They are usually defined as Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Apollo, Artemis (Diana), Hermes (Mercury), Demeter (Ceres), Poseidon (Neptune), Athena (Minerva), Hephastus (Vulcan), Aphrodite (Venus), Ares (Mars), and Dionysius (Bacchus). In the earliest versions, Hades (Pluto, Dis) is an Olympian, not Demeter (Ceres). However, as the myths progressed, Hades became so rooted in his world that he no longer was an Olympian as he never bothered to rise from his realm.
The First Generation Olympians
These Olympians are the sons of Chronus and Rhea. They were all swallowed by Chronus who feared being overthrown by a child (except Zeus), and were eventually saved by Zeus who made Chronus throw them all up. Most of them were not Olympians, but all were incredibly important. Zeus overthrew Chronus with the help of his siblings, Heista, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon (born chronologically in that order, Zeus as the youngest). After that, the three brothers drew straws for possession of the world, and Zeus got the heavens, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld.
Heista (Vesta): The Goddess of the hearth, Heista wasn’t very important to the Greeks. She was a domestic Goddess, and, though originally was one of the twelve Olympians, gave up her golden throne to Dionysius to tend the hearth. She is better known as Vesta, the Goddess of the hearth in Rome. There she always had six virginal attendants who would be buried alive for loosing their virginity. Her flame was kept going constantly, and if it burnt out it was a bad sign for Rome. (the flame was symbolic of the spirit of Rome)
Demeter (Ceres): The Goddess of the earth, and agriculture. (especially grains, such as corn and barley…the name means barley mother) Demeter is seen as an earth mother to this day, and was worshipped in Elyusius. She taught men how to sow grain after her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades and she went into mourning each year that made it so that nothing grew. She is pictured as a golden haired Goddess wearing a crown of corn. Though she has children other than Persephone, none of them picture heavily in myth.
Hera (Juno): The Queen of the Gods. She was married to Zeus, and was horribly jealous (with good cause) of the women he seduced. She was very beautiful (figure of Juno), and fought over the golden apple. Her children include Hephastus, Ares, Hebe, and sometimes Hecate and others.
Hades (Pluto, Dis, Aides, etc.): The God of the Underworld and riches. A rather grim God who rules dispassionately over the Underworld. Married to Persephone. He tends to lurk in his murky domains, and rarely reappears. His invisible helmet is useful to the heroes who often borrow it to slay their foes undetected.
Poseidon (Neptune): God of the sea. Poseidon is always surrounded by a retinue, and tends to remain in the sea. He often gets irritated at heroes and makes the sea very difficult for them. Married to Amphitre.
Zeus (Jupiter): The King of the Gods, and a faithless husband. About 90% of the characters in Greek mythology are children or grandchildren of Zeus. He wielded the mighty thunderbolt, and was married to Hera.
Second Generation Olympians:
These include the important children of Zeus, such as those who make Olympians, or other positions of power. Zeus is their father, and a Goddess or Titans is their mother.
Athena (Minerva): Daughter of Zeus and Metis. When Zeus learned that the child Metis bore might be the one to dethrone him, he changed her into a fly and ate her. Metis continued to live, now inside his skull, and hammered away at armor. This gave him a splitting headache, and so Hephastus burst his head open and Athena stepped out. She was the goddess of wisdom (Metis was very bright…she was the one to get the idea of feeding Chronus stuff to make him throw up his children. Zeus would never be that bright), crafts, and war. Athens is her city, which she won in a contest with Poseidon by granting Athens an olive tree. Athena is very loyal to Zeus, and is the only one he trusts with his thunderbolts and his aegis. She is a maiden goddess, though she often helps heroes in their quests. She has beautiful grey eyes, and attempted to get the golden apple.
Hephastus (Vulcan): An ugly god, he had a disability. Poor Hephastus was lame. The story on his lameness varies with the teller. He was the god of fire and blacksmith, and made all of the beautiful jewelry, the twelve thrones of Olympus, and Zeus’s lightning bolts. He was married to Aphrodite, a very unfaithful wife.
Aphrodite (Venus): The Goddess of Love and Beauty, Aphrodite rose from the sea. In some cases she is Zeus’s daughter, in others she rose from the sea from the blood of the slaughtered Uranus. She was married to Hephastus, but tended to fool around with practically everyone else, her favorite usually being Ares. She bore him several children, the best known of which is Eros (Cupid).
Ares (Mars): The God of War. The Greeks didn’t like this violent, whiny God, but the Romans were fairly fond of him. His siblings and parents despised him, and he was suitably trapped in a jar on occasion. He was attended by Phobus and Deimus (fear and panic). These were the children of him and Aphrodite. One of the biggest scandals on Olympus involved when he and Aphrodite were caught in a golden net made by Hephastus in the act.
Apollo: The god of the sun, light, music, medicine, etc. He was the son of Leto and Zeus, and is the devoted twin brother to Artemis. He was considered gorgeous, and tended to persue nymphs in a manner reminiscent of Zeus and Poseidon. He hung around a lot with the Muses. His great shrine is in Delphi.
Artemis (Diana): Goddess of the hunt and moon, and maiden Goddess, Artemis once changed a man into a stag for looking at her naked. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and was devoted to her twin brother Apollo. She showed some vague romantic interest in Orion, once, before a jealous brother had him killed.
Hermes (Mercury): The god of commerce, good luck, wealth, trickery, roads, fertility, and the messenger of the Gods. He was the son of Zeus and Maia, and was the only of Zeus’s children who Hera didn’t hate on a regular basis. He started off life by stealing Apollo’s cattle and creating a lyre, and eventually escorted souls to the Underworld.
Persephone (Proserpina, Proserpine): The goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld. Daughter of Demeter and Zeus (or Poseidon) and wife of Hades. Stolen from a meadow in Sicily, Persephone spent part of the year (1/4, 1/3, ½, or in a few cases all) in the underworld as queen. The rest of the time she resides in the upper world as the Goddess of Spring with her mother.
Dionysius (Bacchus): God of wine, and drinking, he was the only of the Olympians to have a mother who was a mortal. Semele wanted to see Zeus as himself, and died as a result. She was later brought to Olympus by Dionysius, who had taken Heista’s throne.
The Muses: The nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Originally they were not specialized, but gradually came to be: Calliope, muse of epic poetry (also mother of Orpheus), Clio muse of history, Euterpe, muse of the flute and Dionastic music, Thalia, muse of comedy, Melpomene, muse of tragedy, Terpsichore, muse of dance and lyric poetry, Erato, muse of lyric poetry, hymns, and erotic poetry, Polyhymnia, muse of the solemn hymn and religious dance, Urania, muse of astronomy.
Titans and Such
A huge number of non-Olympians are very important in Greek Mythology. The Titans, who controlled the world before the Olympians, are very important to Greek Mythology, and come up often in stories.
Gaea: Literally the Earth. The oldest God, she came from Chaos (along with Nox and Erebrus). She is the mother of all things.
Uranus (Oruanous, or something like that origionally): God of the Sky. Gaea’s child and mate. Father of the Titans and a lot of other things.
Chronus (Saturn): The God of Old Age and time. Father of the First Generation Olympians. Chronus slaid his own father, Oranousus (Uranus) with a sickle.
Rhea: The wife of Saturn, and queen of the Gods during the golden age. An Earth Goddess.
Hecate: Goddess of Witchcraft and the crossroads. Portrayed with three heads.
Atlas: Brother of Prometheus, after leading the Titans against Zeus was given the job of holding the sky from the earth near the straits of Gibraltar. After Greeks made it that far and found no Atlas, they decided that he had been turned to stone by Perseus and Medusa’s head, and named the Atlas mountains for him. Eventually Atlas came to be seen holding the world on his shoulders, and the idea remains.
Prometheus: The name means "forethought", and Prometheus thought ahead. He built men in the image of Gods, and breathed life into them. However, when humans started freezing and having troubles, Prometheus stole fire from the sun for men against Zeus’s orders. He compounded this problem by teaching men to trick Zeus out of the good parts of the meat in an offering. Eventually he was chained (often by Hephastus) to a rock where his liver was ripped out each day by an eagle, just to grow back in the night to be ripped again.
Amphitre: Queen of the Sea and wife of Poseidon. She never seemed to mind his constant attentions on other women.
A few Greek heroes became Gods.
Herakles (Hercules): He was Zeus’s son, and Hera naturally hated him, and did everything she could to plague him. His twelve labors, gained for killing his wife and children in a rage, made him famous, and he later on went to accomplish more tasks after these labors. In the end, he was deified.
Polyduces (Pollux): The full brother of Helen (of Troy) and half brother to Castor and Clymenestra, he was the son of Leda and Zeus. He and his three siblings hatched out of eggs, and from birth he became incredibly attached to his twin brother Castor. He was a fantastic boxer, Castor a renown horse trainer. When they fell in battle together, Pollux was sent to Olympus, Castor to Hades. Unwilling to part with his brother, Pollux bestowed half his immortality, and they stayed always together with half their time in Olympus and half their time in Hades. Also known (jointly) as the Discouri or the Gemni.
If you know of any important Greek Gods who I've missed, feel free to e-mail me Or sign my Guestbook on the main page.
The House of Hades
My Main Page