THE 12 OLYMPIANS – CHIEF GREEK (ROMAN) GODS: NEW GODS
Zeus (Jupiter) – supreme ruler of the gods. He was Lord of the Sky, Rain-god, Cloud-gatherer, thunderbolt thrower, and a notorious womanizer. At times he was fair, at times unfair. His shield, known as the aegis, was awful to behold. His bird was the eagle, his tree, the oak. His oracle was Dodona in the land of the oak trees. His will was interpreted by the rustling of the leaves in the oak tree by priests. He was the most powerful of the Olympians.
Poseidon (Neptune) – the ruler of the Sea and Zeus’ brother. He was second in eminence to Zeus. Married to Amphitrite, granddaughter of the Titan Ocean. He was said to have given the horse to humans. He carried a trident, a three-pronged spear, which he used to shake and shatter whatever he wanted. He was also called the Earth-shaker and was thought to be the creator of earthquakes. Poseidon was associated with the bull and the horse.
Hades (Pluto) – ruled the underworld and the dead. He was known for possessing wealth in the form of precious metals in the earth. His other name was Dis (Latin for rich). His helmet made the wearer invisible. He was unpitying, inexorable (unrelentless), but just (fair); he was a terrible, but not an evil god. His wife was Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus.
Hestia (Vesta) – Zeus’ sister and a virgin goddess. She was the goddess of the hearth. Meals began and ended with an offering to her. Each city had a hearth dedicated to her with a fire that was never allowed to go out. In Rome, her fire was tended by six virgin priestesses called Vestals.
Hera (Juno) – Zeus’ wife and sister; she was protector of women and marriage. She was extremely jealous and vain; she punished all women who were involved with Zeus, even if he had tricked them. Argos was her favorite city. The cow and peacock were sacred to her. She prolonged the Trojan War so the Greeks could win because she was so angry at Paris (from Troy) for not having selected her as the most beautiful of the goddesses (in the judgment of Paris).
Ares (Mars) – the god of War; son of Zeus and Hera (who both hated him). He was murderous and a curse to mortals. He was also a coward. His attendants included Eris (goddess of Spite), Strife, Enyo (goddess of war), Terror, Trembling, and Panic. The Romans liked Mars more than the Greeks liked Ares. Ares once was the lover of Aphrodite. He came from Thrace, home of a rude and fierce people. The vulture and dog are his animals. Other symbols: weapons and armor.
Athena (Minerva) – sprang from Zeus’ head fully grown and in full armor. She had no mother. She was war-like, the protector of cities, handicrafts, agriculture, and civilized life. She was the first to tame horses for humans to use. She was the chief virgin goddess, known as Parthenos. Her temple was the Parthenon. She was associated with wisdom, reason, and purity. Athens was her city; the olive, created by her, was her tree. The owl was her bird. Other symbols: helmet and spear.
Apollo (Apollo) – god of light and truth; son of Zeus and Leto (Latona) was born on Delos. He was a beautiful figure in Greek poetry, the most “Greek” of all the Greeks. He was a master musician who played a golden lyre (similar to a little harp) and was the archer god with the silver bow. He taught humans the art of healing. His oracle (the most well-known) was at Delphi, under Mt. Parnassus. Other names of Apollo include Delian (from the island Delos where he was born) and Pythian (for having killed the python snake). He was a link between humans and the gods. His tree was the laurel. The Dolphin and crow were sacred to him.
Aphrodite (Venus) – goddess of love and beauty who stole the wits from even the wise. She was born of a drop of Father Heaven’s blood that fell into the ocean and created foam. She was born near Cythera. Without her there was neither joy nor loveliness anywhere. She was sometimes treacherous and malicious. She was married to Hephaestus, the lame and ugly god of the forge. Symbols: Cupid (her son), dove, myrtle tree.
Hermes (Mercury) – son of Zeus and Maia (daughter of Atlas). He was graceful and swift of motion. He wore winged sandals, a winged hat, had wings on his wand. He was Zeus’ messenger who flew as fast as thought. He was cunning and the Master Thief. He was god of the market of Commerce. He made a lyre from a tortoise shell and gave it to Apollo to repay him for the cattle he had stolen. He was also the guide of the dead.
Artemis (Diana) – also called Cynthia (born at Mt. Cynthus in Delos); she was Apollo’s twin sister. She was the Lady of Wild Things, Huntress-in-chief to the gods, protector of youth (though she kept the fleet from sailing to Troy during the Trojan War until a maiden was sacrificed to her). She was associated with the moon. She was called Selene in the sky, Artemis on the earth, and Hecate in the lower world. She was associated with deeds of darkness. The cypress was her tree, the deer, and all other wild animals were sacred to her. She was also the protectress of female virgins.
Hephaestus (Vulcan) – the god of fire, son of Zeus and Hera. He was lame and ugly. Hera sent him out of heaven upon finding out that he was deformed. Hephaestus made the armor for the Olympians. He was kindly and peace-loving. With Athena, he was important in the life of the city. He was god of handicrafts, the arts, and agriculture (as was Athena). Symbols: anvil and forge.
* The three maiden goddesses of Olympus were Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis.