Greek gods

Guide to the Gods 1.0

Ancient Greece: B - D

Copyright by Mark de la Hey, 1994, 1995.


"Force". Greek goddess of force, daughter of the Titan Pallas and the underworld goddess Styx. She was the sister of Kratos, the god of strength, as well as of Nike and Zelos. Bia was the constant companion of Zeus. It was she who was made to bind Prometheus as punishment for stealing fire from the gods.


Greek god of the north wind. According to Hesiod's Theogony, he was of Thracian origin, the son of Eos and Astraeos. He was the father of many famous horses, including those of Ares and Achilles. Boreas incurred the enmity of the Athenians when he abducted Oreithyia, the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens, whom he made his wife. He was said to have atoned for this deed by sending a storm which destroyed a Persian fleet on its way to attack Athens. In gratitude, the Athenians built a temple dedicated to him, and held a festival in his honour, the Boreasmos.


"Sweet Maid". Virgin huntress goddess of Crete whose cult later merged with that of Artemis. Daughter of Zeus and Carme. King Minos fell in love with her and pursued her until she jumped from a cliff overlooking the sea. In some accounts she survived the fall and was rescued by fishermen, in others she died and it was her corpse that the fishermen retrieved in their nets. In either case she was made immortal by Artemis in reward for her chastity. She was also known as Dictynna (from diktyon = "net"), in token of her retrieval in the fishermen's nets. In Aegina she was associated with Aphaea, a goddess of local importance.


See Kabeiroi.



Greek muse of epic or heroic poetry, and chief of the nine Muses. Daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. In various accounts she was the mother of Orpheus and Linus by Apollo or Oeagrus, and of Hymen and Ialemus by Apollo. It was she who, on behalf of Zeus, judged the dispute between Aphrodite and Persephone over Adonis.



A local Greek goddess of Arcadia. She was transformed by the gods into the Great Bear constellation.



Greek immortal nymph. Queen of the island of Ogygia, she kept Odysseus there for seven years and bore him two sons.



In some versions, one of the Greek Horae (qv), or Seasons. The Athenians recognized only two Horae: Carpo and Thallo. Carpo was associated with autumn and the harvest of fruit.


See Ker.


Greek personification of the primordial void. In Hesiod, Chaos was first in the order of existence, followed by Earth and Eros (Desire). Chaos then generated Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night). Chaos either generated, or was identical with, Tartarus, the Greek Underworld. It was much later that the Roman writer Ovid gave the concept of Chaos its modern meaning of an unordered and formless primordial mass from which the Cosmos was formed.


(Aglaia, Aegle)

Minor Greek Goddess. Consort of Hephaistos. As Aglaia, she was also one of the Gratiae (Graces), although the identification is uncertain.


(Roman Gratiae)

Greek name for the Graces. Their numbers varied, although a basic trinity is commonly recognized: Aglaia (splendour), Euphrosine (cheerfulness or festivity), and Thaleia (rejoicing or blossom). The Romans knew them under the collective name of the Gratiae (qv). They were the attendants of Aphrodite or Venus, and personified grace and beauty.


In Greek mythology, the ferryman who transports the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron to the underworld. A coin (obolus) was traditionally placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon's fare. Son of Erebus and Nyx. He was depicted as an old and dishevelled man. Not strictly speaking a god, he can best be described as a demon of death. He later became the demon of death Charun in Etruscan religion and the angel of death Charos or Charontas in modern Greek folklore who rides a black death searching for the newly dead.



Originally a Thessalian god of healing, he survived in Greek mythology as a wise centaur. Son of Kronos and Philyra. He was the teacher of many heroes including Achilles, and also taught Asklepios the art of healing. Herakles accidentally wounded him with a poison arrow and, although immortal, he renounced his immortality in favour of Prometheus. He became the constellation Sagittarius.


See Cheiron.



Greek goddess of flowers. Her Roman equivalent was the goddess Flora.


See Kronos.


(Cleio, Klio)

Greek Muse of historical and heroic poetry. Daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Mother of Hyacinth by Pierus, king of Macedonia. Often depicted with a trumpet and the clepsydra (water clock). She could also be depicted with a writing implement, as she was credited with introducing the Phoenician alphabet into Greece. Other attributes included a wreath of laurel and a parchment scroll.



"The spinner". One of the three Greek Fates (Moirae) along with Atropos and Lachesis. Daughter of Zeus and Themis. She presided over birth and drew the thread of life from her distaff.


Greek nymph, mother of Asklepios by Apollo.



Thracian goddess whose worship was marked by orgiastic rites. She was later accepted into Greece, notably at Corinth and Athens. She was represented either as a huntress goddess similar to Artemis or a mother goddess along the lines of Cybele.


See Kouretes.


See Kratos.


See Kronos.



A Thessalian nymph carried off by Apollo to the north African region which was named Cyrenaica after her.


See Daimon.



Greek collective name for beings intermediate between gods and humans. Beginning with Hesiod the term designated the spirits of dead heroes. These spirits were later interpreted by the Christians as devils. The term also signified the spirit determining a person's fate (akin to the Roman term genius).


Greek demonic beings who were associated with the working of metal.


Greek goddess personifying the laurel tree. She is said to be the daughter of a river god, either Ladon or Peneius. Legend has it that she was changed into a laurel to avoid the sexual advances of the god Apollo, to whom the laurel thus became sacred.


"Panic" or "Fear". Minor Greek god of war. Son of Ares and Aphrodite. His siblings were Anteros, Enyo, Eros, Harmonia, Phobos and Terror (Pallor). Deimos and Phobos accompanied Ares in battle.


One of the Greek Graiae, guardians of the Gorgons. Daughter of Phorkys and Ceto, she was the sister of Enyo and Pephredo. The three Graiae collectively had one eye and one tooth which they shared among themselves.


Greek mother and corn (grain) goddess associated with the earth, vegetation and agriculture. She is also a goddess of death, as exemplified by the story of Persephone. Daughter of Kronos and Rhea. Sister of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades and Hestia. Mother of Persephone by Zeus, and of Plutos by Iasion. Demeter is particularly prominent in the Greek legend of the abduction of her daughter Persephone (Kore) by the underworld god Hades. Distraught at her loss, Demeter neglected her duties as a vegetation deity while she searched for her daughter. Fearing catastrophe, the gods intervened, and Hades agreed that Persephone would be returned provided that she had tasted nothing while in the underworld. However, Persephone had tasted a pomegranate. As a result, she was released only on condition that she should spend three months of each year in the underworld with Hades, the rest in the world of the living. The three months spent in Hades are believed to coincide with the three dry summer months in Greece. This legend formed the basis of an important Greek fertility cult, known as the Eleusinian Mysteries after the famous cult centre at Eleusis. Demeter was also honoured in the feast of the Thesmophoria, a fertility rite from which men were excluded and whose rites were a carefully guarded secret. She was depicted as a matronly figure, often riding a chariot or seated upon a throne. Her attributes included ears of corn (grain) and a basket filled with flowers, grain and fruit. The pig and the snake were sacred to her.



"Mistress". An honorific title among the Greeks, notably applied to the goddess of the underworld in Arcadia. We know of no other name for this Arcadian goddess, perhaps attesting to the secrecy of her rites. She was later identified with Persephone.


See Britomartis.


One of the Greek Horae (Seasons). Also a goddess of justice (Greek dike). Daughter of Zeus and Themis. Her sisters were the other Horae: Eirene and Eunomia.


Cult partner of Zeus of Dodoma, ancient earth-goddess. Given variously as the daughter of Okeanos and Tethys, or of Ouranos and Gaea.


(Dionysus, Dionysius, Roman Bacchus)

Greek god of wine and intoxication. Son of Zeus and Semele (although Demeter is sometimes given as his mother). His consort was Ariadne. His cult is believed to have originated in either Thrace, Phrygia or perhaps Lydia. Hera, out of jealousy, is said to have tricked Semele into asking Zeus to reveal his divinity to her. When Zeus complied, his divine majesty was too great for Semele, who was destroyed by his thunderbolts. Zeus retrieved Dionysus from his lover's dead body and sewed him up in his thigh until he reached full term. As a result, Dionysus was known as Dithyrambos (twice born). Zeus then sent the infant to be raised by Semele's sister Ino and her husband Athamas at Orchomenus. Hera discovered the child's hiding place, and drove Ino and Athamas mad. However, Hermes spirited the infant away to be raised by the nymphs on the legendary mountain of Nysa. Dionysos was educated in the art of agriculture by Aristaeus. He was credited with having the introduction of the vine and the art of making wine. In some legends he was said to have descended to the underworld to bring back his mother Semele, and this presumably led to his role in Orphism, which equated him with Zagreus. His worship was characterized by orgiastic and often violent rites. His female worshippers, known as Bacchants or Maenads, ran and danced through the woods in a drunken frenzy bearing torches and thyrsus staves (made of vine leaves and ivy). The frenzy was believed to give them occult powers as well as superhuman strength, with which they were said to tear sacrificial animals to pieces. Dionysos' epithets included Bromios (thunderer), Lyaios (deliverer [from cAres]), as well as Taurokeros (bull-horned) and Tauroprosopos (bull-faced) in reference to his incarnation as a bull at his feasts. Among his festivals were the Greater and Lesser Dionysia, the Anthesteria, the Agrionia and the Katagogia at Athens. Phallic symbolism was particularly prominent at the Dionysia, indicating that Dionysos was there being worshipped as a fertility god.


Greek sea-goddess. Daughter of Okeanos and Tethys (see also Okeanides). Mother of the Nereids by her consort Nereus.


See Oneiroi.


(Dryades, Hamadryads)

Greek woodland nymphs. Each dryad was associated with a particular tree and died when that tree died.

Previous Home Next