To the Greeks, man was the measure of all things, and gods mirrored them faithfully. Like men, the gods were noble and proud, but they were also quarrelsome, scheming, lecherous. These deities appeared in more or less human form, though they were always more beautiful than any mortal could hope to be. Invariably, the gods suffered from human faults and engaged in very human behaviour, such as falling in love, resorting to treachery to win a cherished goal and hungering for power. Unlike the gods of many ancient civilizations, the deities of the Greeks were far from remote or mysterious. Their motives could almost always be understood in human terms. There were two important differences between the gods and men, however. Although the gods were moved by the same emotional forces that ruled the lives of men, they were not expected to follow the rules of human behaviour. Were free to engage in all sorts of conduct that would not be tolerated in human society: thievery, lechery, gluttony, adultery, and so on.
The second important difference between gods and men was power. The Greek gods were all, to some degree, embodiments of power, whether in the physical world or in the minds of men. They controlled literally everything, from storms that ravaged the seas to the love that bound men and women together. It was because of this power that the Greeks sought the favour of the gods through prayers and sacrifice. When the Greeks honoured excellence in any domain, it was the gift of some of this godly power that they were praising. The Greek gods, who were thought to live atop the heights of Mount Olympus, were ruled by the mighty Zeus. But this was not always so, for the Mycenaean gods were older than the Greek gods, and the Minoan gods were older still. Thus, the Greek gods had a history of their own, just as Greek culture did. In the beginning, there was only Chaos, from which formed Gaea (the earth), Tarterus (beneath the earth), many other primeval gods such as Eros, Night, and Day. Gaea created Uranus, the Mountains, and the Sea, then married Uranus and gave birth to the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hecatoncheires.
Uranus turned out to be a harsh and jealous husband who cruelly kept the Hecatoncheires prisoner inside their mother. In retaliation, she called upon her other children to avenge her, and the Titan Cronus wounded his father so severely that the cruel Uranus was vanquished. The Furies, the Ash Tree Nymphs, and the Giants were created when the deposed ruler’s blood fell to earth. After assuming his father’s reign, Cronus married Rhea.. But, fearing that one of his offspring (who were the gods) would usurp his throne as he had his father’s, he swallowed all of his children as Rhea gave birth to them. The furious Rhea managed to hide her sixth born child, Zeus. After growing to manhood on the island of Crete, he returned to his father disguised as a cupbearer. Zeus served Cronus a potion that caused the Titan to vomit up the young god’s siblings and the gods united to overthrow their despotic father.
The task was far from over, however. After their victory over Cronus, Zeus and the other gods had to battle the rest of the Titans. After more than a decade of cosmos-shaking warfare, in which the elements of nature raged unchecked, the gods finally managed to confine the Titans to Tartarus, the Greek underworld. Next, the gods had to fight a similar battle against Typhoeus, a hundred-headed dragon that Gaea had created to attack the gods after the defeat of her Titans. The gods had no sooner buried the monster beneath Mt. Etna than the Giants challenged their rule. It required all of their prowess and the assistance of the mortal Heracles to kill the giants. Finally, after vanquishing the Titans, Typhoeus, and the Giants, the gods were at last the unchallenged rulers of Olympus and the earth. Their domain was far different than the world we know today, however. The home of the gods, Mount Olympus, stood at the centre of the earth. Around the earth ran a limitless river called Ocean. On the far shore of this river lived the Hyperboreans, a race of blessed men who did not know care, toil, illness, or old age. Their home was isolated from the rest of the world, being completely unapproachable by land or sea.
To the West was Hesperia, populated by such monstrous beings as the Cyclops, the cannibalistic Laestrygonians, Scylla, Charybdis, and the Sirens. Beyond Hesperia lay the Elysian Fields, where certain favoured heroes went when they died. To the South were the Ethiopians, the lucky, virtuous people with whom the gods banqueted. In the East were the barbarians, fierce peoples who could not speak Greek and did not know the blessings of civilization. Directly beneath the earth was the kingdom of Hades, where the dead went to fade into nothingness. Below Hades was Tartarus, the vast realm of nebulous darkness where the gods had confined the Titans.
Some Greek Gods;
Áphroditē - Goddess of love and beauty. Although married to Hephaestus she had many lovers, most notably Ares. She was depicted as a beautiful woman usually accompanied by her son Eros. Her symbols include the dove, apple, rose, scallop shell and myrtle wreath. Her sacred animal is the dove.
Apóllō - God of music, healing, plague, prophecies, poetry, and archery; associated with light, truth and the sun. He is Artemis's twin brother and Hermes elder brother, and son of Zeus and Leto. He was depicted as a handsome, beardless youth with long hair and various attributes including a laurel wreath, bow and quiver, raven, and lyre. Apollo's sacred animal are red cattle.
Árēs - God of war, bloodlust, violence, manly courage, and civil order. The son of Zeus and Hera, he was depicted as either a mature, bearded warrior dressed in battle arms, or a nude beardless youth with helm and spear. His atributes are golden armour and a bronze-tipped spear. His sacred animals are the vulture, venomous snakes, and dogs.
Ártemis - Virgin goddess of the hunt, wilderness, wild animals, childbirth and plague. In later times she became associated with the moon. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin sister of Apollo. In art she was usually depicted as a young woman dressed in a short knee-length chiton and equipped with a hunting bow and a quiver of arrows. In addition to the bow, her attributes include hunting spears, animal pelts, deer and other wild animals. Deer and wolves are Artemis's sacred animals.
Athēnâ - Goddess of wisdom, warfare, strategy, heroic endeavour, handicrafts and reason. The daughter of Zeus and Metis, she was born from Zeus's head fully-formed and armoured. She was depicted crowned with a crested helm, armed with shield and spear, and wearing the snake-trimmed aegis cloak adorned with the head of the Gorgon. Her symbols include the aegis and the olive tree. Her sacred animal is commonly seen with her, the owl
Dēmtēr - Goddess of fertility, agriculture, horticulture, grain and harvest. Demeter is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea and sister of Zeus, by whom she bore Persephone. She was depicted as a mature woman, often crowned and holding sheafs of wheat and a torch. Her symbols are the Cornucopia (horn of plenty), wheat-ears, the winged serpent and the lotus staff. Demeter's sacred animals are pigs and snakes.
Diónysos - God of wine, parties and festivals, madness, civilization, drunkenness and pleasure. He was depicted in art as either an older bearded god or a pretty effeminate, long-haired youth. His attributes include the thyrsus (a pinecone-tipped staff), drinking cup, grape vine and a crown of ivy. A later addition to the Olympians, in some accounts he replaced Hestia. Dionysus had the panther and tiger as his sacred animals.
Hádēs - King of the Underworld and god of death, the dead, and the hidden wealth of the Earth. His consort is Persephone and his attributes are the key of Hades, the Helm of Darkness, and the three-headed dog, Cerberus. Despite being the son of Cronus and Rhea and the elder brother of Zeus, he is only rarely listed among the Olympians. The sacred animals of Hades are black bulls, black sheep, and other black animals.
Hephaistos - Hephaestus Crippled god of fire, metalworking, stonemasonry, sculpture and volcanism. The son of Hera by parthenogenesis, he is the smith of the gods and the husband of the adulterous Aphrodite. He was usually depicted as a bearded man holding hammer and tongs—the tools of a smith—and riding a donkey. His symbols are the hammer, tongs and anvil. The sacred animals of Hephaestus are birds
Hera - Queen of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings and empires. She is daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She was usually depicted as a beautiful woman wearing a crown and holding a royal, lotus-tipped staff. Her symbols are lotus-staff. Hera's sacred animal is the peacock and the cow.
Hērmēs - God of travel, messengers, trade, thievery, cunning wiles, language, writing, diplomacy, athletics, and animal husbandry. He is the messenger of the gods, a psychopomp who leads the souls of the dead into Hades' realm, and the son of Zeus and Maia. He was depicted either as a handsome and athletic beardless youth, or as an older bearded man. His attributes include the herald's wand or caduceus, winged sandals, and a traveler's cap. Hermes had scorpians and hares as his sacred animals.
Hestía - Virgin goddess of the hearth, home and cooking. She is a daughter of Rhea and Cronus and sister of Zeus. She was depicted as a modestly veiled woman, whose symbols are the hearth and kettle. In some accounts, she gave up her seat as one of the Twelve Olympians to tend to the sacred flame on Mount Olympus for Dionysus. Hestia's sacred animals are the pig and donkey.
Poseidōn - God of the sea, rivers, floods, droughts, earthquakes and horses; known as the "Earth Shaker" or "Storm Bringer". He is a son of Cronus and Rhea and brother to Zeus and Hades. In classical artwork he was depicted as a mature man of sturdy build with a dark beard, and holding a trident. His attribute is the trident. Poseidon has horses and dolphins as his sacred animals.
Zeús - The king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky, weather, thunder, law, order and fate. He is the youngest son of Cronus and Rhea, whom he overthrew, and brother-husband to Hera. In artwork, he was depicted as a regal man, mature with sturdy figure and dark beard. His symbols are the thunderbolt, royal sceptre. His sacred animal is the almighty eagle
Aither - God of the upper air and light
Anánkē - Goddess of inevitability, compulsion and necessity.
Cháos - The nothingness from which all else sprang
Érebos - or Erebus God of darkness and shadow.
Gaîa - or Gaea Goddess of the Earth (Mother Earth); mother of the Titans.
Hēméra - Goddess of daylight and the sun.
Krónos - or Chronos The Keeper of Time. Not to be confused with the Titan Cronus, the father of Zeus.
Nēsoi - Goddesses of the islands.
Nýx - Goddess of night. She is also the only being from which Zeus turned when her son Hypnos, who had angered Zeus, hid behind her.
Ouranós- or Uranus God of the heavens (Father Sky); father of the Titans. He banished his children, the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires, to the underworld because they did not please him.
Oúrea - Gods of mountains.
Phánēs - God of procreation in the Orphic tradition.
Póntos - or Pontus God of the sea, father of the fish and other sea creatures.
Tártaros - or Tartarus The darkest, deepest part of the underworld.
Thálassa - Spirit of the sea and consort of Pontos.
The Twelve Titans
Hyperíōn - Titan of light. With Theia, he is the father of Helios (the sun), Selene (the moon) and Eos (the dawn).
Iapetós - or Iapetus Titan of mortality and father of Prometheus, Epimetheus and Atlas.
Koîos - or Coeus. Titan of intellect and the axis of heaven around which the constellations revolved.
Kreîōs - or Crius The least individualized of the Twelve Titans, he is the father of Astraios, Pallas and Perses.
Crónos - or Cronus the leader of the Titans, who overthrew his father Ouranos only to be overthrown in turn by his son, Zeus. Not to be confused with Chronos, the god of time.
Mnēmosýnē - or Mnemosyne Titan of memory and remembrance, and mother of the Nine Muses.
Ōceanós - or Oceanus Titan of the all-encircling river Oceanus around the earth, the font of all the Earth's fresh-water.
Phoíbē - or Phoebe Titan of the "bright" intellect and prophecy, and consort of Koios.
Rhéa - Titan of female fertility, motherhood, and generation. She is the sister and consort of Cronus, and mother of Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia.
Tēthýs - Wife of Oceanus, and the mother of the rivers, springs, streams, fountains and clouds.
Theía - Titan of sight and the shining light of the clear blue sky. She is the consort of Hyperion, and mother of Helios, Selene and Eos.
Thémis - Titan of divine law and order.
Astería - Asteria Titan of nocturnal oracles and falling stars.
Astraîos - or Astraeus Titan of stars and planets, and the art of astrology.
Átlas - Son of Iapetus, condemned to carry the heavens upon his shoulders.
Aúra - Titan of the breeze and the fresh, cool air of early morning.
Dione - Titan of the oracle of Dodona.
Eos - Titan of the dawn.
Epimētheús - God of afterthought and the father of excuses.
Eurybía - Titan of the mastery of the seas and consort of Krios.
Eurynómē - Titan of water-meadows and pasturelands, and mother of the three Charites by Zeus.
Helios - Titan of the sun and guardian of oaths.
Clyménē - or Asia. Titan of renown, fame and infamy, and wife of Iapetos.
Lēlantos - Titan of air and the hunter's skill of stalking prey. He is the male counterpart of Leto.
Leto - Titan of motherhood and mother of Artemis and Apollo.
Menoítios - Titan of violent anger, rash action, and human mortality. Killed by Zeus.
Metis - Titan of good counsel, advise, planning, cunning, craftiness and wisdom, and mother of Athena.
Ophíōn - An elder Titan, in some versions of the myth he ruled the Earth with his consort Eurynome before Cronus overthrew him.
Pállas - Titan of warcraft. He was killed by Athena during the Titanomachy.
Pérsēs - Titan of destruction.
Promētheús - Titan of forethought and crafty counsel, and creator of mankind.
Selene - Titan of the moon.
Stýx - Titan of the Underworld river Styx and personification of hatred.
Gigantes - giants, the Hekatoncheires, or Centimanes (Latin), the Hundred-Handed Ones, giant gods of violent storms and hurricanes. Three sons of Uranus and Gaea, each with their own distinct characters.
Cyclopes - (Younger), a tribe of one-eyed cannibalistic giants who shepherded flocks of sheep on the island of Sicily
Cerberus - the three-headed hound who guarded the gates of Hades
Charon - ferryman of Hades
Empusa - a monstrous underworld spirit or spirits with flaming hair, the leg of a goat and a leg of bronze
Erebos - the primeval god of darkness, his mists encircled the underworld and filled the hollows of the earth
Hecate - goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts and necromancy
Macaria - daughter of Hades and goddess of blessed death (not to be confused with the daughter of Heracles)
Melinoe - daughter of Persephone and Zeus who presided over the propitiations offered to the ghosts of the dead
Menoetes - an Underworld spirit who herded the cattle of Hades
Persephone - queen of the underworld, wife of Hades and goddess of spring growth