When talking about the Greek gods Names, it is important to note that the gods of Greek mythology lived on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.
Greek Gods Names, big and small
The Olympian gods were 12 in number. However, in the stories of Greek mythology, there were also many other smaller gods and deities who lived on earth. For example, sea nymphs lived in the waves and forest nymphs lived inside the moles of trees. For the ancient Greeks, many natural phenomena or nature itself were also personalized as gods.
The gods usually mated with each other or with mortals and had children. For example, Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, and Ares, god of war, gave birth to Cupid, the god of love. Also, the coupling of Zeus and a mortal woman named Leto gave birth to two important gods, Apollo and Artemis. It was very common for the child of a god and a mortal to become a god or at least have superficial powers. Take the example of Hercules, the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. Although he was not considered a god, he had inherited some extra-human powers.
Like all gods, they were immortal. People’s minds did not imagine them as eternally young, but each god had a different age. For example, Zeus and Hera were middle-aged, while Apollo and Aphrodite were forever young. To maintain their eternal life, the Olympian gods ate ambrosia and drank nectar.
He had great strength and could defeat great giants in battle. Hercules is known in mythology for his twelve labors, such as slaying the lion of Nemea and the 9-headed Lernian hydra, stealing the apples of Sperides and capturing Cerberus. Another hero with superficial powers was Theseus, the son of the mortal Aethra and the divine Poseidon.
He is famous as king of Athens and also for his difficult tasks: slaying the Minotaur and winning over the legendary Amazons during the siege of Athens. The gods, for the ancient Greeks, had a very liberal attitude in life. Family unions did not apply to them, so brothers could marry their sisters and have children, or a son could kill his parents. How liberal the rules were for the gods, this would not apply to mortals. If a mortal broke a moral rule, the punishment was severe.
List of Greek Gods Names
A complete list of Greek god names, and their realms of influence. There are many Greek gods mentioned throughout thousands of stories in Greek mythology, from the Olympian gods to the minor gods.
The gods, like the Greek goddesses of history, have highly exaggerated personalities and are plagued with personal flaws and negative emotions despite their immortality and superheroic powers.
The narrative of the Greek gods, goddesses and related mythology, unlike the Bible, was not available to the ancient Greeks through a singular compilation of texts. Instead, many of the characters and their earlier stories were carried through oral traditions developed during the Mycenaean Bronze Age. Now, of course, the best example of the classical Greeks being inspired by their “ancestors” comes from the epic poetry of Homer in Iliad and Odyssey.
To that end, rather than a historical account of how the Mycenaeans fought and behaved, these epic literary works should be seen more as a compilation of folk traditions that were passed down from generation to generation between the 9th and 8th centuries BC (three centuries after the demise of the Mycenaeans).
In any case, the mythical Greek gods, heroes and monsters (some of which make their way into the Iliad and Odyssey ), personified diverse realms, from religious rites to climate. In short, this set of entities provided ancient Greek people with the meaning of mundane and natural cycles, which justified their existence within the framework of mythology. And historically, it was probably the poet Hesiod’s Theogony. which compiled the first known origin story of Greek mythology, around 700 BC.
It was followed by several other Greek playwrights and poets (such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) who played their part in expanding and even reshaping some elements of the vast scope of Greek mythology.
With these historical factors in mind, let’s take a look at 20 of the major gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, including both Titans and Olympians, that you should know.
1. Gaia – Goddess of the Earth
In Greek mythology, the role of a primordial deity (protogenoi) at the beginning of creation is played by Gaia (or Gaea). In essence, she was considered the mother of all creation, whose conception signaled the beginning of order after the long period of chaos (the symbolic scope of the void or abyss).
And so all the Greek gods and goddesses descended from her lineage, the first generation being born of her union with Ouranos (or Uranus), the god of the sky.
2. Uranus – The God of the Sky
Gaia’s male counterpart, Ouranos (or Uranus) was the primordial deity of the sky. To this end, ancient Greek mythology perceived the sky as a solid dome of brass, adorned with shining stars, whose edges literally rested on the flat ends of the Earth, thus symbolically uniting Gaia and Ouranos, the primordial Greek gods.
This union created the first group of giants, the one-eyed Cyclops and the hundred-limbed Hecatoncheires. In the mythical narrative, unfortunately for the giants, their father became wary of their power and so ordered Gaia to imprison them in her womb. However, Gaia, unable to bear the pain, established an alliance with her next “group” of descendants, the Titans, and together they succeeded in dominating Ouranos.
3. Cronos – The Titan of Time
This primordial deity father of the “first generation” of Greek Olympian gods and goddesses (such as Zeus, Hades, Hera, etc.), and himself being the youngest son of Uranos, alluded to how Kronos himself would be deposed by his own children.
Upon learning of this ominous prognosis, Kronos swallowed all his sons and daughters, with the exception of Zeus, who was saved by his mother Rheia (wife of Kronos) and remained hidden on the island of Crete.
4. Hyperion – The Titan of Light
One of the Titan (Titan) children of Ouranos and Gaia, and thus belonging to the first generation of Greek primordial gods, Hyperion signified the very essence and scope of celestial light, while his sister/wife Theia (meaning “divine”) was the manifestation of the radiance of the blue sky.
To this end, even his descendants were counted among the Greek gods and goddesses of light and celestial bodies, including Helios, the god of the Sun, Selene, the goddess of the Moon, and also alludes to his association with light and the sky, as it literally means “he who looks down from above”, thus relating to the term hyper, meaning “above, over, above, above or beyond”.
5. Oceanus – The Water Titan
Despite being a Titan (son of Uranos and Gaia), and therefore belonging to the first generation of primordial gods. As is known Okeanos (or Oceanus) was the personification of the immense river Okeanos which was believed to have surrounded the Earth itself, as the land masses of Eurasia and Africa (collectively the “Earth”) were only known to the Greeks.
In essence, like Hyperion and its association to the vast reach of light, Okeanos was perceived as the monumental `recipient’ that contained the entirety of the planet’s water. To that end, Okeanos signified all the fresh water of the earth, rivers, wells, springs, and even rain clouds. And his three thousand sons, with his wife Tethys) representing the various bodies of water and rivers. However, unlike Hyperion (and Kronos), Okeanos was not involved in the power struggle with his father Ouranos.
6. Atlas – The Burden Titan
The son of the titans Iapetos and Clymene (or Asia ), and the brother of Prometheus. The primordial deity Atlas led the Titans in their war against the Greek Olympian gods of the “next generation” (the descendants of Kronos ), for control of the heavens.
While most of the Titans were banished to Tartaros by the Olympian Victorians, Atlas was destined for a special punishment chosen by Zeus, the leader of the Olympian Greek gods. He was given the unenviable task of carrying the weight of the heavens on his shoulders while standing on the western edge of Gaia.
7. Prometheus – The god of fire and creator of mankind
One of the primordial Greek gods of the “second generation” of Titan, Prometheus, the brother of Atlas, embodied the aspects of foresight and cunning machinations. And like Atlas, he was one of the ringleaders of the Titans in their struggle against the Olympian Greek gods; although he later switched sides, as the Titans did not much like his “deceitful” advice.
In any case, Prometheus’ ‘claim to fame’ in some narratives of Greek mythology stems from his status as the creator of mankind. To this end, according to one version, it was he who created the first man from clay.
Another version suggests that the Greek gods already created their living creatures on Earth, and Prometheus (along with his brother Epimetheus or Afterthought) had the task of endowing these species with gifts for their survival and eventual prosperity.
8. Zeus – King of the Greek Gods
In the earlier posts (especially the one on Cronus), we have talked about Zeus and how he was one of the founders of the Olympian family of Greek gods, named after his mythical abode atop Mount Olympus (or Olympus). In the narrative of Greek mythology, the rise of this Olympian branch was marked by the defeat of the Titans, the previous class of the ruling Greek gods.
This “rise to power” provided its fair share of accolades for Zeus, as he was regarded as the King of the gods, embodying the various aspects of heaven, weather, law and order, destiny, and kingship. In essence, Zeus was the supreme deity of the ancient Greek pantheon, whose name derives from the Proto-Indo-European root dyeu- (‘to shine’), thus bearing similarity to Dyaus/Dyaus Pita, the sky god mentioned in the Sanskrit Rigveda. Going back to the ancient Greek scope, some of the aspects mentioned below were usurped directly from Kronos.
9. Poseidon – God of the Seas
The second son of Kronos and brother of Zeus, in the mythical narrative, Poseidon, along with his brothers and other Greek Olympian gods succeeded in defeating the Titans, aided in part by the renowned trident crafted by the Cyclops. And after casting lots with his brothers Zeus and Hades, he ended up with the dominion over the kingdom of the seas.
Thus, in Greek mythology, Poseidon was considered the lord of the seas, floods and droughts. Eventually, he was also associated with earthquakes and horses. And, interestingly, his intricate relationship with the seas and waters was rather reinforced in legends by making him the spouse of Amphitrite, one of the granddaughters of the Titan Okeanos (or Oceanus), the original Greek god of the oceans.
10. Hades – The God of the Underworld
The eldest son of Kronos and therefore the greatest of the Greek Olympian gods, Hades (or Aïdes, meaning “the unseen”). Unlike the Olympian gods he lived in the underworld.
He was perceived as a mysterious figure whom ordinary Greeks held in awe and fear; to such an extent that, even speaking, his name was superstitiously avoided.
11. Hera – queen of the Greek Olympian gods and goddesses
The queen of the Greek Olympian gods and goddesses, Hera embodied the aspects of marriage, women, childbirth and even the stars in the sky.
Considering her lineage as possibly the eldest daughter of the Titan Kronos (in some myths, the goddess Hestia is the eldest daughter), she was also the sister of Zeus.
12. Demeter – Goddess of the Harvest
Being the daughter of Kronos and Rhea, and thus belonging to the first generation of Greek Olympian gods, Demeter was the goddess of agriculture, harvest, grain and bread. In essence, she embodied the sustaining force of the earth and was therefore often depicted as a matronly woman carrying sheaves of wheat or a cornucopia (the “horn of plenty” symbolizing abundance and nourishment).
Consequently, she was given the epithets of the Mistress of the fruits (of the earth) and the Bringer of the seasons, the latter aspect being symbolically mentioned in Greek mythology through a particular episode involving Demeter and her beloved daughter Persephone.
13. Aphrodite – The goddess of beauty and love
The ancient female deity Aphrodite represented beauty, sexual love and pleasure. A sign of hedonism and human pleasure.
Aphrodite was unique among the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece because she was counted both among the first generation of divine entities and among the later Olympian deities.
14. Athena – The Protector Goddess
In Greek mythology, there are some narratives about the birth of Athena (or Athena) that rather reflect the reason for the “insecurity” of the previous rulers of the Greek gods, such as Ouranos and Kronos.
Athena was often called by her various honorable epithets, such as Parthenos, which simply meant “virgin” a label she lived up to given her aversion to illicit affairs. More fascinatingly, she was also called Promachos, meaning “of war,” alluding to her aspect of war and defensive strategy. The title and its symbolism hinted at a more patriotic sense of conducting war, as opposed to unwanted battle frenzy and warmongering.
15. Ares – God of war
The divine entity that personified war and chaos in all its splendor among the Greek Olympian gods belonged to Ares, the son of Zeus and Hera.
In essence, unlike the tact and reserve of Athena, Ares embodied the desire for “no-strings-attached” battle, which made him an antagonistic character in some episodes of Greek mythology.
16. Hephaestus – The god of metallurgy
Another of the ‘second generation’ of Olympian Greek gods, Hephaistos (or Hephaestus) and his depiction was rather antithetical when it came to the supposed physical qualities of a Greek god or goddess. To that end, he was considered somewhat uncommon by his divine peers; with his mother Hera (in many narratives he was said to be fatherless, while in some versions his father was Zeus) he was even cast out of heaven, apparently because of his appearance and deformed leg.
Completely disgraced, the “lame” god landed on the island of Lemnos, but showing his inherent courage, Hephaistos managed to become a master craftsman who built his “secret” workshop in the island’s volcano. Thus, in Greek mythology, Hephaistos embodied the aspects of fire, metallurgy and craftsmanship.
Subsequently, he became the master smith of the Greek Olympian gods and is credited with making the scepter and aegis of Zeus, the helmet of Hermes, the secret locking doors for Hera’s chambers, and the giant automaton Talos for King Minos. However, his greatest achievement relates to the creation of the first woman Pandora, which was made of clay.
17. Apollo – The god of Prophecy
Hailed as one of the most important gods of Olympian Greece when it came to the pantheons of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Apollo, the archetype of the beardless and youthful being (kouros), was regarded as the divine entity of light, music, prophecy, poetry, medicine and archery. Son of Zeus and Leto (daughter of Titan Koios or Coeus and Phoebe), in the mythical narrative.
Apollo played a number of seemingly contradictory roles, ranging from that of a monster slayer (who killed the serpent Python and the giant Tityos), music contestant (who defeated the satyr Marsyas) to an assassin (who killed the lesser Cyclops), and even a plague-bearer (with the epidemic unleashed on the Greeks after the Trojan War).
18. Artemis – Goddess of the Hunt
The twin sister of Apollo, in the mythical narrative it is said that after birth. Artemis helped her mother give birth to her twin brother, thus embodying the aspects of labor. At the same time, she was eternally chaste and virgin, thus serving a paradoxical connection to childbirth.
But more importantly, among the gods and the Greek Olympian goddess, Artemis was associated with hunting, forests and the moon; with the latter incarnation possibly allowing her to replace Selene, the moon goddess of Titan.
19. Hermes – The Messenger God
In Greek mythology, Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia (one of the daughters of Titan Atlas), was conscripted into the exclusive rank of the twelve Greek Olympian gods after demonstrating his inherent cunning even as a child.
Hermes was regarded as the Greek god of various aspects, ranging from traveling flocks and hospitality, roads and trade to diplomacy, language and writing, athletic competitions and even theft. To that end, Hermes, by virtue of his special winged sandals (thalaria) and a winged hat (petasos), could travel swiftly between worlds, thus serving as a messenger of the gods to mortals. He also fulfilled his role as a conductor of souls in the afterlife.
20. Dionysus – The God of Wine
Although often counted among the twelve Olympian Greek gods, Dionysus was unique in that his mother was a mortal. The son of Zeus and Semele, daughter of Cadmus (king of Thebes), in the mythical narrative, his birth took a tragic turn.
It was then that Hera, apparently out of jealousy, tricked the pregnant Semele into persuading Zeus to appear in his original god form before her. But the exuberant power was too great for the mortal as she died from the crackling thunderbolts. But Zeus managed to save his son by sewing him into her thigh, and so Dionysus was “born twice” when he emerged from Zeus upon reaching maturity.
In Greek mythology, Dionysus was the god of vegetation and viniculture, but his aspects began to take a more “wild” route, so he also became associated with feasting, revelry, pleasure and ecstasy.