Seven Facts About Zeus (the Greek God) | #GreekMyths

Zeus is perhaps the most well-known Greek god of Mount Olympus. Apart from his leading role in several Greek myths, he has also been featured in countless contemporary books and films. Here are seven facts you should know about Zeus.

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7 Facts about Zeus

  1. Zeus is the Leader of the Olympian Gods
  2. Zeus Looks Much Hotter Than You Might Think
  3. Zeus Is a Womanizer and a Serial Cheater
  4. Zeus Weapon of Choice is the Thunderbolt
  5. Zeus Is Associated with Hospitality (Xenios Zeus)
  6. Zeus Was Raised by a… Goat
  7. Zeus Has a Different Name in Modern Greek

Zeus is the Leader of the Olympian Gods

Zeus is the ruler of Mount Olympus and the leader of all Greek gods and goddesses but also humans. His arrival was predicted by an orator. Before Zeus was in charge, the world was ruled by a Titan with cannibalistic tendencies: Cronus. Cronus feared the prophecy that said that one of his children would violently overthrow him. As soon as his wife would give birth to a baby, he would eat it alive. Zeus was the Titan’s youngest son and the only one who survived. Zeus saved his siblings from his father’s belly and destroyed him. He became Greece’s leading god, and he is often associated with the “father god” of monotheistic religions. However, his appearance and personality are far from these figures.

Zeus Looks Much Hotter Than You Might Think

Fatherly god figures are usually portrayed as old wise men with long white beards, rather than muscular and powerful young men. In some modern-day films and depictions, Zeus is also portrayed as an old man. But, in reality, Greek gods and goddesses were thought to be fit, young, and more attractive than most humans. The same goes for Zeus. Ancient Greek sculptures and pieces of art depict him this way. Although he sports a beard, his facial hair is not that of an old man. Zeus’ appearance evolved over time and there was a time when he was mostly depicted as a wise grandfather.

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Zeus Is a Womanizer and a Serial Cheater

Zeus is an attractive god who used his looks to seduce mortal women on a regular basis. It is impossible to count all of his affairs. Zeus is married to his sister, Hera, who ends up punishing the women Zeus sleeps with. When the ruler of Mount Olympus is rejected in his regular form, he transforms himself into different animals. He appeared to Europe as a bull, to Danae as golden rain, and Leda embraced Zeus in his swan form.

Zeus Weapon of Choice is the Thunderbolt

Zeus’s signature weapon is the thunderbolt. That is why he is also named as the “god of thunder”, throwing lightning bolts to his enemies from Mount Olympus. Zeus’s weapon was created by the Cyclops as a “thank you” gift for freeing them from the tyranny of the Titans.

Zeus Is Associated with Hospitality (Xenios Zeus)

Apart from the ruler of the gods and the god of thunder, Zeus has also another role; that of Xenios. Xenios Zeus is the god of hospitality (philoxenia). The latter was taken very seriously in ancient Greece. There were sacred rules that were followed religiously by those welcoming someone in their home. At the same time, people who wandered in places they’ve never been before had a god to pray to for protection. That was Xenios Zeus.

Zeus Was Raised by a… Goat

As mentioned earlier, Zeus was the only child of Cronus that was not consumed alive. That is because Rhea, his mother, had managed to hide him far from his tyrannical father. Cronus ended up eating a rock, which was swaddled like a baby. Zeus then grew up far away from his family in a cave in the island of Crete. He was raised by a goat named Amalthea. In some variations of the myth, Amalthea is not a goat but… a beautiful nymph.

Zeus Has a Different Name in Modern Greek

Ancient Greeks called Zeus “Ζευς”, hence his international name. But modern Greeks refer to Zeus as “Δίας” (Dias). If you studied ancient Greek in school, then you might know that the genitive of “Ζευς” is “Διός”. And it is assumed that this is the reason why modern Greeks call Zeus “Δίας”.

Do you have any other facts to add to the list? You can leave a comment down below! If you enjoyed watching this video, like, subscribe and share with a friend who loves ancient Greek mythology. At helinika.com and Helinika’s YouTube channel you will find plenty of articles and videos on the Greek language, history, and culture.

7 Facts about Aphrodite (Venus) | #GreekMyths

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Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of beauty, love, and procreation. You may know her with her Roman name, Venus. The Greek goddess played an important role in countless mythological stories, including the Iliad. Here are some facts about Aphrodite (Venus) that few people know.

Facts about the Greek Goddess of Beauty and Love, Aphrodite:

  1. Aphrodite’s Ungracefully Graceful Birth
  2. Aphrodite’s Attendants
  3. Aphrodite’s Complicated Love Life
  4. Aphrodite’s Cult
  5. Aphrodite’s Festival: the Aphrodisia
  6. Aphrodite’s Role in the Trojan War
  7. Aphrodite as an Art Muse and Model

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Aphrodite’s Ungracefully Graceful Birth

Aphrodite’s (Venus’) birth has been depicted in countless paintings and frescos since the Renaissance. The goddess of love and beauty rises from the sea foam, near the island state of Cyprus. But what happened few moments earlier, is not so graceful. Aphrodite’s birth was the result of titan’s Chronus’ castration by Zeus and the other Olympian gods, as narrated in Helinika’s video titled “The 12 Olympian Gods | Greek Gods Family Tree: From the Titans to The Olympians”. The Olympians threw the cut body part of Chronus into the sea and Aphrodite was born.

Aphrodite’s Attendants

Eros and Himeros are the two main Aphrodite’s attendants – her loyal companions who followed her around. They are both depicted as young winged men. Eros is the personification of romantic love and Himeros the personification of strong romantic attraction. Other attendants of Aphrodite are Pothos, passion, and Peitho, persuasion. Peitho refers to both romantic and political persuasion. In romance, it can be described as the art of seduction. It is worth mentioning that in Roman mythology, the attendants of Venus are depicted as winged babies – at least this is the case of Cupid, the Roman version of Eros. In ancient Greek mythology, Aphrodite and her attendants are eternal young adults.

Aphrodite’s Complicated Love Life

As the goddess of love, Aphrodite is known for her various love stories. Her love interests were both gods and mortals. Unfortunately, the mortals who were involved with Aphrodite had very tragic endings, such as Adonis, who was shared between Aphrodite and Persephone, and ended up dying during a hunting trip. Another mortal is Anchises, who revealed the identity of his lover to his mortal friends and was hit with a lightning sent by Zeus. When it comes to her immortal lovers, these include Hephaestus, Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus. In some texts, she is reportedly in a steady relationship with Hephaestus and cheats on him with Ares.

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Aphrodite’s Cult

Aphrodite’s followers included any woman who wanted to ensure she remains beautiful and fertile, while enjoying a successful love life. There was also the cult of Aphrodite in her temple in the city of Corinth, where she had several female servants called hetairai. These women would often perform “sacred mating” in exchange for money.

Aphrodite’s Festival: the Aphrodisia

Aphrodite is also associated with a summer festival called “Aphrodisia”. The “Aphrodisia” were celebrated in numerous Greek city-states but were of great importance in Athens, Corinth, and Cyprus. On the ancient Greek month Hekatombaion -which started on the third week of July and lasted till the third week of August- the hetairai and other women worshipped the goddess. They would purify her temple with the blood of a dove and they would offer salt. Flowers and incense were also offered to the goddess.  In some places, the statue of the goddess was washed in the sea and the worshippers dined together. In Thebes, women would dress up as men, and in other places choreographies were performed. It is not clear how men participated in these festivals, but we do know that they were banned in the Aphrodisia of Thessaly.

Aphrodite’s Role in the Trojan War

Aphrodite also played a crucial role in the mythological story behind the Trojan War. It all started when the prince of Troy, Paris, abducted Helen, queen of Sparta, and took her to his kingdom. The Greeks then united and fought against the city of Troy. But it was Aphrodite that told Paris he should take Helen and she was also the one who helped him do so. Paris had offered the “golden apple of discord” to Aphrodite, instead of Hera and Athena. The goddess of beauty and love had promised him a trophy wife, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Aphrodite as an Art Model

Since classical times, Aphrodite has been sculpted and painted from countless artists who wanted to depict the beauty standards of their time. The most well-known Aphrodites are the sculpture of Aphrodite of Milos (130-100 BC) and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (mid 1480s).

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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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