the ancient Greeks told stories about the family life of the gods, and they had a myth of creation of the world and the dynasties of the gods, but most of their mythology is concerned with the heroic world
the mythical world of the ancient Greeks is polytheistic
The Titans, also known as the elder gods, ruled the earth before the Olympians overthrew them. The ruler of the Titans was Cronus who was dethroned by his son Zeus. Most of the Titans fought with Cronus against Zeus and were punished by being banished to Tartarus. During their rule the Titans were associated with the various planets.
The family of the Olympian gods
Zeus and Hera
Zeus was the head of the family of the Olympian gods who were called the Olympians, named after their dwelling-place, Mount Olympus.
Zeus is the sky god of the bright sky, but also of the storm, he is armed with thunderbolt.
Zeus overthrew his Father Cronus. He then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and Hades. Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. He is lord of the sky, the rain god. His weapon is a thunderbolt which he hurls at those who displease him. He is married to Hera but, is famous for his many affairs. He is also known to punish those that lie or break oaths. He was the rain god, and the cloud gatherer, who wielded the terrible thunderbolt. His […] bird [was] the eagle, his tree the oak. He is represented as the god of justice and mercy, the protector of the weak, and the punisher of the wicked.
Hera is Zeus’s wife. Her name seems to be the feminine of ‘hero’ and to mean ‘the lady’. Hera is a representation of the mother-goddess. She appears almost always as the jealous wife, resentful of Zeus’s lovers and illegitimate children. Her sacred animals are the cow and the peacock.
Hera's marriage was founded in strife with Zeus and continued in strife. Zeus courted her unsuccessfully. He then turned to trickery, changing himself into dishevelled cuckoo. Hera feeling sorry for the bird held it to her breast to warm it. Zeus then resumed his normal form and taking advantage of the surprise he gained, raped her. She then married him to cover her shame.
Ares and Aphrodite
Ares is one of the children of Zeus and Hera. Ares is the god of war. He appears as the lover of Aphrodite.
Ares gave Aphrodite many gifts, and she shamed the bed of her lord Hephaestus. But the sun, who sees everything, told him what was going on, and in anger he went to his forge and made chains like spiders’ webs, quite invisible, which he hung from the bedposts as a kind of net, with a device for letting them down. Then he announced his intention of going off to Lemnos, the seat of his cult. He was no sooner out of the house than Ares was in, crying:
‘Hither, dear, to the bed let us turn’, a call to which Aphrodite responded with alacrity. Down came the net and back came Hephaestus, again warned by the sun. In anger, he summoned father Zeus and the other gods, claiming that he was made laughing stock by Aphrodite because he was lame. The male gods came, but the female ones stayed at home for shame.
The bird of Ares is the vulture. His animal is the dog.
Aphrodite is the goddess of love, desire and beauty. In addition to her natural gifts she has a magical power that compels anyone she wishes to desire her.
She is the wife of Hephaestus. The myrtle is her tree. The dove, the swan, and the sparrow her birds. Her favourite lover is the god of war, Ares. She represented passion, affection, and the attraction that binds people together.
Hephaestus is said to have been born by Hera alone, in revenge for the birth of Athena. He is lame.
Accounts as to how he became lame vary. Some say that Hera, upset by having an ugly child, flung him from Mount Olympus into the sea, breaking his legs. Others that he took Hera's side in an argument with Zeus and Zeus flung him off Mount Olympus. He is the god of fire and the forge. He is the smith and armorer of the gods. He uses a volcano as his forge. He is the patron god of both smiths and weavers. He is kind and peace loving. His wife is Aphrodite.
Athena is the Greek virgin goddess of reason, intelligent activity, arts and literature. Athena is the daughter of Zeus. She sprang full grown in armour from his forehead, thus has no mother. She is fierce and brave in battle but, only wars to defend the state and home from enemies. She is the goddess of the city, handicrafts, and agriculture. She invented the bridle, which permitted man to tame horses, the trumpet, the flute, the pot, the rake, the plow, the yoke, the ship, and the chariot. She is the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. She was Zeus's favourite child and was allowed to use his weapons including his thunderbolt. Her favourite city is Athens. Her tree is the olive. The owl is her bird.
“Demeter is the goddess of corn, grain, and the harvest. It is Demeter that makes the crops grow each year. The first loaf of bread from the harvest is sacrificed to her. Demeter is the goddess of the earth, of agriculture, and of fertility in general. Sacred to her are livestock and agricultural products, poppy, narcissus and the crane.
Demeter is 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 grieves her daughter’s absence, and withdraws her gifts from the world, creating winter. Her return brought the spring.
Hades is the brother of Zeus. After the overthrow of their Father Cronus he drew lots with Zeus and Poseidon, another brother, for shares of the world. He had the worst draw and was made lord of the underworld, ruling over the dead. He is a greedy god who is greatly concerned with increasing his subjects. He is exceedingly disinclined to allow any of his subjects leave.
He is also the god of wealth, due to the precious metals mined from the earth. He has a helmet that makes him invisible. He rarely leaves the underworld. He is unpitying and terrible, but not capricious. His wife is Persephone whom Hades abducted.
God of the sea, protector of all waters. Poseidon is the brother of Zeus. After the overthrow of their Father Cronus he drew lots with Zeus and Hades, another brother, for shares of the world. His prize was to become lord of the sea. He was widely worshiped by seamen.
At one point he desired Demeter. To put him off Demeter asked him to make the most beautiful animal that the world had ever seen. So to impress her Poseidon created the first horse. In some accounts his first attempts were unsuccessful and created a variety of other animals in his quest. By the time the horse was created his passion for Demeter had cooled.
His weapon is a trident, which can shake the earth, and shatter any object. He is second only to Zeus in power amongst the gods. He has a difficult quarrelsome personality. He was greedy. He had a series of disputes with other gods when he tried to take over their cities.”
God of all forms of magic and trickery. He is also the messenger of the gods.
He is the fastest of the gods. He wears winged sandals, a winged hat, and carries a magic wand. He is the god of thieves and god of commerce. He is the guide of the dead when they descend to the underworld. He invented the lyre, the pipes, the musical scale, astronomy, weights and measures, boxing, gymnastics, and the care of olive trees.
Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto. His twin sister is Artemis. He is the god of music, playing a golden lyre. The Archer, far shooting with a silver bow. The god of healing who taught man medicine. The god of light. The god of truth, who cannot speak a lie.
One of Apollo's more important daily tasks is to harness his chariot with four horses and drive the Sun across the sky.
He is famous for his oracle at Delphi. People travelled to it from all over the Greek world to divine the future.
His tree is the laurel. The crow his bird. The dolphin his animal.
She is the goddess of chastity, virginity, of hunting, of the moon, and of the natural environment. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto. Her twin brother is Apollo. She is the lady of the wilderness. She is the huntswoman of the gods. She is the protector of the young. Like Apollo she hunts with silver arrows. She became associated with the moon. She is a virgin goddess, and the goddess of chastity. She also presides over childbirth, which may seem odd for a virgin, but goes back to causing Leto no pain when she was born. She became associated with Hecate. The cypress is her tree. All wild animals are scared to her, especially the deer.
Dionysus is the god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. He invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes. He has a dual nature. On the one hand he brings joy and divine ecstasy. On the other hand, he produces brutal, unthinking rage, thus, unveiling both sides of wine’s nature. If he chooses, Dionysus can drive a man mad.
Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele. He is the only god to have a mortal parent. Zeus came to Semele in the night, invisibly, felt only as a divine presence. Semele was pleased to be a lover of a god even though she did not know which god it was who came to her. Word soon got round 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’s problems with Hera were not yet over. She was still jealous and arranged for the Titans to kill him. The Titans ripped him into 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, flushed 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 could go into mad states where they would rip apart and eat raw any animal they came upon.
Dionysus is 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 than he usually is and do deeds 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. The theatre became its focal point. Most of the great Greek plays were initially written to be performed during the feast of Dionysus. All who took part, writers, actors, spectators were regarded as scared servants of Dionysus during the festival.
the ‘Feeder’ of the flocks
described by Hermes as ‘goatfooted, two-horned, noisy, laughing’
He was the god of flocks and shepherds. He is mostly human in appearance but, with goat horns and goat feet. He is an excellent musician and plays the pipes. He is merry and playful, frequently seen dancing with woodland nymphs. He is at home in any wild place but his is favourite is Arcady, where he was born. He is always in pursuit of one of the nymphs but is always rejected because he is ugly.
His name is the basis for the word ‘panic’. There are two differing explanations for this. The first is that he was present when Zeus defeated the Titans and claimed that it has his yelling that caused the Titans to flee. However, this seems at odds with his being Hermes son. The second is that he created the noises in the woods at night the scared travellers hear and fear.
Eros is the son of Aphrodite. Eros is the god of love. Particularly of erotic, romantic, love. He is often represented blindfolded because love is often blind. His ‘weapons’ are darts or arrows. In either case the tips have been magically treated to produce uncontrollable love in the first person seen be Eros's victim after wounding.
The Iliad and the Odyssey
the Iliad and the Odyssey are the oldest surviving works of Greek literature, attributed to one man, Homer, but the Odyssey is probably a good deal later than the Iliad. Both are based on traditional myths
The Iliad the story of the Trojan War about 600 years after the war ended
epic poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was a legendary ten-year conflict in which Greek warriors laid siege to Troy, a city on the north-western coast of Asia Minor. Homer's great epic the Iliad describes the activities of gods, goddesses, and human heroes during the final year of the war. Some scholars think that the story of the Trojan War may have been based on memories of distant historical events, which became myths with the passage of time.
According to these myths, the Trojan War was rooted in vanity and passion. A youth named Paris, one of the sons of King Priam of Troy, was asked to choose the fairest of three goddesses: Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera. Each goddess offered Paris a special gift if he declared her the fairest. Paris selected Aphrodite, who had promised him the most beautiful woman in the world.
Aphrodite led Paris to Sparta, the home of a Greek prince named Menelaus. Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was considered the world's most beautiful woman. Paris fell in love with Helen and carried her off to Troy. Menelaus asked his brother King Agamemnon to lead the princes and warriors of Greece against Troy to recover Helen and to punish the Trojans. […]
The clever Odysseus came up with a plan to defeat Troy by trickery rather than direct force. He instructed the Greeks to build an enormous, hollow wooden horse on wheels. Greek soldiers hid inside the horse, which was then wheeled to the gates of Troy. The Trojans awoke to find this marvel outside their gates and brought it into the city. That night the Greek soldiers climbed out of the horse and opened the city gates to admit more Greeks. Then they set Troy afire, killing Priam and his family. The term Trojan horse is used to this day to refer to something that appears to be a harmless gift but carries unsuspected danger or destruction within.
Odysseus. In Greek mythology, Odysseus was a celebrated hero, best known for his role in the Trojan Warf and for his ten-year journey home after the war.
The Odyssey. One of the great epics of ancient Greece, the Odyssey tells the story of the struggles and triumphs of the hero Odysseus as he made his way home after the Trojan War. Pursued by the sea god Poseidon, but aided both by his own cunning and by the goddess Athena, Odysseus overcame countless obstacles during his long journey home. Along the way, he lost his ships, his crew, and the riches he had gained at Troy. The Odyssey is believed to be the work of the Greek poet Homer, who also composed the Iliad.
The English word “Bible” is derived from the Old French word bible, which is based on the Latin biblia, meaning “books”. The term refers to the Scriptures of the Christian church, but it may also denote the canon of the Jewish scriptures.
The Hebrew Bible is a collection of 24 books written in Hebrew, including a few passages in Aramic.
The Christian Bible, or The Holy Bible is made up of the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament”. The Hebrew Bible includes only the books known to Christians as the “Old Testament”. The arrangements of the Jewish and Christian canons differ considerably. The Protestant and Roman Catholic arrangements more nearly match one another.
Both the Christian and Hebrew religions are monotheistic.
Bothe The Hebrew Bible and The Holy Bible involve myths, presenting the divinity and superhuman heroes.
The biblical myths of the Genesis
Genesis, Hebrew Bereshit (“In the Beginning”), the first book of the Old Testament. Its name derives from the opening words: “In the beginning….” Genesis narrates the primeval history of the world (chapters 1–11) and the patriarchal history of the Israelite people (chapters 12–50). The primeval history includes the familiar stories of the Creation, the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. The patriarchal history begins with the divine promise to Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation” (12:2) and tells the stories of Abraham (chapters 12–25) and his descendants
Genesis creation narrative
The opening chapter of the Bible begins with these words, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (NIV) This summarizes the drama that was about to unfold. We learn from the text that the earth was formless, empty, and dark, and God's Spirit moved over the waters preparing to perform God's creative Word. And then God began to speak into existence his creation. The day by day account follows:
Day 1 - God created light and separated the light from the darkness, calling light "day" and darkness "night."
Day 2 - God created an expanse to separate the waters and called it "sky."
Day 3 - God created the dry ground and gathered the waters, calling the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters "seas." On day three, God also created vegetation (plants and trees).
Day 4 - God created the sun, moon, and the stars to give light to the earth and to govern and separate the day and the night. These would also serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years.
Day 5 - God created every living creature of the seas and every winged bird, blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life.
Day 6 - God created the animals to fill the earth. On day six, God also created man and woman (Adam and Eve) in his own image to commune with him. He blessed them and gave them every creature and the whole earth to rule over, care for, and cultivate.
Day 7 - God had finished his work of creation and so he rested on the seventh day, blessing it and making it holy.
The myth of Adam and Eve
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, contains two accounts of how Adam and Eve came into being. The first version, which most likely dates from between 600 and 400 B. C ., says that God created all living things—including a man and woman "in his own image"—on the sixth day of creation. According to the second version, which is longer and probably several centuries older, God (here named Yahweh) made Adam from dust and breathed "the breath of life" into his nostrils. God then created animals so that Adam would not be alone. However, God saw that Adam needed a human partner, so he put Adam to sleep, took a rib from his side, and created Eve from it.
Adam and Eve lived in a garden called Eden, from which four rivers flowed out into the world. Like other earthly paradises in mythologies of the arid Near East, Eden was a well-watered, fertile place that satisfied all of the needs of Adam and Eve. God imposed only one restriction on life in this paradise: not to eat the fruit of a certain tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A sly serpent in the garden persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and Adam tasted the fruit as well. The two lost their innocence immediately. Ashamed of their nakedness, they covered themselves with leaves. God saw that they had disobeyed him and drove them from the Garden of Eden.
When Adam and Eve left Eden, human history began. The two worked long and hard to wrest a living from the earth. Eventually, they grew old and died, but not before they had borne children. The first two were their sons, Cain and Abel. According to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, all the people of the world are descended from the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.
The New Testament – Jesus Christ
Jesus (also called Christ which means king or Messiah) was born in Israel 2000 years ago. Modern civilization marks his birth by dividing time B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini - or the year of our Lord). For his first thirty years, Jesus lived a traditional Jewish life, working as a carpenter. During this time, all of Israel was under Caesar's Roman dictatorship, including Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and Nazareth, where he was raised.
In his thirties, Jesus began his public teaching and display of recorded miracles, yet still never travelled more than 200 miles from his birthplace. Over a three year period, despite his efforts to remain unnoticed, Jesus' reputation spread nationwide. The Roman governors and rulers of Israel's provinces and the leaders of the Jewish people (the religious counsels) took note of him.
Many have asked "Who is Jesus Christ?" Jesus' most controversial act was that he repeatedly claimed to be God, which was a direct violation of the Jewish law. Therefore the religious leaders asked the Roman government to execute him. In each of several official trials, the Romans found that he was not guilty of breaking any Roman law. Even the Jewish leaders recognized that other than Jesus' claim to be God, Jesus followed the Jewish law perfectly. Still the religious leaders, using the argument of political disfavor, persuaded Pilate, a Roman governor of the Southern province of Israel, to authorize an execution.
Jesus was brutally tortured and then hung by his hands, which were nailed to a horizontal wooden beam (cross). This method of execution restricted the airflow to his lungs, killing him in three hours. However, according to more than 500 witnesses, Jesus returned from the dead three days later, and over the next 40 days journeyed in both the southern and northern provinces of Israel. To many, this was conclusive proof that Jesus' claims to be God were real. Then Jesus returned to Jerusalem, the city where he was recently executed, and according to witnesses, he left the earth alive by rising up into the sky.
As a result of these miraculous events, the number of his followers increased dramatically. Only a few months later in that same city of Jerusalem one record states that some 3000 new followers were added in a single day. The religious leaders responded by trying to stomp out Jesus' followers. Many of these people chose to die rather than deny their belief that Jesus was truly God.
Within 100 years, people throughout the Roman Empire (Asia Minor, Europe) became followers of Jesus. In 325 AD, the following of Jesus, Christianity, became the official religion of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Within 500 years, even Greece's temples of Greek gods were transformed into churches for followers of Jesus. Although some of Jesus' messages and teachings were diluted or miscommunicated through the expansion of a religious institution, Jesus' original words and life still speak loudly for themselves.
The miracles of Christ
The Feeding of the 5,000
This is also known as the "miracle of the five loaves and two fish" given that the Gospel of John reports that five small barley loaves and two small fish supplied by a boy were used by Jesus to feed a multitude.
According to the Gospels, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place near Bethsaida.
The crowds followed Jesus on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.
"Bring them here to me," he said.
Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
About. com. “Christianity,” retrieved from
Achtemeier, Paul J., ed. Harpers’s Bible Dictionary. San Francisco: Harper
and Row, 1985.
“Brief Life Summary: Who Was Jesus Christ?” retrieved from
Clowes, John. The Miracles of Jesus Christ. Manchester: J. Gleave, 1817.
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Myths Encyclopedia: Myths and Legends of the World, retrieved from
Pinsent, John. Greek Mythology. London, New York, Sydney, Toronto:
Paul Hamlyn, 1969.
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Art, retrieved from http://www.theoi.com/
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