Weaknesses: Gets in trouble over love affairs, can be moody.
Birthplace: Most commonly believed to be born in a cave on Mount Ida on the island of Crete , where he took ashore Europa at the beach of Matala .
Zeus's Spouse: Hera in most stories; Dione, mother of Aphrodite, at Dodona . Here is a picture of Zeus: at Dodona . On Crete, Europa is often considered to be the wife of Zeus.
Children: Lots and lots of them. Hercules is one famous child.
Some Major Temple Sites for Zeus: Dodona in northwestern Greece, the temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens .
Basic Story: Zeus is King of the Gods of Mount Olympus , seen here from space, fights with his wife Hera, and drops down to earth in a variety of disguises to seduce maidens who catch his fancy.
Poseidon, Sea God
Poseidon is a bearded, older man usually pictured with with seashells and other sealife.
Poseidon's Symbol or Attribute:
The three-pronged trident. He is associated with horses, believed to be seen in the crashing of waves on the shore. He is also believed to be the force behind earthquakes, an odd expansion of the power of a sea god, but possibly due to the association between earthquakes and tsunamis in Greece .
Major Temple Sites to Visit:
The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion still draws huge crowds of visitors to the cliffside site overlooking the sea.
A creative god, designing all the creatures of the sea.
Warlike, though not so much as Ares ; moody and unpredictable. Spouse: Amphitrite, a sea goddess.
Parents: Kronos , god of time, and Rhea , goddess of the earth. Brother to the gods Zeus and Hades .
Children: Many - second only to Zeus in the number of illicit liaisons. With his wife Amphitrite he fathered a half-fish son, Triton. Dalliances include Medusa , with whom he fathered Pegasus , the flying horse, and Demeter , his sister, with whom he fathered a horse, Arion.
Hades, God of the Underworld
Hades'Appearance: Like Zeus, Hades is usually represented as a vigorous bearded man. Symbol or Attribute: Scepter or horn of plenty.
Strengths: Rich with the wealth of the earth, especially precious metals. Persistent and determined.
Hades' Weaknesses: Passionate over Persephone , the daughter of Demeter , whom Zeus promised to Hades as his bride. (Unfortunately, Zeus apparently neglected to mention it to either Demeter or Persephone.) Impulsive, favoring sudden, decisive actions. Can also be deceptive.
Birthplace of Hades: The most common story is that Hades was born to the Great Mother goddess Rhea and Kronos (Father Time) on the island of Crete, along with his brothers Zeus and Poseidon.
Spouse of Hades: Persephone , who must stay with him part of each year because she ate a few pomegranate seeds in the Underworld.
Pets: Cerberus, a three-headed dog (In "Harry Potter", this beast has been recently renamed "Fluffy".); black horses; various other hounds.
Some Major Temple Sites: The spooky Nekromanteion on the River Styx along the west coast of mainland Greece, still visitable today.
Basic Myth: Hades springs out of the earth and captures Persephone, dragging her off to be his queen in the Underworld. Her mother Demeter searches for her and stops all foods from growing until Persephone is returned. Finally, a deal is worked out where Persephone stays one-third of the year with Hades, one-third of the year serving as a handmaiden to Zeus at Mount Olympus, and one-third with her mother; other stories skip Zeus's portion and divide Persephone's time between Hades and her Mom.
Persephone, Queen of the Underworld
Appearance: Persephone appears as a beautiful young maiden, just on the edge of womanhood. Symbol or Attribute: The pomegranate. The narcissus, which Hades planted in a meadow to entice her to pluck it; pulling on the flower opened up the Underworld and Hades sprang out, carrying her off.
Strengths: Loving and lovely.
Weaknesses: Beauty so ravishing it attracts Hades' unwanted attention.
Spouse: Hades, with whom she must stay part of each year because she ate a few pomegranate seeds in the Underworld.
Some Major Temple Sites: The spooky Nekromanteion , still visitable today.
Basic Story: Hades springs out of the earth and captures Persephone, dragging her off to be his queen in the Underworld; her dad Zeus told him it was okay to take her as his bride, and Hades took him a bit literally. Hades was also her own uncle, which didn't make this exactly a myth of good family mental health. Her distraught mother Demeter searches for her and stops all foods from growing until she is returned. Even Zeus has to give in and help work out a deal - Persephone stays one-third of the year with Hades, one-third of the year serving as a handmaiden to Zeus, and one-third with her mother Demeter - ... an interesting ancient balancing of family, spouse, and career.
Interesting Fact: Persephone is also sometimes known just as Kore, or the Maiden. She was sometimes called "the maiden of the beautiful ankles". While most sources indicate Persephone was not happy to be "married" by Hades, others assert that she ate the pomegranate seed (or seeds) deliberately, as a way of breaking free from Mom, and that she was actually content with the final arrangement.
Hephaestus, Smith god
Hephaestus' Appearance : A dark haired man who has difficulty walking due to misformed feet. Some accounts make him small in stature. Symbol or Attribute of Hephaestus: The forge and fire.
Strengths: Hephaestus is creative, cunning, and an able metal worker
Weaknesses: Can't handle his liquor; can be crafty and vindictive.
Parents: Usually said to be Zeus and Hera ; some say Hera bore him without the help of a father. Hera is also said to have thrown him into the sea, where he was rescued by Thetis and her sisters.
Spouse: Aphrodite . The blacksmith-god married well. Other tales give him as wife the youngest of the Graces, Aglaia.
Children: He created Pandora of the famous box; some tales give him as the father of Eros, though most ascribe this love-god to the union of Ares and Aphrodite. Some divine genealogies have him as the father or grandfather of Radamanthys who ruled at Phaestos on the island of Crete, though Radamanthys is usually considered to be the son of Io and Zeus.
Some Major Temple Sites: The Hephaestaion near the Acropolis in Athens, which is the best-preserved Doric-style temple in Greece, built in 449 B.C.E. He was also associated with the islands of Naxos and Lemnos.
Basic Story: Feeling rejected by his mother Hera, Hephaestus made a lovely throne for her and sent it to Olympus. She sat in it and discovered she could not get up again. Then the chair levitated. The other Olympian gods tried to reason with Hephaestus, but even Ares was driven off with his flames. He finally was given wine by Dionysus and, drunk, was brought to Olmypus. Drunk or not, he still refused to free Hera unless he could have either Aphrodite or Athene as wife. He ended up with Aphrodite, who in this instance was not a quick learner. When she lay with his brother Ares in the bed Hephaestus had made, chains emerged and they could not leave the bed, exposing them to the laughter of the rest of the Olympians when Hephaestus called them all together to witness his adulterous wife and brother.
Hermes' Appearance: A handsome young man with a winged hat, winged sandals, and a golden staff twined with serpents. Hermes' Symbol or Attribute: His staff, called kerykerion in Greek, caduceus in Latin. This is the symbol used by doctors, though Hermes' connection with healing is faint. He is, however, the god of merchants.
Hermes' Strengths: Clever, bold, determined, athletic, a powerful magician. Can charm monsters with his flute or lyre music.
Hermes' Weaknesses: No major weakness unless you count seldom staying still for long. Hermes has it together.
Birthplace of Hermes: Born in a cave on Mount Cylene in Arcadia to Maia, who had just slept with his father Zeus the night before. Talk about quick consequences!
Spouse: Hasn't settled down yet.
Children of Hermes: By his affair with Dryope, Pan, lusty god of the wild; by the Goddess of Love Aphrodite , Hermaphroditus, a half-man, half-woman deity; Abderus (mother unknown).
Some Major Temple Sites of Hermes: Generally, Hermes did not have temples. His statue was placed everywhere, and square blocks of marble showing a head and the male genitalia were called "Herms" and set up in many places. On these statues, Hermes is generally shown with a beard.
Basic Myth: Hermes is the herald of the gods and also leads human souls into and occasionally out of the underworld. Zeus used him as a troubleshooter and secret-agent type, dispatching him to take care of assorted problems - he put Argos to sleep so Io could escape from Zeus's outraged wife Hera. Hermes also arranged for Odysseus to slip away from Callisto, among many other tasks.
Ares, God of War
Ares' Appearance : A bearded, good-looking man in the prime of life (at least before TV interpretations, where he is portrayed as a vigorous, handsome young man). Symbol or Attribute: The spear. He is also associated with vultures and dogs.
Strengths: Decisive, determined, fearless.
Weaknesses: Impulsive, bloodthirsty, raring for a fight regardless of the consequences.
Affairs: No spouse, and his main love is war, but he didn't have too many lonely nights. Repeatedly deceived the smith god Hephaestus by making love with his beautiful wife Aphrodite . The sun god Helios saw them and revealed the affair to the rest of the Olympians, the males of whom dropped down to watch, embarassing Aphrodite and Ares.
Children: Diomedes, by the nymph Cyrene; Cycnus by Pyrene; Oenomaus by Sterope, one of the seven sisters comprising the Pleiades constellation. The popular game "God of War" cites demigod or divine spirit Kratos as a son and then successor of Ares, but this is not the traditional myth of either Ares or Kratos.
Major Temple Sites: Ares enjoyed his strongest worship in the Northern Greece territory of Thracia or Thrace. As few people wanted to invoke war, temple sites are rare.
Basic Story: Ares is the sole son of the supreme Greek god Zeus and his legitimate wife, Hera. Neither of his far-from-mild-mannered parents were said to be too fond of their even more irritable son; a little more loving nurturing from them might have resulted in Ares being just the God of Minor Conflicts.
Apollo, God of Light, linked to Helios, the sun
Apollo's Appearance : A young man with curly golden hair. Symbol or Attribute: The Sun itself, the lyre (a type of musical instrument), the bow, and the chariot he drives across the sky daily, borrowed from an earlier pre-Greek Sun god, Helios .
Apollo's Strengths: Creative, handsome, supportive of all the arts of civilization.
Weaknesses: Like his father Zeus , Apollo is all too happy to enjoy the charms of nymphs, as well as the occasional youth, and his conquests number in the dozens.
Birthplace of Apollo: On the sunny Greek island of Delos , where he was born along with his twin sister, Artemis . Another tradition gives the islands of Lato, now called Paximadia, off the southern coast of Crete .
Spouse: Apollo had many encounters, but no marriages. Flings with Cassandra, to whom he gave the gift of prophecy; Daphne, who fled from his embrace and turned into a laurel tree; and Calliope, with whom he had a child, Orpheus.
Apollo's Children: The enchanting semi-divine singer Orpheus and Asklepios, god of healing, are the most famous of Apollo's offspring.
Some Major Temple Sites of Apollo: The mountain town of Delphi , where a few columns from an early temple of Apollo still stand. The island of Delos is also sacred to him, but there is no temple remaining there today.
Basic Story: Apollo was the son of the supreme Greek god Zeus and Leto, a nymph. Zeus's wife Hera was outraged and convinced the earth to refuse to allow Leto to give birth anywhere on its surface. But the island of Delos allowed Leto to take refuge there and give birth to Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis , goddess of the hunt and wild things. The goddess Themis assisted in raising him by feeding him ambrosia, the sacred nectar of the gods.
Dionysus, God of Wine and Fertility
Appearance : Dionysus is usually depicted as a dark haired, bearded young man but he can be shown beardless as well. Dionysus' Symbol or Attribute: Grapes, winecups, and wineskins; the staff formed of a pinecone on a stick called a thyrsus .
Strengths: Dionysus is the creator of wine. He also shakes things up when it gets dull.
Weaknesses: God of intoxication and drunkenness, states he pursues frequently.
Parents: Son of Zeus and Semele, who unwisely asked to see her lover Zeus in his real form; he appeared and thunder and lightning and Semele was consumed; Zeus saved their child from the ashes of her body.
Spouse: Best known is Ariadne, Cretan princess/priestess who assisted Theseus defeat the Minotaur only to be abandoned by him on the shores of Naxos, one of the islands favored by Dionysos. Fortunately, Dionysus liked beachcombing and quickly comforted the abandoned princess with an offer of marriage.
Children: Several children by Ariadne, including Oenopion and Staphylos, both associated with grapes and winemaking.
Some Major Temple Sites: Dionysus was reverenced at Naxos and generally wherever grapes were grown and wine was produced. In modern times, the so-called "Dirty Monday" rites at Tyrnavos in the Thessaly region of Greece are believed to retain traditions dating back to when he was openly worshiped.
Basic Story: Other than the story of his birth, Dionysus is relatively myth-free, yet he was very widespread in later Greek belief. He was not considered to be one of the Olympians, and since Homer skips him, it is suspected that his worship came late to the Greeks, possibly from Anatolia. He was later "adopted" by the Romans under the name of Bacchus, god of the grape, but the Greek worship of Dionysus was more ecstatic and may have preserved some early shamanic practices related to the intoxication provided by wine.
Hera, Wife of Zeus, Queen of gods
Appearance : A young beautiful woman, said to be the most beautiful of all goddesses, even beating out Aphrodite. Symbol or Attribute: The peacock.
Strengths: Determined defender of the sanctity of marriage and monogamy.
Weaknesses: Determined defender of the sanctity of marriage and monogamy - but married Zeus .
Birthplace: Said to be born on the island of Samos or at Argos.
Parents: Rhea and Kronos.
Siblings Zeus, Hestia, Demeter, Hades, and Poseidon. What a family!
Spouse: Zeus .
Children: With Zeus, Ares . Hephaestus , usually said to be by Zeus, but sometimes by Hera alone. Her daughters were Hebe, goddess of health, and Eileithyia, the Cretan goddess of childbirth. Also, by herself, Typhon, the serpent of Delphi.
Some Major Temple Sites: The island of Samos was said to be where Zeus and Hera spent the first secret three hundred years of their marriage, making this the longest honeymoon on record.
Basic Story: Zeus was the brother of Hera, who fell in love with him from the first moment she saw him, and eventually got a love charm from Aphrodite to seal the deal. She is very relationship-oriented and spends much of her time driving off Zeus's innumerable nymphs, mistresses, and other dalliances. She also sometimes torments the offspring of those unions, especially Hercules . To her credit, she's gorgeous and kept Zeus busy on his honeymoon for three hundred years, so she rightfully wonders why on earth he needs to go anywhere else. When she's really fed up, she wanders off by herself, always hoping Zeus will miss her and seek her, always eventually relenting and returning without being so sought.
Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War
Athena's Appearance : A young woman wearing a helmet and holding a shield. Athena's Symbol or Attribute: The Owl, signifying watchfulness and wisdom; the aegis (small shield) showing the snaky head of Medusa .
Athena's Strengths: Rational, intelligent, a powerful defender in war but also a potent peacemaker.
Athena's Weaknesses: Reason rules her; she is not usually emotional or compassionate but she does have her favorites, such as the beleaguered heroes Odysseus and Perseus .
Birthplace of Athena: From the forehead of her father Zeus .
Athena's Spouse: None. She was very fond of Odysseus and helped him whenever she could on his long journey home.
Athena's Children: None.
Some Major Temple Sites for Athena: The city of Athens, which is named after her. The Parthenon is her best-known, and best-preserved, temple.
Basic Story for Athena: Athena was born fully-armed from the forehead of her father Zeus - according to one story, this is because he swallowed her mother, Metis, while she was pregnant with Athena. Although Zeus's daughter, she could also oppose his plans and conspire against him.
Athena and her uncle, the sea god Poseidon , competed for the affections of the Greeks, each providing one gift to the nation. Poseidon provided either a wonderful horse or a salt-water spring, but Athena provided the olive tree, giving shade, oil, and olives. The Greeks preferred her gift and named the city after her.
Artemis, the Virgin Huntress
Artemis' Appearance: Usually, an eternally young woman, beautiful and vigorous, wearing a short costume which leaves her legs free. At Ephesus, Artemis wears a controversial costume which may represent many breasts, fruits, honeycombs, or parts of sacrificed animals. Scholars are undecided on how to interpret her outfit. Artemis' Symbol or Attribute: Her bow, which she uses to hunt, and her hounds. She often wears the lunar crescent on her brow.
Strengths/Talents: Physically strong, able to defend herself, defender and guardian of women in childbirth and of wildlife in general.
Weaknesses/Flaws/Quirks: Dislikes men, whom she sometimes orders torn apart if they see her bathing. Opposes the institution of marriage and the subsequent loss of freedom it entails for women.
Parents of Artemis: Zeus and Leto
Birthplace of Artemis: The island of Delos , where she was born under a palm tree along with her twin brother Apollo.
Spouse: None. She runs with her maidens in the forests.
Some Major Temple Sites: Brauron (also called Vravrona), outside of Athens. Ephesus in Turkey.
Basic Story: Artemis is a freedom-loving young woman who likes to roam the forests with her female companions. She doesn't care for city life and keeps to the natural, wild environment.
Demeter, Earth Mother and Goddess of Grain
Demeter's Appearance: Pleasant-looking mature woman, generally with a veil over her head though her face is visible. Often carrying wheat or her Horn. Demeter's Symbols or Attributes: An ear of wheat and the Horn of Plenty (Cornucopia).
Major Temple Site to Visit: Demeter was revered at Eleusis, where initiatory rites called the Eleusinian Mysteries were performed for select participants. These were secret; apparently, no one ever broke their vows and described the details and the content of the rites is still debated even today. Eleusis is near Athens and can still be visited though it is regrettably surrounded by heavy industry.
Demeter's Strengths: Demeter controls the fertility of the earth as goddess of Agriculture; also gives life after death to those who learn her Mysteries.
Demeter's Weaknesses: Not one to cross lightly. After the kidnapping of her daughter Persephone, Demeter blights the earth and won't let the plants grow. But who can blame her? Zeus gave Hades permission to "marry" Persephone but whoops! didn't mention it to her or her Mom.
Demeter's Birthplace: Not known
Demeter's Spouse: Not married; had affair with Iason.
Demeter's Children: Persephone, also known as Kore, the Maiden. Zeus is generally said to be her father, but at other times, it seems as if Demeter managed without anyone else involved.
Demeter's Basic Story: Persephone is snatched by Hades; Demeter searches for her but can't find her, and finally stops all life from growing on the earth. Pan spots Demeter in the wilderness and reports her position to Zeus , who then starts negotiations. Ultimately, Demeter gets her daughter for a third of the year, Hades gets her for a third, and Zeus has her services as a handmaiden the rest of the time. Sometimes this is a simpler split, with Mom getting six months and Hubby getting the other six.
Aphrodite, Goddess of Love
Appearance: Aphrodite is a gorgeous, perfect, eternally young woman with a beautiful body. Aprhodite's Symbol or Attribute: Her Girdle, which has magical powers to compel love.
Strengths: Potent sexual attractiveness, dazzling beauty.
Weaknesses: A bit stuck on herself, but with a perfect face and body, who can blame her?
Aphrodite's Parents: One genealogy gives her parents as Zeus , King of the Gods, and Dione , an early earth/mother goddess. More commonly, she was believed to be born of the foam in the sea which bubbled around the severed member of Ouranos when Kronos slew him.
Aphrodite's Birthplace: Rising from the foam off of the islands of Cyprus or Kythira . Milos , where the famed Venus de Milo was found, is also associated with her in modern times.
Aprhodite's Husband: Hephaestus , the lame smith-god. Also associated with Ares , god of War.
Children: Eros , a Cupid-like figure.
Some Major Temple Sites of Aphrodite: Kythira , an island she visited; Cyprus .
Basic Story: Aphrodite rises from the foam of the waves of the sea, enchanting anyone who sees her and inciting feelings of love and lust wherever she goes. She is a contender in the story of the Golden Apples, when Paris chooses her as the fairest of the three goddesses (the others were Hera and Athena ) and Aphrodite decides to "reward" him for giving her the Golden Apple (the prototype of most modern awards) by giving him the love of Helen of Troy, something of a mixed blessing that led to the Trojan War.