Greek Mythology Facts: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece

Greek Gods & Goddesses

Greek mythology has been a favorite subject of study for many scholars for a very long time, and a popular platform for popular culture adaptations in recent years. The world of the Olympians is a complex and fascinating one, and this article attempts to bring you closer to them by revealing some of the most amazing facts about Greek gods and goddesses.

Aphrodite, Ares and Their Kids

“Make love not war” is a saying that goddess of love Aphrodite seemed to have little regard for when she entered into a tumultuous adulterous (even by Olympian standards) affair with Ares who was literally War. Five kids, including Eros, were a result of the relationship. It is therefore quite easy to believe that in addition to being the personification of love and beauty, Aphrodite was associated with War almost as much as Ares and Athena by the Greeks. Surprisingly enough, quite a few magistrates worshipped her instead of Athena who would’ve been the obvious choice in their case. Ares, on the other hand, was quite a coward, so perhaps Aphrodite was the better figure for the personification of War.

Ares and Aphrodite
Ares and Aphrodite. Source: Wikimedia

The Birth of Athena

We will cover Zeus in more detail in due course, but most of you probably know that the guy was… randy, to say the least. He and Metis conceived Athena but he heard the prophecy that Metis’ kids would be stronger than the father. Being Zeus, he couldn’t bear it so he swallowed the pregnant Metis whole. He regretted that soon afterwards, though – he’s got a massive headache so he smashed his head open with Ares’ help and boom – out came Athena, all armored and badass.

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Divine birth: Athena, born from her father;s head
The birth of Athena. Source: Wikimedia

Hera and Zeus

The complexities of this… marriage/sibling relationship would take me forever to write down, so here’s the gist of it. Ares, Hebe, Eris and Eileithyia are the four kids they had together, but Zeus had at least thrice as many with a bunch of other people. Zeus cheated on Hera so many times, with gods, mortals and even animals. In fact, he even tricked Hera into marrying him by turning himself into a cuckoo bird. In turn, Hera was so jealous of Zeus for managing to “give birth to Athena all on his own” that she put all her mind and strength to do the same thing, with Hephaestus as a result. She wasn’t happy with such a result, however, and tossed the kid off Olympus. Needless to say, this marriage was not built on love, trust and understanding.

Zeus and Hera
Zeus and Hera by Rubens. Source: Flickr

Hades

Okay, so dashing gentlemen who are Kings of the Underworld usually get a bad reputation. But honestly, Hades wasn’t so bad compared to his brothers, Zeus and Poseidon. To start with, he’s literally drawn the short straw to get his job. And his job didn’t actually involve condemning souls to eternal damnation – Minos and his fellow demigods did that. The worst thing Hades did was probably kidnapping Persephone, Demeter’s daughter (and technically Hades’ niece – Zeus strikes again), and making her marry him, but, at least, he, unlike Zeus, always stayed loyal to her.

Hades abducting Persephone
Hades abducting Persephone. Source: Wikimedia

The Original Immortals

The twelve (thirteen, if you count Hades, and you should) Olympians weren’t the original immortals of the Greek mythology. Chaos, as you might expect, was the very first one, followed by Gaia (earth) and Tartarus (the underworld). Gaia married Uranus (the Sky) and gave birth to the Titans, one of whom was Cronos. He married Rhea, his sister, and they were the ones who produced the thirteen Olympians – Zeus, Hera, Demeter, Poseidon, etc. He knew that eventually they’d defeat him so he ate them all, except Zeus, who managed to get away and kill Cronos later.

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Cronos and Rhea by Karl Friedrich Schinkel
Rhea and Cronos. Source: Wikimedia

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