Symbols The thunderbolt Sometimes seated on a throne Zeus and Kronos

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Hera and Herakles

Zeus fell in love with the mortal woman Alkmene. She had Zeus' child and he was called Herakles. Hera was so jealous of the child, she stopped him becoming a king by delaying the day of his birth so that a different woman's child became king. She also placed two snakes in the baby Herakles' cot. Herakles survived by strangling the two serpents. Even at such a young age Herakles had superhuman strength.


The Heraia were a festival dedicated to Hera. Like the Olympic Games this festival contained athletic competitions and was held at Olympia. However, only women were allowed to compete at the Heraia.

Athena is the goddess of war and cunning wisdom. She is also the goddess of pot-making and wool-working. She is associated with the city, and almost every town in Greece had a sanctuary dedicated to Athena.

She invented the chariot, the bridle and built the first ship. The olive tree is sacred to her.


  • Shown in full armour and helmet.

  • Aegis - a goat skin cloak fringed with snakes.

  • Associated with the owl.

Birth of Athena

Zeus was the father of Athena and her mother was Metis, which means wisdom. Zeus was told before Athena was born, that any child born to Metis would be more powerful than its father. Zeus was very worried by this and decided to swallow Metis before she could give birth to the child. Sometime later Zeus began to have terrible headaches. The pain grew so unbearable that Zeus asked Hephaistos to cut his head open to see what was wrong. When Hephaistos opened his head, Athena emerged from Zeus' skull, fully grown and dressed for battle.


Most Greek cities had a sanctuary or temple dedicated to Athena because she was the 'protectress of the city'. She is particularly associated with the city of Athens. There is a myth that Athena's gift to the city was the olive tree. It grew on the Acropolis. Other sacred olive trees grew near Plato's Academy - they provided the oil for the prizes at the Panathenaic Games. In the 5th century BC a great temple to Athena was built on the Athenian Acropolis. The temple was called the Parthenon.

The Panathenaia was a huge festival held at Athens in Athena's honour. All sections of Athenian society were involved: men, women, citizens, slaves and foreigners living in Athens. The festival consisted of sacrifices, competitions and a huge procession to present a new robe to the ancient statue of Athena on the Acropolis.

Apollo was the god of the sun, truth, music, poetry, dance and healing. Poets and bards put themselves under his protection.


  • In times of war the bow was his symbol

  • In times of peace his symbol was the lyre or kithara (types of musical instrument).

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