Myths were traditional stories the Greeks told one another to explain how the world worked. The biggest characters in myths were the gods and heroes.
The gods controlled different aspects of the world, such as the seas, warfare, farming, love, and the sky. Heroes were often the children of the gods and did great deeds or won major wars.
Ancient Greek myths can be divided into three time periods: the creation of the world, the Heroic Age, and the Trojan War.
The Origin of the World
The Greeks assigned names to concepts like Chaos and treated them like gods.
The world began with the emptiness that was Chaos. Chaos then made important deities like Gaia, the earth.
Gaia would give birth to her future husband, Uranus, the sky. They had twelve children called the Titans.
These Titans were fearsome beings led by a married brother and sister named Cronus and Rhea.
Cronus overpowered Uranus so he could become the leader of the world and made sure all of his siblings served him.
Cronus and Rhea had several children, but Cronus ate each one once the baby was born.
Rhea loved her children and grew angry. When her youngest child, Zeus, was born, she hid him and gave Cronus a rock wrapped in a blanket instead.
Zeus grew up in secret and tricked his father into drinking a poison that made Cronus sick. Cronus threw up the other children as adults.
The older Titans then fought with Zeus and his siblings.
Zeus and his siblings won. They became the Olympians, the twelve most important gods that lived on the top of Mount Olympus, the largest mountain in Greece.
Although the Greeks had many gods, the twelve Olympians were considered the most powerful. In the early days of the world, they often messed with humans and interfered in their lives.
The Greeks believed that, as time passed, the gods became less interested in directly affecting the world. However, they still existed and would influence events in smaller or more hidden ways.
The Heroic Age
The Heroic Age was the time when demigods performed their great deeds and the Greeks were powerful and influential.
Heracles was the most famous hero in Greek myth and was so popular that the Romans would also tell his stories as Hercules.
He was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, which made him a demigod. Demigods were humans with some divine powers.
The Trojan War
The Trojan War was a major event in Greek myth that included many different gods, characters, heroes, and stories.
The war started when a prince named Paris kidnapped Queen Helen from her husband and brought her to Troy.
The Greeks launched a war to bring her back. The war would not have started if the gods hadn’t had a fight.
There was a party on Mount Olympus and no one invited Eris, the goddess of chaos and strife.
Upset, she decided to throw a golden apple into the middle of the party with a note saying it was for the fairest – prettiest – goddess.
Three goddesses tried to claim the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.
Hera was the queen of the gods, Athena was the goddess of wisdom and war, and Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty.
The three women demanded that Zeus decide who got the apple.
Zeus said that the mortal Paris should pick. The prince chose Aphrodite because she promised him Helen.
Helen was already married, but Aphrodite made Helen fall in love with Paris and sent the two away together.
So, the Trojan War started with each of the gods picking a side. The war created many heroes like the famous Achilles and Hector.
It also was the starting point for many other Greek myths like the Odyssey.
Future Romans even believed the defeated Trojans would be the founders of Rome.
The end of this period marks the beginning of what Greeks considered to be their age, or the time period in which they lived.
Facts about Greek Mythology
- Many Greek heroes were demigods
- Zeus had the most children to appear in stories
- Heracles is still the most well-known hero
- Hera, Zeus’s wife, often tried to kill her husband’s children
- Other famous heroes were Theseus, Perseus, Atlanta, and Jason
- Some of the most well-known Greek stories come from the Heroic Age like Jason and the Argonauts or the Golden Fleece
- The Greeks told myths to one another since most people couldn’t read or write
- Many myths appeared as epic poems, or poems long enough to be books
Questions and Answers
Who was Gaia?
The goddess of the earth who gave birth to all of the other gods.
Where did the Greek gods live?
On top of Mount Olympus.
What was a demigod?
A child who had one god and one mortal as parents.
How did the Trojan War start?
Aphrodite made Helen fall in love with Paris, and he kidnapped her and brought her to Troy.
What were the three periods of Greek mythology?
The creation of the world, the Heroic Age, and the Trojan War.
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