The book Mythology by Edith Hamilton is a novel devoted to the legends of Greek Mythology. Such legends tell stories of mighty heroes, ghastly creatures, and Gods and Goddesses with amazing powers. In order to fully understand these myths, a reader must examine each of these Gods or Goddesses individually and identify the unique Characteristics they have. The first humanoid Gods that appeared in Greek Mythology were the Titans, or the Elder Gods. They were the children of Mother Earth and Father Heaven, and due to their enormous size and strength, they ruled over the universe for eons.
Some of the most famous Titans were: Atlas, who carried the world on his shoulders; Prometheus, who brought fire to mankind and then was famously chained to a mountain; and Cronus, the king of the Titans. The Titans were in complete control of the heavens and earth, and it would have stayed that way if it weren’t for their own children. The children of the Titans were the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, or also known as the twelve great Olympians. The king of the Gods, and the God who overthrew Cronus to take his power, was Zeus.
Zeus was the supreme ruler after the fall of Cronus, as well as the Lord of the Sky, the Rain-god, the Cloud-gatherer, and the wielder of the awful thunderbolt. His power was greater than all of the other Gods combined. Zeus was also a lover of many mortal women, and had many demigod (half-god half-mortal) children. Zeus’s bird was the Eagle, his symbols of power the thunderbolt and his breastplate Aegis. Hera was Zeus’s wife and sister. She was the Goddess of Marriage. She was always venerated in the home, and it was she married women turned to with their problems.
Ironically enough, Hera was also well known for her hatred of the women who Zeus had affairs with, punishing them for mercilessly in blind anger. Poseidon was the God of the Sea, and was the most powerful God besides Zeus. He could calm the waters with his golden chariot, or create mighty storms. He carried beside him a three pronged trident that could cause earthquakes. Besides being honored for the lord of the water, he also created the first horse and gave it to man. Hades was the God of the Dead. Not to be confused with the God of Death itself, who was Thanatos; Hades ruled the underworld.
His kingdom was under the surface of the earth, so all the precious metals under the ground belonged to him; therefore, he was also the God of Wealth. He did not often leave his dark realm, and he was not a welcome visitor when he did. Athena was often recognized as a ruthless war Goddess. She was born from Zeus’s head fully grown and clothed in battle gear. She has been called gray-eyed and the protector of civilized life. She was a symbol of wisdom, purity, and reason. The city of Athens was her special city, honorably named after her; the olive invented by her was her tree.
Apollo has been known as the Archer and God of Truth. He was also the Healer, who first taught men the healing art. He was the master musician at Olympus, and delighted the Gods with his beautiful golden lyre. The Laurel was his sacred tree, and the Dolphin and Crow his most sacred animals. Artemis was a Lady of Wild Things, huntsman in chief to the Gods. She was known as the Moon Goddesses, and carried silver arrows that could pierce an animal as harmlessly and quickly as moonlight. Notably, all animals were sacred to her, especially the deer.
Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and Beauty. She was said to be born of the foam of the sea near the islands of Cythera and Cyprus. Where ever she goes, beauty follows and men succumb to her love. Her husband was the disfigured God Hephaestus; however she was often portrayed as in a love affair with Ares. Hephaestus was the God of Fire; also known as the Master of the Forge. He was the only ugly and lame Olympian. He built furnishings and weapons for the Gods, and it was said his forge was under a volcano. He was a kindly, peace-loving, and popular on earth and on Mount Olympus.
Hestia was the God of the home and hearth. Though she had no distinct personality, when a baby was born it was always carried around her shrine, and every meal started and ended with an offering to her. Every city had a hearth dedicated to her that was never allowed to go out. Hermes was a messenger, trickster, trader, and thief. Before he was even a day old, he stole Apollo’s herds; then, as recompense, he invented Apollo’s lyre for him out of a tortoise shell. He was a God to all traders and merchants, and was Zeus’s personal messenger.
He was the most cunning and shrewd out of all the Gods. The God of War was Ares. He was a fierce cruel son of Zeus and Hera, both who detested him. He delighted in bloodstained battles and the fury of fighting, yet was also described as a coward, who ran away moaning when he was wounded. His bird was naturally the vulture. The twelve great Olympians listed above were not the only Gods in Greek Mythology. In addition to these Olympians, the Greeks also had many minor Gods that they worshiped as well. They lived on the Earth rather than on Mount Olympus.
The two most important minor Gods were Demeter and Dionysus. Demeter was originally the Goddess of Corn, though she grew to represent the Goddess of all harvests. She was the one who brought summer and spring to the earth, and who brought every fall and winter when sorrowed for her daughter. She was very important to Greek culture had many mortal like qualities, such as grief and sadness. Dionysus was the God of Wine and drunken revelry. He had a strong dual personality, where he could make men ecstatic and oblivious to their troubles, but then also make them hostile and insane.
He traveled the world, hardly staying on Mount Olympus, discovering the secrets to winemaking. He was a welcome visitor at any party, and Greek Culture loved him. Another minor God that was well known was Pan. He was the shepherd and goat herder’s God. He was not divine, glorious, or radiant, but rather ugly because of his goat hooves and horns. He was an excellent musician and famous for the sweet nature melodies he played on his reed pipes. In addition to Gods and Goddesses, the magical creatures of Greek Mythology are also important to know. Satyrs were half-goat half-man dwellers of the forest.
Centaurs were a half-horse half-man creature; The Gorgons were three dragon-like creatures who turned men to stone; The Sirens lured seamen to their deaths with enchanting songs. The Gods, Goddesses, and creatures of Greek Mythology were fascinating. The unique characteristics of each god and goddess are what supported entire cultures, as well as made the timeless tales of so remarkable. With help from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, a person really can understand who the Gods and Goddesses of Greek Mythology were, and gain knowledge about how each of them was different but important individually.
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