The 12 Olympian Gods | Greek Gods Family Tree: From The Titans to The Olympians | #GreekMyths

There are many Greek gods and goddesses – it is called polytheism after all. We have talked about Persephone, Hecate, and Pluto. But there are twelve names that everyone who has studied Greek mythology knows.  Today we will be talking about the 12 gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus and how they are related to each other.

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The 12 Olympian Gods and Goddesses | The Major Olympian Deities

2.918mMount Olympus is a real mountain located in Thessaly, Greece. In fact, it is Greece’s highest mountain (2.918 m) and a national park since 1938. As you can imagine, ancient Greeks must had been very impressed when looking at this breathtaking view. They believed that this was the home and observatory of their gods and goddesses. The latter are known ever since as the twelve Olympian gods. The Greek Dodekatheon in the beginning consisted of six male and six female deities. When Hestia offered her throne to Dionysus, Mount Olympus was dominated by men.

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The Greek Dodekatheon consisted of:

  1. Zeus
  2. Hera
  3. Poseidon
  4. Demeter
  5. Athena
  6. Apollon
  7. Artemis
  8. Ares
  9. Aphrodite
  10. Hephaestus
  11. Hermes
  12. Hestia (her place was later given to Dionysus)

As you can see, Pluto, Persephone, and Hecate are not among the 12 Olympian gods and goddesses. In fact, there are several ancient Greek deities who consist the Greek pantheon.  However, these twelve gods are the ones that were the most popular. And we know this because there was an altar for twelve gods and goddesses in the ancient agora of Athens. The altar was set up in 522 BC by the grandson of the tyrant Pisistratus who bore the same name. The altar was not only used for worshipping these twelve gods and goddesses; it was also a place where people would seek supplication and refuge.

The Genealogy of the Olympians | Greek Gods Family Tree

What are the origins of the Olympian gods and goddesses? How are they related to each other?

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Cronus: The Vicious Patriarch

The first generation of the Olympian gods and goddesses are descendants of the Titans. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, the Titans were children of the Sky (Uranus) and the Earth (Gaia) and the deities that ruled the world before the Olympians. Their leader was Cronus, a cold-hearted, blood-thirsty tyrant who ate his own children. His wife was Rhea, another Titan and also one of his sisters.

The reason Cronus consumed his offspring was because of a prophecy that wanted him dethroned by one of them. He had done the exact same thing to his own father Uranus with the help of his mother, Gaia, so the scenario did not sound unfamiliar.

Cronus had six children with Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Pluto, Poseidon, and Zeus – the youngest one. After hearing the prophecy that one of these children would dethrone him, Cronus did the unthinkable: he consumed his five older children alive; he did not chew them, he swallowed them whole. Zeus was a little baby at that time and he was breastfeeding when his siblings were eaten alive.

Once Rhea realized what her husband had done to the rest of their children, she was appalled. She wanted revenge but also to protect her youngest son; but she knew that Cronus was the most powerful Titan. He was blood-thirsty and willing to kill anyone who would try to take over his power. And that is when she orchestrated her plan to take Cronus down. It would take years but she was determined to do everything in her power to succeed in this.

The first thing she did was to hide Zeus in a place that was unreachable by Cronus. She went to the sacred Minoan cave of Psychro – also known as Dictaeon Antron- and hid the baby in there. A goat* named Amalthea became the baby’s foster mother, providing him with milk. Zeus was also protected by the Kouretes, a group of mighty Cretan soldiers who danced and shouted louder than the infant’s cries. Nowadays, Kouretes are a traditional dancing group for men in Creta.

Once Rhea returned to her husband, he demanded to bring him Zeus for dinner. The female Titan was already prepared for this: she had wrapped a piece of rock in a blanket and offered it to Cronus instead of the baby. Cronus consumed the rock and continued on with his life, thinking that none of his children could succeed him.

The Titanomachy and The New Generation of Gods and Goddesses

Years past by and Zeus grew up and became the powerful and cunning god we all know. He knew he wouldn’t be able to take his father down by himself, so he organized a plan to free his siblings from his father’s stomach.

Pretending he is someone else, he offered Cronus a herbal-based potion that caused him to get sick to his stomach. Since Cronus hadn’t chewed his children, Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Poseidon, and Pluto managed to escape**.

What followed was a ten-year war between the Olympians and the Titans, known as the “Titanomachy”. The battles took place in Thessaly and resulted in the victory of the Olympians who not only overthrew Cronus but managed to castrate him. According to Hesiod, this action resulted to the birth of Aphrodite. However, according to Homer, the goddess of love and beauty was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

The Rise of The Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus

After the war, the Titans were locked in Tartarus, the darkest part of the underworld and the Olympians took over Mount Olympus. Zeus and Hera got married and became the king and queen of the gods. Zeus in particular became the ruler of the sky and the earth and was given the lightning as a weapon. Pluto*** became the ruler of Hades, the underworld, and Poseidon took over the seas. Pluto was considered a chthonic deity after taking over Hades; therefore, he was not considered as part of the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses.

Since we are going to be talking about the different gods and goddesses on separate occasions, let’s see how all of the twelve gods and goddesses were related to each other.

Siblings: Zeus, Demeter, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, (Pluto), Aphrodite

Spouses: Zeus and Hera

Children: Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Athena, (Persephone) etc.

Note1: The gods and goddesses in brackets are chthonic deities and not part of the twelve gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.

Note2: Only Hephaestus and Dionysus were children of Zeus and Hera; Zeus had many extramarital affairs that resulted in pregnancies (Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus etc.), while some of the children

*other sources mention a nymph.  

**there are other variations of the myth that want Zeus conducting a C-section to his father and rescuing his siblings.  

***Also known as Hades; Hades is the name of the underworld.

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Three Greek Sayings and Quotes for a Happier Life | Greek Words of Wisdom

Some of them are ancient – they carry over 2000 years of wisdom – and others are quite recent. Here are some words of wisdom that Greeks abide by for a happier, more balanced life.

«Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη, να εύχεσαι να είναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.» | “As you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one.”

-Constantine Cavafy, one of the most important contemporary Greek poets. From the poem “Ithaka” (1910/1911).

Ithaca/Ithaka is a beautiful island in the Greek Ionian sea. In Homer’s “Odyssey”, Ithaka is the main character’s home, the place he is trying to reach while exploring the Mediterranean in a series of adventures that we call “the Odyssey”. And today, it still symbolizes our goals and dreams, what we are destined to be. Constantine Cavafy’s poem teaches an important lesson to all ambitious young people: happiness is a journey, not a destination. In other words, don’t post-pone happiness; enjoy the journey. Fall in love with the process of reaching your goals. And wish that the process will be long and full of adventures. Just like Odysseus, sometimes you will find yourself straying from your path. And this is ok. Life is not a race. Life is not even a marathon. Life is a journey.

«Θνητός γεγονώς άνθρωπε, μη φρόνει μέγα.» | “You were born a mortal human, don’t see yourself as great/invincible.”

-Menander, ancient Greek dramatist. The phrased was coined around 400 BC.

I know, this sounds depressing. But we live in a very grandiose, narcissistic, and self-entered era. There is nothing wrong with self-love and being confident or knowing your value. But being self-centered is another. If you think about it, there are trees on this planet that can live for thousands of years. The planet is more than four billion years old and Homo Sapiens is not even half a million old. You are just a small dot in the entirety of the universe. Realize that life does not revolve around you. So, it is ok to be stupid sometimes. It is ok to make mistakes and it is totally fine if you are not the best of the best, if you never get to become famous, rich or superior to others. Because none of that really matters. Be humble and appreciate the “small” things in life that are actually much bigger than you think. And realize that, although you may not be able to change the world alone, you do have power and you can have an impact in someone’s life. It could be your mom, your best friend, that puppy you found on the street. Don’t waste your life trying to be the best. Try to be the best version of yourself instead.

«Η φτώχεια θέλει καλοπέραση.» | “Being poor requires living well.”

-Original source unknown. The phrase is known from the 1958 movie with the same title.

Just because you are not rich according to today’s standards does not mean you are not allowed to have fun and enjoy life. Dancing, telling stories, laughing, hugging your loved ones, watching the sunrise or the sunset are for free. Don’t focus on what you lack. Focus on the things you have. And when you spoil yourself with a material “luxury”, stop feeling guilty. Money can’t buy happiness. Don’t wait to fill your pockets with money to be happy. Don’t be miserable because you lack money.

In an essence:

  1. Don’t post-pone happiness; enjoy the journey.
  2. You are not immortal or invincible; stay humble and grounded.
  3. Happiness is free; live well and enjoy life when you are low on money.

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Hecate: Goddess of Witchcraft, Ghosts, and Necromancy | #GreekMyths

Like Persephone, who was the queen of the underworld, Hecate, a daughter of two Titans, was considered a chthonic divinity; meaning that she spent most of her time under the surface of the Earth. She is often depicted holding a torch and a key. That is because she was able to unlock the gates between different realms – allowing people to communicate with the souls of the dead and supernatural beings from different realities.

Hecate as a Goddess of Necromancy

Due to her ability to create portals and points of connections between different realms, Hecate was considered to be the goddess of Necromancy. Necromancy is the practice of communicating with the dead to reveal secrets about the past, the present, and the future. This was a common practice in ancient Greece; visiting oracles for guidance was generally accepted and Hecate was a well-perceived and respected goddess. The ancient “mediums” would communicate not only with the spirits of the dead but also with the gods to receive information that would be taken into consideration for important strategic decisions.

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Ghosts in Ancient Greece

Since necromancy is associated with ghosts, the souls of the dead, Hecate was also the goddess of ghosts. Ghosts in ancient Greek were neither bad nor good. Sometimes they helped people make important decisions with prophecies, other times they would cause panic. And the most popular evil ghost of ancient times was Taraxippus – the ghost often caused panic to horses during horse races and battles. The ghosts were also blood-thirsty, similar to vampires, and if someone needed to consult them, sacrificing an animal was usually required.

Hecate as a Goddess of Witchcraft and Witches

Hecate was also the goddess of witches, witchcraft, and magic. She had a familiar which was a dog and not a cat! The goddess was nocturnal and knew a lot about herbs. She was therefore able to craft potions and medicines.  Dandelion, garlic, and lavender are some of the herbs that are associated with her. She is believed to give blessings to witches by offering her knowledge and rumor has it that she lurks in crossroads. Even today, crossroads in Greece are believed to be places that are favored by witches.

Hecate’s Cult

Hecate had many followers in ancient Greece and her shrines were often placed at a home’s doorway or at public crossroads. In ancient Athens, a pillar dedicated to the goddess was located in a crossroad that led to the Acropolis, the sacred rock of Athens. Sanctuaries of the goddess were found in the town of Lagina, in Argolis, on the island of Aigina and many other places. In the island of Samothrace, people would often use a ritual that involved Hecate that was believed to protect them from storms and other terrors. The rituals unfortunately involved the sacrifice of dogs.

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Hekate’s Deipnon

Deipnon in Greek means dinner. Every new moon, Ancient Athenians would honor Hecate and the souls of the dead by serving an additional meal for her. Hecate’s deipnon was also used as a method of purification of the house – a way to appease any angry ghosts that were roaming the house.

Ancient Greek Witchcraft, Curses, and Spells

Archaeological findings have shown that ancient Greeks often practiced witchcraft and cast spells/curses to win a battle, attract a love interest, make money, and generally succeed in life. The process involved writing spells or curses on tablets and/or use figurines that could be compared to voodoo dolls. These objects would be thrown into the graves of those who had recently passed-away.

The ancient Greeks believed that the souls of the dead were messengers between different realms – the ones who recently died would carry these messages with them to the underworld and then Pluto, Persephone, Hecate or any other chthonic divinity would use their powers in favor of the spell caster. It is not clear whether the latter would have to pay a “price” for the “service”.

 A great example would be the discovery of 30 curse tablets in a well in the ancient Greek cemetery of Kerameikos. The people who cast the curses were asking for the help of various chthonic gods and goddesses. You can find images here (the text is in Greek). Although witchcraft was generally accepted, “black” magic and casting curses were not only considered unethical, but also illegal. However, in ancient Athens, there was one exception:  before a battle, all Athenians would be invited for a public curse session against the enemy (source also in Greek).

*Often spelled Hekate.

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Can You Teach Yourself Greek?

learn greek at home

You might want to learn Greek for various reasons but the closest language school does not offer Greek classes, there are no private tutors close to you or you are available late in the evening and your budget is low. None of these things should stop you from learning Greek or any other new language. There are many ways to teach yourself Greek and you will save a lot of time and money.

Learn Greek at Home | Teach Yourself Greek with Four Easy Steps:

Step One: Get Yourself a Good Dictionary

This is essential when you want to find a specific word or phrase in Greek. Go to the app store on your phone and type “Greek-English” dictionary. Download the best rated app. If you prefer using a printed dictionary, visit your local bookstore or order one online. Avoid using Google translate for complicated sentences. Try asking a native speaker instead (e.g. in Quora).  

Step Two: Watch Easy-to-Follow Videos for Learning Greek

Assess your level in Greek and find an affordable video course that you can watch from your computer. There are different options out there but feel free to check out Helinika’s video courses for Beginner’s Greek. You get to watch the first three videos for free and then buy the entire course at the price of ONE meeting with a private tutor. Oh, and we have an email that students can use for questions regarding their assignments.  

Step Three: Organize Your Notes

Reading your materials, watching a video or listening to an audio are not enough when learning a new language. You will need to take notes. Get yourself a nice notebook that will inspire you to study, a pencil, and an eraser. Scientific research has shown that writing things down help most people memorize things more easily.

Step Four: Learn Little-By-Little

Did you know that sleep helps you store information? Instead of spending three hours of learning Greek per week, dedicate three-four days per week when you can watch the videos for 10-15 minutes before bed. Dedicate one of these days in repeating what you’ve already learned

How to Teach Yourself Greek in a Nutshell:

  1. Get a dictionary (book/app)
  2. Watch videos on your computer
  3. Write things down
  4. Study for maximum 15 min. before going to bed

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How Did Athens Get Its Name? Athens and Athena | #GreekMyths

poseidon and athena

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Athens is the capital of Greece, a city with a history spanning over 3.400 years. In ancient times, and specifically in classical times, Athens was a powerful Greek city-state. Democracy was born in Athens and the city was the center of arts, sciences, and, of course, philosophy.

Not only was it the birthplace of notable philosophers such as Socrates and Plato, but also of politicians, such as Pericles, and playwriters and tragedians, such as Aristophanes and Sophocles. Nowadays, many people dream of visiting Athens and specifically the hill of Acropolis, where many polytheistic temples are still intact.

The epicenter of Acropolis is the Parthenon; the temple that was dedicated to goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategy, among other things. The question that arises is why did the Athenians choose Athena to be their protector and why does the name of Athens and the goddess are so similar?

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Cecrops: The Founder of Athens

There is a myth that has survived thousands of years that explains why Athens was named after the goddess Athena. Many historians believe that Athena was actually named after the city of Athens. But today we are going to explore the myth surrounding the naming of the city.

Before Athens met its glory, it was called Cecropia. It was named after its mythical founder, Cecrops. The latter was born by the Earth itself and was half-man and half-serpent. Despite his appearance, he was not feared by the people. He is in fact considered the father of native Athenians and the one who taught them how to read and write.

Cecropia was considered a beautiful land with plenty of sunlight. It lacked a lot of vegetation, but it was located by the sea. At the center of the city, there was a hill that could be used for strategic purposes but also to connect with the divine. The people of Cecropia were educated, cultured, and among the first who started worshipping the Olympian gods. Soon enough, the Olympians noticed this beautiful land and wanted to protect it. The two gods who wanted Cecropia the most were Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategy, and Poseidon, the god of the sea.

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Athena vs. Poseidon

Athena and Poseidon were willing to compete against each other to win the sympathy of the natives. They did not try to force their power over the city; they knew that people would be more motivated to follow a god or goddess if he or she gained their respect rather than cause them to fear. This detail is important and often overlooked when describing the myth. The gods’ decision signifies the transition from oligarchy to democracy.

The two powerful gods stood in front of Cecrops and the citizens and presented their offers. Poseidon stood on the rocky terrain of Cecropia, which he then struck with his trident. A well full of salt water appeared, which was later called the “Sea of Erechtheus”.  This was indeed very spectacular, however, the locals couldn’t drink the water and there was no practical use for it.

The wise goddess Athena did something less spectacular but she took into consideration the needs and wishes of the people. With her divine powers, an olive tree grew from the rocky terrain. The olive tree can survive the strong Attican sun and live for thousands of years. Today, visitors can see one of the oldest olive trees of Athens standing tall on the Acropolis hill. Rumor has it that this is the exact same tree that emerged from the ground with Athena’s powers.

Cecrops chose Athena to be the protector of the city, which was named after the goddess. This decision was proven very profitable, since the olive tree enabled the Athenians to produce olive oil – the “liquid gold” of the Mediterranean region. Not only did they become self-sufficient, but they exported the product in other regions as well. With their economy blooming, Athenians were able to spend more time thinking about how to improve society. What would the ideal governing style look like? What is moral and what is immoral? How can the arts and sciences improve people’s lives?

Other variations of the myth:

-Poseidon offered the people of Cecropia a goat; livestock farming would not bring a lot of profit, since the land lacked vegetation. Another, unpopular variation says that Poseidon actually offered the people a horse. Poseidon is indeed considered the creator of the horses.

-It wasn’t Cecrops who decided on the fate of the land, but the citizens. Women voted for Athena and men for Poseidon. The women were more than the men. This variation explains also the “birth” of Democracy, since the citizens voted for who would represent them. However, Democracy was developed around 600 BC, whereas Athens was founded 2,5 thousand years before that.

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The Eleusinian Mysteries: The Secret Agrarian Rituals | #GreekMyths

The previous time we talked about Persephone, the goddess of vegetation and queen of the underworld, who was the daughter of goddess Demeter and the wife of Demeter’s brother, Plouton. In today’s video, we will be exploring the Eleusinian Mysteries – the secret rituals of an agrarian* cult in ancient Greece.

It is important to clarify that the mysteries themselves were actually happening in real-life, they were not mythical; however, they did revolve around ancient Greek mythology, and because of the secrecy that surrounded them, a lot of the things that we know about them, might not be true.

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When were the Eleusinian Mysteries taking place?

Many scholars believe that the Eleusinian Mysteries were inspired by some older Egyptian rituals that involved Isis and Osiris or that they were directly connected to some other Greek rituals, known as “Cabeirian Mysteries”, which were dedicated to chthonic deities living under the surface of the Earth.

The information we have regarding these rituals come from the ancient Greek geographer, Pausanias, who said that, when the Athenians took over the city of Eleusina, they were able to control every aspect of the lives of the people living in Eleusina. But there was an exception. They had no control over the Eleusinian Mysteries, the secret rituals of an agrarian cult.

According to estimates by archaeologists, the mysteries were taking place for at least 2.000 years, between 1450 BCE to 392 CE. They were always held in the ancient Greek month Boedromion (August – September).

Persephone’s Myth and the Eleusinian Mysteries

The myth itself is related to Persephone’s myth, the one we covered in our previous video. Persephone was both the goddess of vegetation and the queen of the underworld. She was depicted as a joyful, young girl, but also as a chthonic, fearful divinity. Persephone would spend half of the year by the side of her mother, on the surface of the earth, gathering flowers in fields and protecting the nature. The other half, she would go back to her husband in the underworld, the same way that the seeds are buried under the ground till they grow and sprout.

The Mysteries are connected to this myth. The cycle of life and death, the change of seasons, and possibly, reincarnation. And during the rituals, it is said that the descent, search, and ascent of Persephone where depicted.

The Agrarian Cult of Eleusina

Eleusina is a town with one of the most visited archaeological sites in Greece. It is located nearby Athens and it is visited by many schools and tourists every year. The entire area was of great spiritual significance in ancient times, since that was the place where Demeter spent most of her time searching for her daughter after she was abducted and held in Hades.

This town was a connection point for the devotees of Demeter and Persephone who would gather every year, at the end of the summer, to participate in some very secretive rituals. The rituals were said to be organized by an agrarian cult, meaning that this cult was highly interested in Mother Earth and the cultivation of land. The cult had members outside of Eleusina, spreading to Athens and other parts of Greece.

The rules of this cult were very austere; members were warned to never reveal what the rituals consisted of. Anyone who disobeyed would receive the death penalty. The same would happen to anyone who would make fun of the mysteries as well.

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What do we know about the Eleusinian Mysteries?

Since the Eleusinian rituals were so secretive, little is known as to what they consisted of. We know that they were open to all: males, females, children, the old, slaves, and free people. We also know that they incorporated some dramatical/theatrical elements, meaning that the experience was similar to watching or even participating in a theatrical play. The main goal was catharsis, the physical, emotional, and spiritual cleansing.

Another thing we know is that the people leading the rituals were a group of priests, priestesses, and hierophants, who were followed by the initiates, the new members of the cult, and then the older members; the ones that had already passed the “epopteia”, the process of learning the mysteries.

What we know about the Eleusinian Mysteries:

  1. The ritual involved baskets with poppy flowers and pomegranates.
  2. A chest with unknown offerings was also used.
  3. The Eleusinian rituals revolved around Persephone and the connection between life and death (when corps die, they are reborn through their seeds).
  4. When the rituals became popular in Athens, Athenians would walk to Eleusina through the “Iera Odos” (Sacred Road). In the same area there is now a motorway with the same name.
  5. Accusations of breaking the rules of the cult was popular among rivals. The penalty was death.
  6. The rituals were separated into the “Lesser Mysteries” and the “Greater Mysteries”. The latter would last ten days.
  7. The rituals involved animal sacrifices, feasts, and dances.

Speculations about the Eleusinian Mysteries:

  1. The participants would descent and ascent a cave; the journey from darkness to light was considered spiritually therapeutic. (Perhaps the Plutonian Cave of Eleusina?)
  2. Narcotics were given to the members of the cult for a more intense experience.
  3. The rituals involved human sacrifice (unpopular opinion – no proof).

The mysteries ended when Christianity took over the Hellenistic religion and was established as the main religion in Greece.

*agrarian= related to the cultivation of land.

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Tips for Learning Greek Fast | Learn Modern Greek

Watch our video and check the tips down below. Do you like our videos? Show your support by subscribing to Helinika’s channel!

Learning a new language might be challenging at first, especially when you are unfamiliar with the alphabet and the phonetics. A lot of English speakers or speakers of any of the Romance languages feel this way when contemplating whether they should learn modern Greek. It might seem intimidating but the truth is that you are already speaking Greek and you don’t even know it. If you follow these tips, learning Greek will turn into an easy and enjoyable process. No need to spend hours studying grammatical rules; learning Greek can turn into a fun hobby of yours.

Five Tips for Learning Modern Greek:

  1. Find Cheap/Free Study Materials
  2. Join an Online Course
  3. Watch Greek Movies with Subtitles
  4. Listen to Greek Music
  5. Join a Tandem Group/Befriend a Native Speaker

Start learning Greek today by joining our affordable and easy-to-follow video courses. Complete an entire level with a one-time purchase – no recurring payments or hidden fees. You pay once at the price of an hourly meeting with a private tutor. Not only that but a free e-book will be sent to you within a few business days! Not sure yet? Watch our first three videos for free first!

Persephone: Queen of Hades | #GreekMyths

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Persephone and Demeter

Thousands of years ago, when refrigerators did not exist and growing and collecting corps required a lot of time and effort, people around the globe had a better understanding of the connection between climate and our own survival. Therefore, many civilizations had a deity dedicated to Mother Earth and her offerings.

The ancient Greeks believed in Gaia, the personification of the Earth, and Demeter, the Olympian goddess of the harvest, fertility, and agriculture. The latter was one of the most important goddesses since she was responsible for covering one of the most basic human needs: hunger.

What ancient Greeks couldn’t understand was why their beloved deity, the one that they adored and worshipped, would bring them so many hardships for months and months during fall and winter. And that is when the story of Persephone and the four seasons started to be told.

Persephone was the beloved daughter of Demeter. Her father was Zeus, Demeter’s brother, but incest among the Olympian gods is not exactly our topic for today.

The maiden loved spending time in nature, which comes as no surprise, thinking that her mother was the goddess who was associated the most with the Earth. She was known to be as very beautiful and she incorporated elements of purity and innocence. Soon enough though, her name became taboo and she herself became the dreadful queen of the dead, a chthonic divinity living in the darkness.

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Persephone and Plouton

It all started when one of her uncles became attracted to her and wanted her as his wife. The god was no other than Plouton, the ruler of Hades. Plouton had already talked to Zeus about his desire to marry Persephone. The maiden’s father had no objections to this but he warned Plouton that Demeter, her mother, would never allow this. She wouldn’t bear seeing her beautiful daughter being trapped in a dark place under the earth, living among the dead. Persephone’s wants were never taken into consideration, but everyone knew that the young woman wouldn’t like to spend her life in Hades. With that in mind, Plouton orchestrated Persephone’s abduction.

The Abduction of Persephone

It was a beautiful, sunny day and Persephone was gathering flowers along with Artemis, the virgin goddess of Hunting, and some other maidens. All of a sudden, the ground started to shake and a man emerged from the depths of the Earth. He was Plouton. Persephone had no time to scream; Plouton had grabbed her and was forcing her into the Earth. Persephone was led to the underworld, married against her will, and was given six pomegranate seeds. Eating these seeds would force her to stay in Hades.

Persephone’s friends did not realize what was going on until Persephone was long gone. The only witness was Helios, the sun. As any mother would do in this situation, Demeter searched everywhere for her daughter. Through fields and forests, by the lakes and rivers, in cities and villages. Persephone was nowhere to be found.

Demeter, Persephone, and the Four Seasons

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. The only thing that was in Demeter’s mind was the strange disappearance of Persephone. It was if she was swallowed by the Earth. The goddess had completely neglected her duties and the Earth was becoming infertile. There were less and less corps available and people were becoming hungry.

Helios, the personification of sun, could not bear seeing the people dying of hunger and finally revealed to Demeter that her brother, Plouton, had abducted her precious daughter.

It comes as no surprise that Demeter was angered by the news. She visited Zeus and demanded to have her daughter brought back to her. Until then, she refused to let the Earth bear corps. Humanity was destined to die.

Zeus was pressured to take immediate action. On one hand, he had given his blessings to his brother Plouton and taking it back would not look good on him. On the other hand, one of the most respected goddesses was hysterical and people were dying. And he finally did the right thing, not for the shake of his daughter’s happiness, but to be seen as the savior of humanity in a difficult situation like this.

Negotiating with Plouton was not easy but the god of the underworld knew that Zeus was the most respected and powerful of the Olympian gods. He agreed to let Persephone return to her mother but there was one condition; Persephone would have to come back to him after six months and the same cycle would repeat itself again and again. Zeus was obliged to accept this condition, and so did Demeter.

With the help of the messenger god Hermes, Persephone would return on the surface of the Earth every spring and she would spend time with her mother and her friends till the beginning of autumn. Then, Hermes would lead her back to Hades, where she would spend the rest of year. According to the myth, this is the reason why the Earth is less fertile during winter. Demeter refuses to keep the soil fertile while her daughter is away.

Persephone as a Chthonic Deity

It is important to note that Persephone never agreed to go to Hades. However, she felt like she had no power over her fate and she soon accepted her role as the queen of the underworld. Persephone grew from an innocent girl into a mature woman and was respected by the dead souls of Hades. She was the one welcoming the souls upon their arrival. The queen of the underworld, as they called her, was believed to be worshipped by secret cults who wanted to achieve immortality or a desirable afterlife.

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Origins of the Myth

The myth of Persephone is known from Homer’s epics and it is also mentioned in the poem “Theogony” by Hesiod. There are also numerous variations of the story, however, the main storyline stays the same. It is believed to be based on the myth of the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Inanna. It is worth mentioning that Persephone and Demeter are both associated with the “Eleusinian Mysteries”, the secret rituals that were taking place in the city of Eleusina from 1.600 BCE to 392 CE. These rituals were believed to offer an alternative and more desirable afterlife for the participants.

Thoughts about Persephone

Do you think that Persephone’s myth represents the connection between life and death? The way that dead matter fertilizes the Earth and new life is brought on the planet? Persephone was the goddess of vegetation and she became the goddess of the underworld later in life. The myth explains the change of the seasons, however, it could also explain the circle of life. How life is being recycled through the Earth. What do you think? Leave your thoughts down below 🙂

*Also referred as Hades.

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Hades: The Ancient Greek Underworld | #GreekMyths

Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, there was a place on Earth, or to be precise, under the surface of the Earth, that was feared by many people residing in Ancient Greece. This place was called Hades. It was the place were the souls of the dead resided, along with Pluto, the feared god of the underworld.

Like in many monotheistic religions nowadays, the ancient Greek polytheistic religion believed in souls and in the afterlife. Ancient Greeks believed that, after death, the soul separates from its physical body and, by taking the shape of this body, it was transported to Hades, the kingdom of the dead.

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The entrances to Hades

The main entrance of Hades was found somewhere in the river Acheron, a river that still exists in the western part of Greece. The souls would be transported there by boat and the ferryman was no other but the ancient Greek version of the Grim Reaper, Charon, known also as the psychopomp, the transporter of the souls. Each soul would actually have to pay for this journey and that is why ancient Greeks were buried with a coin under their tongues. Another entrance of Hades was found in the Peloponnese region, in Cape Tainaron or Cape Matapan. In this area there is a cave that many believed it could actually lead to Hades.

Cerberus: the terrifying guard of Hades

The gates of Hades were protected by a terrifying supernatural being that you might already know from popular culture. I am referring to Cerberus, a monstrous multi-headed dog that would scare away the living from entering the kingdom of the dead and the dead from exiting this realm. Dogs were already domesticated and were pets and guards of many ancient Greek households, including the palace of Odysseus or Ulysses. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see a dog guarding the entrances of the most feared place on Earth.

Where was Hades located?

Hades was believed to be under the surface of the Earth. It was a dark and cold place, however, it was not similar to hell, in the way that hell is described in today’s monotheistic religions. It was both heaven and hell and it was separated in different areas, where different types of souls would reside. The water element was strong, in fact, apart from the river Acheron, which would connect the worlds of the living and the dead, the souls would find four more water sources, including Lethe, the river of forgetfulness and oblivion, from which the dead would drink to forget their past life.   

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The areas of Hades

As I mentioned, Hades was separated in different areas, in which, different souls would reside. Most of us, would probably reside in the Asphodel Meadows. The Asphodel Meadows was dark and gloomy, but also quite beautiful. That was the place were the ordinary people would reside, people who lived normal lives, without doing anything too bad or too extraordinary either.

Now there were two places that were not so pleasant to spend the afterlife. These were the Mourning Fields, the place for those who waisted their life waiting to be loved by someone who did not love them back, and Tartara, which can be compared to the Judeo-Christian hell.  Originally, Tartara was the prison of the Titans, however, it became the place were the wicked souls received divine punishment. It was located deep inside the Earth, and the souls residing there were often referred to as “prisoners”. Tartarus was covered by Erebus, a darkness darker than someone could imagine, and the souls were tortured mentally, filled with guilt and shame for their heinous acts, such as killing their own parents or betraying their own city-state. It is not clear whether the prisoners were tortured physically, however, since they did not reside in their physical bodies, physical pain would not be possible.

Now, when it comes to the most desirable place of Hades, this would be the Elysium Fields, a place were the heroic souls would reside. The place could be compared to the Judeo-Christian heaven, with the difference that it was located under the surface of the Earth and it was not the home of the kindest people, but of the bravest and most heroic ones. Ethics have changed since ancient times and, although humility and compassion might be what would be considered a pass to heaven nowadays, bravery and a strong will were the traits that were the most admirable in ancient Greece.

Plouton: The ruler of the underworld

Plouton or Pluto (Πλούτωνας in Greek) is the ancient Greek god that was sent to rule Hades. Although he was the least popular god amongst the mortals, since meeting him meant that their lives had ended, he was not evil. He had indeed committed a heinous crime by today’s standard – he kidnapped and married his own niece, however, that was a common practice among the ancient Greek deities and if someone was guilty the most for kidnappings with sexual motives, that would be Zeus, the most popular and respected of the Olympian gods.

Plouton was the only god, along with Poseidon, who did not reside in Mount Olympus. He was in charge of all the different places of Hades, from Tartarus to the Elysium Fields, and he was neither a saint nor diabolical.

All the Different Ways to Say “I Love You” in Greek

There are two common ways of saying “I love you” in Greek. One being «σ’ αγαπώ» or «σ’ αγαπάω» and the other «είμαι ερωτευμένος μαζί σου». «Σ’ αγαπώ» or «σ’ αγαπάω» can be used universally, whereas «είμαι ερωτευμένος μαζί σου» translates to «I am in love with you». The first is often associated with the ultimate feeling of love, while the second refers to the romantic love that can fade away or transform into something bigger.
• Σ’ αγαπώ
• Είμαι ερωτευμένος/η μαζί σου

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Different Ways to Describe “Love” in Greek

In English, the word “love” can be quite ambiguous. It refers to different types of love; the motherly love, the romantic love, self-love, the love for god, as well as our personal interests and preferences. We love our friends, we love our partners, we love our favorite foods as well. In Greek, although there is a general term for “love”, «αγάπη», there are many different ways to express this emotion towards different people and objects.

Αγάπη – The Highest Form of Love

«Αγάπη» is the most general term used to express love in Greek and it usually refers to the highest form of love.

Έρωτας/ Έρως – The Romantic Love

The romantic feelings you develop for someone before being able to say whether you love  them or not are described as «έρωτας» in Greek. It is associated with Έρως, the Greek version of cupid.

Φιλία – The Friendly/Platonic Love

«Φιλία» is the exact translation of «friendship», however, it describes fondness in general. It is often used instead of “Platonic love”, the non-romantic love. Nowadays, the word is often used to imply sexual attraction, although «φιλία» was coined to describe non-sexual relationships.

Στοργή – The Familial Love

«Στοργή» describes the familial love, usually the relationship between a parent or caregiver and a child. It describes tenderness and loving care.

This terms for love are often found with latin letters:

  1. Agape
  2. Eros
  3. Philia
  4. Storge

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