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The 12 Olympians of Greek Mythology

Updated on April 8, 2013


The 12 Olympians were born after the Titans, or also known as the Elder Gods. The 12 Olympians were supreme among other Gods. Olympus was their home, thus the name Olympians. The location of Olympus is uncertain, it is said to be on the top of the highest mountain in Greece, Mt. Olympus, and also said to be above all mountains. The Olympians were:

  1. Zeus
  2. Poseidon
  3. Hades
  4. Hestia
  5. Hera
  6. Ares
  7. Athena
  8. Apollo
  9. Aphrodite
  10. Hermes
  11. Artemis
  12. Hephaestus

This is a brief introduction of who was who and their role in Greek Mythology.


Zeus was known as the supreme ruler. He was the god of all gods. Son of Cronus and Rhea, he was also known as the Lord of the Sky, Rain-god, and the Cloud-gatherer. He wielded the awful thunderbolt and wore aegis (a breastplate) awful to behold. He was not omnipotent or omniscient, he could be opposed and deceived. He was married to his sister, Hera, yet fell in love with many women, which he hid from Hera. His animal was the Eagle and his tree the Oak. His oracle Dodonna lived in the land of Oak Trees.


Poseidon was the ruler of the sea. He was second to Zeus. His wife was Amphitrite. He had a splendid palace beneath the sea. He was responsible for giving the horse to man. He controlled the storm and calm, also known as earth-shaker. He wielded a trident, which he is never seen without. The horse and bull is known as his animal, yet the bull is connected to many gods.


Hades was the third brother of the Olympians. He was ruler of the underworld and of the dead. He was also known as the God of Wealth, for all the precious metals are under the earth. He wore a helmet that granted invisibility. He rarely left the underworld to venture to Olympus for he was not welcomed there. He was unpitying, inexorable, but just; a terrible god, but not evil, as many think. His wife was Persephone, who he kidnapped and tricked into becoming Queen of the Lower World. He was King of the Dead, but not Death himself.


Hestia was a virgin goddess. She was Goddess of Hearth, the symbol of the home. A newborn child must be carried before her shrine before it could be received to the family. Each city had a public hearth sacred to Hestia, where the fire was never allowed to go out. In Rome her fire was cared for by six virgin priestesses called Vestals.


Hera was Zeus's sister and wife. The Titans Ocean and Tethys brought her up. She was the protector of marriage, and she took particular care of married women. She was known to punish women who Zeus fell in love with, even when they were tricked by him. Her implacable anger followed them and their children. She played a major role in Troy's destruction, for they judged another goddess lovelier than her. The cow and peacock were sacred to her, and Argos was her favorite city.


The God of War, son of Zeus and Hera, both who detested him. Though he was the God of War he was notoriously known as a coward, for he would run from battle when he was wounded. He was known as a whining deity, but stated in the Iliad was magnificent in shining armor, redoubtable, and invincible. He had no cities in which he was worshiped in. There is a vaque reference that he came from Thrace, home of the rude, fierce people in the northeast region of Greece. His animals were the vulture and the dog.


Athena was the daughter of Zeus alone, no mother bore her. She sprang from Zeus's head full grown and fully dressed in armor. She is known as a fierce and ruthless battle-goddess. She is the Goddess of the City, protector of civilization, of handcrafts, and agriculture. She is the inventor of the bridle, and first to tame the horse for mortals to use. She was Zeus's favorite child, and was trusted with his awful aegis, buckler, and thunderbolt. She was described to be "grey-eyed" or "flashing-eyed". She was one of the three virgin goddesses. She was the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. Athens was her special city, the olive was created by her and was her tree, and the owl her bird.


Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, born on a small island named Delos. He was called "the most Greek of all the gods". He was the master of musicians, and played a golden lyre. He was also known as the lord of the silver bow, the Archer-god, far-shooting, an of healing. He was the first to teach mortals of the art of healing. He was also known as the God of Light and the God of truth, for he was known to have never told a lie. Apollo's oracle was Delphi. He is also known as the Sun-god. Laurel was his tree, and though many animals were sacred to him, he favored the dolphin and the crow.


Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and Beauty. She was a laughter-loving goddess, who laughed sweetly or mockingly at those he wiles had conquered. She was known to steal the wits of even the wisest of men. She is said to be the daughter of Zeus and Dione in the Iliad, yet there are later poems that also state that she had sprung from the foam of the sea. The sea-birth took place near Cythera, then washed up on the shore of Cyprus. Both were sacred to her. She was named Cytherea or the Cyprian. Where ever she was, beauty arose. The winds would flee before her and the storm clouds as well. Sweet flowers would embroider the earth near her, and the waves of the sea would "laugh". It is said that she moved in radiant light. Without her there would be no joy or loveliness anywhere. At first she is known to be soft, weak, and no mortal would feel the need to be threatened by her, yet in later poems she is shown to be a treacherous and malicious person who would exert a deadly and destructive power over men. She was the wife of Hephaestus. Her tree was the myrtle and the dove her bird, sometimes the sparrow and the swan too.


Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia. He was the Messenger God. He was graceful and swift in motion. He had wings on his sandals, low-crowned hat, and magic wand. Of all the gods he was the shrewdest and most cunning, he was also know as the Master Thief. He invented the lyre out of a tortoise shell. He was also known as the God of Commerce and Market and protected the traders. He guided the dead to the underworld, for he was the only god, other than Hades, who could freely come and go as he pleased.


Artemis was Apollo's twin sister, daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was one of the 3 virgin goddesses. She was the Lady of Wild Things and Huntsman-in-chief to the gods. She was also called Cynthia from her birthplace, Mount Cynthus in Delos. She was also protectress of dewy youth. She was known to be fierce and revengeful. As Apollo represented the sun, she represented the moon. The cypress was her tree and all wild animals were sacred to her, yet she favored the deer.


Hephaestus was the God of Fire. Some say he was the son of Zeus and Hera, others say just Hera, who bore him in retaliation for Zeus's having brought forth Athena. He is the only god to be ugly and lame. Some say he was casted out of heaven by Hera is shame of his deformation, others say by Zeus for trying to defend Hera. He was known for his smithing and craftsmanship. It is said that his forge lay under a volcano, and causes eruptions. His wife was Aphrodite. He was known to be a kind, peace-loving god. He was very popular on earth and in heaven. He was the protector of smiths.

So there is the basic need-to-know information on the 12 Olympians. Although they were all Olympians, some played more important roles than others. These 12 Olympians made up a divine family.

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