Say "ancient history" to a stranger and he is likely to think "endless wars, timelines to memorize, and ruins," but remind him that the topic includes Greek mythology and his eyes will light up. That's because Greek mythology is interesting to almost everyone. The stories are colorful, allegorical, with moral lessons for those who want them and puzzles to mull over. You can find profound human truths and the basics of our western culture.
To understand and appreciate Greek mythology, you need to know who the gods were and their mythical history. This page introduces you to some of these background features of Greek mythology.
Greek mythology tells stories about:Some of the gods and goddesses are called Olympian because they sat on thrones on Mt. Olympus. There were 12 Olympians in Greek mythology, although you may run across more than 12 names. Read about them:
- gods and goddesses,
- other immortals,
- monsters or other mythical creatures,
- extraordinary heroes, and
- some ordinary people.
In Greek mythology, there was nothing but Chaos in the beginning: Chaos was autogenic. Chaos is called an elemental force, which is force made of itself alone and not composed of anything else. It exists from the beginning of the universe. To coin a phrase, you could say, "in the beginning, there was Chaos." Period.
The idea of having the principle of Chaos at the beginning of the universe is like the New Testament idea that in the beginning was "The Word".
Out of Chaos spun out other elemental forces or principles, like Love, Earth, and Sky, and in a later generation, the Titans. Read about this in:
The first few generations were progressively more like humans: The Titans were the children of Gaia (Ge 'Earth') and Uranus (Ouranos 'Sky') -- the Earth and Sky. The Olympian gods and goddesses were children born later to one specific pair of Titans, making the Olympian gods and goddesses grandchildren of Earth and Sky.
The Titans and the Olympians inevitably came into conflict. Since you have probably heard a lot about the Olympian gods and little about the Titans, you can guess who won, but before you go writing off the Titans as an irrelevant footnote to Greek mythology, the giant holding the world on his shoulders, Atlas, is a Titan. Read more about the Titans in:
Earth (Gaia) and Sky (Ouranos/Uranus), who are considered elemental forces, produced numerous offspring: 100-armed monsters, 1-eyed cyclops, and the Titans. Earth was sad because the very unpaternal Sky wouldn't let their children see the light of day, so she did something about it. She forged a sickle with which her son Cronus unmanned his father. The love goddess Aphrodite sprang up from the foam from Sky's severed genitals. From Sky's blood dripping on Earth sprang the spirits of Vengeance (Erinyes) aka the Furies (sometimes known euphemistically as "the Kindly Ones"). Read about:
The Titanomachy 'Titan Battle' (from the word "titan" and the Greek for battle -- "machy") was an important battle for the Olympian gods. This was a 10-year battle between immortals - the gods and the Titans. At the end of it, Zeus became the dominant power. Read about:
This article on the Greek god Hermes contains family trees of Hermes going back to his great grandparents, the Titans Sky (Uranos/Ouranos) and Earth (Gaia), who are also his great-great grandparents and his great-great-great grandparents. In Greek Mythology, since the gods and goddesses were immortal, there was no limitation on child-bearing years and so a grandparent could also be a parent. Read about:
The Romans had their own local gods and goddesses, but when they learned about other gods they frequently either adopted them or combined them with the closest god or goddess in their evolving pantheon. Thus, the vegetation goddess Venus became the equivalent of the Greek love and beauty goddess Aphrodite. The god Mars, whom the Romans esteemed, became associated with the almost despised war god of the Greeks, Ares. The Romans also adopted the gods of their neighbors, the Etruscans and Celts. The Romans also deified some of their emperors. Here are the Roman deities divided into the following categories:Find them in: Roman Gods and Goddesses | Sun Gods | War Gods | Moon Gods | Love Goddesses
- Foreign Gods and Goddesses
- Punic Names for Roman Gods
- Some Etruscan Gods and Their Roman Counterparts
- Roman Gods and Goddesses of Agriculture
- Roman Gods and Goddesses of Children and Childbirth
- Roman Gods and Goddesses of Virtues and Personifications
- Roman Genres of Spiritual Entities
- Imperial Divi
- Introduction: The Gods and Goddesses of Greek Mythology and More
- Life Begins: Creation of Humans in Greek Mythology
- Myth vs. Legend and Religion
- Story Topics in Greek Myths and Legends