Zeus Zeus was the child of Cronus, a cruel Titan. He had two other brothers, Poseidon, and Hades. After he and his brothers overthrew their father, the three of them drew lots to see who would become the supreme ruler of the gods. Zeus won, and reigned as the leader of the gods. He married his sister Hera, although he is probably best known for his scandalous affairs. His weapon is the thunderbolt as he is the god of the sky.
Poseidon was the brother of Zeus and Hades. When his father was overthrown, he received the task of god of the sea. His worshipers are mostly seamen and other sea travelers.
Although Poseidon was married to Amphitrite, he once developed a strong desire for his sister Demeter. In order to distract him, Demeter asked Poseidon to create the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Poseidon tried in vain for several years, producing an odd variety of animals, some of which were not at all attractive. He finally succeeded when he created the horse, although by that time his passion for Demeter had faded.
Poseidon's weapon is the trident, a pitch fork like staff which can shake the earth in violent earthquakes and control the waves of the sea. He was often referred to as "The Earth Shaker".
Hades Hades was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. When his father was overthrown, he received the worst draw of them all. He was assigned to rule over the dead in a land known as Orcus. He was said to have been a greedy god, often over concerned with increasing the numbers of his ghostly subjects. Once he had taken a man in though he was seldom allowed to return to the world above.
In addition to being the god of the dead, Hades is also the god of wealth due to the fact that many of the precious metals came from deep within the earth. One might also say that wealth itself is often a cause of death, which may give a double meaning to Hades' second job. Although he does control wealth, Hades seldom has occasion to leave his home in Orcus.
At one time, Hades abducted Demeter's daughter Persephone. Demeter was very distressed until finally Zeus demanded that Persephone be returned. Unfortunately, however, Persephone had already been convinced to eat a few pomegranate seeds while she was in Orcus. Thus Hades claimed right to Persephone for half of the year. (see also the story of the seasons.)
Hestia was Zeus' sister. She was a virgin goddess that played little part in most popular myths. She was more of a symbol than anything else. She was the goddess of the hearth, around which new-born children were carried when they were brought into the family. Because she was so powerful a symbol, each city had a public hearth sacred to Hestia, where the fire was never allowed to go out.
Hera Hera was Zeus' wife, as well as his sister. She was the goddess of childbirth and marriage. Hera's marriage with Zeus began with strife and ended with strife. At first she refused. Zeus however, who was determined, used his power to change his shape into that of a wretched bird. Hera, feeling sorry for the bird, lifted it to her breast to warm it. At that moment Zeus, having the advantage of surprise, assumed his normal form and raped her. She married him to recover her shame.
Throughout Hera's marriage, Zeus was anything but faithful. His affairs were many and each one enraged Hera all the more. Because she could not directly attack Zeus for his crimes against her, she usually tormented his lovers or tried to destroy their children. Despite Hera's best efforts, Zeus fathered many mortal heroes such as Hercules, as well as having several divine children that were not by Hera. In fact, Zeus and Hera only had three children together.
Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera. He was not well liked by either of his parents as he was the god of war and given to murderous tendencies. Once, Ares had an affair with his step sister Aphrodite, only to be caught by her husband Hephaestus. The god of fire and the forge made strong chains and bound Ares' feet and legs together so that he could not move and displayed the immobilized and completely nude Ares for all the other gods to see.
Athena was the son of Zeus alone. She was said to have sprung from his head full grown and in armor. She was fierce and brave in battle, though she only fought to defend her own city of Athens from their enemies. She was the goddess of Athens as well as the goddess of wisdom and cunning, especially in war. She invented the bridle, which permitted man to tame horses, the trumpet, the flute, the pot, the rake, the plow, the yoke, the ship, and the chariot. She was the true embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. She was said to have been Zeus' favorite child. At times, Zeus would even permit her to use his weapons in battle.
Apollo Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, the daughter of two Titans. Zeus loved her, but abandoned her just before she gave birth because he feared Hera. For the same reason, all of the countries refused to accept and protect Leto so that she could give birth to her children. Finally, Leto found a small, uninhabited island that welcomed her. There she gave birth to Artemis and Apollo.
Apollo was the god of the sun, light, truth, healing, and music. Every day, he would harness his golden chariot and carry the sun across the sky. He was also famous for his great oracle at Delphi to which many Greeks came seeking guidance and a glimpse into the future.
Aphrodite Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione and the wife of Hephaestus. She was the goddess of love, desire, and beauty. In addition to her physical attributes, Aphrodite had a magic girdle which would compel anyone she wanted to desire her. There are two stories surrounding her birth. The first is simply that she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The other, being perhaps more eccentric, is that she was the daughter of the sea, emerging from the sea after Cronus castrated Uranus and tossed his severed testicles into the oceans.
Hermes Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, the daughter of Atlas. He was Zeus' winged messenger, being the fastest of the gods. He was the god of thieves and commerce as well as the guide for the dead when they first sought the house of the dead. He invented the lyre, the pipes, the musical scale, astronomy , weights and measures, boxing, gymnastics, and the care of olive trees.
Artemis Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and Apollo's sister. She was the goddess of the hunt and all wild things as well as the protector of the young. She hunted with silver arrows even though wild animals were sacred to her, especially deer.
Hephaestus Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera and Aphrodite's husband. Is was sometimes said that Hera alone produced him, and that he had no blood connection to Zeus at all. He was the only god in Olympus to be of less than divine appearance. He was also lame. Some accounts of how he became lame suggested that Hera, upset because her child was not beautiful, flung him from Mount Olympus. Other accounts said that it was Zeus who flung Hephaestus off the divine mountain during one of his altercations with the raging Hera.
Hephaestus was the god of fire and the forge as well as the smith for the gods of Mount Olympus. His work was the finest in the world as he used volcanoes as his forge.
Demeter Demeter was Zeus' sister and the goddess of the earth and harvest. Together she and Zeus had Persephone, who was abducted by Hades. Demeter was very distressed until finally Zeus demanded that Persephone be returned. Unfortunately, however, Persephone had already been convinced to eat a few pomegranate seeds while she was in Orcus. Thus Hades claimed right to Persephone for half of the year. During the half year that Persephone was in Orcus, Demeter was so distressed that she ignored her duty to the earth and its fertility. These barren months became fall and winter.
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