The Greeks loved to tell stories about the
magical family who ruled the heavens. The
Greeks truly believed that their gods could
interfere in their lives, to help or hinder
According to Greek myth, Zeus was the
king of all the gods. Zeus had two brothers
and three sisters. When their father died,
the boys - Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades -
divided the world up between themselves.
Zeus took all of the heavens, Poseidon
took the sea, and Hades took the
underworld. Each was quite content with
Zeus had a very jealous wife named Hera.
He also had a whole bunch of kids. Zeus
was very fond of all his children. Each of
his children had special magical powers.
Zeus had more powers than anyone. Zeus
could throw his voice, and sound like
anybody. He could shape shift, and look
like anybody. In fact, he was so good at
shape shifting that he could shape shift
into the form of an animal. He could throw
lightning bolts. His horse, Pegasus,
carried his lightning bolts for him. Zeus
had a quick temper, a big sense of humor,
and lots of girlfriends. He was not afraid of
anything except Hera, his wife.
Poseidon was the Lord of the Sea. His brothers were Zeus - the king of
all the gods, and Hades - the king of the underworld.
Poseidon was a good looking fellow. He had deep blue eyes and
streaming green hair. He was a restless fellow, always on the move.
Poseidon was very powerful. He could raise his hand and a new island
would appear! The Greeks were terrified of Poseidon.
All the Greeks, but especially those who lived in coastal towns, built a
temple to honor Poseidon. They brought special gifts to the temple
every day, hoping to keep him happy. Sometimes it worked.
Sometimes it didn't. Poseidon was very moody.
Poseidon kept a royal residence on Mount Olympus, but he was rarely
there. He only visited when he had to attend a meeting of the council of
gods. He preferred his palace at the bottom of the sea. The exterior
was made of bright gold. But it was the inside of the palace that was
truly magnificent. Inside, Greek columns supported raised fountains.
There were colorful seaweed gardens and paths of white sand and
beds of glittering jewels and pearls and chunks of amber. Colored fish
darted everywhere. At night, the whole palace was softly lit by
thousands of glow-worms. It was a magical place.
Ares was the son of Zeus and
Hera. His father was king, his
mother was queen.
Ares was tall and handsome,
and mean and self-centered.
His sidekick, Eris, the spirit of
everywhere with him. They
carried four spirits along as
well - the spirits of Pain,
Panic, Famine, and Oblivion.
In Greek mythology, Ares did
not care who won or lost a
battle. He just liked to see
bloodshed. Most of the other
gods stayed as far away from
Ares as possible. He only
Apollo and Artemis were twins. They were the magical children of Zeus and Leto.
The twins - Apollo and his sister, Artemis - adored their mother. Apollo,
especially, was very protective of his mother.
Apollo is a younger god, the son of Zeus and the nymph Leto, and the twin
brother of Artemis. The Greeks often thought of Apollo as being the same as
Helios, the Sun god, or the same as the sun, and so he is one of the sky gods
who always beat out the earth gods in Greek myths. Apollo's younger brother is
Apollo does not marry or have many children, though sometimes he falls in love.
Apollo is a wise god who can tell the future, and his temple at Delphi was a
famous oracle, a place where people went to find out what was going to happen.
One of his sons is Asclepius, the god of medicine. Apollo is also a musician who
plays the lyre.
The Greeks told a story that when Apollo first came to Delphi there was a great
snake living there, a sort of dragon, the Pythia. Apollo killed the dragon and that
was how Delphi became his temple. This might mean that there was an earth
goddess who was worshipped at Delphi before the Greeks came with their new
god Apollo. It is a lot like the story of Medusa.
Athena was born without a
mother. Her father was the
mighty Zeus, king of all the
gods. Athena was born
directly out of Zeus' brain.
Zeus loved all his children,
but if he had to pick a favorite,
it would probably have been
Athena, the goddess of
Athena was a powerful force,
and one of the 12 deities who
held a seat on Mount
There are many myths about
Athena in Greek mythology.
Athena is one of the younger goddesses; she is the child of Zeus. She has
no mother. The story is that Athena was born, fully grown and armed, out of
the head of Zeus. One day Zeus complained that he had a headache, and
Hephaistos came and banged him on the head with an axe and out popped
Athena has no husband either. She doesn't fall in love and she doesn't have
Athena is the goddess of wisdom; her symbol is the owl (the wise bird).
She's the patron goddess of the city of Athens, and her owl appears on
Athenian silver coins. She is also a war goddess, which is why she is
usually shown fully armed, with her shield and sword.
Aphrodite was the exception to the Greek God family
tree. Some say her parents were unknown, and that she
was born of sea foam. Others, like the poet Homer, said
she was a daughter of the mighty Zeus, king of all the
gods. No one knows quite where to place her on the
Greek God family tree.
However she was born, Aphrodite was the goddess of
love and beauty. She was an essential element of many
Legend says that Aphrodite could be kind or merciless.
But the truth is that most of the myths about Aphrodite
are, well, rather focused on Aphrodite. Not that she was
vain. It was simply a fact. Aphrodite knew that she was
the fairest in the land.
To be fair to Aphrodite, she was not at all like Ares, the
god of war. Ares loved to cause pain and havoc.
Aphrodite was only merciless if you did something that
truly angered her. Unfortunately, Aphrodite was easier
angered, especially when it came to vanity.
For example, if you believe the old myth, it was not a
quarrel over land or goods, but was instead Aphrodite's
vanity that caused the Trojan War. Read the myth:
Aphrodite and Queen Helen of Sparta.
Aphrodite (a-fro-DIE-tee) was the Greek goddess of love.
Naturally she was always falling in love with somebody, or
somebody was falling in love with her. She is one of the oldest
goddesses, the daughter of Ouranos. The most famous story
about Aphrodite is that she started the Trojan War.
Another story is the one about Actaeon. She is supposed to
have had Ares for her boyfriend, and to have been married to
Nobody is sure yet what the relationship is between Aphrodite
and West Asian love goddesses like Astarte.
The Romans thought Aphrodite was like their goddess Venus.
And the Germans thought she was like their goddess Freya.
Aphrodite is a fertility goddess, like Demeter. But while Demeter
makes the earth grow grain, Aphrodite makes women have
babies. Aphrodite herself, however, does not have children
Hercules was half man and half god. His mother was a mortal. But his father
was a king - a very special king, the king of all the gods, the mighty Zeus.
But Hercules did not know he was part god until he had grown into a man.
Right from the beginning, Hera, Zeus' wife, was very jealous of Hercules.
She tried all kinds of ways to kill him, including sending a couple of big
snakes into his crib. Hercules crushed those snakes in a flash! Hercules
was incredibly strong, even as a baby!
Zeus loved his little son. He figured that sooner or later Hera might actually
find a way to kill little Hercules. To keep his small son safe from attack, Zeus
sent him to live with a mortal family on earth. Hercules grew up loved and
noble. But he didn't fit in on earth. He was too big and too strong. One day,
his earth father told him he was a god, well, part god anyway.
The rest of the story of Hercules is a bunch of little stories that together tell
the tale of how Hercules earned his way into the heavens, to take his place
with the gods.
Hercules (hûrˈkyəlēzˈ)[key], Heracles, or Herakles both: hĕrˈəklēzˈ, most popular of all
Greek heroes, famous for extraordinary strength and courage. Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon,
made love to both Zeus and her husband on the same night and bore two sons, Hercules (son of
Zeus) and Iphicles (son of Amphitryon). Hercules incurred the everlasting wrath of Hera because
he was the child of her unfaithful husband. A few months after his birth Hera set two serpents in
his cradle, but the prodigious infant promptly strangled them.
When he was a young man, Hercules defended Thebes from the armies of a neighboring city,
Orchomenus, and was rewarded with Megara, daughter of King Creon. But Hera later drove
Hercules insane, and in his madness he killed his wife and children. After he had recovered his
sanity, he sought purification at the court of King Eurystheus of Tiryns for 12 years. During those
years Hercules performed 12 arduous labors: he killed the Nemean lion and the Hydra; caught
the Erymanthian boar and the Cerynean hind; drove off the Stymphalian birds; cleaned the
stables of Augeas; captured the Cretan bull and the horses of Diomed; made off with the girdle of
the Amazon queen Hippolyte; killed Geryon; captured Cerberus; and finally took the golden
apples of Hesperides.
When his second wife, Deianira, daughter of King Oeneus, was seized by the centaur Nessus,
Hercules killed Nessus with arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. As he died,
Nessus told Deianira that blood from his wound would restore Hercules' love for her if ever it
were to wane. Later, when Deianira sought to win back her husband's love, she contrived to have
him don a robe smeared with the blood. The robe stuck fast to Hercules' skin, burning him
unbearably. In agony, he built a huge pyre atop Mt. Oite and had it set afire. His mortal parts
burned away, but the rest rose to heaven, where he was finally reconciled with Hera and married
Although worshiped as a god, Hercules was properly a hero, frequently appealed to for protection
from various evils. In art Hercules was portrayed as a powerful, muscular man wearing a lion's
skin and armed with a huge club. Perhaps the most famous statue of him is the Farnese
Hercules in the National Museum in Naples. He is the hero of plays by Sophocles, Euripides, and
Once up a time, a long time ago, Zeus ordered Hephaestus (Aphrodite's husband) to make him a daughter. It
was the first woman made out of clay. Hephaestus made a beautiful woman and named her Pandora.
Zeus sent his new daughter, Pandora, down to earth so that she could marry Epimetheus, who was a gentle
but lonely man.
Zeus was not being kind. He was getting even. Epimetheus and Prometheus were brothers. Zeus was mad at
one of the brothers, Prometheus, for giving people fire without asking Zeus first.
Zeus gave Pandora a little box with a big heavy lock on it. He made her promise never to open the box. He
gave the key to Pandora’s husband and told him to never open the box. Zeus was sure that Epimetheus'
curiosity would get the better of him, and that either Epimetheus or his brother would open the box.
Pandora was very curious. She wanted to see what was inside the box, but Epimetheus said no. Better not.
"You know your father," Epimetheus sighed, referring to Zeus. "He’s a tricky one."
One day, when Epimetheus lay sleeping, Pandora stole the key and opened the box.
Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never
experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late. All the bad things were already out of
the box. They flew away, out into the world.
Epimetheus woke up at the sound of her sobbing. “I opened the box and all these ugly things flew out,” she
cried. “I tried to catch them, but they all got out.” Pandora opened the box to show him how empty it was. But
the box was not quite empty. One tiny bug flew quickly out before Pandora could slam the lid shut again.
“Hello, Pandora,” said the bug, hovering just out of reach. “My name is Hope.” With a nod of thanks for being
set free, Hope flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.
Theseus was known for his
triumph over numerous
monsters, especially the
Minotaur, which lived in a
labyrinth on the island of
Crete. Every year the people
of Athens had been forced to
send fourteen young people
for the Minotaur to eat alive.
But Theseus, using a ball of
magic thread from the
princess Ariadne, found his
way in and out of the labyrinth
and killed the beast. Theseus
was the son of either Aegeus,
king of Athens, or the sea god
Poseidon. In later life he
became king of Athens and a
Theseus (thēˈsyōs, –sēəs) [key], in Greek mythology, hero of Athens; son of
either King Aegeus or Poseidon. Before Aegeus left Troezen he placed his
sword and sandals beneath a huge rock and told his wife Aethra that when their
son, Theseus, could lift the rock he was to bring the gifts to his kingdom in
Athens. At the age of 16 Theseus lifted the rock and began his journey, during
which he freed the countryside of various monsters and villains (e.g.,
Procrustes). When Theseus arrived at Athens, Medea, then wife of Aegeus,
tried to kill him. Aegeus, however, recognized the sword and sandals, saved
Theseus, and exiled Medea. Theseus subsequently had numerous adventures.
His most famous exploit was against the Minotaur of King Minos of Crete.
Theseus insisted on being one of the seven youths and seven maidens of
Athens to be sacrificed to the monster as an annual tribute. He promised his
father that if he were successful in killing the Minotaur he would on his return
voyage replace his ship's black sails with white ones. Ariadne, daughter of King
Minos, fell in love with Theseus and gave him a magic ball of thread to be
dropped at the entrance of the labyrinth; it led Theseus to the Minotaur, which
he killed, and he then followed the unwound thread back to the entrance. He
left Crete with Ariadne but abandoned her at Naxos. When Theseus reached
home he forgot to raise white sails. Aegeus saw black sails, and, thinking his
son dead, the grief-stricken father threw himself into the sea, thereafter called
the Aegean. As king of Athens, Theseus instituted several reforms, most
notably the federalization of the scattered Attic communities.
Pegasus, the flying horse, was
the son of Poseidon, king of the
ocean, and Medusa, a horrible
monster with snakes for hair.
Yet the stories of Pegasus are
wonderful and warm. Some tell
how Pegasus carried wounded
Greek soldier from battle.
Many people tried to kidnap this
famous horse. Some succeeded.
But the gods always intervened,
always on the side of Pegasus,
and always to the disadvantage
of whomever had kidnapped him.
Ultimately, after many
adventures, Pegasus found a
home on Mount Olympus. He
became the thundering horse
Zeus rode in the stars.
Ancient Greek Monsters
The Centaurs were half-man half-horse
creatures. Their upper half was human, while
their lower half had four legs like a horse.
However, one centaur named Chiron was
intelligent and skilled in training. He trained many
of the Greek heroes including Achilles and Jason
of the Argonauts.
The hydra was a fearsome monster from Greek
Mythology. It was a giant snake with nine heads.
The problem was that if you cut one head off,
more heads would quickly grow back. Hercules
slew the hydra as one of his Twelve Labors.
Hydra, in Greek mythology, many-headed water
serpent; offspring of Typhon and Echidna. When
one of its heads was cut off, two new heads
appeared. The second labor of Hercules was to
kill the monster. He did so by burning the neck
after cutting off each head.
Mythical Creatures Continued
Medusa was a type of Greek monster called a Gorgon.
She had a woman's face, but had snakes for hair.
Anyone who looked into Medusa's eyes would be
turned to stone. She was once a beautiful woman, but
was turned into a Gorgon as punishment by the
The Minotaur had the head of bull and the body of a
man. The Minotaur came from the island of Crete. He
lived underground in a maze called the Labyrinth. Each
year seven boys and seven girls were locked into the
Labyrinth to be eaten by the Minotaur.
The Minotaur was a man-eating monster with the head of a bull. King
Minos kept it hidden in a labyrinth (a maze) in Knossos, on the island of
Crete, where he used it to frighten his enemies. Theseus killed the