The Twelve Olympian Gods
Zeus: Lord of the sky, chief god of the Olympians. He led the revolt against his father, the titan Kronos. His main weapon is the lightning bolt. His symbol is the eagle. Zeus is married to Hera, but has had numerous affairs with other goddesses and mortal women. His demigod children include Perseus and Heracles.
Hera: Goddess of marriage and motherhood. The wife of Zeus and also his sister, Hera is a jealous goddess who resents her husband’s unfaithfulness. Hera helps some heroes, like Jason, but was the enemy to others, namely Heracles (Hercules). Her symbols are the cow (the most motherly animal) and the colorful peacock.
Poseidon: God of the sea, Zeus’ brother. Poseidon is a changeable god, like the ocean itself, sometimes violent, sometimes calm. He created horses from sea foam, and like his brother Zeus has had many affairs with goddesses and mortal women. Theseus was his most famous demigod son. Poseidon’s symbol is the trident, which he uses to stir up terrible storms at sea.
Demeter: Goddess of agriculture, sister of Hera and Zeus. The most famous story about Demeter tells how her daughter Persephone was captured by Hades and taken to the Underworld. Demeter and Hades finally worked out an agreement by which Persephone would spend half the year with her mother and half the year with her new husband Hades. Demeter would only allow crops to grow during the time Persephone was with her. Thus the seasons were created.
Ares: God of war, Ares is the proud and cruel son of Zeus and Hera. He loves battle, but despite his strength he is not a smart tactician. At heart, he is a coward, like most bullies. His symbol is the wild boar and his favorite weapon is the spear. He is Aphrodite’s lover.
Athena: Goddess of war, wisdom and useful crafts. The patron goddess of Athens, from whom the city got its name. Athena sprang from Zeus’ head, which Hephaestus had to split open to relieve the god’s headache. Athena invented many things, including the chariot and the loom. She granted mankind the olive tree. One of the most popular goddesses, she often helps heroes who use their brains, like Odysseus. She dislikes Poseidon and Ares. Her symbols are the owl, the olive tree, and the aegis, a special shield upon which is mounted the head of Medusa.
Apollo: God of archery, divination and the arts. Later, Apollo was also associated with the sun. Handsome and talented, Apollo is the twin brother of Artemis. He is the patron of archers, and created music. He slew the great Python, and became the force behind the Oracle at Delphi, which could tell the future. There were other oracles, but the one at Delphi was the most famous. The Oracle often spoke in riddles which were not clear until after events came to pass. Apollo’s symbols are the lyre, the laurel tree, and the mouse (an animal which ran everywhere and overheard many secrets).
Artemis: Goddess of the hunt and the moon. Artemis vowed to always be a maiden. Because of this, her followers tended to be young unmarried girls who shunned men. A great archer and hunter, Artemis roams the wilds of the world with a band of maidens. Her symbols are the deer and the bow.
Hephaestus: God of fire and blacksmithing. As a baby, Hephaestus was thrown from Olympus by his father Zeus. Because of this, he grew up ugly and crippled, but was extremely good at working with his hands. He can make anything out of metal. He was given Aphrodite as his bride, because Hera thought it would help Aphrodite settle down. Unfortunately, Aphrodite has affairs behind her husband’s back, and Hephaestus is always trying to catch his wife with her lovers.
Aphrodite: The goddess of love, who was born from sea foam. She is the most beautiful goddess, and very vain. She has a magic girdle (belt) which can cause anyone to fall in love with her. Though married to Hephaestus, her main boyfriend is Ares. Her symbol is the dove.
Hermes: The god of merchants, travelers, thieves, and medicine. Hermes watches over all who use the roads and are involved in commerce. The son of Zeus, Hermes could talk when he was only a baby and once stole cattle from Apollo. He made up for this by giving Apollo the lyre, which baby Hermes invented. Hermes uses his speedy winged sandals to deliver messages for the gods. He carries a caduceus, a winged staff entwined with serpents, which today is the symbol of medicine.
Dionysus: The god of wine. Dionysus was born a mortal, but Zeus granted him immortality when he invented wine. Dionysus once led a drunken army to India, where he captured some tigers. He once turned a boatload of sailors into dolphins because they would not honor him. Dionysus was also the God who gave Midas his golden touch.
Other gods and titans:
Hades: The God of the Underworld. Not technically an Olympian since he has no throne on Olympus, Zeus’ brother Hades was made lord of the Underworld when the gods took over the world. He oversees the souls of the dead and all the riches under the earth. He also guards the pit of Tartarus, where the titans and monsters were imprisoned after the great war. His servants include the three Furies, Charon the ferryman of the dead, and the three-headed dog Cerberus.
Hestia: The goddess of hearth and home. A gentle, humble goddess, Hestia gave up her seat on the Olympian council to Dionysus in order to keep peace among the gods. Afterwards, she tended the hearth in the middle of the throne room. She is the goddess of domestic harmony.