| Greek Mythology
A Quick Reference Guide
The Lightning Thief immerses readers in the world of Greek mythology. Below are some key mythological characters referenced in the novel.
The Twelve Olympian Gods
Jacob Sanchez, Raven V.
Zeus: Lord of the sky, chief god of the Olympians. He led the revolt against his father, the titan Kronos. His main weapon is the lightning bolt. His symbol is the eagle. Zeus is married to Hera, but has had numerous affairs with other goddesses and mortal women. His demigod children include Perseus and Heracles.
Makenna, Anastasia, Mariah V.
Hera: Goddess of marriage and motherhood. The wife of Zeus and also his sister, Hera is a jealous goddess who resents her husband’s unfaithfulness. Hera helps some heroes, like Jason, but was the enemy to others, namely Heracles (Hercules). Her symbols are the cow (the most motherly animal) and the colorful peacock.
Tito, Jason, Caine
Poseidon: God of the sea, Zeus’ brother. Poseidon is a changeable god, like the ocean itself, sometimes violent, sometimes calm. He created horses from sea foam, and like his brother Zeus has had many affairs with goddesses and mortal women. Theseus was his most famous demigod son. Poseidon’s symbol is the trident, which he uses to stir up terrible storms at sea.
Demeter: Goddess of agriculture, sister of Hera and Zeus. The most famous story about Demeter tells how her daughter Persephone was captured by Hades and taken to the Underworld. Demeter and Hades finally worked out an agreement by which Persephone would spend half the year with her mother and half the year with her new husband Hades. Demeter would only allow crops to grow during the time Persephone was with her. Thus the seasons were created.
Ares: God of war, Ares is the proud and cruel son of Zeus and Hera. He loves battle, but despite his strength he is not a smart tactician. At heart, he is a coward, like most bullies. His symbol is the wild boar and his favorite weapon is the spear. He is Aphrodite’s lover.
Athena: Goddess of war, wisdom and useful crafts. The patron goddess of Athens, from whom the city got its name. Athena sprang from Zeus’ head, which Hephaestus had to split open to relieve the god’s headache. Athena invented many things, including the chariot and the loom. She granted mankind the olive tree. One of the most popular goddesses, she often helps heroes who use their brains, like Odysseus. She dislikes Poseidon and Ares. Her symbols are the owl, the olive tree, and the aegis, a special shield upon which is mounted the head of Medusa.
Apollo: God of archery, divination and the arts. Later, Apollo was also associated with the sun. Handsome and talented, Apollo is the twin brother of Artemis. He is the patron of archers, and created music. He slew the great Python, and became the force behind the Oracle at Delphi, which could tell the future. There were other oracles, but the one at Delphi was the most famous. The Oracle often spoke in riddles which were not clear until after events came to pass. Apollo’s symbols are the lyre, the laurel tree, and the mouse (an animal which ran everywhere and overheard many secrets).
Artemis: Goddess of the hunt and the moon. Artemis vowed to always be a maiden. Because of this, her followers tended to be young unmarried girls who shunned men. A great archer and hunter, Artemis roams the wilds of the world with a band of maidens. Her symbols are the deer and the bow.
Hephaestus: God of fire and blacksmithing. As a baby, Hephaestus was thrown from Olympus by his father Zeus. Because of this, he grew up ugly and crippled, but was extremely good at working with his hands. He can make anything out of metal. He was given Aphrodite as his bride, because Hera thought it would help Aphrodite settle down. Unfortunately, Aphrodite has affairs behind her husband’s back, and Hephaestus is always trying to catch his wife with her lovers.
Angela, Adreanna, Gabby
Aphrodite: The goddess of love, who was born from sea foam. She is the most beautiful goddess, and very vain. She has a magic girdle (belt) which can cause anyone to fall in love with her. Though married to Hephaestus, her main boyfriend is Ares. Her symbol is the dove.
Hermes: The god of merchants, travelers, thieves, and medicine. Hermes watches over all who use the roads and are involved in commerce. The son of Zeus, Hermes could talk when he was only a baby and once stole cattle from Apollo. He made up for this by giving Apollo the lyre, which baby Hermes invented. Hermes uses his speedy winged sandals to deliver messages for the gods. He carries a caduceus, a winged staff entwined with serpents, which today is the symbol of medicine.
Dionysus: The god of wine. Dionysus was born a mortal, but Zeus granted him immortality when he invented wine. Dionysus once led a drunken army to India, where he captured some tigers. He once turned a boatload of sailors into dolphins because they would not honor him. Dionysus was also the God who gave Midas his golden touch.
Other gods and titans:
Hades: The God of the Underworld. Not technically an Olympian since he has no throne on Olympus, Zeus’ brother Hades was made lord of the Underworld when the gods took over the world. He oversees the souls of the dead and all the riches under the earth. He also guards the pit of Tartarus, where the titans and monsters were imprisoned after the great war. His servants include the three Furies, Charon the ferryman of the dead, and the three-headed dog Cerberus.
Kronos: The Lord of the Titans, Kronos ruled before the gods. He is called the Twisted One, and took over the world when he sliced his own father Ouranus to pieces with a scythe. He feared his own children, the gods, would do the same to him, so ate them all as soon as they were born, but his wife Rhea hid their sixth child, Zeus, and gave Kronos a rock to eat instead. When Zeus was older, he tricked his father into disgorging his other children. The gods united and waged a terrible war against Kronos. Eventually, Kronos was cast into Tartarus.
Rhea: The wife of Kronos, mother of the six first gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia.
Hestia: The goddess of hearth and home. A gentle, humble goddess, Hestia gave up her seat on the Olympian council to Dionysus in order to keep peace among the gods. Afterwards, she tended the hearth in the middle of the throne room. She is the goddess of domestic harmony.
Prometheus: A titan who did not fight against the gods, Prometheus was one of the first to see the potential of men. Against Zeus’ order, Prometheus brought man the secret of fire and allowed human civilization to begin. As a punishment, Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock, where birds of prey would devour his liver each day. Some say he was finally freed from his torment by Hercules.
Monsters and strange creatures:
Furies: The Three Furies were avenging spirits controlled by Hades. They had bat wings, fiery whips, and are sometimes pictured with bleeding eyes, snake hair, and the heads of dogs. They oversaw some of the punishment in the Underworld, but Hades would also send them into the world of the living to punish especially wicked people. They could drive their victims mad.
Fates: The Three Fates were mysterious old hags who controlled the destiny of all living beings from birth to death. They spun out each life as a thread, and cut it at the moment of death. Even the supposedly immortal gods were afraid of the Fates.
Harpies: Harpies are wild, unruly bird-winged maidens, sometimes pictured as ugly hags. They stole food from the seer Phineas as a punishment from Zeus. Sometimes they carried off people to the Underworld.
Cerberus: The three-headed dog who guards the gates of the Underworld. A son of the monster Echidna, Cerberus permits new spirits to enter the world of the dead, but will not allow any to leave.
Charon: The ferryman of the dead. Greeks would leave a coin under the tongue of a dead person to pay for passage across the River Styx. Those who could not pay were doomed to wander the earth until they found some other way into the Underworld.
Chiron: This immortal centaur was kindly and wise. He trained many heroes, including Hercules.
Satyrs: These creatures are human from the waist up, goat from the waist down. They inhabit the wild places of the earth, and are the companions of the wine god Dionysus.
Centaurs: Centaurs are human from the waist up, horse from the waist down. Most are wild barbaric creatures, though one, the famous teacher Chiron, is immortal and quite wise.
Destiny S, Sydney
Medusa: One of three sisters called the Gorgons, Medusa was once a lovely maiden. She had an affair with Poseidon in the temple of Athena, and because of this Athena turned her into a hideous monster. Her hair became live snakes, and her gaze could petrify any who looked upon her. Perseus later cut off her head, which was mounted on Athena’s shield, the aegis.
Minotaur: The horrible son of Pasiphae, the queen of Crete, who mated with a white bull because of a curse inflicted by Poseidon. The Minotaur was half-man, half-bull. He caused so much destruction that King Minos had his famous architect Daedalus build a maze called the Labyrinth to imprison the beast. Each year, maidens and young men from Athens were sacrificed to the Minotaur until Theseus killed the monster.
Naiads: Female spirits that inhabit bodies of fresh water such as rivers and lakes.
Nereids: Female spirits of the sea.
Dryads: Female spirits of nature that live in trees or forests.
Procrustes: “The Stretcher.” This giant challenged Theseus on his way to Athens. He made each guest lie on a bed. If the guest was too short, Procrustes would stretch him to fit. If the guest was too long, Procrustes would cut off whatever hung off the bed.
Echidna: The mate of the horrible monster Typhon, Echidna was half-woman, half-serpent. She had many monstrous children, which Zeus allowed to live as a challenge to future heroes. Her offspring included Cerberus, the Nemean Lion and the Chimera.
Chimera: The Chimera was one monstrous offspring of Echidna. It had the body of a goat, the head of a lion and the tail of a serpent. It terrorized Asia Minor until it was killed by the hero Bellerophon.
Lotus Eaters: On his way back from the Trojan War, Odysseus encountered the Land of the Lotus Eaters, where the inhabitants lived in perfect contentment doing nothing but eating lotuses all day. This lazy lifestyle was dangerous because it tempted Odysseus’ sailors to forget about their journey and remain on the island.
More Greek Myth Resources
Books for Students & Teachers:
Colum, Padraic. The Children’s Homer. Simon Pulse, 1982.
D’Aulaire, Ingri. D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. Delacorte, 1992.
Evslin, Bernard. Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths. Laurel Leaf, 1984.
Osborne, Mary Pope. Favorite Greek Myths. Scholastic, 1991.
Osborne, Mary Pope. Tales from the Odyssey. Hyperion Books for Children, 2003.
On the Internet:
Rick Riordan’s website:
“Winged Sandals” website: http://abc.net.au/arts/wingedsandals/default_lowband.htm
Myths Related to the Novel (by chapter)
Myths by Chapter
The Battle of the Gods and Titans (Titanomochy)
The Three Fates
The Three Furies (the Kindly Ones)
Theseus and the Minotaur
Chiron the Centaur
Nymphs and Naiads
The Olympian Council
The Marriage of Zeus and Hera
The Garden of the Hesperides
The division of the world by Zeus, Poseidon and Hades
Apollo Slays the Python
The Oracle at Delphi
How the City of Athens got its Name
Perseus and Medusa
The god Pan
The Nemean Lion
Typhon and Echidna
Bellerophon and the Chimera
Arachne and the Weaving Contest
Ares and Aphrodite
The Marriage of Hephaestus and Aphrodite
The Land of the Lotus Eaters (from the Odyssey)
The Trojan War
Theseus’ Journey to Athens (Procrustes the Stretcher)
Hercules and Cerberus
Charon the Ferryman & the Gates of the Underworld
A Teacher’s Guide to The Lightning Thief
©2005 Rick Riordan (www.rickriordan.com)