GREEK MYTHOLOGY

Temples In Ancient Greece
Each God had their own temple. Within these temples the Priests or Priestesses made sure that the rules of offering were followed. The Temples were seen as God`s home on Earth. Temple designs were based on palaces. Inside the Temple stood a statue of the God to whom the Temple was dedicated. Usually at the Temple entrance was an altar where worshippers would bring food, drink, or animals for sacrifice by the priest.

The Next World
Hermes took to the entrance of Hades the dead persons soul. Many believed Hades was under the Earth. Later on the Christian religion converted and distorted Hades and called it Hell. However, Hades was nothing like Hell. Entry to Hades was not automatic. The gateway to the underworld is guarded by Cerberus, a three headed dog. No living soul is allowed into Hades past him and no dead souls out. Judgment by the Gatekeepers followed. However, any souls sentenced to eternal damnation by the Gods in Tartarus had already been sent there by the Gods. A few fortunate souls went to Elysium. However most went to the Plain of Asphodel. After drinking from the Pool of Lethe they lost all memory of their former selves.

The Trojan War
The dispute that sparked this war was a beauty contest judged by Paris. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were in dispute over who was the fairest. They each tried to bribe Paris. Paris eventually chose Aphrodites Helen. Helens husband Menelaus, was brother to Agamemnon, and a large force was raised and set sail for Troy. The Greeks besieged the city for nine years and took it in the tenth. Only trickery won the war for the Greeks. A large wooden horse was built so as to conceal the troops inside. The Greeks then made it appear that the rest of the troops had left for home. The Trojans took the horse inside and at night as they slept the Greeks emerged to open the gates to their returning armies. The Greeks killed almost everyone, including children, and the city was destroyed.

Worship In Ancient Greece
Worship did not take place in Temples but in peoples homes. Prayers were said and an offering was made, usually of wine. People would also think about the God`s as they went about on their normal daily routine. However, for a particular request a worshipper would take an offering direct to a God`s temple.

Early Greek Writers
Homer : Lived in 8th century B.C. Thought to be the author of the oldest stories of Greek mythology, the Odyssey and the Lliad.

Hesiod : Lived in 8th century B.C. Hesiod came from very poor farming origins. He is thought to be the author of Theogony which relates to the Gods beginning`s and the battles between the Titans and the Olympians.

Pindar : Born 520 B.C. Was a poet who composed odes in honor of winners at games such as the Olympics. Pindar often used mythology in his early works.

Aeschylus : 525-426 B.C. Sophocles : 497-405 B.C. Euripides : 485-407 B.C. Playwrites whose works often featured characters from Greek mythology.

Greek Goddess Hestia
Hestia was the Goddess of the Hearth. She was the daughter of Crunus and Rhea. Her symbol was the Hearth. She was the only Olympian to voluntarily relinquish her position. She always received a welcome wherever she went. She turned down marriage proposals from both Apollo and Poseidon. She was also careful to avoid getting involved in quarrels between other Gods.

Greek God Hermes
Hermes was the messenger of the Gods, guide of dead souls to Hades, and patron of travelers and thieves. He was the son of Zeus and Maia. He was also the father of many different children by many different mothers. His symbols were winged sandals and hat. Hermes was very cunning, and this showed from birth. When just a few hours old, he stole cattle from Apollo.

Hephaestos
Was the Greek God of fire and metalworkers. He was also the craftsman of the Gods. Hephaestos was the son of Hera and father of various children by different mothers. His symbol was fire. Hephaestos spent most of his time as far away from Olympus as he could. He was unlucky to marry the very unfaithful Aphrodite. Hephaestos also built gold palaces for each of the Gods on Olympus.

Greek Oracle
Communication through a diety was possible through an Oracle. A special Priest or Priestess would pass on the message of a God in answer to a question. The most famous of the oracles was Apollo`s temple at Delphi. Sometimes the God`s also communicated their messages to humans by means of signs. Gifted Seers were also blessed with the power to foretell the will of the Gods and the future.

Ancient Greek Festivals
The Greeks had many festivals in which the God`s statue was often brought out and carried among the worshippers. The purpose was to please the God`s so they would act favorably on particular projects such as the next harvest. Messengers were sent out to announce the festival dates. Even wars often came to a stop during festivals.

Demeter
Demeter was the Goddess of crops, agriculture and fertility. The symbols of Demeter were a sheaf of barley or wheat, honeycomb and fruit. Demeter taught King Celeus`s son how to grow grain. He taught others the same and also the rites of worship to her. The following of Demeter spread across Greece. Demeter was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea.

Death And Burial
Funeral Rites were essential if the soul of the dead was to be allowed into the Underworld. If the dead did not receive the Rites they would be doomed to wander the banks of the River Styx. During the funeral a coin was placed in the dead persons mouth so as to pay the fare to Charon who was the ferryman of dead souls across the river Styx. Women members of the family always cut their hair short and friends always wore black. During the funeral special professional mourners were hired. Each family had it`s own plot. During cremations the ashes of the dead were buried in jars in the grave. Personal belongings for use in the next world were left with the corpse.

Greek Goddess Athena
Was the Greek Goddess of wisdom. She was the daughter of Zeus. She had sprung fully armed from the hand of Zeus after he had swallowed her mother, Metis. Her symbols were the olive tree and the Owl. Athena was also a war Goddess, yet unlike the hot tempered Ares, she was wise and just in war. Athena was also a patron of Arts and Crafts.

Greek God Ares
Ares was the Greek God of war. He was the son of Zeus and Hera. His symbols were the burning torch, spear and vulture. And although Ares had no wife he had many children. Ares was very hot tempered, aggressive and violent. He was also very brave. Because of his hot temper he was not a good soldier and was often taken prisoner.

Apollo
The Greek God of the Sun, prophesy, music, youth and healing. He was the son of Zeus and Leto. His symbols were the bow, lyre, dolphin, hawk and crow. When Apollo was only a few days old he killed the snake Python that lived at the Delphi Oracle. In later years he returned to make the Delphi Oracle his own. As the Sun God he drove his chariot across the sky each day. He was also a very skilled archer. Apollo was also the most beautiful of the Gods and had many lovers.

Aphrodite
The Goddess of sensual love and beauty. She was the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Her symbols were the Dove, Dolphin, Sparrow and Rose. Aphrodite was an unfaithful wife and lover. She also had a Golden Belt which made her irresistible. Anyone she cast a spell on became totally in love with her.

Pan
The God of shepards and their flocks. Pan was also the son of Hermes and Dryope. Pan was also the Lord of nature and wildlife. He was depicted as half man and half goat. Pan had many love affairs with the Nymphs. Among certain witches Pan is regarded as a High God.

Pan Pipe
Played by the Greek God Pan it was a seven reed pipe. Sometimes it was also known as a syrinx. This is because the nymph Syrinx had been made into the reed from which Pan had made the first pan pipe.

Orpheus
Was a singer in ancient Greek mythology. Orpheus was the son of muse Calliope and God Apollo. He both sang and played the lyre. The animals and birds would come to listen whenever he sang or played. He is also renowned for visiting Hades. He entered the underworld to find his wife who had been fatally bitten by a snake. Hades who took a fancy to Orpheus released his wife on the condition that Orpheus did not look at her on the way home. However he failed and his wife was forced to return.

Mount Olympus
The highest peak in the Greek peninsula. In Greek Mythology it is the home of the Gods and the Goddesses.

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Nymph
The name that was given to spirit creatures that were located in different areas of mother earth. In ancient Greece there were many such nymphs. Dryads were nymphs who lived in the trees. When the tree died so did the Dryads with it. The Naiads were nymphs of the rivers. The Naiads were immortal. The Oceanides were nymphs of the ocean and the Oreads were nymphs of the mountains. There were 3,000 Oceanides all of which were daughters of the Titan Oceanus.

Nyx was the ancient Greek Goddess of the Night. She was the wife and also the sister of Erebus. Erebus was the God of Darkness. Both were born of Chaos.

Nemesis
The Greek Goddess of vengeance who punished those who had broken the moral code. She was the daughter of Erebus and Nyx. It was her role to encourage moderation in society. In doing so she tried to eliminate arrogance. She appears in Hesiod's Theogony as the daughter of Nyx, the goddess of night (who also is the mother of the Fates). Her father is said to be Oceanus. Nemesis was as beautiful as Aphrodite and attracted the unwanted attention of Zeus, the king of the gods. A shape-shifter, able to fly over land and sea, she was attended by the goddess of punishment, Poena. Most often, Nemesis punished those who were too proud or who refused to acknowledge the blessings given to them by the gods or too selfish to share their good fortune with others.

Lares
Roman household Gods. They protected the family, property and farms. Lares also gaurded entire cities. Shrines to the Lares were found in peoples homes and often at crossroads.

Kronos
The Greek God of time. He existed even before the begining of the world. In other myths Kronos was one of the Titans. It was said Kronos ate his children. But one of his children Zeus was saved and later deposed Kronos. Kronos is associated with Saturn.

Jupiter was the Roman God of thunder and lightning. He was the husband of Juno. Jupiter was also the father of the Gods. Jupiter was wise and all knowing.

Hydra
A creature that took the form of a water snake with nine heads. The creature caused destruction and mayhem around Lerna. Hercules was sent to destroy the creature. Hercules chopped off the heads of the Hydra with a club and then burnt them.

Hera
In Greek mythology Hera was the Queen of Heaven and all the Gods. She was the sister and wife of Zeus. She was also the Goddess of women, marriage and childbirth.

Hades
In Greek mythology Hades was the God of the underworld. Hades was also the brother of Zeus. Hades was also called Pluto and the underworld was also called Dis. Hades kidnapped Persephone and made her the Queen of the underworld.

Erinyes
The Three Furies of Greek mythology. Their names were Megaera, Tisiphone and Alecto. They looked like old hags with bat wings and snakes for hair. The Erinyes avenged wrong doings and punished those who breached social custom. They killed their victims with scourges. Tisiphone punished evil, Megaera punished jealousy and Alecto maintained justice.

Dionysus was the Greek God of wine and revelry. Dionysus was worshiped in frenzied orgies. The most famous of these being held in Athens in the Spring time. Dionysus encouraged a complete lack of respect for the other Gods. Dance, wine and music were regarded as essential in worshipping Dionysus.

Artemis
When Artemis was a young goddess her father Zeus promised to grant her a wish. Her wish was to remain a virgin and to freely roam the woodlands with a contingent of young maidens. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the moon and of the hunt. Though a virgin she is also the protector of women in childbirth. Although a hunter she is also protector of young wild things. She can however be vengeful. When a male hunter spied on her in her woodland bath she turned him into a stag and made his own dogs tear him to pieces. To avenge her mother she and brother Apollo shot their celestial arrows at the children of Niobe, who had boasted that she was more worthy of worship than Leto, mother of the sun and moon. Above all Artemis represents freedom. Picture her running though an evening mist in her silvery dress, shooting her silvery arrows and bringing light into a dark world.

Atalanta
A very different sort of woman for her time period. This mythical Greek heroine was athletic, independent, and skilled in boar hunting and other male sports. When the time came for her to marry, she told her father that she would only marry the man who could beat her in a footrace. Her intent, of course, was not to marry at all, as no man could run faster than she. Suitors came from far away to compete for her hand in marriage, even though they understood that by doing so they were risking their lives. The rules were simple: win the race and win Atalanta. Lose the race and lose your life. Many men died. One, however, was smart enough to pray for the assistance of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Aphrodite gave him three golden apples and each time Atalanta pulled far ahead of him in the race, he would throw one of the apples and she would stop to pick it up, feeling that she was so much faster that picking up the golden fruit wouldn't matter. It did. She lost the race, but gained a husband that she secretly loved and admired.

Poseidon
In Geek mythology, Poseidon was the God of the sea. He was also one of the Twelve Olympians. Poseidon`s Roman counter part was Neptune. In Greek mythology, the universe was divided among the three sons of Cronus and Rhea. Zeus was given the sky, Hades was given the underworld, and Poseidon was given the sea.

Persephone
In Greek mythology Persephone was the Goddess of spring. Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Persephone was overwhelmed by the beauty of a Narcissus when she was picking flowers on the Nysian plain. At this moment the Earth opened and Hades appeared in his chariot snatching Persephone down into the Earth. Persesphone became Queen of the Underworld. Persephone was the personification of the wheat grain and symbolized the cyclic patterns of Nature. Persephone was also known as Kore.

Charon
In Greek mythology, Charon was the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across the River of Death. The living would pay for Charons service by placing a silver coin under the tongue of the corpse. A proper funeral was needed before a spirit could be ferried across to the infernal regions. Some Greek heroes were able to deceive Charon. Orpheus charmed him with his lure. Aeneas bribed Charon with the Golden Bough.

Medea
From Greek mythology, Medea was an enchantress. She was the daughter of the king of Colchis. Medea fell in love with Jason. She helped him slay the sleepless Dragon that guarded the golden fleece. Later she fled from Colchis with Jason and they married. Eventually Jason grew tired of Medea. He tried to take up with Glauce, a Princess, but she was killed by Medea. Eventually, Medea left Jason. But not before she killed her two children by him. She eventually remarried to Argeus to whom she had a son. She eventually returned to Colchis and restored her father to the throne.

Hecate
The daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Her origins are uncertain but she appears to have been one of the original Titans who ruled Heaven, Earth and Sea. Hecate was able to bestow great gifts on mortals. Later she became confused with other Goddesses and eventually became a mystic Goddess.

Tyche
The personification of luck or chance. She was often depicted with a rudder, guiding the affairs of the world, or with a ball to represent the fact that she was unpredictable and could "roll" in any direction at her whim. Her surname was Automatia, which indicated that she managed things according to her own will without any regard to what an individual deserved or desired.

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Greek Mythology article by Will Manning
With a long interest in Greek Mythology, Will writes about the history of the time and tells us about the various customs and practises of the era. He talks about the various Gods and gives us an inside feel of life at that time.
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