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Ten things you may not have known about Greek gods and goddesses

Greek gods and goddesses have been a part of cultural history since ancient times, but how much do you really know about them? Find out who was abandoned, who causes ecstatic dizziness, and which god actually sweats by reading the short facts below. For example, did you know that Hestia, the Goddess of Hearth and Family Order, was unable to leave the house and could never leave Mount Olympus? You can learn more about these figures from Greek mythology by reading the lesser known facts below and by visiting the newly launched Oxford Classical Dictionary online.

  1. Eos, Goddess of Dawn: Eos, the goddess of Dawn, “begged immortality for Tithonus” from Zeus, but forgot to ask for eternal youth to go with it. He was granted immortality but aged to such an extent that he shriveled away into a wizened, piping husk (hence the origin of the ‘cicadas’). As a result, Eos locked him in a room and threw away the key.
  2. Gaia, Goddess and personification of Earth: Zeus needed a reference to become King of the Gods. The Olympians only chose Zeus as their ruler on Gaia’s advice.
  3. Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty: Aphrodite was also worshipped by courtesans and prostitutes. Epithets such as Hetaira (‘courtesan’) and Porne (‘prostitute’) show her as protector of this profession, whose essential stock-in-trade was seduction.
    Eos (1895), by Evelyn de Morgan. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
    Eos (1895), by Evelyn de Morgan. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
  4. Apollo, God of Light, Healing, Music, Arts, and more: Apollo was said to have slain Python, the dragon guarding the navel of Earth. On top of this, Apollo’s supreme wisdom was said to be beyond human rationality. Quite the God.
  5. Hermes, Messenger of the Gods, God of Commerce, and more: At Cydonia in Crete, the Hermaea festivals were popular festivals held in honor of Hermes. These festivals inverted the status quo; slaves became masters and masters became slaves for a day.
  6. Zeus, King of the Gods, God of the Sky, Order, and more: Zeus is the only major Greek God whose Indo-European origin is undisputed. The King of Gods often appears in ancient reliefs portrayed as a snake.
  7. Hera, Queen of the Gods, Goddess of Marriage and Family: Hera was not only the patron of marriages; she was often given the title of Parthenos, ‘girl’, and associated with prenuptial rites, including (sometimes) the lying together of the two sexes.
  8. Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt: Artemis was a death-bringing deity, for she sent sudden death to women as Apollo did to men. Many women learnt the hard way that it was best not to cross her.
  9. Hestia, Goddess of Hearth and Family Order: Although one of the twelve Olympians, Hestia has little mythology written about her. This may be because she was unable to leave Mount Olympus and travel to Earth.
  10. Hephaestus, God of Fire: In the divine society of Homer, Hephaestus is an outsider: “he works, even sweats” (Il. 18. 372). The downside of being the God of Fire it seems.

Featured image credit: Greek ruins, by nataliaaggiato. Public domain via Pixabay.

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