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Discovering the 12 Olympian Gods

Greece ● Olympus ● 13 September 2021
 
The 12 Olympian gods were the main gods and goddesses of the Greek ancient world. They are called Olympians because they were believed to reside in Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. These gods had many human characteristics - they could be passionate, resentful, jealous, peaceful or calm. Their personalities and stories played a principal role in Greek Mythology. They continue to impact modern culture, as they still appear in movies, books and video games. See below all you need to know about these fascinating gods and their stories!


Zeus

Zeus was the king of all Gods and humans, and of course, the most powerful. He was the god of the sky and governor of weather. The symbol that he is most associated with is the thunderbolt. He used to send thunderbolts when he was angry, so you really wouldn't want him to get upset. Another common symbol of Zeus was the eagle.

Zeus was a child of Cronus and Rhea. He was married to another Greek goddess, Hera, but he was pretty far from being  faithful - this god was very well-known for the many love affairs he had with other women. He had a wide range of lovers, both mortal and immortal, and his affairs caused much trouble to many. He would go very far to achieve his goals when it came to women- he even took animal forms when needed! This is even how he got to marry Hera. As he couldn't get her in other conventional ways, he transformed himself into a cuckoo to approach her.

Another example is when he took the form of a swan to conquer Leda or the form of a bull to seduce Europa. An also  impressive story is when he was pursuing Danae. In this case, he got imaginative - he took the form of a shower of gold  to reach her in the prison where her father had placed her! 


Statue of Zeus - Ruler of All Gods 


Hera

Hera was the goddess of marriage and women. You will often see her depicted with a cow, a cuckoo or a peacock. She was also the daughter of Cronus and Rhea - yes, you got it right, Zeus's wife was also his sister! She was rather unfortunate in her marriage, though. As already said, Zeus kind of tricked her into marrying him as she didn't want him at first. And as if this wasn't enough, she had to suffer all his affairs! Hera was not cool at all about her husband's behaviour. She was very jealous of him, often seeking revenge from his lovers and illegitimate children.

Hera was rather cruel in her acts of revenge, and she would go to great lengths. One remarkable example is the one of Semeli. Semeli was Zeus's lover, and she was also pregnant with his child. Hera convinced her to ask Zeus to present to her in all his divine glory. When Zeus did that, Semeli was killed by his bolts of lightning as she was mortal. Another case is the one of Callisto, where Hera transformed her into a bear! It is notable, though, that Hera herself remained faithful to her husband. Of course, that is to be expected from the goddess of marriage. Moreover, very few men would dare to approach the wife of the dreadful Zeus - and the very few who did had an awful ending. 


Poseidon

Poseidon was the god of sea, water, earthquakes and horses. His most common symbol was the trident. He was also one of the sons of Cronus and Rhea. Poseidon was powerful. He could create storms, and he could sink or save ships. 

Apart from conquering the water element, Poseidon has also a strong association with the horses - according to mythology, he was the creator of them. Some myths claim that he created the horse as a gift to goddess Demeter when he was trying to seduce her. According to others, he created the horse to give it as a gift to the city of Athens, when he and goddess Athena were competing for the city's patronage.  

His love life was also interesting. He had a wife, Amphitrite - a goddess herself although a minor one, but like his brother Zeus, Poseidon also had many lovers. He also had three children with Amphitrite: Triton, Rhode and Benthesikyme. 


The impressive Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio


Demeter

Another child of Cronus and Rhea, Demeter, was the goddess of agriculture, harvest and fertility. Her usual symbols are wheat and cornucopia. The most famous myth about her is the one related to her daughter, Persephone. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Hades, the god of the dead and the underworld, fell in love with her.  Unfortunately, she was abducted by him, and Demeter was searching for her in great grief. Due to her sadness, the crops didn't grow anymore, causing significant problems for humans. Seeing the problems, Zeus decided to interfere and make a compromise between the two gods. Persephone would spend some months a year with Hades in the underworld, and the rest of the time, she would return to the upper world to her mother. In the months of the year that Persephone was away, Demeter was sad, and there was winter on Earth. When she returned, Demeter was happy again, so there was the arrival of spring. 


Athena

Athena was the goddess of wisdom and war, and she was well-known for her strategic skills. She was also a master at handicrafts. Her symbols are the owl and the olive tree. Athena was the daughter of Zeus and Metis, and she had a rather impressive birth. Zeus had swallowed Metis while she was pregnant to Athena because of a prophecy. One day, Zeus was experiencing terrible pain in his head. He ordered Hephaestus to open his head, and all of a sudden, Athena emerged from his forehead armed. She was already fully grown. Zeus was really proud of her, and she was supposed to be his favourite child. She was one of the maiden goddesses and never had children. Athena was also the protector of the city of Athens after winning Poseidon by offering the Athenians the gift of the olive tree. Although kind and wise, she also had a darker and more revengeful side when somebody insulted her. The most known case is the one of Arachne. Arachne, a mortal weaver, was claiming that she was more skilful than Athena. Her claim outraged Athena, and after a competition between the two, she transformed Arachne into a spider!


Statue of Athena, Goddess of Wisdom


Artemis

Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth. Common symbols of her are the bow and arrow, the deer and the moon. She was considered the goddess that helped women during childbirth. Her parents were Zeus and Leto, and her twin brother was Apollo. Artemis was very beautiful and intelligent from a very young age. She preferred living in the wild nature, and she loved hunting. She had also sworn to remain a maiden, so she never got married, and she didn't have any children. Every man who tried to threaten that oath had a bad ending.  

Artemis could become very revengeful when offended, and she didn't forgive at all. One famous myth is the one involving Agamemnon. Agamemnon killed one of her deers on a sacred grove during hunting, and the goddess decided to punish him. He and the rest of the Greek warriors were ready to leave for the Trojan War, but she wouldn't allow them by ceasing the winds. The only way to allow them to leave was for Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter Ifigeneia. Agamemnon had a hard decision to make, but he decided to carry on with the sacrifice. However, at the very last moment, Artemis took pity on Ifigeneia and took her away after leaving a deer in her place. 


Apollo

Apollo was the god of the sun, light, arts and philosophy. His usual symbols are the lyre and the bow and arrow. He was the twin brother of Artemis. The main places for the worship of Apollo were Delphi and Delos. 

Apollo was a god with many love affairs, but unfortunately, most of them didn't have a happy ending. One of his most famous stories is the one with Cassandra, the daughter of the Trojan king Priam. Apollo desired her, and in order to win her, he proposed to give her the gift of foreseeing the future. Although Cassandra accepted his proposal at first, she changed her mind after receiving the gift and refused him. Of course, that made Apollo furious, and he decided to take revenge. He couldn't take his gift back, but he put a curse on her: Cassandra would be able to see and tell the future, but no one would believe her. Another myth is the one with Daphne. Daphne was a charming nymph that Apollo fell in love with. Her father was supposed to be either river Peneus or river Ladon. Apollo was repeatedly trying to seduce her, but he had no luck. When Apollo tried to embrace her, Daphne asked her father to help her, and he transformed her into a tree. 


Imposing Statue of Apollo, God of the Sun


Ares

Ares was the god of war and courage. He is associated with violence and brutality, and he is mostly depicted with a spear and a shield. He was one of the sons of Zeus and Hera. Because of his personality, he was rather unpopular to both humans and gods, and he didn't play a significant role in Greek mythology. 

One of the most known stories about him is about his love affair with Aphrodite. Ares had an affair with Aphrodite, although she was married to Hephaestus. When Hephaestus found out, he made an almost invisible golden net and managed to entrap them in bed. As a result, they were utterly humiliated by the rest of the gods. However, this unpleasant incident didn't stop the couple from continuing the affair and giving birth to many children!


Aphrodite

Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty, love and pleasure. Common symbols of her are the dove and the swan. Beautiful and desirable, she was one of the most beloved among the gods. But, like many others in Greek mythology, she has an exciting and rather weird story of birth. According to the most famous story, Uranus (god of the sky) was castrated by his son Cronus. When his genitals fell into the sea, they created an enormous amount of foam, from which Aphrodite emerged. 

Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, but as we have already seen, she was less than faithful. She was involved with other gods, including Ares and Hermes, as well as humans. A well-known story of her is the one with Adonis, a handsome young man. Adonis was very handsome since he was born. Aphrodite hid him in a chest and gave him to Persephone to take care of him. But when he grew up, Persephone wouldn't give him back. Zeus once again had to interfere, and Adonis would spend 4 months with Aphrodite, 4 months with Persephone and 4 months wherever he wanted. Adonis chose to spend the remaining 4 months with Aphrodite. However, their story didn't end well. He was killed by a boar in hunting, causing deep grief to the goddess. 


Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty


Hephaestus 

Hephaestus was the god of fire, blacksmiths and craftsmen. He is also associated with volcanoes. His usual symbols are the hammer and the anvil. He was supposed to be ugly but intelligent. He was a son of Zeus and Hera, although there is also a theory that he was only the son of Hera, who had him by parthenogenesis. According to the myth, when Hera saw him, she was repelled by his ugly looks and threw him away. Luckily he was saved by Eurynome and Thetis. 

As he was becoming older, Hephaestus turned himself into a great craftsman. His desire was to revenge Hera. He made a glorious golden throne and sent it to her as a gift. But the gift was a trap, and Hera was tied up the minute she sat down. No other god could help - the only one who could release her was Hephaestus. He refused to help, but he was then persuaded to come to Olympus by Dionysus, who intoxicated him with wine. He finally set her free, and this is how he got his place back to Mountain Olympus. Zeus also arranged that he would marry Aphrodite. Hephaestus found this idea very appealing, as Aphrodite was beautiful and charming, but this later caused him many troubles. 


Hermes

Hermes most significant role was as the messenger of gods. He was the god of communication, trade, travel and thieves. His most common symbols are his winged sandals and winged hat. He was also the god who was leading the souls of the dead to the underworld. He was considered to be very cunning. Soon after he was born, he stole the cattle of Apollo and also created the lyre by using the shell of a tortoise. Apollo was furious, but Hermes managed to calm him down by using the lyre. After that, the two of them became close friends. 

Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia. It seems that he never got married, but he did have some children - such as Hermaphroditus, who was his child with Aphrodite. According to some stories, he is also the father of Pan, a creature who was half-man and half-goat. 


Statue of Hermes, Messenger of Gods



It is not very clear who the 12th Olympian god is - some say it is Hestia while others claim it is Dionysus. There are also some myths that claim that Hestia decided to give her throne and place to Dionysus. 


Hestia

Hestia was the goddess of home, domesticity and family. Her typical symbol is the hearth and its fire. She was one of the daughters of Cronus and Rhea. She was also one of the virgin goddesses. Apollo and Poseidon both wanted her, but she rejected them and made an oath to Zeus to remain a virgin goddess. 

Hestia was considered to be relatively gentle and peaceful. She doesn't appear in many stories in Greek mythology, but she was essential to people, and she was worshipped both in public and inside the houses. She also received the first offering of the sacrifices made at home. 


Dionysus

One of the most intriguing gods, Dionysus, was the god of wine, festivity and ecstasy. His most common symbols are the thyrsos, the grapevine and sometimes the goat. He was the child of Zeus and mortal Semele. When Semele died of Hera's revenge, Zeus was able to save her unborn baby - which was Dionysus. He put him into his thigh until he was ready to be born. As a result, Dionysus was born immortal. He got married to Ariadne after she was abandoned by Theseus during their escape from Crete. His personality was complicated. He was generous, and he could spread joy and ecstasy to the people around him, but when needed, he could also become cruel and revengeful. 

Dionysus travelled for the world to become familiar with his cult. He also had a group of women following him, called Maenads. In addition, he is closely associated with the art of theatre. This is because theatre and ancient Greek drama have their roots in the religious ceremonies and festivals celebrating Dionysus. 


The Theatre of Dionysus under Acropolis, Athens

Where to Stay

Hotel in Argos, Greece Morfeas Hotel
Morfeas Hotel
2, Danaou str., 21200 Argos, Greece

Morfeas Hotel is in a central location in Argos, 14 km away from Mycenae and 12 km away from Nafplio. The property is close to supermarkets, shops and restaurants. The International Airport of Kalamata is 128 km away.

Hostel in Athens, Greece Student and Travellers Inn
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Student and Travellers Inn
16, Kidathinaion str., 10558 Athens, Greece

Student and Travellers Inn – the first hostel in Greece since 1977 is located in the heart of Plaka, right below the Acropolis. Traditional cobbled streets full of taverns, shops, cafes are right at our hostel's doorstep. The main square of Athens, Syntagma, is at 600 m, while the lively Monastiraki square is at 800 m. The nearest metro station and the bus stop for the X95 Airport Bus can be reached within a 7-minute walk.

Hotel in Piraeus, Greece Hotel Delfini
Hotel Delfini
7, Leocharous str., 18531 Piraeus, Greece

Hotel Delfini is located near the port of Piraeus just 3 minutes walk from the old electric railway station (Metro Line 1) and 5 minutes walk from the port, which has direct accessibility to all Aegean islands. The center of Athens can be reached within 15 minutes from the nearest railway/metro station (Piraeus). The Athens International Airport can be reached in 1 hour and 50 minutes with the bus X95 or in 1 hour and 30 minutes with the electric train and metro.


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