Aphrodite is famous as the most beautiful of all the Greek goddesses. Her beauty became a great legend, and we still sometimes use the name Aphrodite to mean beauty. She was one of the Olympian gods and lived with the other Olympian gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty and pleasure.

There are a number of different stories about how she was born. One story says that Aphrodite emerged from the sea in Paphos, Cyprus, as the daughter of Uranus. Another says that she was the daughter of Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, and Dione, a Titan.

Aphrodite is always described as beautiful, and in Ancient Greek art, she is often pictured with long flowing hair. She is often pictured nude and frequently is seen holding an apple or scallop shell. Aphrodite is often associated with birds, so pictures of her frequently include sparrows, doves or swans. The Ancient Greeks believed that sparrows pulled her flying chariot across the sky.

Goddess of Love

As the goddess of love, Aphrodite had the power to make people fall in love. The source of this ability came from a magical girdle that Aphrodite owned. Other goddesses sometimes borrowed this powerful girdle to make people fall in love. Aphrodite also had the power to reunite couples who were estranged. A festival dedicated to Aphrodite, known as Aphrodisia, was held in Athens. Statues celebrating the goddess would be carried in a procession and bathed in honour of the goddess of love and beauty.

Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, but she was only married to him because Zeus arranged it. The reason Zeus married Aphrodite to Hephaestus was that the gods and goddesses were worried that if there was competition for her hand in marriage that it would cause a war among the gods. Hephaestus was deformed and ugly, so it was felt that he would be a safe husband for her. However, many gods and mortal men fell in love with Aphrodite and she had love affairs with lots of other people. She had many children, both mortal and immortal.

Goddess of Beauty

Aphrodite’s beauty was legendary, and this led indirectly to the infamous Trojan war. The story tells us that there was a party for the goddesses, and one of the goddesses, called Eris, became angry because she was not allowed to attend. She decided to cause an argument between three other goddesses by making them competitive and jealous of each other. A beauty contest was held to see who would win a beautiful golden apple which was marked with the words “For the Fairest”. Zeus would not judge the contest so they asked the prince of Troy, a mortal man names Paris. He chose Aphrodite, and in return, she promised him the love of Helen, who was the most beautiful woman on earth. Paris found Helen and took her back to Troy, and in doing so, he started the Trojan war.

Important Facts about Aphrodite

  • In Roman mythology, the name given to Aphrodite is Venus
  • Aphrodite is the subject of some very famous artworks including the Venus de Milo sculpture and The Birth of Venus painting.
  • Aphrodite famously fell in love with Adonis, a mortal man who was later killed by a boar.
  • The child that Aphrodite had with Hermes was named Hermaphrodite.
  • The place that celebrated Aphrodite most in Ancient Greece was Corinth, where many buildings were dedicated to her.
  • The name ‘Aphrodite’ means ‘arisen from foam’ which refers to the story that she came from the sea foam.
  • Aphrodite was never a child, she is always described as being fully grown.
  • The apple tree and the myrrh tree were both considered sacred to Aphrodite.
  • Aphrodite was injured in the Trojan war and was tended by Dione (who in some stories is her mother).
  • Women may have cut off their hair as a sacrifice to Aphrodite.


  • What was the prize in the beauty contest that Aphrodite won?
    A golden apple
  • What type of creature is often picture with Aphrodite?
    Birds are often pictured with her; especially doves and swans.
  • What mortal man did Aphrodite fall in love with, who was later killed by a boar?
  • Which city was most dedicated to the worship of Aphrodite?
  • Who was Aphrodite married to and who forced the wedding?
    She was married to Hephaestus, the wedding was forced by Zeus.


Apollo was an important Olympian god as he had many different roles. He was the god of prophecy and oracles, but also of music, poetry, archery, medicine, knowledge and light. He was considered to represent the ideal of male youth, beauty and grace and is pictured as a beautiful, athletic young man in his prime. Each day, it was his job to pull the sun across the sky in his chariot.

The Birth of Artemis and Apollo

Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, but because of the jealousy of Hera’s wife, Leto was cursed so that she could not give birth on solid ground. Eventually, she found a floating island where she gave birth first to Apollo’s twin sister Artemis (another important Olympian god). Artemis then acted as midwife, helping to deliver Apollo into the world.

Apollo had a very brief childhood! He was fed on ambrosia and nectar so that he would grow quickly and within a few days he was fully grown and incredibly powerful. This was essential in order to protect him from the vengeful Hera, who tried to kill the family with a python. Apollo killed the python and this led to him becoming the patron of Delphi, an important city.

The God of Prophecy

As the patron of Delphi, Apollo used the Oracle of Delphi to reveal hidden information about the future to people. This was an extremely important and precious gift to the ancient Greeks, who would make long pilgrimages to Delphi in order to ask questions to the powerful Oracle. The Oracle was instrumental in a lot of the plots of the poems and stories about ancient Greece, prophesying to mortals, gods and heroes.

Apollo was able to give the gift of prophecy. When he fell in love with a mortal called Cassandra but she did not love him, he bribed her with the gift of prophecy, She accepted but as soon as she had the gift, she rejected him. Unable to retract a godly gift, Apollo cursed Cassandra so that nobody would ever believe her predictions even when she was correct.

  • The Love of Daphne

    Apollo had a number of love affairs, but the most notable was the love he had for Daphne, a nymph. This did not occur naturally; he was shot with a golden arrow fired by Eros (Cupid) as revenge for insulting him. his made Apollo fall madly in love with Daphne. The problem was that he also shot Daphne with a lead arrow to make her hate Apollo. Apollo suffered from unrequited love and chased Daphne until her father Peneus turned her into a laurel tree to escape from him. This was believed to be the reason for the laurel being evergreen. Apollo is often seen in artwork wearing a crown of laurel leaves, as the laurel became sacred to him in Daphne’s memory.

  • The Death of Achilles

    Apollo played an important role in the Trojan war. He had a Trojan son, and so fought with the Trojans. He sent a plague to the Greek armies by raining down plague-infested arrows on their camps.

    He later helped Paris to kill Achilles by guiding his arrow to the one part of Achilles that was not immortal; his heel. The arrow killed him, and this is where we get the phrase “Achilles’ heel” to mean weakness.

Important Facts about Apollo

  • Apollo was the most musical of the Olympian gods & entertained the other gods by playing beautiful music on his lyre.
  • Apollo was able to cause disease, plague and illness and also to cure sickness.
  • Poseidon and Apollo both had to help build the walls around Troy as they were punished by Zeus for trying to overthrow him.
  • Apollo was known as the head of the Muses who inspired the Arts.
  • Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, gave Apollo his magic arrows as a gift.
  • Apollo is one of very few Greek gods who went by the same name in Roman mythology. The Romans also worshipped Apollo as the sun god.
  • Apollo was known to send plagues of mice to invade cities.
  • One of Apollo’s closest friends was Hyacinthus, who he accidentally killed in a discus-throwing contest.
  • In pictures and statues, Apollo is often seen with a swan. The dolphin was another animal considered sacred to him.


  • What musical instrument did Apollo play?
    The Lyre
  • What was the name of Apollo’s twin sister?
  • What was the name of the city which Apollo was a patron of?
  • What was Apollo’s weapon of choice?
    A bow and arrows


Ares was the Greek god of war. He was an aggressive, bloodthirsty character. He is usually depicted as a muscular nude youth or a bearded older figure in armour, usually wearing an elaborate helmet and carrying a spear as a weapon. He is often shown in a war chariot, which was pulled along by a team of horses, sometimes breathing fire.

An Unpopular God

Ares was an unpopular god due to his reputation as a cruel, heartless figure who thrived on violence and was motivated by anger. Ares represented manliness to the Ancient Greeks, but despite his strong physical appearance and skills in battle, the ancient Greeks also considered him to be cowardly as in many stories, he complains about being injured. He was generally regarded as an unpleasant character, but one to be feared and respected. While warriors would appeal to Athena for help with military strategy, they would appeal to Ares for help on the battlefield.

Ares was the son of Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods, and his wife Hera, but the stories and poems describe how his parents detested Ares. He was not well-liked by any of the other gods, except perhaps Aphrodite who he was in love with.

The Trojan War

Ares was on the side of the Trojans during the famous Trojan war, and more importantly, on the side of Aphrodite! This put him directly against many of the other Olympians, most importantly the goddess Athena (who was also his sister). The bloodthirsty violence of Ares was pitted against the clever warfare and strategizing of Athena, and Athena won. This highlighted the importance of strategy to the ancient Greeks.

Ares and Aphrodite

Ares and Aphrodite had a love affair, despite Aphrodite being married to the god Hephaestus. The other gods knew that this was happening but when Hephaestus found out, he set a trap for them. As the blacksmith of the gods, Hephaestus was extremely skilled at creating elaborate contraptions. He created a metal web which fell on Aphrodite and Ares when they were together, then he gathered everyone to laugh at them and humiliate them

When Aphrodite fell in love with the beautiful mortal man Adonis, some stories say that Ares became so jealous that he transformed himself into a wild boar. He attacked Adonis while he was out hunting in the woods and killed him. Other versions of the story say that he sent the wild boar and yet others leave this out and simply state that Adonis was killed by a boar.

Ares had a number of children with Aphrodite, including the terrifying Phobos (the personification of fear who would ride with Ares into battle) and Deimos (the god of terror, known as the shield-piercer) who took after their father. Children who took after their mother included Harmonia (the goddess of harmony and concord) and possibly Eros (the god of desire, better known as Cupid).

Important Facts about Ares

  • Ares was not worshipped much in ancient Greece, and there were few places dedicated to him. His role was important, but he was not celebrated by people a lot.
  • Ares was the father of a race of female giants called the Amazons; they were fierce warriors.
  • The Roman equivalent of Ares was Mars, but there was one important difference – Mars had a kind and forgiving side and was worshipped much more widely than Ares.
  • Usually, when Ares appears in a story or poem, he ends up being ridiculed and embarrassed, despite his power.
  • Ares is one of the few gods who had more children with mortal women than with goddesses.
  • Ares was once trapped in golden chains by a pair of giants. He was left there for a whole year before he was rescued by Hermes.
  • Both the dog and the vulture are associated with Ares.
  • Ares was believed to be the first person to ever shed blood, opening the door for violence and bloodshed to enter the world.
  • The Hill of Ares is where people accused of murder were tried – if found guilty, they were pushed from the cliff.


  • Which goddess angered Ares by falling in love with Adonis?
  • What headgear is Ares famous for wearing?
    A helmet (or helm).
  • How did the other Olympians feel about Ares?
    The other Olympians didn’t like him very much (including his own parents)
  • Who was the father of Ares and what was his role?
    Ares father was Zeus, king of the gods.


Artemis was one of the most beloved goddesses of ancient Greece. Some experts believe that the goddess Artemis actually pre-dates ancient Greece and is an interpretation of an even older deity. Artemis usually appeared as a young girl and was primarily the goddess of the hunt and of archery. She was also thought to be the goddess of the wilderness and wild animals. She is often associated with the moon and was believed to protect women and young children, so she was very important to the ancient Greeks during childbirth.

The Twins Artemis and Apollo

The story of the birth of Artemis is very famous. Artemis’ father was Zeus, the king of the gods, but her mother was not Zeus’ wife (Hera). Her mother was Leto, a Titan who was renowned for her grace and demureness. She was a goddess of motherhood and was pregnant with Artemis and her twin brother Apollo before Zeus and Hera were married.

Hera was extremely jealous of Leto and her unborn children and so she cursed them so that Leto could not give birth anywhere on any terra firma (solid ground) under the sun. She also trapped her own daughter Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth, so that she would not help them. Leto was forced to wander in search of somewhere to give birth, and eventually she found the island of Delos. Delos was a floating island and so not terra firma. Leto gave birth to Artemis and as soon as Artemis was born she helped her mother to give birth to her twin brother, Apollo. The island became fixed in place and Artemis replace Hera’s daughter Eileithyia as the goddess of childbirth.

Birthday Wishes

Artemis was a strong-willed child and famously asked her father, Zeus, to grant her six wishes when she was just three years old. Zeus was extremely fond of Artemis and gave in to her demands. The wishes were not to have to fall in love or get married, not to have to dress like a lady but to wear a hunting tunic, a bow and arrow, sixty nymphs to look after her hunting dogs and be her friends, all the mountains on earth and to have the role of bringing light into the world.

Goddess of the Hunt

Despite her youth, Artemis is usually pictured wearing hunting clothes and carrying a bow and arrow. She is often accompanied by her hunting dogs or by woodland creatures. She had the power to transform into woodland animals and control nature, as well as being renowned for her perfect aim.

The Temple of Artemis

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a temple dedicated to Artemis, located in Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). This marble temple was one of the largest most impressive buildings ever to have been built, and some records say that it took over 100 years to complete. Unfortunately the temple was destroyed, but the dedication of such an important place to Artemis shows just how precious she was to the ancient Greeks.

Important Facts about Artemis

  • Artemis was responsible for protecting young women and keeping them safe until they were married.
  • While she never married or had children, Artemis had a close friendship with Orion, the hunter. Some stories tell how Artemis accidentally killed Orion when hunting.
  • Artemis was known for her cleverness; she once managed to get rid of two powerful giants by tricking them into killing each other.
  • There was a violent side to Artemis; she got revenge on Queen Niobe for mocking her mother by killing Niobe’s children.
  • In some stories, it was Artemis who sent a wild boar to kill Adonis rather than Ares.
  • Many of the other gods wanted to marry Artemis but she would never allow it.
  • Artemis had a temper and when angry she would punish anyone who had offended her, usually with violence.
  • Her powerful bow and arrow were crafted by Cyclops and Hephaestus.


  • What part of the earth did Artemis ask to rule over?
    The mountains
  • What costume does Artemis wear in the artwork of ancient Greece?
    A hunting tunic
  • What celestial object is Artemis sometimes associated with?
    The Moon
  • Which hunter was a close friend of Artemis?
  • How did Artemis take revenge of Queen Niobe?
    By killing her children


Athena is one of the most well-known of all the Greek goddesses. She was one of the twelve Olympians, a group of Gods who lived on Mount Olympus, hidden from view and protected by clouds. Athena is best known as the goddess of wisdom, courage, and warcraft (she is often seen as the female version of Ares the Greek god of War), but she was also the goddess of handicrafts.

Daughter of Zeus

Athena was the daughter of Zeus, who was the king of the Olympian Gods. Famously, Athena’s mother did not give birth to her; Zeus gave birth to Athena himself. Her mother was Metis, a powerful Titan. Zeus was advised to swallow Metis when she was pregnant because otherwise one of her children would overthrow him and take his place. According to the story, Zeus had a terrible headache and he asked another god to hit him on the head with his axe. When he did this, Athena sprang out of Zeus’ head, already fully grown and wearing armour, carrying a spear! Zeus had many children but Athena is often described as being his favourite.

Inventor and Creator

The ancient Greeks worshipped Athena for her many inventions. Athena was said to have invented some of the most important innovations in the ancient world, including the chariot, the plough, and the ship. She was also concerned with weaving, spinning, and pottery. This made her responsible for the incredible developments in transport, farming and trade happening in the ancient world, which in turn meant that she was very precious to the Greeks.

Wisdom, Strategy and Courage

As Goddess of wisdom, Athena was considered to be extremely intelligent and this made her one of the most important gods for war strategy. In many of the stories of the great Greek heroes, like Hercules, Athena appears when the hero is struggling, and she gives him wisdom and courage to continue on his quest. She helped Perseus kill Medusa, and helped Hercules to defeat the Stymphalian birds

Protector of Cities, Patron of Athens

Athena was considered to be the protector of cities and civilised life. She is the patron Goddess of the city of Athens, an honour she won by creating the first olive tree and presenting it to the people of the city who then gave her the name Athena. On a rocky outcrop above the city, on top of the Acropolis, a huge temple called the Parthenon was built in honour of Athena. Many other buildings and temples were also dedicated to her. She was worshipped here as the protector of the city and every year, around midsummer, a major festival was held in her honour. This festival was known as the Panathenaia, and every four years there would be a bigger festival than usual when there would be games, processions, feasting and ceremonies for Athena. People would have sacrificed animals and given gifts to the Goddess so that she would look after the city, bring good fortune to the people and protect the soldiers in battle.

Important Facts about Athena

  • Ancient Greeks believed that Athena created the very first olive tree as a gift to the citizens of Athens.
  • Athena is often pictured with armour and a spear and shield, ready for battle.
  • Athena was an expert weaver and could weave beautiful cloth.
  • Symbols that represent Athena include the olive tree (which she invented), the owl (for wisdom), the snake and the symbols of war such as a spear and helmet.
  • After competing with a weaver in a competition, Athena turned the woman – called Arachne – into the very first spider.
  • In the famous story of Medusa, Athena gave Perseus her polished shield so he could defeat Medusa without looking directly at her, or he would have been turned to stone.
  • Of all the gods, Athena was praised for her rational thought; she is usually described as quite logical and thinks solutions to problems through carefully.
  • In ancient poems about Athena, she is often described as being ‘grey-eyed’.
  • The Roman name given to Athena was Minerva.
  • If an owl flew over soldiers in battle, they believed it was a sign from Athena that they would win.


  • What is the name of the festival that was held to honour Athena in Athens each year and during what season did it take place?
    Panathenaia took place every summer.
  • What was unusual about the birth of Athena?
    She was born fully grown from her father’s head.
  • What bird is associated with Athena?
    The owl.
  • What gift did Athena invent and present to the people of Athens?
    The first olive tree.


Hades is one of the most powerful gods of ancient Greek mythology. Alongside his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, he defeated the Titans and brought in the age of the Olympian gods. The brothers drew lots to decide who should reign over the sky, sea and Underworld because the land was sacred to the Goddess Gaia. Hades was given the role of god of the Underworld. This was the least appealing of the three jobs and Hades is sometimes described as being bitter about this. He was known to be a cold, unyielding character; no prayers or sacrifices would ever induce him to change his mind.

Birth of Hades

Hades was a son of the Titan king, Cronus and his wife Rhea. He was swallowed by Cronus due to prophesy that the Titan king would be overthrown by his own child. Zeus was the only sibling not to be swallowed, and he tricked his father into drinking poison and spitting up the children, including Hades.

The Role of Hades

Hades was a god to be much feared; he is always shown in a powerful pose, often wielding a pronged staff. Some artwork shows him wearing a crown or helmet. It was the responsibility of Hades to supervise the dead; he was not the personification of death, nor was it his job to judge the souls of the dead. He was the ruler of the Underworld (sometimes also called Hades) where the dead resided.

Hades had to watch over the three parts of the Underworld; the Asphodel Meadows, Elysian Fields (a heavenly place for heroes) and Tartarus (a hellish place). He was the only god considered to be an Olympian god who didn’t actually live on Mount Olympus. Hades took his role very seriously and jealously guarded the dead so that no-one could ever leave the underworld.


Hades was sometimes called Plouton, which translates as ‘god of wealth’. There were two reasons for this; firstly, people were very reluctant to say the name Hades, and secondly because the precious metals of the world belonged to him. This is where the Roman god Pluto comes from.

Charon and Cerberus

Charon was a close associate and helper of Hades who was tasked with the job of ferryman. The Underworld was protected by a number of rivers. Charon would ferry the dead across the rivers Acheron and Styx, as long as they had a coin to pay him with (otherwise they were doomed to wander the riverbank for a hundred years). For this reason, the Greeks would place a coin inside the mouths of those they buried.

Hades had a giant dog called Cerberus. Cerberus had three heads and was a ferocious beast tasked with guarding the Underworld. He is often pictured alongside Hades in ancient Greek artwork.


Hades wanted a wife to keep him company in the Underworld, and Zeus offered him his daughter Persephone. She refused to live in the Underworld, so Hades kidnapped her and trapped her with him. This resulted in a devastating famine on earth because Persephone’s mother, goddess of crops, Demeter, was so sad to lose her daughter that she let the crops fail. In the end, Hades and Persephone agreed that she would spend four months of the year with him, and that is the story of why winter occurs and growth stops for those four months of the year.

Important Facts about Hades

  • Hades is sometimes called ‘Zeus of the Departed’.
  • Hades had a winged helmet that made whoever wore it turn invisible, known as the Helm of Darkness. He used it during the War of the Titans to destroy the enemies’ weapons.
  • The cypress tree and the narcissus flower were sacred to Hades and were considered symbols of his power.
  • Hades was believed to ride a large chariot which was pulled by black horses from the Underworld.
  • The word Hades can be translated from ancient Greek to mean ‘invisible’.
  • The pomegranate fruit was sacred to Hades, and he trapped Persephone by giving her pomegranate to eat, which bound her to the Underworld.
  • Hades permitted one person to leave the Underworld, Orpheus, who charmed him with music to rescue his wife from the Underworld. However, Orpheus disobeyed him by looking back as they left, and so lost Eurydice.
  • People were frightened of Hades and he was a hated figure, so they did not want to worship him, but as he was also the keeper of wealth and riches, they often felt they had to honour him for their own fortune.
  • Hades was sometimes represented by the image of a drinking horn.
  • The Roman equivalent of Hades is Pluto.


As the Greek god of fire, Hephaestus was a powerful and important figure to the ancient Greeks. He was also the god of blacksmiths and craftsmen and had power over the volcanoes. Some stories claim that the father of Hephaestus was Zeus while others say that Hera conceived him after eating a magical herb and that he had no father. He is pictured as a strong, muscular character, plainly dressed. He did not ride in a chariot like most of the other gods but instead rode a donkey.

The Ugly God

Hephaestus was powerful and strong, and he was regarded as being kind-hearted and peace-loving. He was one of the least violent gods. However, he was also considered ugly and had a deformed foot so walked with a limp. When he was born, his mother Hera, queen of the gods, tried to throw him from Mount Olympus and banish him because she was repulsed by his deformity. He is pictured as a strong, muscular character, plainly dressed. He did not ride in a chariot like most of the other gods but instead rode a donkey. Hephaestus fell for days and then landed in the sea. A group of sea nymphs rescued him and raised him in a cave under the sea, where he gained his amazing skills as a craftsman. When Zeus learned that Hephaestus had survived, he brought him back to Mount Olympus to live as a god.

The Skilled Creator

Hephaestus is credited with creating the very first woman, Pandora. He made her out of clay and brought her to life as a curse on men.

Part of Hephaestus’ role was that of a blacksmith to the other gods and he was known as a clever inventor of ingenious contraptions, objects and buildings. He was portrayed as being very hard-working and able to manipulate materials such as metal and stone and use fire to create impressive things. He was responsible for many great palaces, chariots, weapons, shields, armour, chains and thrones which he crafted for the other gods.

Hephaestus was believed to have given these manly crafts to mortals. In the same way that Athena gave the crafts associated with females such as weaving and pottery to mortal women. Hephaestus and Athena worked together to impart the knowledge of the Arts to the ancient Greeks.

Hephaestus and Aphrodite

Hephaestus was given Aphrodite as his wife by Zeus. This was an attempt by Zeus to stop the other gods warring over who would have Aphrodite, considered the most beautiful and desirable of all the goddesses. By giving her to the non-threatening Hephaestus, who was considered ugly, Zeus believed that the other gods would be safe from fighting over her. However, Aphrodite was extremely unfaithful to Hephaestus and had many love affairs with both mortals and other gods. Neither Hephaestus nor Aphrodite was happy in the marriage, and they argued a lot.

Important Facts about Hephaestus

  • Hephaestus created two golden helpers which he brought to life to help him in his workshop.
  • Volcanic eruptions were believed to be caused by Hephaestus doing his work.
  • A large temple was dedicated to Hephaestus in Athens, which was the city where he was most revered.
  • Hephaestus ruled over the art of sculpture, so he was very precious to stonemasons and sculptors.
  • The Aegis, a shield or breastplate worn by Athena and Zeus was crafted by Hephaestus.
  • Symbols of Hephaestus include the tools of his work such as an anvil, hammer and tongs.
  • The Roman name for Hephaestus is Vulcan, which is where we get the word volcano.
  • Ares and Hephaestus are often seen as opposites, although they were brothers, Ares was destructive and violent while Hephaestus was creative and peaceful.


  • Who was Hephaestus married to and who arranged the marriage?
    He was married to Aphrodite, the marriage was arranged by Zeus.
  • Who raised Hephaestus?
    He was raised by sea nymphs.
  • Why was Hephaestus thrown off Mount Olympus?
    He was deformed, and his mother Hera rejected him.
  • How did Hephaestus travel?
    He rode a donkey.


Hera is one of the most famous goddesses because she was the wife of Zeus, king of the gods. As such, she was given the role of the goddess of marriage and childbirth. She is strongly associated with women and all things female. As Zeus’ queen, she is often seen in statues and artwork with the symbolism of high status; she is often wearing a crown, carrying a sceptre or sitting on a throne. She is perhaps more widely known by the Roman name Juno.

Hera was rescued rather than born; her father Cronus had swallowed both her and her other siblings to prevent them from overthrowing him. One sibling had been hidden and allowed to mature; this was Zeus (Zeus and Hera were brother and sister as well as husband and wife!). Zeus tricked Cronus into drinking poisoned wine and he spat up the children he had swallowed.

A Powerful Queen

Hera became the wife of Zeus through trickery; Zeus wanted to marry her but she was not interested. So Zeus, who had the power to change into any form he chose, turned himself into a cuckoo bird and created a thunderstorm. Hera rescued the distressed cuckoo bird and cared for it, ending up with her marrying Zeus. The stories say that when they got married, nature bloomed beautifully. The cuckoo came to be one of the symbols that represent Hera, along with other natural imagery such as the pomegranate, the lily, the lotus and the peacock.

Protector of Women

Hera was known as a protector of women, and the ancient Greeks would have prayed to her during pregnancy and when they were giving birth. She was called on to bless marriages and to protect the health and well-being of women.

A Jealous Wife

Many of the stories featuring Hera are about her jealousy over her husband's many other partners. Zeus had many children with other goddesses and with human women, and this made Hera increasingly angry and vengeful. She would often punish the women that Zeus loved, as well as the children he fathered with them.

Hera tried many times to kill her step-son, the hero Heracles (also known as Hercules) because he was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman called Alkmene. She tried to prevent his birth, then sent snakes to kill him as a baby (Heracles simply killed the snakes because he was no ordinary infant!). Later, she used her powers to make Heracles go insane, which resulting in him murdering his family; for these crimes, she sentenced him to work for King Eurystheus, who set him the twelve impossible tasks that he famously completed. Hera did her best to ensure that Heracles failed, but Zeus was so angry with her that he trapped her in golden chains. She only reconciled with Heracles when he died and went to heaven, where she gave him her daughter Hebe as a wife.

Important Facts about Hera

  • Zeus, who was king of the gods, was afraid of nothing, except his wife, Hera.
  • Hera had many buildings and temples dedicated to her, and she was the patron of Argos, an important city.
  • Hera is known in many stories to be spiteful; even banishing her own son, Hephaestus, because of his deformity.
  • Hera had a love of nature and especially of animals.
  • Hera shared some of the powers of her husband; she could change the weather to reflect whether she was pleased with the people or not.
  • Aside from Heracles, who Hera tried to thwart at every turn, she was known as a protector of the heroes and intervened to help them.
  • Hera had many children with Zeus, but unlike the other Greek gods and goddesses, she was entirely faithful to him and did not have children with anyone else.
  • It was not just Zeus who was punished for being unfaithful; Hera also punished other men who mistreated their wives.
  • Hera was believed to ride a chariot which was pulled by a team of peacocks.


  • What bird did Hera rescue from a storm, only to find it was Zeus in disguise?
    A sparrow.
  • Which heroic step-son, beloved of Zeus, was Hera determined to destroy?
  • At what times in their lives would women be most likely to pray to Hera?
    At the time of marriages and childbirth.
  • What name did the Roman equivalent of Hera go by?


Hermes was one of the twelve Olympian gods and was the son of Zeus. He is best known for his important role as the messenger of the gods, and as the god of trade, but he had many other important roles. He was also the protector of trade, roads and travellers, speakers and poets, shepherds and other herdsmen, literature and sport (which was extremely important to the ancient Greeks). He was often called the patron of poetry.

Hermes is recognisable by his winged sandals and winged hat. He looks younger than many of the other gods (he was the second youngest of the Olympian gods) and carries a special winged staff with two snakes wrapped around it called a caduceus.

Hermes the Messenger

As the gods’ messenger, he was expected to take messages and orders between the gods themselves and serve as an intermediary between the gods and humans. He did this by moving very quickly between the divine realm and the human world and using his power of eloquence to speak cleverly so that he could manipulate people. He was often sent on missions to rescue people, often children, because he was clever and deceptive and could move faster than any other god.

Hermes the Thief

Hermes is known as a trickster, often getting his way by using cunning and deceit. He was known to ancient Greeks as the patron of thieves because of the story about his birth. One the day Hermes was born, his mother Maia fell asleep and Hermes sneaked away to steal cattle from Apollo, another god. When Apollo found out, Hermes got away with the theft and was allowed to keep the stolen cattle when he gave Apollo a lyre which he had invented.

  • Hermes the Inventor

    Hermes invented the lyre by creating the first one from a tortoise shell and so the tortoise became a symbol of Hermes. The lyre was not the only clever invention that the ancient Greeks attributed to him; Hermes was also believed to be the god who designed letters and numbers, the inventor of music and the first astronomer. As patron of sport, he was considered to be the originator of many sports, including boxing and gymnastics. He was a quick and clever thinker, as well as a talented speaker.

  • Hermes and the Underworld

    Hermes is often called the god of boundaries and borders. He was one of the few characters who was able to move between the divine realm of the gods, the mortal realm of humans and the underworld of the dead. It was Hermes job to help the dying and lead dead souls to the underworld, although he did not live there. He was the patron of graves and people would ask for his help to die peacefully and at the right time.

Important facts about Hermes

  • Hermes used his intelligence and cunning to outwit other gods instead of battling them.
  • Hermes is sometimes pictured carrying a pouch or satchel-type bag, so the bag has become a symbol of his role as a messenger.
  • A master of disguise, Hermes would disguise himself to help people or to test them.
  • Hermes is one of few gods to be pictured without a beard.
  • Hermes killed the Argus Panoptes – a giant with one hundred eyes – so that he could rescue a girl called Lo.
  • People would sacrifice honey and cakes to Hermes, as well as animals.
  • Hermes was very athletic and the festival dedicated to him, Hermaea, had athletic contests for boys.
  • Hermes was the father of Pan, who was a half-man, half-goat god of the wild.
  • In Roman mythology, the equivalent to Hermes is Mercury, the messenger.


  • Who was the father of Hermes?
  • Which animal is sometimes used as a symbol of Hermes and what musical invention did he create from the animal?
    A tortoise, because he created a lyre from the shell of a tortoise.
  • How did Hermes anger Apollo?
    By stealing his cattle.
  • What power did Hermes have that made him a very good messenger?
    He was athletic and could move faster than any other god.


Hestia was the ancient Greek goddess of the hearth and the family home. She represents family and was a gentle, peaceful character. Hestia was not married and did not have children, and she did not get involved in the politics and arguing that the other Olympian gods were preoccupied with. For these reasons, she is not mentioned as much as the other Olympians, and there are few stories and poems featuring her. She is usually pictured with flowers and often wears a veil, showing her to be modest and demure.

Hestia was responsible for looking after the home of the gods – Mount Olympus – when the others were away. She was a good homemaker, and a hospitable hostess, making sure that everything was taken care of and that there was enough food and drink for when they returned. Many inns and hostels were named after her because of her reputation as a hospitable, welcoming figure.

The First and Last

Hestia was sometimes referred to as the first and last because of the story of her birth. She was the first born child of Cronos and Rhea but was swallowed by her father so that no child of his would ever usurp him. Her other siblings were also swallowed, except for Zeus, the youngest who tricked their father into regurgitating his siblings. Hestia was the firstborn but the last to be regurgitated, making her both the first born and the last born child.

Hearth and Home

Hestia in ancient Greek literally means ‘hearth’. She was the goddess charged with keeping the home fires burning for both gods and mortals. The hearth was seen as the centre of the home so Hestia’s role was very important. The ancient Greeks associated Hestia with all things related to the home, so symbols used to represent her include the hearth, hearth fire and cooking pot. The ancient Greeks would pray to Hestia at mealtimes and make an offering to her before and after they ate. They would pour out wine and save the richest portion of food, dedicating it to Hestia. Before a sacrifice or offering was given to the gods at the hearth, a small offering was made to Hestia first as the goddess of the hearth.

Every city had a fire dedicated to Hestia, and this fire was kept burning at all times. These functioned as a kind of public hearth, kept sacred to Hestia. All new babies would be presented to this hearth when they were born and this served as a blessing for the baby’s health and future happiness. When a new colony was established, the people would take a flame from one of these fires and use it to light the fire at the new location.

Important Facts about Hestia

  • Hestia is not always included in the list of the twelve Olympian gods, and while she is sometimes described living on Mount Olympus, at other times she is described as living in Delphi. When she is left off the list, Dionysius usually replaces her.
  • The Roman equivalent of Hestia is Vesta, goddess of the home.
  • Hestia was charged with the building of houses and it was believed that she taught the people how to build good homes. She decreed that homes should be built from the centre outwards, with the hearth at the centre of the home.
  • Both Poseidon and Apollo wanted to marry Hestia but she swore an oath to Zeus that she would never marry.
  • Hestia’s calm, balanced domesticity is seen as the opposite of Aphrodite’s wayward habits.
  • Hestia gave advice and comfort to the other gods and goddesses when they were going through difficult times.
  • People believed that Hestia demanded that they never turn anyone away, but instead offer shelter and food to anyone who needed it. It is thought that the idea of ‘sanctuary’ began with Hestia.
  • Hestia and Hermes were good friends, even though she was quiet and homely and he was chatty and represented travel.


  • How many children did Hestia have?
    She had no children and never married.
  • What does the name Hestia mean when translated?
    Hestia means hearth.
  • When did people commonly make offerings to Hestia?
    At mealtimes.
  • Was Hestia the eldest child or youngest child of Cronus and Rhea?
    She was both!


Poseidon is best known as the god of the sea, but he was also the god of horses, storms and earthquakes. He was as unpredictable and as moody as the storms he represented; he is the most bad-tempered and violent of the Olympians. Poseidon is quite easy to recognise – he usually carries a trident, which is a long spear with three prongs. He often has quite wild curly hair (and often looks angry).

God of the Sea

Poseidon was a brother of Zeus and Hades, and together the three of them fought against the Titans, who ruled the world before the gods. The three brothers were victorious, and the world was theirs to command. They agreed to divide the world up into the sea, the air and the earth and they drew lots to see who would get each part. Poseidon became the god of the sea and of fresh water; he had power over all bodies of water. While he did live on Mount Olympus with the other Olympians, he also had a palace under the sea which was encrusted with jewels.

As the god of the sea, Poseidon was especially important to people who lived or worked on the water. Fishermen and sailors considered him the protector of the sea and would ask him to keep them safe on the water. He was associated with navigation and when the sea was stormy or dangerous, it was a sign that Poseidon was unhappy. Sailors believed he could clear the sea and steer them in the right direction if he wanted to help them.

Earth Shaker

Poseidon is called the earth shaker in some Greek stories. Although he was the god of the sea, he did control storms and earthquakes on land too. When he hit the ground with his trident, he could cause a powerful earthquake. People would have been accustomed to earthquakes in ancient Greece, so this was how they explained these strange events.

The Horse

Poseidon gets the credit in ancient Greece for inventing one of the most important animals; the horse. Poseidon is often shown in artwork riding a chariot which is being pulled sometimes by horses and sometimes by animals with horse heads and fish tails. This half-horse, half-fish creature is called a hippocamp or hippocampus, which means sea horse. In some stories and poems he is called a ‘tamer of horses’, while in others, he is known as the father of horses.

It was thought that he created the horse as part of a competition with Athena. He created the horse and she created the olive tree. They presented these as gifts to the people of Athens. The Athenians chose the olive tree as their favourite and made Athena the patron goddess of the city. This caused a rivalry between Athena and Poseidon and they often argued and battled.

Poseidon’s Legacy

Poseidon had many children, with humans as well as with goddesses. His most well-known children include the hero Theseus, Polyphemus (the cyclops), Orion (the hunter who we have named a constellation after), Triton (who was part-human and part-fish) and Pegasus (the flying horse).

Important Facts about Poseidon

  • Poseidon was always falling in love and changing his mind, many of the stories about him are about him pursuing a woman who he was in love with.
  • Poseidon tried to stop the legendary hero Odysseus from returning home because he was angry that Odysseus blinded his son, Polyphemus the Cyclops.
  • The Roman name for Poseidon is Neptune, also pictured with a trident.
  • Poseidon was married to a Nereid (a sea nymph) called Amphitrite.
  • Poseidon could transform himself into a horse.
  • The name Poseidon comes from the Greek words meaning ‘earth’ and ‘husband’.
  • In many stories Poseidon is vengeful; if he is insulted he seeks to get his own back.
  • There were many cities and temples devotes to Poseidon, especially in Athens and Corinth.
  • Poseidon controlled sea monsters who he could make attack his enemies.


  • In what way was Poseidon like the stormy seas he ruled over?
    He was unpredictable and could be violent.
  • What animal is most associated with Poseidon?
    The horse.
  • Which goddess was a rival of Poseidon?
  • Why did Poseidon try to stop the hero Odysseus?
    Odysseus had blinded Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon.


Zeus was the most important Olympian god and is often called the king of the gods. When the gods decided to overthrow the Titans and take over the world, Zeus and his brother, Hades and Poseidon divided the world up into sky, land and water and Zeus became the god of the sky and thunder. He was the most powerful god and had some control over the other gods and gave them each their roles.

Zeus is one of the most recognisable gods, and we often picture him with a fistful of lightning bolts! He is usually depicted as a tall, muscular figure with a full beard and long hair, either standing in a powerful pose with a thunderbolt in his hand or sitting on a throne like a king.

Son of Cronus

Zeus was the son of Cronus and his wife Rhea, who were Titan gods (the rules of the world before the Olympian gods took power). It had been prophesied that Cronus would be overthrown by one of his own children, so he swallowed each child to stop the prophecy from coming true. However, when Zeus was born, Rhea, his mother, hid him. There are few different stories about how he was raised, some say by nymphs in the forest, others say by a goat in a cave.

When Zeus was fully grown, he tricked his father Cronus into drinking poisoned wine and Cronus spat out the five children he had swallowed. Zeus and his siblings battled against the Titans and eventually won, overthrowing them and taking control of the world as the Olympian gods. No-one can decide is Zeus is the oldest or the youngest child of Cronus because his siblings were born first but they were swallowed and later spat out as babies when Zeus was fully grown.

Zeus as ‘Father of All’

Zeus was considered to be a father figure for everyone, immortal and mortal. He also had many children, some of whom were gods, others were great heroes and some became the Graces and the Muses. He had children with many different goddesses and women, but his wife was Hera, Queen of the gods and goddess of marriage. Hera was very jealous of Zeus’ many love affairs and often went against him.

God of Weather

Zeus had control over the weather and could throw bolts of lightning and cause raging thunderstorms. The winged horse called Pegasus (son of his brother Poseidon) was a faithful servant to Zeus and would carry thunderbolts for him. Zeus was known to be quick to anger, with a violent temper that would result in terrible storms on earth that caused massive destruction. People would ask Zeus for protection from such events and when they happened, they would assume that Zeus was angry.

God of Law and Justice

Zeus was the god who was responsible for seeing that justice was served. He was considered wise and fair, honoured for being a protector of the weak but feared because of the vengeance he would take on the wicked. He was known as the ‘keeper of oaths’, so it was his responsibility to make sure that people who were dishonest, told lies or tried to cheat, were punished. People in ancient Greece made sacrifices to Zeus

Important Facts about Zeus

  • In Roman mythology, the immortal equivalent of Zeus was called Jupiter (which is where we get the name of the planet) or Jove.
  • Zeus had the power to change form, so he could take on the form of other people or animals.
  • The thunderbolts of Zeus were considered the most powerful and unstoppable weapons to exist.
  • Zeus often carried an Aegis, a huge shield.
  • The oak tree is associated with Zeus and became a symbol of his power. Sometimes he is pictured wearing a crown of oak leaves.
  • Zeus’ powerful thunderbolts were a gift from the Cyclopes, who he rescued to help him fight against the Titans.
  • To thank Pegasus for his service, Zeus transformed him into a constellation so he could be immortal.
  • Ancient Greeks believed that humans got fire from Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus.
  • Zeus helped the Trojans during the Trojan war.
  • The Olympic games were established in the name of Zeus, to honour him and gain his favour.


  • What powerful weapon did Zeus have and where did he get it?
    Zeus had the power of lightning, which he received from the Cyclopes as a thank you.
  • What was the name of the winged horse who served Zeus?
  • Who ruled the world before the Olympian gods?
    The Titans
  • What tree is associated with Zeus?
    The oak tree.
  • What was the powerful shield of Zeus called?
    The Aegis