About Ancient Greek Gods & Goddesses for Children
It is well known that the ancient Greeks believed in many gods and goddesses. This is the reason that they are referred to as a polytheistic civilization. This literally means having more than one god. The Greeks once believed that gods dwelled everywhere and needed to be worshipped or they would become angry and seek revenge. Not only did Greece have some major gods, every town, village or community had their own additional gods. This meant that streams, rivers, forests, an unusual tree, or an oddly shaped rock was considered to be home to some god. It is well known that many of the Greeks also worshipped the gods and goddesses of other countries, especially the Egyptian goddess, Isis.
No one knows exactly how many gods were worshipped by the ancient Greeks but some of them are a bit more famous than others. Some of the ones whose names are familiar to many people in the modern world are Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Persephone, Dionysus and Aesclepius. These are only a few of the most popular of the ancient Greek gods and goddesses.
Zeus was considered to be the king of the Greek gods and he lived on top of Mount Olympus. Because he was a sky god he had considerable power, and when he was displeased or angry he would toss lightning bolts to strike people. Hera was his wife but he was also married to the earth goddess known as Demeter, and their daughter was Persephone. Zeus was also the father of Herakles or Hercules. Hercules was not a true god because his mother was only a regular mortal. However, Hercules was known as the strongest man in the entire world!
Hera was an earth goddess and her parents are Rhea (Earth) and Chrono (Time) it is Hera that is associated with weddings, marriages and families. Apollo is another sun god, the sun gods were always considered better and stronger than the earth gods. Apollo was believed to be strong, wise and very handsome. One of his sons was Aesclepius, now known as the patron god of medicine. When Apollo did become angry at humans he would shoot plague arrows to punish them.
Demeter was known as the goddess of dry crops that grow like wheat and oats and Dionysus was the god of wet crops like fruit. He is famously known for being the patron god of grapes and wine. If people wanted a good crop they would make sacrifices and pray to Dionysus. In ancient times people believed that part of the god entered their body when they drank wine, and when they became drunk they claimed that the god, Dionysus, had taken over their minds and hearts.
The goddess Athena never had a mother, only a father who is Zeus. The story states that she leaped from his mind one day and was at that time an adult daughter. Athena is a fierce warrior goddess known for bravery and wisdom. Her animal is an owl, her tree is an olive tree which she created, and the Greek city of Athens is named in her honour.
Greek and Roman gods and goddesses
In mythology, gods and goddesses are often seen to possess similar traits regardless of the country in which they originated. Many countries of ancient times had similar versions of stories and characters. This is particularly true with the stories involving Roman and Greek goddesses. These two civilizations shared many of the same deities but they gave them different names.
One familiar legendary god was known as Hermes to the Greeks and Mercury to the Romans. Mercury is the fast messenger with wings on his feet and helmet, and he is considered to be the patron god for commerce. Among his duties was the additional task of guiding departed souls to the underworld. At one time, the winged Mercury was the most popular god in all of England and Gaul.
In Roman mythology, Venus is the goddess of beauty while Aphrodite was the Greek goddess known for beauty and love, the two goddesses are amazingly similar. Venus was created from the sea and she was the protector of sailors. When the large ships at sea would encounter turbulent weather conditions, they would pray to Aphrodite to grant them safety.
Neptune is the Roman god of the sea and the Romans also considered him to be the god of horses. His counterpart in the Greek world was Poseidon who ruled the oceans and was responsible for earthquakes. Many paintings and sculptures of these 2 gods show them in a chariot pulled by giant seahorses. Ancient sailors would also pray to Neptune and would sometimes sacrifice horses into the water hoping that this would create a safe voyage for them.
While Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, the same duty was given to the Roman god, Bacchus. Jupiter is the Roman equivalent of Zeus and is the leader of the gods in Roman mythology. The largest planet in our solar system was named in his honour. Jupiter’s wife was Juno and she is essentially the equivalent of the Greek goddess Hera. Juno was made the patroness of Rome as well as the Roman Empire and was believed to be enormously powerful.
Adonis was the Greek god known for male beauty and handsome looks, the Romans kept his name intact as they incorporated him into their own myths. The Greeks also had Minerva who was the goddess of the moon, forest and the hunt. Romans renamed her Diana.
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