Greek Mythology – How Much Do You Know?

Greek mythology is one of the oldest mythologies. Did you know where the “Olympic Games” get its name from? History dates back to 773 BC when ancient games were started in Olympia, Greece (to honour Zeus, the king of gods) and hence got its name from “Olympia”. The Greek Gods are also known as the “Olympians”. These Gods are so famous, that in today’s world also, some of the names are quite common. Many consumer products get their names from Greek mythology. The Nike company is the namesake of the Goddess of victory, for example, and the website Amazon.com is named after the race of mythical female warriors. Many high school, college and professional sports teams (Titans, Spartans and Trojans, for instance) also get their names from mythological sources. Let’s read more about them.

The Greek Olympians (from left to right): Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, Hephaestus, Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus, Eros.

Zeus: King of the Olympian/Greek Gods. The Cyclops, who was Zeus’s nephew, gave Zeus the thunderbolt, which he hurled towards a person he was angry at. Often referred to as the Father, as the God of thunder. The God was also a great punisher. Despite the terrible punishments Zeus could inflict, he was also a peacemaker, famously resolving Apollo and Hermes when they fought over the first lyre (musical instrument). Similarly, Zeus resolved the conflict between Apollo and Hercules over the tripod from Delphi. Later Romans named him Jupiter (also a name of the biggest planet)

Hera (June): Zeus’s wife, Hera, was the protector of women and marriage, but terribly jealous and arrogant. Hera was the patron of Argos, which possessed a sanctuary to the goddess from the mid-8th century BCE. She also had a temple dedicated to her at Olympia (650-600 BCE). In Roman culture the goddess lived on as ‘Juno’. The annual Matronalia was a festival held in her honour in June, the month which carried her name. This period was regarded as the most auspicious time to get married in Roman culture.

Poseidon: Poseidon was the God of the sea. He was Zeus’s younger brother. He had a trident with which he whipped up storms. Poseidon was the father of the hero Theseus, the hunter Orion & the winged horse Pegasus. There is a temple of Poseidon in Sounion, Greece, built between 444 – 400 BC. Later Romans named him Neptune (also a name of a planet)

Hades (Pluto): God of the Underworld and ruler of the dead,Hades, owned all the precious gems under the earth. Hades was the only god not to reside on Mount Olympus, rather dwelling in a dark place beneath the earth. Hades married Persephone (daughter of Zeus & Demeter) whom he abducted to live with him. There’s a famous story of Hercules and Persephone from ‘The Twelve Tasks of Hercules’ (I will post that story separately). Later Romans named him Pluto (also a name of a planet)

Hestia: Hestia was the Goddess of home and hearth. She was the elder sister of Zeus, Hera, Demeter, Poseidon & Hades. Later Romans named her Vesta (also a name of a planet)

Demeter: Goddess of the planets and nature, she is the sister of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera and Hestia and the mother of Persephone. Later Romans named her Ceres.

Hephaistos (Hephaestus): Hephaestus was the God of fire & crafts. The brother of Ares, Hephaistos was a blacksmith. He was also the patron of craftsmen. As an ingenious craftsman, Hephaistos made the sceptre and aegis of Zeus, the helmet of Hermes, secret locking doors for Hera’s chambers and even the lovely first woman, Pandora. Hephaistos married the Goddess Aphrodite. There is a Temple of Hephaistos in Athens, built around 449 BCE. Later Romans named him – Vulcan. The world ‘Volcano’ is derived from Vulcan as per the Roman mythology (Long story, will post it separately).

Ares: The god of war and son of Zeus and Hera, Ares is also famous for his quick temper, aggressiveness and fights. He is also known for his unsuccessful fight with Hercules, and enraged Poseidon by killing his son Halirrhothios. It is believed, that in the Trojan war, Ares supported the Trojans. Ares was greatly esteemed in Sparta. Later Romans named him Mars (also a name of a planet).

Aphrodite: The goddess of love and beauty, she was married to Hephaistos, but was in love with Ares. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is cited as partly responsible for the Trojan war. The goddess is often identified with one or more of the following: a mirror, an apple, a myrtle wreath, a sacred bird or dove, a sceptre, and a flower. Occasionally, she is also depicted as riding a swan or goose. Aphrodite was associated with the brightest planet, Venus, and this, always a valuable navigational aid, may be another connection with ancient mariners. Later Romans named her Venus (also the name of a planet).

Athena: Daughter of Zeus and Metis (Metis was a titan),Athena was the God of war and wisdom. She sprang out of Zeus’s head, fully grown and armed. Athena is also associated with household crafts, giving mortals the gifts of cooking and sewing. She is associated with Athens, the city named in her honour after the people of Attica chose her as their patron following her gift of the olive tree, symbol of peace and plenty. Athena is believed to protect Hercules, Perseus, Achilles & Odysseus with her wisdom in different accounts. (I will post a story on Odysseus separately). Later Romans named her Minerva.

Artemis: The daughter of Zeus, she was the Goddess of the Moon and hunting. She is also the sister of Apollo. There is a temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis is most frequently shown in ancient Greek art as a beautiful maiden huntress with quiver and bow or, alternatively, a spear. She is often accompanied by a deer, stag, or a hunting dog. Later Romans named her Diana.

Apollo: Artemis’s twin brother, he was the God of light, music, sun and truth. He had a shrine at Delphi, where Greeks would go for his advice. Apollo was a much-loved God, and this was most likely due to his association with many positive aspects of the human condition such as music, poetry, purification, healing, and medicine.

Hermes: Hermes was a messenger to the Gods. As a messenger, Hermes killed the many-eyed (some accounts say 100-eyed) monster Argos on the orders of Zeus in order to free Io. Hermes was also known as something of a trickster, stealing at one time or the other Poseidon’s trident, Artemis’ arrows, and Aphrodite’s girdle. Later Romans named him – Mercury (also a name of a planet).

Dionysus: The god of fertility and wine, in Greek mythology, Dionysus travelled widely, even as far as India. Later Romans named him Bacchus.

Eros: Eros was the god of love and the son of Ares and Aphrodite. His magical love arrows could make people fall in love. Eros was regarded as the winged assistant of Aphrodite, goddess of Love, Beauty, and Desire. He was also sometimes regarded as the child of Aphrodite, with Ares, the God of war, as his father. Later, Romans gave him new name – Cupid, portrayed as a chubby and mischievous baby.

Map of Ancient Greece. Heracles is the Greek name of Hercules.

Sources: The Greek Mythology, Ancient Rome, Rise & Fall of Rome.

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