Copyright by Mark de la Hey, 1994, 1995.
The most important of the Greek river gods, associated with the modern Aspropotamos, flowing through Boeotia into the Ionian sea. Traditionally the son of Oceanus and Tethys (as are the other river gods), although other traditions make him the son of Helios and Gaia, or a son of Poseidon. Fathered the Sirens by the Muse Melpomene. Achelous was defeated by Heracles in a fight for the hand of Deianeira.
"River of Woe". Greek river god of one of the five rivers of Hades. Identified with the Acheron river in Epirus, Greece, which flows underground in several places, and was thought to flow through Hades.
Greek hero famous for his deeds and death in the Trojan War. He was later deified, and his worship was particularly prominent in the Black Sea area. Son of Peleus, King of the Myrmidons, and the Nereid Thetis. As a child, Thetis dipped him in the River Styx in an attempt to protect him against harm, leaving only the heel by which she held him vulnerable. Achilles was eventually killed by Paris, whose arrow was guided by Apollo to the vulnerable heel.
Greek hero and deity of Syro-Phoenician origin (Semitic adon = "lord" or "master"). The Phoenicians knew Adonis as Eshmun (qv). The Adonis cult was especially prominent in the Phoenician town of Byblos, and later spread to the Greek world through commercial contact. According to one Greek tradition Adonis was the result of an incestuous liaison in which Smyrna (Myrrha) deceived her father Theias as to her identity (perhaps at the instigation of Aphrodite). Upon discovering the ruse, Theias pursued Smyrna, who was changed by the gods into a myrrh tree, which eventually split open and gave birth to Adonis. (In some versions it was Theias who split the tree open with his sword, in another it was a wild boar which split the tree open with its tusks.) Aphrodite discovered the youth and placed him in a coffer which she entrusted to the underworld goddess Persephone. Acting against Aphrodite's instructions, Persephone opened the coffer and was so smitten by the youth that she refused to return him to Aphrodite. Zeus was called in to arbitrate the dispute and determined that Adonis should spend one third of each year with each goddess, the remaining third left to his own discretion. In the end, Adonis elected to spend the remaining third of the year with Aphrodite. In another tradition, Adonis was said to have been killed by a boar while hunting and forced to spend a portion of each year in the underworld. In either case, Adonis fits the pattern of dying and resurrected vegetation gods in the eastern Mediterranean region such as the Egyptian Osiris, the Phrygian Attis and the Mesopotamian Dumuzi (Tammuz). Both the Phoenician and Greek myths retain this vegetation aspect. In the Greek world, festivals commemmorating the death and resurrection of Adonis, known as Adonia, were celebrated after the harvest. A common practice during the Adonia was the planting of 'Adonis gardens' in small boxes or bowls, which grew and died quickly.
Greek mountain deity worshipped in Phrygia, Troy and Thrace -- and later in Greece proper. An avenging goddess of righteousness.
Greek god of storms and winds. He is best known from Homer's Odyssey, where he lives on the floating island of Aeolia (Lipari), and gives Odysseus a bag containing all the unfavourable winds. He was regarded as human in Homer's time, but was later elevated to the status of a god.
Greek god of light. One of the primordial cosmic deities, a personification of the upper sky. Hesiod makes him the son of Erebus (darkness) and Nyx (night). The union of Aether and Hemera (day) resulted in the birth of Earth, Sea and Sky along with many deities including Saturn, Oceanus, Atlas and the Furies.
"Good Spirit". Greek guardian spirit of individuals and families. In Hellenistic times he came to be associated with Tyche, the goddess of luck. Portrayed as a serpent or as a young man bearing a cornucopia. Libations of wine were typically made to Aether after meals.
Mother god of Phrygian origin, often associated with the mother goddess Kybele. In Greek mythology, she was the product of the combination of a rock with the semen of Zeus. Originally a hermAphrodite, Agdistis was made female through castration. The vegetation god Attis was the ultimate product of her severed sexual organs which became either a pomegranate tree or an almond tree. Attis grew to become a beautiful youth, but ultimately died of self-castration in an effort to avoid the amorous pursuit of Agdistis and/or Kybele.
One of the three Graces, or Charites. Daughter of Zeus and Eurynome.
"Unknown god". Greek cities made offerings to the 'unknown gods' so that no gods should be overlooked in religious observances.
Greek god of the underworld and judge of the dead. According to Plato, who was the first to mention this god, he is the son of Zeus and Aegina. With Minos and Rhadamanthys, Aeacos was one of the three judges of the souls of the dead in the underworld. A temple was constructed in his honour on the Aegean island of Aegina, and the festival of the Aiakeia was celebrated there in commemmoration of his supposed intercession to end a drought.
Greek personification of time or of a given age in human history. Later adopted by Mithraism and by the Manichaeans.
Greek spirit of revenge. Especially associated with blood feuds between families which lasted long after the death of those originally involved. Also used to denote a man's evil genius that leads him to commit crimes and to sin.
The Greek goddess of truth. She was the daughter of Zeus and the nurse of the infant Apollo.
One of the Greek Erinyes, goddesses of vengeance. Daughter of Gaea. Her name is said to mean "she who does not rest".
Greek river god who fell in love with the nymph Arethusa. She fled to the island of Ortygia, but Alpheus flowed under the sea to join her on the island. Son of Okeanos and Tethys.
Greek nymph who was the nurse of the infant Zeus. Sometimes represented as a goat, one of whose horns was broken off and transformed by Zeus into the cornucopia, or horn of plenty.
Greek goddess of the sea, wife of Poseidon. Daughter of Nereus and Doris or Okeanos and Tethys. Poseidon chose her from among her sister Nereids. Amphitrite fled, but she was retrieved by a dolphin and returned to Poseidon. Mother of Albion, Benthesicyme, Charybdis, Rhode and Triton.
Greek goddess of fate and necessity. Even the gods were subject to her dictates. Given her unalterable nature she was little worshipped until the advent of the Orphic mystery cult.
Greek god of passion. Son of Ares and Aphrodite.
Boeotian (Greek) Muse of song.
Greek goddess of beauty and sexual love. According to one legend she was born from the ocean foam after Kronos castrated Ouranos and tossed his genitals into the sea. In this version Aphrodite is held to mean "foam born", derived from the Greek word aphros, or "foam". This theory is bolstered by the fact that Aphrodite was worshipped as a goddess of the sea and seafarers in much of the Greek world. Homer, however, portrays her as the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and the fickle spouse of the lame smith god Hephaistos. Her most famous lover was Ares, the god of war, by whom she was mother to Anteros, Deimos, Eros, Harmonia and Phobos. She is also the mother of Aeneas and Lyrus by Anchises, Hermaphroditus by Hermes, Eryx by Poseidon, and Priapus by Dionysus. Aphrodite is commonly held to be an import from Anatolia, and her most important sanctuaries were on the islands of Cyprus (including Paphos and Amathus) and CytHera, while her chief sanctuary on the Greek mainland was at Corinth. In Athens, she was honoured in the festival of the Arrephoria. She has many characteristics in common with Middle Eastern fertility goddesses such as Astarte and Ishtar. Aphrodite was regarded as the patron goddess of prostitutes, and as a promoter of fertility. Her epithets included Anadyomene (sea born), Genetrix (creator), Eupoloios (fair voyage), and Pandemos (of all the people).
Greek god who personified youthful masculinity. A god of many roles, including prophecy, music, medicine and hunting. Son of Zeus and Leto. His mother wandered from place to place until she found refuge on the island of Delos where she gave birth to the twins Apollo and Artemis. Apollo was often honoured as part of a triad with Leto and Artemis. Despite being the most widely worshipped of the Greek gods, he was considered remote from human affairs. Apollo was the father of Asklepios, the god of healing, by Coronis. Coronis was later shot by Artemis as punishent for her infidelity to Apollo. However, Apollo himself had many lovers. Of his many love interests, Daphne is famous for having been transformed into a laurel in her efforts to flee the god. Thereafter, the laurel was sacred to Apollo. Cassandra also rejected the god's advances, and was punished by being made to utter true prophecies which no one would believe. One of Apollo's more famous deeds was the slaying of a legendary monster known as the Python, only a few days after his birth. Subsequently the oracle of Pytho was renamed Delphi after the Greek word for dolphin (delphis), in which form Apollo had appeared. The god's medium at the oracle, a woman at least fifty years old, continued to be known as the Pythia. The slaying of the Python was re-enacted every eight years at the Delphic festival of the Stepterion. Apollo also had oracles at Delos and Tenedos. Apollo's epithets included Lykeios (wolf god) as protector against wolves, Smintheus (mouse god) as the protector of crops against mice, Delius in honour of his birthplace, and Phoebus (bright, or shining) in his capacity as a solar god. In Greek art, Apollo was depicted as a beardless youth, bearing a lyre, or equipped as a hunter with bow and arrow.
Greek god of war. Son of Zeus and Hera. Brother of Aphrodite, Arge, Eileithyia, Eris and Hebe. By Aphrodite, he was the father of Anteros, Enyo, Deimos, Harmonia, Pallor and Phobos. Ares was generally less popular and less successful in his endavours than the other Olympian gods. It was Athena who personified the nobler aspects of warfare, glory, honour and victory, while Ares personified the more brutal aspects of warfare. Ares was said to be accompanied in battle by Deimos (terror), Phobos (fear), Eris (strife) and Enyo (horror). Ares was considered to have been native to Thrace, from which he may have emerged historically, and his worship was prominent only in northern Greece. His worship was also important at Sparta, where prisoners of war were sacrificed to him. At Athens, there was a temple dedicated to Ares at the foot of the Areopagus (Ares' Hill). Ares was depicted wearing typical military cloths and armour.
Greek nymph who originated as a vegetation goddess in Minoan Crete. She survived as the daughter of Pasiphae and King Minos in Greek mythology. Her worship as a goddess survived in Greek civilization on the island of Naxos, where she was considered the wife of Dionysus.
Greek pastoral deity, protector of herdsmen and hunters, originator of the cultivation of bees. Son of Apollo and Cyrene, and born in Libya. Husband of Autonoe. Aristaios fell in love with Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus, who spurned his advances. While fleeing the bees he sent in pursuit, she was bitten by a poisonous snake and died, leading to the famous effort by Orpheus to retrieve his wife from Hades. In punishment, the gods killed all of the bees of Aristaios. However, on the advice of Proteus, he sacrificed cattle in Eurydice's memory, and new swarms of bees emerged from the the carcasses. Aristaios eventually disappeared near Mt. Haemus in Thrace.
Greek goddess of wild animals and of the hunt. Although she was noted for her chastity, she was also regarded as a goddess of vegetation (particularly wild vegetation) and childbirth. Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Sister of Apollo, Artemis was associated with the moon, as a complement to Apollo's association with the sun. Her cult was the most popular among ordinary Greeks. She was believed to dwell in wild places, accompanied by a retinue of nymphs. Arcadia was said to be her favourite haunt. Artemis was noted as a terrible adversary when angered, symbolic of the sudden and capricious fury of nature. The most famous example of this is the story of Actaeon, the youth who chanced upon the goddess while bathing on Mt. Cithaeron. Enraged, Artemis changed him into a stag, in which form he was pursued and killed by his own hounds. It was as a goddess of women's life in general that Artemis acquired her seemingly contradictory role as a goddess of fertility and childbirth. She presided over the initiation rites of young women, and, later in life, brought sudden death to women with her "gentle darts". As goddess of the tree cult, her festivals were characterized by dances of maidens representing tree nymphs, or dryads. In the Peloponnesus she was associated with wells, springs and other waters bearing epithets such as Limnaea or Limnatis (Lady of the Lake). Elsewhere, she was best known as Potnia Theron (Mistress of the Animals). Artemis was depicted as a young woman bearing bow and arrow, often accompanied by a stag or a hunting dog. Her lunar aspect was sometimes signified by a torch carried in the hand.
Greek fertility and mother goddess represented in the great temple at Ephesus in Anatolia by a many-breasted statue. Her cult at Ephesus was quite different from that of the chaste Artemis of the Greek mainland. Votive offerings from many ancient cultures have been found at the site of the temple, counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Greek god of healing and patron deity of physicians. Son of Apollo and the nymph Coronis. Husband of Epione. Father of Hygieia (health) and Panacea (all-healing). A deified mortal, Asklepios was not worshipped as a god until post-Homeric times. Homer refers to him only as a skillful physician, and it was Apollo who was regarded as the god of healing until that role was taken over by his son beginning in the fifth century BC. His cult originated in Thessaly (the location of the oldest known temple honouring him), where he was said to have been raised by the centaur Cheiron, who taught him the art of healing. Zeus, fearing that Asklepios might make men immortal, killed him with a thunderbolt. Asklepios was generally depicted as a bearded man wearing a robe that leaves his breast uncovered. His attribute is a staff with a snake coiled about it. (The staff used today as a symbol of the medical profession is actually the winged caduceus of Hermes.)
River god of Boeotia in central Greece. Son of Okeanos and Tethys, or, alternatively, the son of Poseidon. Father of Aegina, who was abducted by Zeus. When Asopos pursued, Zeus drove him back with his thunderbolts.
Greek river god of the Peloponnesus. Son of Okeanos and Tethys.
Syrian fertility goddess. Consort of Hadad. Her cult center was at Bambyke (Hierapolis), near Aleppo in Syria. Her cult spread to the Greek world, where she was regarded as a form of Aphrodite. She was depicted seated on a throne flanked or supported by lions and holding a sheaf of wheat.
Greek goddess of evil and misfortune. In Hesiod's account, she is the daughter of Zeus and Eris. She was banished from Olympus for causing mischief among the gods.
Greek goddess of wisdom and tutelary goddess of Athens. Also a goddess of war, peace and agriculture. In contrast to some of the other Greek gods, many of whom were famed for their rash and often ignoble acts, Athena was noted for her self-control and for many instances in which she aided human beings in their endeavours. Also, in contrast to the reckless passions of the other gods, Athena remained a virgin throughout her life, forming no romantic attachments. According to Hesiod, Athena sprang fully armed from the head of Zeus, who had swallowed her mother Metis (wisdom). In Pindar's version, it was Hephaistos who struck Zeus in the head with an axe to relieve the god's headache, wherupon Athena emerged. It was Hephaistos who later attempted to rape Athena, but she evaded him and his semen fell to the ground, giving birth to the serpent Erichthonius. Much of Athena's reputation as a war goddess is based on Homer's Iliad, where she took an active part in the fighting on the side of Greeks against the Trojans. In battle, she bore the aegis, the goat-skin shield upon which the head of Medusa was mounted. She generally proved more successful in battle than her brother Ares, the Greek war god who sided with the Trojans. Athena won the allegiance of Athens in a contest with Poseidon to determine who could bestow the greater gift upon humanity. Poseidon gave either the horse or a spring of water. Athena gave the olive, and won the contest, in consequence of which she gave her name to the city. The Acropolis, upon which the Parthenon was constructed in her honour, was said to be her dwelling place. Athens also honoured her in the PanAthenaia festival, in which she seems to have figured as a vegetation goddess. She was referred to as Pallas Athene in her capacity as a protective goddess. Her icon, the palladium, was believed to protect the city from harm. In addition to the olive, Athena's gifts to humanity included the plough, the loom, and the flute. Among the many heroes to whom she gave assistance were Odysseus on his long voyage home from Troy, Perseus in killing the Medusa, Epeius in the construction of the wooden horse, and Herakles in his many labours. Her epithets included Parthenos (virgin), Promachos (protectress), Glaukopis (owl-eyed), Ergane (worker or craftsman) and Mechanitis (one who undertakes things). She was also known as Athena Polias in her capacity as goddess of the people or polity of Athens. The owl was the symbol both of Athena and Athens. She was also associated with the snake, and their is some speculation that she originated as a snake goddess, perhaps in Crete. Athena's worship was widespread, despite her close association with Athens.
One of the Greek Titans, condemned by Zeus to uphold the vault of the heavens for his part in the revolt of the Titans.
"Unbending". Oldest of the Greek Moires (Fates), a trio which included Klotho and Lachesis. She was the one who severed the thread of life. According to Hesiod, she was the daughter of Zeus and Themis. As her name suggests, she represented the inevitability of death.