The first Olympic Games were held in Elis, a site in Ancient Greece. They were held in honour and celebration of the infamous Greek Gods – notably the father of them all, Zeus.
So… who are the Gods of Olympus? You’re about to find out…
Zeus is the son of Kronos and Rhea. Saved from his father’s wrath, he overturned Kronos’ regime and began anew. He married Hera, his sister, and went on to become the father of the gods and humans. Together they reigned on Mount Olympus, even though Zeus was prone to having great love affairs with other women. Zeus is also the lord of heaven and earth.
An extremely skilled fighter, his weapons of choice are lightening and thunderbolts, which he hurls at his enemies – he was responsible for defeating the unruly Titans.
Hera is the daughter of Kronos and Rhea. After the fall of Kronos, she married her brother Zeus in a lavish ceremony. While in love with Zeus, she was extremely jealous of his lovers and punished infidelity – she even tried to kill the great warrior, Heracles. Hera also played a part in the Trojan War, where she heavily supported the Greeks.
Hera is the patron goddess of family, and is worshipped in the city of Argos. She is often depicted with a crown and sceptre.
Born from Zeus’ head, Athena sprouted forth fully armoured. As the goddess of wisdom, she is also a great war heroine – in the Battle of the Giants, she was able to throw the island of Sicily atop her enemy. She has a great rivalry with Ares, the god of war. She often supported heroes in their journeys, and is worshipped in the Parthenon, in Athens.
She is favoured greatly in Athens, where she gave humans the gift of olive trees. However, she earned an enemy when the weaver Arachne scorned her. After losing a weaving challenge to the goddess, Archane was turned into a spider.
The god of the sea, Poseidon was Zeus and Hera’s brother, making him one of the most powerful elder gods. The son of Kronos and Rhea, Poseidon favoured the ocean where he was associated with dolphins and his chariot was drawn by sacred horses.
The father of Troy, Poseidon wields his powerful trident high. Even today, sailors seek permission from the god to cross the oceans.
The goddess of agriculture and fertility, Demeter is the daughter of Kronos and Rhea. She fell prey to Zeus’ affections and together, they had a daughter Persephone (also named Kore, in some circles).
Demeter protected and loved her daughter fiercely, but so did the god of the Underworld, Pluto (also known as Hades). He captured her and tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds to remain with him. Demeter retaliated by killing the world’s crops, including her sacred corn and wheat. Zeus and Pluto negotiated, and Persephone returned to live with her mother for eight months of the year. When Persephone returns to live in the Underworld with her husband, the earth grows cold and barren.
Apollo (also known as Phoebus) is the god of music, light and prophecy. He is the son of Zeus and his lover, Leto. He has a twin sister, Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. He is a great marksman, and often went hunting with his sister. One day while hunting, Apollo came across a young maiden who he fell in love with. He chased her until she pleaded with her father, who turned her into Apollo’s sacred bay-tree.
Apollo is often worshipped at his temple in Delphi.
The goddess of the moon and hunt, Artemis is often seen as a symbol for marriage and childbirth, due to her virginal status. She is the daughter of Zeus and his lover, Leto, alongside her twin brother, Apollo. A great hunter, she killed a giant with the fabled hero, Heracles. She is also quick to anger as a young man found out when he caught her bathing; Artemis turned him into a stag, and set his own dogs to kill him.
Artemis is often worshipped at her temple in Ephesus, where her symbols are the bow, a quiver of arrows and the red deer.
Hermes is another of Zeus’ illegitimate children. This time, he fell in love with a woman named Maia. Hermes was a young trickster, and often teased his half-brother, Apollo. However, the two were friends and Apollo granted him the gift of a lyre.
Hermes is the god of commerce, prophecy and travel. He is also the fabled messenger for the gods, after taking the place of Iris. He also escorts souls to the River Styxx, where they pass on into the Underworld.
Depicted with winged helmet and sandals, Hermes was responsible for taking Hera, Aphrodite and Athena to visit Paris, which in turn started the Trojan War.
Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty and love. Believed to have been the daughter of Zeus and his lover Dione, others believe that the goddess arrived in Cyprus from the sea.
The wife of the god of fire and art Hephaestus, Aphrodite was a flirtatious woman and like her father, she engaged in many love affairs. Famously, her arrow shooting son Eros, was conceived with her lover, Ares the god of war.
Aphrodite is fond of roses and doves, which draw her chariot. She is often seen as the inspiration for the Venus de Milo statue.
The son of Zeus and Hera, Ares is the god of war. He is constantly dressed in armour and is forever at war with his half-sister, Athena.
Ares was humiliated after his affair with Aphrodite. He retreated to Thebes, where he is worshipped. The cause of fights, Ares helped and fought alongside the Trojans in the great war.
The god of fire and art, Hephaestus is the son of Zeus and Hera. Often deemed ugly, he is the embodiment of deformities and imperfections. He was thrown from Mount Olympus by his father, and suffered with a lame leg ever since.
A talented god, he created Achilles’ armour in his forge. He also caught his wife, Aphrodite, and Ares together with a great net, which stopped their godlike powers. He also tied Hera to her throne with great chains which he refused to untie.
Dionysus is the illegitimate child of Zeus and Semele. When Semele was killed, Zeus took the still growing baby and placed him in his thigh, where he was born. Fearing Hera’s jealous wrath that killed Semele, Zeus turned his son into a goat to protect him. Dionysus became the god of wine and gaiety. The best vines (which are his symbol) grew greatly in Attica, where he held religious rituals, also known as ‘orgies’. Dionysus is often worshipped at his grand theatre in Delphi.