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.
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.
The Greek Dodekatheon consisted of:
- 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?
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.