Greek gods

Guide to the Gods 1.0

Ancient Greece: K - N

Copyright by Mark de la Hey, 1994, 1995.


(Kabiroi, Cabeiri)

Greek fertility gods whose cult involved the celebration of mysteries typically associated with vegetation deities. They originated in Greek Anatolia, possibly in Phrygia, and subsequently spread to the islands of the Aegean, to Macedonia, and to northern and central Greece. In classical times they numbered two, though their numbers seem to have varied over time. They included the gods Axiocersus and his son Cadmilus. A female pair were also mentioned, Axierus and Axiocersa, although their role was of secondary importance. Their cult was particularly prominent on the islands of Lemnos and Samothrace, where their mysteries displayed an Orphic influence.


See Calliope.


See Callisto.


See Calypso.


See Camenae.


See Carpo.


(pl. Keres, Cer)

In Greek belief, a destructive or malevolent female spirit of the dead. Although some sources seem refer to a single Ker, the more common belief was in a host of Keres. They were said to be the daughters of Nyx and Erebos. In the Attic festival of the Anthesteria, the spirits of the dead, or Keres, were driven from the house.


(Latin Clio)

Greek muse of history.


See Clotho.


"Girl". An epithet of Persephone (qv).



See Cotys.


(Kuretes, Curetes)

Semidivine beings who were believed to have been early inhabitants of Crete. It was the Kouretes who prevented Kronos from discovering the hidden infant Zeus by dancing and clashing their weapons to prevent his cries from being heard. They were often equated with the Korybantes. The Kouretes may have had their origin as worshippers of Zeus Kouros (Zeus as a young man), perhaps dating back to Minoan times.


"Power". Greek god of strength. Brother of Bia (force).


(Cronos, Chronos, Cronus)

Primeval Greek god of time and a former supreme god. One of the Titans. Son of Ouranos (heaven) and Gaia (earth). Consort of Rhea. Father of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hades and Hestia. Little worshipped by the Greeks, Kronos may represent the vestiges of a pre-Hellenic god. The worship that was accorded him was generally associated with agriculture, such as the Attican harvest festival of the Kronia. Kronos overthrew his father Ouranos, castrating him with a sickle for good measure, perhaps as a symbolic separation of heaven and earth. Fearing that his own children might do the same to him, he proceeded to swallow them. Zeus, however, was saved Rhea, who hid him in Crete and tricked Kronos into swallowing a stone wrapped in infant's clothing. When Zeus reached maturity, he forced Kronos to disgorge his brothers and sisters, then hurled him into Tartaros. Subsequently, Kronos remained a prisoner in Tartaros, although some accounts make him the king of the Golden Age. He was generally depicted with a sickle and an hourglass. Known to the Romans as Saturn.


See Kouretes.


One of the Greek Moirai (qv), or Fates. According to Hesiod, the Moirai were daughters of Zeus and Themis. Lachesis was the "caster of lots" and it was she who spun out the thread of life.



Lycian mother or fertility goddess who was the probable original of the Greek Leto.


A female demon in Greek belief who devoured children. According to some sources she was a queen of Libya who fell in love with Zeus. The jealous Hera deformed her and killed her children. Lamia then turned to hunting and devouring children whom she lured away from their parents. Alternatively, she took on the form of a beautiful woman, enticing young men whom she would subsequently devour.


Greek goddess; former Anatolian mother goddess.


Greek nymph associated with the underworld river of the same name. Daughter of Eris (strife). The Lethe was the river of forgetfulness or oblivion.


(Latin Latona)

Greek Titaness and possible mother goddess. Daughter of Coeus (Kois) and Phoebe. Mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus. Leto appears to have been derived from a Lycian goddess named Lada, and she had cults of local importance in Lycia and at Phaistos on Crete.



"White Goddess". Greek sea goddess. The name given to the deified Ino. Daughter of Cadmus. As Ino, she had been the wife of Athamas. Having been driven mad by Hera in punishment for raising the infant Dionysos, Ino leapt to her death in the sea along with her son Melicertes. She was popular among sailors and fishermen. Believed to help sailors in distress, she was first mentioned in the Odyssey where she saved Odysseus from drowning.


"Word" or "Reason". For some Stoics of the Hellenistic age, Logos was the divine personification of the reason or plan underlying the cosmos. It was Philo of Alexandria (1st century AD) who first conceived of Logos in anthropomorphic terms. The Christians subsequently picked up the term and used it to refer to the "Word" which was made flesh in Jesus Christ.


Greek mother of Hermes.


See Gorgons.


See Erinyes.


Boeotian Muse of practice. The other Boeotian Muses were Aoide (Aeode) and Mneme.


Greek Palaemon (qv); adopted from the Phoenician Melkart.


Greek Muse of tragedy. Daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Her attributes include the tragic mask and the cothurnus (pl. cothurni), the boots traditionally worn by tragic actors.


In Greek mythology, the Delphic Muse associated with the middle string of the lyre. The other Delphic Muses were Hypate and Nete.


Greek goddess of wisdom. Daughter of Okeanos and Tethys. The first wife of Zeus whom he swallowed when he discovered that she was pregnant, fearing that she might give birth to a son mightier than he. Subsequently, Athena sprang fully armed from the head of Zeus. Metis is thus given as the mother of Athena, although some sources consider that, given the circumstances, she was the daughter of Zeus alone.


One of the three Greek judges of the underworld, along with Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. He was originally a king of Crete. His cult involved the worship of bulls or of Minos in the form of a bull.


Boeotian Muse of memory. The other Boeotian Muses were Aoide (Aeode) and Melete.


Greek goddess of memory. According to Hesiod, mother of the nine Muses by Zeus. One of the Titans. Daughter of Ouranos (heaven) and Gaia (earth).


Greek divine personification of fate, to whom even the gods were subject.


(Moires, Moirae)

The Greek Fates. According to Hesiod, the daughters of Zeus and Themis. They were Atropos (the unbending, or the inevitable), Clotho (the spinner), and Lachesis (the caster of lots). As determiners of fate, they had supremacy even over the gods. Clotho spun out the thread of life, Lachesis determined its length, and Atropos cut it, resulting in death. The Romans called them the Parcae.



Greek personification of blame, censure. According to Hesiod, the son of Erebos and Nyx. A god of fault-finding and criticism, he was eventually banished from Olympus for mocking the other gods.


Greek god of destiny.


Greek god of dreams. Son of Hypnos, the god of sleep. His name derives from the Greek morphe (form, shape), and he is responsible for shaping dreams, or giving shape to the beings which inhabit dreams.


(Mousai, Moisai, Musae)

Greek goddess of the arts and sciences. Nine in number. Hesiod was the first to give them individual identities, and gave their parenst as Zeus and Mnemosyne. They included Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (song), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy).



Greek nymphs of freshwater: lakes, rivers, springs and fountains. They were depicted as beautiful women, and believed to be long- lived, but not immortal.


Greek nymphs associated with valleys (Greek nape = dell).


Greek goddess of justice and vengeance. She was essentially an abstraction, although she is given as the daughter of Erebos and Nyx. She was responsible for punishing human misconduct and arrogance (hubris). One of the legends associated with her, that of her rape by Zeus in the form of a swan, by whom she subsequently gave birth to Helen, probably refers to a separate goddess who is the deified form of Leda. The cult of Nemesis was particularly prominent at Rhamnus in Attica and at Smyrna.


(Nephythys, Nebthet)

Egyptian goddess of the dead. Sister of Isis, Osiris and Seth. Mother of Anubis by Osiris. Depicted with horns and a solar disc on her head. Her principal sanctuary was at Heliopolis. She guards the corpse of Osiris along with Isis.


Greek sea nymphs and attendants of Poseidon. Daughters of the sea god Nereus and the Oceanid Doris. The most famous Nereids were Amphitrite and Thetis.


Greek god of the sea. Son of Pontos and Gaia. Father of the Nereids by the Oceanid Doris. He was believed to live with the Nereids in the depths of the Aegean Sea. Homer referred to him as the "Old Man of the Sea". He was noted for his wisdom, his skill in prophecy, and for the ability to change his own shape. Herakles forced Nereus to divulge the location of the golden apples of the Hesperides by wrestling with Nereus in his many forms.


Delphic Muse of the low not of the lyre. The other Delphic Muses were Hypate and Mese.


See Nyx.


Greek goddess of victory. First mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony. Daughter of the giant Pallas and the underworld river Styx. She seems originally to have been an attribute of Zeus or Athena (e.g.: Athena Nike), in which capacity she was wingless and often depicted as a small figure held in the hand of either deity. As an independent deity, she was depicted as winged and bearing the laurel wreath which was delivered to the victor in a competition, whether in war, sport, artistic contests or any other endeavour. However, she was never entirely independent, as she remained the personification of victory delivered by Zeus or Athena. She was known to the Romans as Victoria.



Greek god of the south wind. In Greece, the south wind blows mainly in the autumn. Son of Astraeus and Eos. Brother of the other Winds (qv). Known to the Romans as Auster.


In Greek mythology, a minor class of female nature deities. They were usually associated with the fertile aspects of nature and with water. They were believed to be long-lived but not immortal. They were generally considered to be beneficent rather than destructive, and well disposed toward humans. The nymphs were commonly grouped into an array of subtypes: Oceanids (nymphs of the ocean), Nereids (sea nymphs), Naiads (freshwater nymphs), Dryads or Hamadryads (associated with forests and trees, particularly oak trees), Oreads (mountain nymphs), Napaeae (nymphs of valleys), among others. See also the entries under the individual subtypes.


(Nux, Nox)

"Night". Greek goddess of night. Often regarded as little more than a personification of the night, particularly in Greek cosmogony. Also regarded as a primordial goddess derived from Chaos. Her power was said to be great, overwhelming even Zeus. She was the mother of a number of primordial gods or entities, such as Hemera (day), Aither (light, or heaven), Hypnos (sleep), and Thanatos (death).

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