Greek Mythology Trivia Quiz: Gods of Olympus
How Well Do You Know Greek Mythology?
Try this Greek mythology trivia quiz on the gods of Olympus!
Don't worry if you don't know all the answers. There's some real head-scratchers in it to challenge students of Greek myth. Just enjoy the zany questions, then check out the "mini-myths" and art following the quiz to learn more about the questions and myths you didn't know.
Gods of Olympus Quiz
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Athena's Grand Entrance
Is that a goddess in your cranium, or...
NEWS FLASH: Athena springs fully formed from the head of Zeus! That was the headline of the Olympian Times shortly before the war between the gods and Titans.
Let's back up. Zeus was infamous for hopping into bed with every goddess, nymph, or mortal who caught his fancy. Then he heard a prophecy that if he had a son by Metis, goddess of Thought, the child would rule in his stead. Since he had already deposed his father Cronos, who had deposed his father, this looked like yet another chain-of-revenge story so common in Greek myth.
Metis was already pregnant. Zeus followed his father's example and swallowed Metis! Nine months later, Zeus came down with the mother of all migraines. Hephaistos the smith-god cracked his skull open with an axe. Out popped Athena, fully grown and armed for battle.
For further reading: Birth of Athena according to several Greek poets
Not a child of Zeus, but could've been
Achilles the merely mortal
Poseidon and Zeus both courted the minor sea-goddess Thetis. Then the goddess Themis (Justice) said, "oh, by the way, the son of Thetis will be greater than the father." Sound familiar? So Zeus married Thetis off to Peleus, a mortal man. Her son was Achilles, greatest hero of the Trojan War, but not quite immortal.
A Clever Marketing Coup
Lousy tourist destination upgrades image with celebrity endorsement!
Delos is a small, rocky, barren island that found a clever way to increase its fortunes. It's connected to yet another affair of Zeus.
Zeu's wife Hera got wind of his latest liaison and threatened to curse any land that offered sanctuary to Leto, now pregnant with twins. Delos didn't have much to lose, so it invited Leto to come there for the birth. Artemis was born first, then turned around and delivered her brother Apollo!
Delos Island thus acquired several major cults, lots of temples and offerings and a thriving Greek sea-port until the Roman general Sulla sacked the place for his war chest.
The nearby island of Ortygia sometimes tried to steal Delos' fame by claiming it was the real birthplace of the twins, or at least of Artemis. But most myths grant that honor to Delos.
(Above right, my own photo of Delos.)
Hephaistos' Hot Rod
The lamest of the gods
Hephaistos son of Hera got tossed out of Olympus on his ear. Why? The stories are a little muddy.
Myths aren't too picky about chronology. According to some versions, Hera gave birth to him alone in revenge for Zeus giving birth to Athena without her input -- nevermind that Hephaistos is always present at the birth of Athena. Then Zeus tossed him off Mt. Olympus, breaking his legs in the fall.
Other stories say Hera gave birth to Hephaistos alone and found he was crippled, so she tossed him out because he was lame.
Either way, a lot of semi-comic vases show the lame god riding back to Olympus in triumph on a donkey. As the gods' blacksmith, he became too indispensable to let go.
Hades' Spiffy Hat
"Look, Sephie, I'm invisible!" "Whatever you say, dear."
Hades' cap of invisibility would seem to be a bit of a knick-knack; it's not like he needs to hide from the dead. Maybe it helps his wife Persephone cope.
All's fair in love and war
...and fear and panic?
Phobos and Deimos, fear and panic, are the sons of Aphrodite and Ares. (Sad but true: Aphrodite is Hephaistos' wife, but she considers him lame.)
Aphrodite and Ares are the gods of love and war. Their steamy affair pops up in classical poetry from Homer to Ovid. In Latin (i.e. Roman mythology), they are named Venus and Mars. So women are from Venus, men are from Mars, and kids are scary!
At right are the moons of the planet of Mars: Phobos and Deimos. They're probably stray asteroids.
Delphi, Sacred Time-Share of Mt. Parnassos
Apollo's summer home
Delphi is sometimes considered the navel of the ancient Greek world. It was the site of the famous Oracle of Apollo, where rich and poor made pilgrimages to learn their future.
Apollo was the god of reason, mathematics, music, medicine and self-control. Therefore it's a little surprising to find that he traded place with Dionysos, god of wine and loosened inhibitions, the flip side of everything Apollo stood for. Or is it? In a way, giving Dionysos part time in Delphi was a sort of counterbalance to Apollo's extreme rationality.
At right is my photo of what's left of the Temple of Apollo and its famous oracle.
Hera and Herakles
A semi-divine relationship that went bad
Greek mythology is full of hints of older myths. Herakles' name, "Glory of Hera," betrays one of them. By classical times, Hera had been demoted to the shrewish wife of Zeus. She was portrayed as a jealous rival of his mortal and divine paramours. They were originally local goddesses whose divinity was later "explained" by marrying them off to Zeus.
That meant that Hera was at odds with Herakles' mother and also with him. So why does he have Hera's name?
Long before Greece was Greece, Hera was the Lady half of a "Lord and Lady" pair of divinities. These god-goddess pairs appear in many world mythologies, and often have a divine child. Because of Herakles' name, I have a suspicion that he may have been Hera's son in some local traditions. But don't put that on a test, since that's just my guess! Later myths offer awkward explanations trying to account for the early stories of Hera nursing the hero.
God of horses and other forces of nature
Poseidon is the lord of the sea, earthquakes, and ... horses! Bulls, too, sometimes. Things that make the ground shake, from crashing surf to pounding hooves, are under his control.
Roman portraits often show him in a chariot drawn by hippocamps, giant sea-horses.
Baubo, trickster goddess of Eleusis
"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple..."
Baubo is an eccentric figure in the myth-cycle connected to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The mysteries dramatize the story of how Demeter, goddess of grain and earth, travels the world in mourning after her daughter Persephone is abducted by the underworld-god Hades.
Eventually she comes to the king's palace at Eleusis. There an odd crone-figure, Baubo, tries to loosen her up with wine, but Demeter is too distraught to eat or drink. The old woman finally employs a crude form of shock therapy by lifting up her skirts and displaying her private parts. Demeter bursts out laughing! In some variants of the myth, Baubo (or Iambe, who may be a younger version of the same goddess) also amuses Demeter with dirty jokes. Demeter is cheered enough to eat something. Moral: humor is good for what ails you.
The figure at right is not Baubo, but a Hellenistic Greek sculpture of a drunk old woman.
© 2009 Ellen Brundige