the name of an important goddess for the Greeks. She is the patron goddess of the city-state of Athens1, the goddess of wisdom, a goddess of arts and crafts (agriculture, navigation, spinning, weaving, and needlework), the favorite daughter of her father Zeus, and, as a war goddess with a focus on strategy more than bloodshed, an active participant in the Trojan War. She gave her namesake city the gift of the olive tree, providing oil, food, and wood.

Myths about Athena:

Athena and Arachne3 Greek Mythology5

Weaving Contest

Family and Unusual Birth -- Through Parthenogenesis:

Athena is said to be the offspring of Zeus alone, but that was only after the Oceanid Metis became pregnant and Zeus swallowed her.

By swallowing the Oceanid and her unborn child, Zeus became pregnant with Athena. Zeus wasn't built to deliver a baby, though, so he seems to have gestated the baby in his head. There was still one more issue to contend with: lack of an opening that would serve for the birth canal. The new goddess needed to be born. She was pressing from the inside of his head outwardly with increasingly excruciating insistence. Coming to his rescue was his (step-)son, the smithy god Hephaestus (or Prometheus), who struck open Zeus' head with an axe to release the goddess. Once the passage was open, Athena emerged from her father's head fully armed.

Roman Equivalent:

The Greek goddess Athena was known as the goddess Minerva by the Romans.


Aegis9, spear, pomegranate, owl, distaff, helmet. Athena is described as grey-eyed (glaukos).

Powers of Athena:

Athena is the goddess of wisdom and crafts. She is the patron of Athens.

A Son for a Virgin Goddess:

Athena is a virgin goddess, but she has a son. Athena is credited with being part-mother of Erichthonius through an attempted rape by Hephaestus, whose seed spilled on her leg. When Athena wiped it off, it fell to earth (Gaia) who became the other part-mother. The offspring of Gaia, Athena, and Hephaestus is Erichthonius. Thus, Erichthonius, a half-snake half-man creature, has two mothers and one father. He is a mythological ancestor of the Athenians.


Athena was the patron goddess of Athens, a city named for the goddess. The people of Athens built a great temple for Athena on the acropolis (or high point) of their city. The temple is known as the Parthenon13. In it was a colossal gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos, Athena the Maiden. During the annual Panathenaia festival, a procession was made to the statue for the purpose of providing the statue of the goddess with new clothes.


Athena was involved in most of the heroic tales. Name a Greek myth, and she's probably there -- somewhere. In the story of Jason's rescue of the Golden Fleece, Athena is shown witnessing Jason being disgorged by the monstrous guardian of the fleece. She helped Perseus obtain the head of Medusa and Hercules in his task. She sided with the Greeks in the Trojan War, various heroes, and especially with Odysseus16, appearing in disguise to his son Telemachus. In the Odyssey the disguised goddess spurred the young Telemachus to action when the suitors of Penelope were eating Odysseus' kingdom of Ithaca out of house and home.

Since Athena was born without a mother -- sprung from her father's head -- in an important murder trial, she decided that the role of the mother was less essential in creation than the role of the father. Specifically, she sided with the matricide Orestes, who had killed his mother Clytemnestra after she had killed her husband and his father Agamemnon.

In the tale of the Judgment of Paris17 (son of the Trojan King Priam), Athena was one of the two goddesses who lost the beauty contest to Aphrodite. This is part of the reason Athena sided with the Greeks in the Trojan War.

Athena also defeated Poseidon in the vote over who would be the patron god of Athens because her gift was more valuable -- the olive tree.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Athena.htm

Demeter - Greek Goddess

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Demeter?

Demeter is a goddess of fertility, grain, and agriculture. She is pictured as a mature motherly figure. Although she is the goddess who taught mankind about agriculture, she is also the goddess responsible for creating winter and a mystery religious cult. She is usually accompanied by her daughter Persephone.

Family of Origin:

Demeter was a daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, and so a sister of the goddesses Hestia and Hera, and the gods Poseidon, Hades, and Zeus.

Demeter in Rome:

The Romans referred to Demeter as Ceres. The Roman cult of Ceres was initially served by Greek priestesses, according to Cicero in his Pro Balbo oration. For the passage, see Tura's Ceres2. In "Graeco Ritu: A Typically Roman Way of Honoring the Gods" [Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 97, Greece in Rome: Influence, Integration, Resistance (1995), pp. 15-31], author John Scheid says the foreign, Greek cult of Ceres was imported to Rome in the middle of the third century B.C.


The attributes of Demeter are a sheaf of grain, a conical headdress, a scepter, a torch, and a sacrificial bowl.

Persephone and Demeter:

The story of Demeter is usually combined with the story of the abduction of her daughter Persephone.

Eleusinian Mystery:

Demeter and her daughter are at the center of the widest spread Greek mystery cult -- the Eleusinian Mysteries -- a mystery religion that was popular in Greece and in the Roman Empire. Named for the location in Eleusis, the mystery cult may have started in the Mycenaean period, according to Helene P. Foley, in The Homeric hymn to Demeter: translation, commentary, and interpretive essays. She says that substantial remains of the cult begin in the 8th century B.C., and that the Goths destroyed the sanctuary a few years before the start of the fifth century A.D. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter is the oldest record of the Eleusinian Mysteries, but it is a mystery and we don't really know what transpired.

Myths Involving Demeter (Ceres):

  • Proserpine7

  • The Rural Deities8

  • Cupid and Psyche9

Orphic Hymn to Demeter (Ceres):

The so-called Homeric Hymn to Demeter (in public domain English translation) tells of the abduction of Demeter's daughter Persephone and the trials the mother went through to find her again. The Orphic hymn paints a picture of the nurturing, fertility goddess.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Demeter.htm

Hera - Greek Goddess

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Hera?

Hera is the queen of the gods. She is usually plotting either to favor the Greeks over the Trojans, as in Homer's Iliad, or against one of the females who has caught the roving eye of her philandering husband, Zeus. At other times, Hera is shown plotting mischief against Heracles.

Myths about Hera (Juno) include:

  • Monsters 3

  • Nisus and Scylla - Echo and Narcissus - Clytie - Hero and Leander4

  • Juno and Her Rivals5

  • Hercules -- Hebe and Ganymede 6

Family of Origin:

The Greek goddess Hera is one of the daughters of Cronus and Rhea. She is the sister and wife of the king of the gods, Zeus.

Roman Equivalent:

The Greek goddess Hera was known as the goddess Juno by the Romans. It is Juno who torments Aeneas on his trip from Troy to Italy to found the Roman race. Of course, this is the same goddess who so vehemently opposed the Trojans in the stories about the Trojan War, so she would try to put obstacles in the path of a Trojan prince who escaped the destruction of her hated city.

In Rome, Juno was part of the Capitoline triad, along with her husband and Minerva. As part of the triad, she is Juno Capitolina. The Romans also worshiped a Juno Lucina, Juno Moneta, Juno Sospita, and Juno Caprotina, among other epithets.

Attributes of Hera:

Peacock, cow, crow and pomegranate for fertility. She is described as cow-eyed.

Powers of Hera:

Hera is the queen of the gods and the wife of Zeus. She is the goddess of marriage and is one of the childbirth goddesses. She created the Milky Way when she was lactating.

Children of Hera:

Hera was the mother of Hephaestus. Sometimes she is credited with giving birth to him without the input of a male as a response to Zeus' giving birth to Athena from his head. Hera was not pleased with the clubfoot of her son. Either she or her husband threw Hephaestus from Olympus. He fell to earth where he was tended by Thetis, the mother of Achilles, for which reason he created Achilles' great shield.

Hera was also the mother, with Zeus, of Ares and Hebe, the cupbearer of the gods who marries Heracles.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/herajunomyth/p/080407Hera.htm

Hestia - Greek Goddess Hestia

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Hestia?

The honored, first born of the Olympian gods, Greek goddess Hestia is also called the last born because her father swallowed his children and then regurgitated them in reverse order. Hestia has power over altars, hearths, town halls and states. In return for a vow of chastity, Zeus assigned honor to Hestia in human homes.

Family of Origin:

Hestia was the first born child of Cronos and Rhea. Her brothers were Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. Her sisters were Demeter and Hera.

Roman Equivalent:



Hestia is associated with the hearth. Hestia almost never leaves home. She swore a vow of eternal chastity.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Hestia.htm

The Greek God Apollo

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is the God Apollo?

Apollo is a many-talented Greek god of prophecy, music, intellectual pursuits, healing, plague, and sometimes, the sun. Writers often contrast the cerebral, beardless young Apollo with his half-brother, the hedonistic Dionysus3, god of wine.

Leto (Latona) and Zeus (Jupiter) are the parents of the versatile god and his twin sister, the goddess Artemis4 (Diana), virgin hunter.

There were 2 main sites to honor him:

1. Delphi5 site of the famous oracle6 and 2. Delos7, his birthplace.

Roman Equivalent:

Unlike most of the Olympian gods, there was no special Latin variant of his name, so the Romans also usually called him Apollo. Phoebus Apollo - Sometimes the Romans referred to him as Phoebus, either alone or combined, as in Phoebus Apollo.

Sol - As sun god, he was also called by the Latin word for sun, Sol.

Attributes, Animals, and Powers:

Apollo is depicted as a beardless young man (ephebe). His attributes are the tripod10, omphalos, lyre, bow and arrows, laurel, hawk, raven or crow, swan, fawn, roe, snake, mouse, grasshopper, and griffin.

Although often associated with the sun, Apollo was not originally a sun god. In Homer, he is god of prophecy and plagues. He is also a warrior in the Trojan War11. [Gods in the Iliad12 shows which side the gods favored.] Elsewhere Apollo is also a god of healing and the arts -- especially music (Apollo taught Orpheus13 to play the lyre) -- archery, agriculture . His arrows could send plague, as happens in the Iliad Book I14.

Apollo's Mates:

Apollo mated with many women and a few men. It wasn't safe to resist his advances. When the seer Cassandra rejected him, he punished her by making it impossible for people to believe her prophecies. When Daphne sought to reject Apollo, her father "helped" her by turning her into a laurel tree. Apollo sired mostly males, including Asclepius17. Apollo never married.

Apollo Becomes a Laborer:

He is a healing god, a power he transmitted to his son Asclepius19. Asclepius exploited his ability to heal by raising men from the dead. Zeus punished him by striking him with a fatal thunderbolt. Apollo retaliated by killing the Cyclops, who had created the thunderbolt.

Zeus punished his son Apollo by sentencing him to a year of servitude, which he spent as herdsman for the mortal king Admetus. Euripides20' Alcestis21 tragedy tells the story of the reward Apollo paid Admetus.

In the Trojan War:

The Trojan War was a pivotal event for the Greeks. In the Iliad (attributed to Homer), the god Zeus attempts to maintain neutrality during the war, but other gods and goddesses choose sides.

Apollo and his sister Artemis side with the Trojans in the Trojan War. In the first book of the Iliad, he is angry with the Greeks for refusing to return the daughter of his priest Chryses. To punish them, the god showers the Greeks with arrows of plague, possibly bubonic, since the plague-sending Apollo is a special aspect connected with mice, sort of an "Apollo the Mousey God."

  • Pride of Agamemnon and Achilles22
    Provides more details on how Agamemnon's behavior provoked Apollo. As the title suggests, it also explains the relationship between the two excessively proud warriors.

Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo:

There is a hymn called the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo23 (Homeric because it was attributed to Homer), that was written to honor the Apollo who slew the python. There is another Homeric hymn, to Delian Apollo24, honoring Delos, his birthplace.

Apollo and the Laurel Wreath of Victory:

Apollo slew the python, competed musically with another god, Pan, and insulted still another god, the god of love (Eros/Amor/Cupid). As a result of the last, Cupid shot him with one of his special arrows: Apollo was fated to a disastrous and unrequited love. Daphne, the object of his love, metamorphosed into a laurel tree to avoid him. Leaves from the laurel tree were thereafter used to crown victors at the Pythian games.

  • The Victory Laurel25

  • Apollo at Delphi26
    Apollo's expiation for the crime of the murder of the Python is connected with laurel, as well.

The Pythian games featured musical competitions.

Apollo in 20th Century Culture:

Apollo Mission: The U.S. used the name of the Greek god for NASA's Apollo Program27 (1963 - 1972), whose purpose was to take people to the moon.

Who Mourns for Adonais? (1967): Apollo also made a memorable appearance in the second season of the original Star Trek television series where he was vainly trying to find worshipers.

Apollo and the Sun:

Apollo has many attributes, but he wasn't originally the chariot-riding sun god Helios28. He was god of prophecy, healing, music, archery, light, and truth, the twin brother of Artemis (Greek) or Diana (Rome) who became associated with the moon.

Perhaps the earliest reference to Apollo as the sun god Helios occurs in the surviving fragments of Euripides' Phaethon. Phaethon was one of the chariot horses of the Homeric goddess of the dawn, Eos. It was also the name of the son of the sun god who foolishly drove his father's sun-chariot and died for the privilege.

By the Hellenistic period29 and in Latin literature30, Apollo is associated with the sun. The firm connection with the sun may be traceable to the Metamorphoses of the popular Latin poet Ovid31 (43 B.C. - A.D. 17).

Apollo in Bulfinch's Greek Mythology

  • Who Is Thomas Bulfinch?32

  • Apollo and Hyacinthus33

  • Daphne34

  • Centaurs35

  • Minerva and Niobe36

  • Baucis and Philemon37

  • Nisus and Scylla38

  • The Sibyl39

  • Prometheus and Pandora40

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Apollo.htm

Ares - Greek God Ares

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Ares Basics1| Profile of Ares

Ares is a war god2 and god of violence in Greek mythology. He was not well-liked or trusted by the ancient Greeks and there are few tales in which he plays a major role. Cults of Ares are found mainly in Crete and the Peloponnese3 where the militaristic Spartans honored him. Athena4 is also a war goddess, but was well-respected, as a polis5 protector and goddess of strategy instead of Ares' forte, mayhem and destruction.

Ares appears in what one might call bit parts, overshadowed by heroes or other gods, and in many battle scenes in Greek mythology. In the Iliad, Ares is wounded, treated, and returns to the fray.

Family of Ares:

Thracian-born Ares is usually counted the son of Zeus and Hera, although Ovid has Hera produce him parthenogenically (like Hephaestus). Harmonia (whose necklace turns up in stories of Cadmus and the founding of Thebes9), the goddess of harmony, and the Amazons10 Penthesilea and Hippolyte were daughters of Ares. Through Cadmus' marriage to Harmonia and the dragon Ares sired that produced the sown men (Spartoi), Ares is the mythological ancestor of the Thebans.

Mates and Children of Ares11

Famous People in the House of Thebes:

  • Cadmus12

  • Oedipus13

  • Dionysus14

  • Pentheus15

Roman Equivalent:

Ares was called Mars16 by the Romans, although the Roman god Mars was much more important to the Romans than Ares was to the Greeks.


Ares has no unique attributes, but is described as strong, harnessed in bronze, and golden helmeted. He rides a war chariot. The serpent, owls, vultures, and woodpecker are sacred to him. Ares had unsavory companions like Phobos ("Fear") and Deimos ("Terror"), Eris17 ("Strife") and Enyo ("Horror"). Early depictions show him as a mature, bearded man. Later representations show him as a youth or ephebe (like Apollo18).

Powers: Ares is a god of warfare and murder.

Some Myths Involving Ares:

  • Adonis20 – Ares rather than Artemis is sometimes said to have been responsible for the death of Adonis. He either sent a boar or was himself one. [Source: Carlos Parada21]

  • Aphrodite and Ares – One of the most famous stories involving Ares is his being caught in flagrante delicto with Aphrodite. Although the lovers were caught in a net in a compromising position, the gods watching envied Ares. Read: Mars and Venus Caught in a Net22
  • Ares and the Giants – Ephialtes and Otos, sons of the Giant Aloeus, put Ares in chains and into a cauldron where he was stuck until Hermes rescued him. (See the Story according to Homer, in Iliad 523). In the war against the giants, Ares slew the giant Mimas (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 1227 ff24)

  • Cadmus and the founding of Thebes – Cadmus25 slew the dragon of Ares and, on the advice of Athena, planted its teeth. From the sown teeth armed men sprang up ready to fight. All were killed but five who were known as the sown men or Spartoi. Apollodorus says Cadmus served as a laborer for Ares for a "year" as atonement for the killing.

Cadmus - The Myrmidons26, as re-told by Thomas Bulfinch27.

  • Halirrhothios Murdered by Ares28

  • Dionysus and the Return of Hephaestus (The Failure of Ares)29

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Ares.htm

Dionysus - Greek God Dionysus

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Dionysus?

Dionysus is the god of wine and drunken revelry in Greek mythology. He is a patron of the theater and an agricultural/fertility god. He was sometimes at the heart of frenzied madness that led to savage murder. Writers often contrast Dionysus with his half-brother Apollo1. Where Apollo personifies the cerebral aspects of mankind, Dionysus represents the libido and gratification.

Family of Origin:

Dionysus was the son of the king of the Greek gods, Zeus, and Semele3, the mortal daughter of Cadmus4 and Harmonia of Thebes [see map section Ed5]. Dionysus is called "twice born" because of the unusual manner in which he grew: not only in a womb, but also in a thigh.

Dionysus the Twice-Born:

Hera, queen of the gods, jealous because her husband was playing around (again), took characteristic revenge: She punished the woman. In this case, Semele.

Zeus had visited Semele in human form, but claimed to be a god. Hera persuaded her that she needed more than his word that he was divine. Zeus knew the sight of him in all his splendor would prove fatal, but he had no choice, so he revealed himself. His lightning brightness killed Semele, but first, Zeus took the unborn from her womb and sewed it inside his thigh. There it gestated until it was time for birth.

Roman Equivalent:

The Romans often called Dionysus Bacchus or Liber.


Usually visual representations, like the vase shown, depict the god Dionysus sporting a beard. He is usually ivy-wreathed and wears a chiton and often an animal skin. Other attributes of Dionysus are thyrsus8, wine, vines, ivy, panthers, leopards, and theater.


Ecstasy -- madness in his followers, illusion, sexuality, and drunkenness. Sometimes Dionysus is associated with Hades. Dionysus is called the "Eater of Raw Flesh".

Companions of Dionysus:

Dionysus is usually shown in the company of others who are enjoying the fruit of the vine. Silenus or multiple sileni and nymphs engaged in drinking, flute-playing, dancing, or amorous pursuits are the most common companions. Depictions of Dionysus may also include Maenads, the human women made mad by the wine god. Sometimes the part-animal companions of Dionysus are called satyrs, whether meaning the same thing as sileni or something else.

Dionysus Stories:

The following are some of the stories from Greek mythology featuring Dionysus (Bacchus), as re-told by Thomas Bulfinch12:

  • Bacchus and Ariadne13

  • Midas - Baucis and Philemon14

  • Monsters -- Giants, Sphinx, Pegasus and Chimaera, Centaurs, Griffin, and Pygmies15

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Dionysus.htm

Hades - Greek God of the Underworld

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Hades?

Although Hades (the Unseen One) is an Olympian god, he is the Lord of the Underworld1 and ruler of the dead. Hades is not the god of death, however -- that's Thanatos. Hades rules those given proper funeral rites and brought over to the other side by Charon.

Hades complained about Apollo's son, the healer Asclepius, because he restored people to life, thereby reducing Hades' dominions.

Hades inflicted Thebes with plague probably because they weren't burying the slain and therefore were denying bodies for Hades to have dominion over.

The name Hades is generally applied to the realm of the Underworld: Hades = Hades' realm. The god is feared and hated. An oath taken on his name is especially binding.

There are few stories about Hades since he spends most of his time among the non-living. The people of Elis had a temple for him, but this was unusual.

Family of Hades:

Hades was a son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. His brothers are Zeus and Poseidon. Hestia, Hera, and Demeter are Hades' sisters.

Children of Hades

  • The Erinyes (Furies),

  • Zagreus (Dionysus), and

  • Makaria (goddess of a blessed death)

Other Names:

Sometimes people say Pluto is the Roman equivalent of Hades, but Pluto was a god of wealth, not of the Underworld. Sometimes, however, the Greeks themselves called Hades Plouton (Pluto is the Latin for the Greek word Plouton), so it seems prissy to demand greater precision. Besides, someone as feared as Hades, like his children, the Erinyes, is often addressed by euphemism. (More on the names Hades, Pluto, and Dis3.) Hades is also called Haides, Aides, Aidoneus, Zeus Katachthonios (Zeus under the earth), and Orcus (Roman).


Hades is best known for abducting Demeter's daughter Persephone, keeping her with him in the Underworld where no one knew where she was, and then, when found out, tricking her into eating some pomegranate seeds. By eating in the land of Hades, Persephone was bound to it. A deal was made to let Persephone join her mother half the year, but she always returns.


Hades is shown as a dark-bearded man, with a crown, scepter, and key. He has a three-headed dog (Cerberus). Hades has a helmet of invisibility and a chariot.

Myths With Hades:

Myths about Hades (Pluto) re-told by Thomas Bulfinch4 include:

  • Proserpine5

  • Golden Fleece - Medea6

  • Monsters7

  • Hercules -- Hebe and Ganymede8

  • Theseus -- Daedalus -- Castor and Pollux9

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Hades.htm

Hephaestus - Greek God

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Hephaestus?
Hephaestus is a Greek god of volcanoes, a craftsman and blacksmith. He lusted after Athena, another crafts person, and in some versions is the husband of Aphrodite. He was thrown from Mt. Olympus and in some version landed in Lemnos where he built his furnaces under a volcano. He is also associated with Mt. Aetna.
Family of Origin of Hephaestus:

Hephaestus was the son of only Hera whom she produced after her husband Zeus produced Athena without a woman. The birth of Hephaestus without the aid of a man makes it biologically parthenogenic, although the term parthenogenic is usually used in connection with the birth of Athena.

Roman Equivalent Vulcan:

Hephaestus was known as Vulcan by the Romans.


The symbols for which Hephaestus is known are the tools he used -- axe and tongs.

Powers of Hephaestus:

Hephaestus was the blacksmith and craftsman of the gods. It was Hephaestus who chained Prometheus to the rock.

The Lameness of Hephaestus:

Hephaestus was a lame god because of a fall from Olympus. Zeus may have been responsible for casting Hephaestus out of the gods' home because he came to the aid of his mother Hera, but it is also said that Hera cast her already lame son out because she was ashamed of his infirmity.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Hephaestus.htm

Hermes - Greek God

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Hermes?

Hermes is familiar as the messenger god in Greek mythology. In a related capacity, he brought the dead to the Underworld in his role of "Psychopompos". Zeus made his thieving son Hermes god of commerce. Hermes invented various devices, especially musical ones, and possibly fire. He is known as a helpful god1.

Another aspect of Hermes is fertility god. It may be in connection with this role that the Greeks sculpted phallic stone markers or herms2 for Hermes.

Family of Origin:

Hermes is the son of Zeus and Maia (one of the Pleiades).

Offspring of Hermes:

Hermes' union with Aphrodite produced Hermaphroditus. It may have yielded Eros, Tyche, and perhaps Priapus. His union with a nymph, perhaps Callisto, produced Pan. He also sired Autolycus and Myrtilus. There are other possible children.

Roman Equivalent:

Romans called Hermes Mercury.


Hermes is sometimes shown as young and sometimes bearded. He wears a hat, winged sandals, and short cloak. Hermes has a tortoise-shell lyre and the staff of a shepherd. In his role as psychopompos, Hermes is the "herdsman" of the dead. Hermes is referred to as luck-bringing (messenger), giver of grace, and the Slayer of Argus.


Hermes is called Psychopompos (Herdsman of the dead or guider of souls), messenger, patron of travelers and athletics, bringer of sleep and dreams, thief, trickster. Hermes is a god of commerce and music. Hermes is the messenger5 or Herald of the gods and was known for his cunning and as a thief from the day of his birth. Hermes is the father of Pan and Autolycus.

Hermes Myths:

Myths about Hermes (Mercury) re-told by Thomas Bulfinch6 include:

  • Proserpine7
  • Golden Fleece - Medea8

  • Juno and Her Rivals, Io and Callisto - Diana and Actaeon - Latona and the Rustics9

  • Monsters10

  • Perseus11

  • Prometheus and Pandora12

  • Cupid and Psyche13

  • Hercules -- Hebe and Ganymede14

  • Midas - Baucis and Philemon15

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Hermes.htm


By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Who Is Poseidon?

Poseidon is one of the 3 top gods in Greek mythology, brothers who divided the world among themselves. Poseidon's lot was the sea. As sea god Poseidon is usually seen with a trident. He is the god of water, horses, and earthquakes and was considered responsible for shipwrecks and drownings.

Myths involving Poseidon / Neptune (re-told by Thomas Bulfinch2):

  • The Rural Deities - Erisichthon - Rhoecus - The Water Deities - Camenae - Winds3

  • Adventures of Aeneas -- The Harpies -- Dido -- Palinurus4

  • Minerva and Niobe5

  • Prometheus and Pandora6

Family of Origin:

The Titans9 Cronus and Rhea are the parents of Poseidon in Greek mythology. Poseidon is one of their 3 sons; the others being Hades (Underworld) and Zeus. There were also 3 sisters, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter.

Cronus was the horrible mythological father who so feared his own children he swallowed them soon after birth. He continued to devour the newborns until his wife got wise (or help from her own parents) and deceived her mate by handing Cronus swaddling clothes covering replacement stones to swallow.

Roman Equivalent of Poseidon:

Poseidon was known as Neptune by the Romans.

Attributes of Poseidon:

The symbol for which Poseidon is best known is the trident. Poseidon is often shown alongside his wife Amphitrite10 in a sea chariot drawn by sea creatures.

Powers: God of the Sea

Poseidon was the god of the salt water sea, the watery area on which mankind had to sail to travel from island to island and in which he usually spread nets to fish. Poseidon could cause all manner of trouble on the sea for those who crossed him.

When on earth Poseidon caused earthquakes, particularly in his bull-form, the "Earthshaking bull." Poseidon was especially worshiped in bull form in Thessaly11. His connection to the Minotaur also plays on Poseidon's bull nature.

Poseidon was also god of horses, known as both Poseidon the Horse and Poseidon the Terrifier of Horses (Taraxippos). He mated with Demeter in stallion form.

Source: The Cattle of the Sun, by Jeremy McInereney; Princeton: 2010.

The Inferiority of Poseidon:

Poseidon asserts equality with Zeus in the Iliad, but then defers to Zeus as king. By some accounts Poseidon is older than Zeus and the one sibling Zeus didn't have to rescue from his father (the power leverage Zeus usually used with his siblings). Even with Odysseus12, who had ruined his son Polyphemus' life, Poseidon behaved in a less fearsome manner than might be expected of an enraged Sturm und Drang kind of god. In the challenge for patronage of the polis of Athens, Poseidon lost to his niece Athena, but then worked cooperatively with her -- as in the Trojan War13 where they try to thwart Zeus with Hera's help.

Poseidon's Mates:

Poseidon is usually shown with his wife Amphitrite, but he mated with many creatures. Odysseus' (run-in with the) Cyclops14 are some of his children. Poseidon mated with Medusa when she was still a beauty. Out of their union was born the winged horse Pegasus. When he tried to mate with his sister Demeter, she changed herself into a mare. Turning himself into a stallion, Poseidon raped her, which resulted in the birth of the horse Arion. He once took on the form of the river god Enipeus in order to consort with Iphimedia. Their offspring was the giant Otus. Poseidon was in competition with Zeus for the nymph Thetis.

Poseidon and Zeus:

Poseidon may have had an equal claim to the title of king of the gods, but Zeus is the one who took it. When the Titans made the thunderbolt for Zeus, they made the trident for Poseidon. These objects are symbols of their power and it is sometimes unclear which object and which god is depicted since a trident looks substantially different from a scepter only at the three-pronged fork end. The trident should not be confused with Triton, the fish-man son of Poseidon and Amphitrite.

In the Iliad:

Poseidon walks among the Greeks in the Iliad, at times taking on the guise of the human Thoas, to help them defeat the Trojans. When one of Poseidon's grandsons is slain by the Trojans, it just spurs the god on more. In this Poseidon is allied with his sister Hera and his niece Athena, but he is thwarting the will of his brother Zeus. Zeus sends Iris to tell him to cut it out. At first Poseidon rails that Zeus is not his superior that they are equal, but then he backs down.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/poseidonmyth/p/Poseidon.htm

Profile of the Greek God Zeus

By N.S. Gill, About.com Guide

Zeus Basics1 | Profile

Zeus is father of gods and men. A sky god, he controls lightning, which he uses as a weapon, and thunder. He is king on Mount Olympus2, the home of the Greek gods. He is also credited as the father of Greek heroes3 and the ancestor of many other Greeks. Zeus mated with many mortals and goddesses but is married to his sister Hera4 (Juno).

Myths involving Zeus (re-told by Thomas Bulfinch6):

  • Prometheus and Pandora7

  • Theseus / Castor and Pollux8

  • Monsters9

  • Hercules / Hebe & Ganymede10

  • Cadmus11

  • Juno12

  • Minerva & Niobe13

  • Proserpine14

  • Phaeton15

  • Perseus16

Family of Origin:

Zeus is the son of the Titans20 Cronus21 and Rhea22. He is the brother of his wife Hera, his other sisters Demeter23 and Hestia24, and his brothers Hades25, Poseidon26.

Roman Equivalent:

The Roman name for Zeus is Jupiter and sometimes Jove. Jupiter is thought to be made up of a Proto-Indoeuropean word for god, *deiw-os, combined with the word for father, pater, like Zeus + Pater.


Zeus is shown with a beard and long hair. His other attributes include scepter, eagle, cornucopia, aegis, ram, and lion.

The cornucopia or (goat) horn of plenty comes from the story of his Zeus' infancy when he was nursed by Amalthea28.

Powers of Zeus:

Zeus is a sky god with control over weather, especially of rain and lightning. He is King of the gods and a god of oracles -- especially in the sacred oak at Dodona29. In the story of the Trojan War, Zeus, as a judge, listens to the claims of other gods in support of their side. He then renders decisions on acceptable behavior. He remains neutral most of the time, allowing his son Sarpedon to die and glorifying his favorite, Hector30.

Etymology of Zeus and Jupiter:

The root of both "Zeus" and "Jupiter" is in a proto-Indo-European34 word for the often personified concepts of "day/light/sky".

Zeus Abducts Mortals:

There are many myths about Zeus. Some involve demanding acceptable conduct of others, whether human or divine. Zeus was enraged with the behavior of Prometheus36. The titan had tricked Zeus into taking the non-meat portion of the original sacrifice, so that mankind could enjoy the food. In response, the king of the gods deprived mankind of the use of fire so they wouldn't be able to enjoy the boon they'd been granted, but Prometheus found a way around this, and stole some of the gods' fire by hiding it in a stalk of fennel and then giving it to mankind.

Zeus punished Prometheus with having his liver pecked out every day.

But Zeus himself misbehaves -- at least according to human standards. It is tempting to say that his primary occupation is that of seducer. In order to seduce, he sometimes changed his shape into that of an animal or bird.

  • When he impregnated Leda, he appeared as a swan [see Leda and the Swan37].

  • When he abducted Ganymede, he appeared as an eagle [see Zeus and Ganymede38] in order to take Ganymede to the home of the gods where he would replace Hebe as cupbearer; and

  • when Zeus carried off Europa, he appeared as a tempting white bull
    [see Europa and Zeus39] -- although why the Mediterranean women were so enamored of bulls is beyond the imaginative capacities of this urban-dweller -- setting in motion the quest of Cadmus and the settling of Thebes40. The hunt for Europa provides one mythological version of the introduction of letters to Greece.


The Olympic Games41 were held to honor Zeus. Pausanias 5.7 says the Olympic origins lie with Zeus' victory over Cronus. The following passage also explains musical elements in the ancient Olympics.

[5.7.10] Now some say that Zeus wrestled here with Cronus himself for the throne, while others say that he held the games in honor of his victory over Cronus. The record of victors include Apollo, who outran Hermes and beat Ares at boxing. It is for this reason, they say, that the Pythian flute-song is played while the competitors in the pentathlum are jumping; for the flute-song is sacred to Apollo, and Apollo won Olympic victories.

Retrieved from: Ancient/Classical History – About.com. Dated viewed: 9/3/13. Full web address for article: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Zeus.htm


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