Think you know your ancient Greek goddesses and gods? There's a whole wacky pantheon of iconic characters to contend with. Rather than any being ultimately good or evil, each are complex and have numerous strengths, flaws and complex relationships with both other deities and the mortals on earth. While these powerful characters used to define ways of life for the ancient Greeks and were considered to exist without question, it is a different story these days. Now the temples of these old gods are filled with tourists, rather than believers.
Ancient people created gods, goddesses and belief systems to explain everything from sickness to thunder to luck to death, as they did not have the benefit of modern technology with which to explore and understand the world around them. People believed that problems large and small were caused by displeasing gods and could be fixed by regaining their favor. If there was a drought, obviously a god was unhappy and when that drought ended, it meant that the people had been able to repair their relationship with them. There was a godly explanation for everything from love, to war, to the very seasons.
If you're a Greek mythology buff, see if you can guess these famous gods from only a single sentence!
Zeus is the ruler of Mount Olympus and god of thunder, lightning, law and justice. He overthrew his father Cronus and became king.
Gaia is the personification of the Earth. She is the mother of the Titans.
Aphrodite was born from sea foam. She is usually depicted as a beautiful semi-nude woman and has been a popular subject for artists over the centuries.
Poseidon is the god of the sea, rivers, droughts and floods. He is the brother of Hades and Zeus.
Eris is the Greek goddess of chaos, strife and discord. She is connected to the Greek goddess of war and destruction Enyo.
Ares is a god of war, violence and bloodshed. He is portrayed as moody and unpopular by Homer.
Hera is the goddess of women, marriage, childbirth and empires. She is the wife of Zeus and frequently seeks vengeance on the women he sleeps with.
Eros is the god of desire and sexual attraction. In some myths he is a primordial deity, while in others he is a son of Aphrodite.
Pan is a satyr or half-man-half-goat. He is a god of nature, the wilds, flocks and goats.
Hades is the king of the underworld and death. He is also the god of wealth.
Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and queen of the Underworld. Her kidnapping by Hades to make her his wife is one of the most famous stories in Greek myth.
Chronos is the personification of linear time, as humans experience it. He is usually portrayed as an old, wise, bearded man.
Atlas is a Titan. He was cursed by Zeus to carry the world on his back after Zeus defeated the Titans.
Apollo is the god of music, the arts, healing, plague, manly beauty, prophecy and archery. He is the twin brother of Artemis and in some sources identified as a sun god.
Mania is the goddess of insanity and madness. She is also a goddess of the dead.
Oceanus is the Titan god of the ocean. The ancient Greeks considered him to be a large river that encircled the whole world.
Hecate is a goddess of magic, crossroads, ghosts and the moon. Her magic is known for its connection with death and those who have died.
Artemis is a goddess of the hunt, animals and young girls. She is the twin sister of Apollo and later became associated with bows and arrows.
Prometheus is a Titan associated with clever advice. It was his task to create humanity out of clay.
She is the patron goddess of the city of Athens, which was named for Athena. According to myth, she was born fully formed from Zeus's forehead.
Demeter is a sister of Zeus, who fathered her daughter Persephone. Her search for her daughter is symbolic of the rebirth of crops in spring.
Dionysus is a god of revelry, wine, drunkenness, madness, chaos, ecstasy and theater. He is depicted as both an older bearded man and an androgynous youth.
Hephaestus is the smith of the gods and the husband of Aphrodite. She often cheats on him with others.
Hermes is the god of travel, communication, language and writing. He is known for his winged sandals and association with music, deception and luck.
Hestia is the sister of Zeus and is depicted as a modestly veiled matronly woman. Her symbols are the kettle and hearth.
Chaos is a primordial Greek deity. It was initially the genderless personification of nothingness.
Nemesis enacts vengeance against those who commit evil acts or fall into the trap of hubris. Hubris is being arrogant in the face of the gods and treating them with disrespect.
Nyx is a primordial goddess or personification of night who even Zeus fears. Her children are the personified deities Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death).
Tartarus is a primordial deity. His realm, an abyss where souls go to be punished and the Titans are imprisoned, is also known as Tartarus.
Uranus is a primordial Greek sky deity. He is the father of the Titans.
Charon is the ferryman of Hades. For the price of three silver coins, he ferries souls across the river Styx into the underworld.
Helios is the god of the sun. He was a handsome Titan who drove a golden chariot across the sky every day.
Circe is a deity of magic. She's known for turning her enemies and anyone who insults her into beasts.
Selene is a goddess of the moon. She is sometimes referred to as the mother of vampires.
Morpheus can take any human form he wishes. He can also appear in dreams.