Centuries before the rise of Christianity, most ancient civilizations followed a polytheistic religious cult, that is, based on the belief in several gods at the same time. In Ancient Greece itself, they worshiped an extensive divine pantheon that the Romans would assimilate centuries later , after invading the Hellenes; limiting himself only to changing the names of the Greek gods for their Latin equivalent.
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The mythology of the Greek gods
Despite the differences between them and being separated by centuries of difference, the pre-Christian religions had features in common between them, such as, for example, the explanation of the phenomena of nature , which were attributed to the work of the gods. Thus, the sunset and sunrise, the tides or the rains occurred thanks to divine action.
Similarly, the Greek gods were created in the image and likeness of the inhabitants of Ancient Greece , in addition to behaving in the same way. In fact, each of them had certain human qualities represented, positive or negative, according to his personality.
The prelude to the gods of Greece: the Titans
According to mythology, at the beginning of time there was only the void, represented by Chaos , which inhabited the cosmos. From this being were born Gaia, the Mother Earth, and Uranus, the Sky. These two deities were perfectly harmonized thanks to the actions of Ero, who through his balance of forces managed to stabilize the relationship between them.
The children that were born from this relationship were the Centimanos or Hecatonchiros , giants who had fifty heads and one hundred hands; and the Cyclopes, the well-known one-eyed giants. After a failed uprising against his father, he threw them into Tartarus, the pit reserved for the most wicked, where their souls would be tortured.
From the union between Uranus and Gaia also emerged the twelve Titans, whose most important name is Chronos. After the expulsion of the Hecatonchires, they joined Cronos to usurp the throne of Uranus. Ultimately, the Sky God was overthrown after the Titan cut off his genitalia.
The first 6 Greek gods
After the defeat of Uranus, Cronus married his sister Rhea and they fathered six children: Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia .
However, Gaia had prophesied that Cronos would suffer the same fate as his father, so the Titan did not hesitate to devour them as soon as they were born. Fortunately, the god Zeus was lucky to survive, after Rhea deceived Cronos by giving him a stone covered in a cloak instead, which the God of Thunder would devour, thinking it was the youngest of his offspring.
The Titanomaquias: Greek gods and giants against the Titans
When he had grown enough, Zeus set out to free his older brothers from the womb of Cronus , so by means of a powerful emetic, he made the Titan vomit. After that, he released from captivity the Cyclopes and Centimanos who had been relegated to Tartarus.
These giants, great blacksmith masters, armed Zeus with his famous thunderbolt, Hades with a helmet of invisibility and Poseidon with his inseparable trident. Together, gods and giants marched to war against Cronus and the rest of the Titans, in what became known as the ‘Titanomachias’.
Once defeated, many of the Titans were exiled to Tartarus and Zeus proclaimed himself Supreme Greek God .
Genealogy of the Greek gods
What relationship exists between the gods of Olympus
Apparently, inbreeding relationships and polygamy were normalized practices between these deities. We briefly summarize how these deities are linked to each other.
This great void that inhabited the cosmos gave rise to:
- Uranus, the sky
- Gea, the Earth
2. Sons of Uranus and Gea
From Heaven and Earth emerged two of the 12 most important Titans of Greek mythology:
On the other hand, it is said that Uranus fathered another daughter, Aphrodite Urania , who came out of the blood that flowed from the titan when his son Cronus cut his genitals and mixed with the foam of the sea water.
3. Children of Cronos
Cronos had several polygamous relationships, including one with the nymph Philyra, with whom he had Chiron . Since his mother was able to take the form of a mare, he was born as a centaur (half god, half horse).
However, as we saw before, Cronus seduced his sister Rhea from him, giving rise to the first generation of the most important Greek gods . They came into the world in this order:
- Hestia : the first to be devoured by Chronos and the last to be rescued by Zeus.
- Hera : besides Zeus’s sister, she married him.
- Zeus : He married his sister and spawned a large number of offspring throughout Ancient Greece, among whom the heroes Perseus and Heracles stand out.
4. Children of Zeus
Following the example of his father, the God of Thunder married his sister and they fathered a large offspring that represents the second generation of the great Greek gods.
From the union with his sister Hera, were born:
- Hebe – Goddess who represented youth and who was endowed with the power to restore youth to the elderly.
- Heracles – demi-god renamed by the Romans centuries later as ‘Hercules’.
However, Zeus had more children out of this endogamous marriage :
- Dionysus : fruit of the union with the mortal princess Semele, he is the stepbrother of Ares.
- Artemis and Apollo : twins whose mother was Leto, who descended from Phoebe and Ceo, brothers in turn of the Titans Cronus and Rhea.
- Aphrodite Pandemos : daughter of Zeus and Dione (whose parents were also Uranus and Gaia); although according to other sources, she is the same daughter of Uranus.
- Hermes : one of the many bastards of Zeus, this time with the Mayan Pleiade.
- Athena – Sprung from Zeus’s forehead and kept her virginity intact all her life.
- Persephone : daughter of Demeter, she would end up marrying Hades , thus becoming the ‘Queen of the Underworld’. Unlike other Greek gods, she did not have a place on Olympus.
The 12 main Greek gods of Olympus
The following 12 Greek gods are called ‘Olympians’, since according to Hellenic mythology, they lived in a huge palace on top of Mount Olympus, the highest peak from which all of Greece could be seen .
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He is the greatest of the Greek gods of Olympus. Zeus rose to power after rebelling against his father Cronos, to demand that he release his older brothers. From that moment he is the main administrator of justice on Earth , thanks also to his power to summon lightning, with which he punishes those who offend him.
In addition, the God of Thunder was known for the multitude of his love affairs with other goddesses, human, titans or nymphs; and of his multitude of offspring scattered throughout Greece, among whom the heroes Perseus and Heracles stand out.
Zeus was never characterized by staying faithful to a single wife. Before Hera, the God of Thunder had already been married to Metis and Diones, with whom he had had several offspring. However, none of them would become the Queen of the rest of the Greek gods, as if she would become the sister and wife of Zeus.
Despite being the perfect representation of marriage between man and woman , Hera was a vengeful deity who did not tolerate the dalliances that her husband had outside of Olympus, much less that they had offspring.
Greek god of all bodies of water, but also of natural disasters, such as earthquakes. With his trident, he was able to wipe out entire fleets of ships mercilessly, as Ulysses found in The Iliad.
Demeter is the Greek goddess in charge of protecting the fertility of nature and crops . This divinity shared her knowledge of agriculture with mortals, whom she taught to work the land to take advantage of it.
It is thanks to Demeter that the passing of the seasons occurs.
Apollo is the god of all the arts, such as music or poetry , as well as medicine and beauty. Although as a young man he had dark tones, Apollo reformed and began to use his powers for more noble purposes.
He is usually represented with his inseparable lyre in his hands or with a hunting bow.
Twin sister of Apollo, she shares her love of archery with hers. In addition, this divinity is the goddess of hunting, wild nature and animals . In turn, the furious Artemis is also the protector of virginity, so she remains pure due to her hatred of men.
God of war and violence and, due to his relentless nature in combat against his enemies, he is one of the most feared Greek gods by the faithful and by the rest of the deities, who distrusted him.
The goddess of beauty, love and sexHe was born from the mixture of the blood that emanated from the amputated genitals of Uranus, which mixed with the foam of the water of the Aegean Sea. Her name literally means “foam-born”.
However, in The Iliad, Homer grants Aphrodite the title of daughter of Zeus and Dione, with the appellation “Pandemos” , to distinguish her from Aphrodite Urania.
If his half-brother Ares is the bellicose of Olympus, Dionysus is quite the opposite, since he has one of the best positions of all the Greek gods: he is the custodian of wine, of the harvest season, of celebrations and also of fun .
Athena represents wisdom, knowledge and all the arts, including war, a field in which she is much more expert than Ares himself. She is probably the most respected deity in all of Greece , which is why she is considered the patron saint of the capital.
Not all the gods of Greece are extremely beautiful. This is the case of Hephaestus, who was born half deformed and lame, the result of the union of Zeus and Hera. Disowned by his mother, Hephaestus was rescued from the sea by nymphs, who taught him the art of blacksmithing.
Thanks to his skill, Hephaestus would become a skilled craftsman, for which the rest of the gods gave him a position among the twelve most important of Olympus. Thus, he would become known as the deity of fire and forges.
Hermes acted as herald of the gods and also as protector of travelers and merchants. In order for him to be the best at his task, he was equipped with a pair of winged sandals, which allowed him to climb up and down Olympus at will . However, despite such an honorable role, Hermes was treacherous and constantly lied to his companions.
The 2 Greek gods outside Olympus
In addition to the twelve Olympian gods mentioned, Hellenic mythology usually includes two other deities that are part of the main Hellenic pantheon, although they do not live in the palaceof said mountain. According to whichever source is consulted, it is the Greek gods Dionysus, Demeter who do not have their throne on Olympus; or the following brothers of Zeus:
does not live on Olympus, since, as a good god of death, his place is the Underworld . Thanks to the help of the Can Cerberus, a dog with three heads and a long tail in the form of a snake, Hades manages to prevent the souls of the dead from leaving Hell and the living from entering its kingdom.
If you remember a little above, we said that Hestia was part of the first 6 Greek gods that were born from the union between Cronos and Rhea. She is the goddess of warmth and home, as well as the family. She was devoured by her father, Cronos, until the youngest of her five brothers released her along with the rest of her clan.
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And 5 historical examples.