Olympian Gods – The magnificent Twelve!

Mount Olympus is famous throughout the world for its history, its cultural significance and its ecological treasures as well as its place in mythology. It was the residence of the 12 Olympian Gods of the Greek “Pantheon”. The stories about them, were first written by Homer in “Iliad” and “Odyssey” poems (8th century BC). The Greek mythology is described in the poem “Theogony”, written by Hesiod, around 700 BC.

The “Pantheon”consists of 6 Gods and 6 Goddesses:

Zeus: King of the Gods, God of Skies and Thunders
After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers and sisters. He got married to his sister Hera but he was always unfaithful to her. His love affairs were notorious, especially when he was transformed into various creatures, objects or animals: he became a Taurus for Europe, fire for Aegina, golden rain for Danai, swan for Lida, snake for Persephone, shepherd for Mnimosini, satyr for Antiope, husband for Alkmini.
He is the protector of hospitality.

Poseidon: God of Sea and Waters
The brother of Zeus and Hera was married to the sea goddess Amphitrite and spared his time between Mount Olympus and the Sea. He was No2 in line and quite predictable: if the sailors honored him the sea was quiet and calm, if not they were drowned or had to fight with giant waves and sea monsters, like Odysseus did.
Most of the ancient seaside city-states were rich and powerful because Poseidon was by their side.

Ares: God of War
He was the son of Zeus and Hera, brother of Hephaestus. Although he represented the cruelty of war, he was very handsome. When he was not fighting, he was playing love games with his brother's wife, Aphrodite.
Ares is the ancestor of the greatest Greek warriors and heroes such as: Atreas, Agamemnon, Theseus.

Hephaestus: God of Fire and Metallurgy
Although he was a legal son of Zeus and Hera, he was rejected by his own parents because he was ugly. Either his mother or his father, threw him in the ocean when he was a baby. He was raised far from the Olympic Palaces, learned the art of metallurgy and was called back to Olympus by his mother due to the fact that he was creating masterpieces. After his comeback, Hera offered him Aphrodite as his wife.
The volcanoes were named after him (ifestia in Greek).

Hermes: Messenger of Gods, Guide of the souls to Hades
He was the son of Zeus and Mea, protector of travelers, traders, thieves and athletes. Hermes was also the patron of sciences and inventions, poetry and oratory. His journeys between the mortals and Gods, the Earth and the Underworld, provided him with the ability to be a gentleman and a crook at the same time.
His love life was also quite rich and he became the father of many children.

Apollo: God of Sun, Light, Music, Poetry and Logic
Zeus was his father, Leto his mother and Artemis his twin sister. Although he was very handsome and as bright as the sun, Apollo was often rejected by women. Unlucky in love, but definitely important when it comes to oracles and prophecies, healing and medicines.
The Oracle of Delphi was dedicate to Apollo and has been recorded as the most visited destination of the ancient world.

Hera: Mother of Gods, Goddess of Women and Marriage
She was sister and wife of Zeus, protector of the married women. Unfortunately for her, her husband did not share her ideas of marriage. His love affairs made her jealous and vengeful towards Zeus's mistresses and children. She went after Hercules even though he was named after her (Hercules means the Glory of Hera). She transformed Kallisto into a bear and misled Semeli driving her to her death.
Hera was powerful and well respected, especially between women.

Dimitra: Goddess of Agriculture and Harvest
She was one of Zeus's sisters, dedicated to the fertility of the earth. Her first lover was - of course – Zeus with whom he gave birth to her loving daughter Persephone. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, the God of the Underworld, Dimitra was totally devastated and her grief made every plant on earth die. After Dimitra found her daughter and came to an agreement with Hades, each of them to have Persephone for six months, the earth blossomed again.
When Persephone is gone, the earth suffers and dies (autumn-winter season)..when she is close to her mother, the earth is flourished with vegetation (spring-summer season).

Hestia: Goddess of House and Family
She was the eldest daughter of Cronus and Rea, sister of Zeus, Hera, Dimitra and Poseidon. Her presence is modest as she is one of the three virgin Goddesses of Mount Olympus. Her duty is to gather the family together and maintain the fire of the house.
Her name is synonymous to the tenderness of the family and the safety of home.

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and Beauty
Far beyond the modesty of Hestia, was the passion of Aphrodite. The most beautiful Goddess who inspired lust in Gods and mortals, came from the foam of the sea. She was married to Hephaestus under the command of Hera, but she had a permanent affair with his brother Ares and several occasional lovers. She and Ares had a son named Eros, God of love attraction.
Aphrodite never meant to be involved in the major divine scandals but it was in her nature..

Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and Military Strategy
Athena sprang out of Zeus's head, fully grown and armed. Her father's favorite daughter and one of the 3 Virgin Goddesses, Athena was the patroness of the Greek city that was named after her. She is often involved in quarrels and takes sides: during the Trojan War she was with the Greeks, when Poseidon was angry with Odysseus she helped him reach Ithaki and when she and Poseidon were claiming the city of Athens, she won by giving the citizens an olive-tree as a gift.
She was protecting the craftsmen and manufacturers.

Artemis: Goddess of Nature and Hunting
Even though Apollo's twin sister was as beautiful as he was, the first thing she asked from her father as a gift was the eternal virginity. She was proud and cruel, especially with the ones that were hurting young children or animals. Artemis was an excellent archer and she was punished the criminals with an arrow, keeping the nature in balance.

Homer is placing the Palaces of the Gods in the gorges of Mount Olympus. The “Pantheon” was their meeting point and it is placed on the top of the Mountain, the “Mytikas” peak. The peak that is called “Stefani” was the place where Zeus had his throne.

Mount Olympus and its Gods, have always been a source of inspiration for the creation of monumental pieces of Art, such as:

1) Gold-ivory sculpture of Zeus (Phidias, 435 BC, Olympia, the original statue is not preserved but is was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World)
2) Gold-ivory statue of Athena (Phidias, 5th century BC, Parthenon-Athens, original is not preserved)
3) Statue of Aphrodite of Milos “Venus de Milo” (end of 2nd century BC, original: Louvre Museum, Paris)
4) Statue of Hermes (Praxiteles, 340 BC, original: Olympia Museum, Olympia)
5) Artemision Statue of Poseidon (~460 BC, original: National Archaeological Museum, Athens)
6) Statue of Ares “Ares Borghese” (Skopas or Lysippos, ~400 BC, copy: Louvre Museum, Paris)
7) Temples of Hera (Olympia ~600 BC, Samos ~538 BC)
8) Temple of Artemis(440 BC, Efessos-Turkey, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World)
9) Temple of Hestia (Vesta) and House of the Vestal Virgins (~8th century BC, Roman Forum, Rome)
10) Temple of Dimitra (Iktinos, 5th century BC, Elefsina)
11) Temple of Hephaestus (450 BC, Thission, Athens)
12) Temple of Apollo(510 BC, Delphi)

Text: Sofia Bournatzi


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