Greek religion played central role the daily lives of the Greeks. For the Greeks, the gods and their myths told the origins of cities, explained the changing of the seasons and played a central role in the old stories of yore. They helped and protected the humans in different parts of their lives: Athena was the patron goddess of Athens, Hermes looked out for travelers, Hera and Demeter protected the women and mothers, Hades ruled over the dead and Dionysos was there if you want to have a good time.
But there are so many Greek gods and goddesses, not to mention the demi-gods, heroes and other mythological creatures. So where do you begin? Start with the 12 most important gods who lived on Mount Olympos, also known as the Greek pantheon. Who are they? (Note: there are of course different versions of this pantheon and Hades is not included.)
- Zeus: He is the ruler of the gods and was the god of thunder and the sky. In images he shows up holding a bolt of lightning and his animal is the eagle.
- Hera: She is the wife and sister of Zeus. She looks over marriages, mothers, family and childbirth. Her animal is the peacock and she has a scepter.
- Demeter: Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, nature, the seasons and agriculture. She is often pictured with grain or the horn of cornucopia.
- Poseidon: He is the god of the seas, water, earthquakes, horses and protects the fishermen. He holds his trident and rides a carriage pulled by dolphins.
- Artemis: She is the daughter of Zeus and the sister of Apollo. She is the goddess of the hunt and archery. She also looks over young girls and mother about to give birth. She carries a bow and is often accompanied by a deer.
- Athena: The patron goddess of Athens, Athena was the wisest of the Greek gods who used her head in battle. She always wears a helmet and holds her trusty owl.
- Hermes: Hermes was the messenger of the gods, but he is also the god of communication. travel, diplomacy and thieves. He carries his staff, a caduceus, and uses his winged helmet and shoes.
- Ares: He is the son of Hera and Zeus. As the god of war and violence, you often see him carrying his helmet and shield.
- Aphrodite: Aphrodite is the goddess of love, passion, pleasure and beauty. She was the most beautiful of the gods and her symbols include swans, doves, seashells and roses.
- Apollo: He is the twin brother of Artemis and the god of philosophy, the sun, music, medicine, poetry, healing and much more. He played the lyre and communicated with the Greeks via the oracle at Delphi.
- Hephaestos: He is the blacksmith and craftsman of the gods and is the god of the forge, fire and craftmanship.
These eleven gods and goddesses are always part of the pantheon along with Dionysos or Hestia. And then there is Hades as well, who does not live on Mount Olympos and so he is not counted as one of them.
- Dionysos: Is the god of wine, partying, vine rake, wine-making, madness. He is also the patron god of art and theatre and often holds a thyrsus, a specific staff.
- Hestia: She is the sister of Zeus and Hera. He protects the family and is the goddess of the hearth and the domestic life.
- Hades: He is the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. He rules the Underworld and looks after the souls of the dead. He has a three-headed dog which protects the Underworld.
Now that you know more about the Greek gods and goddesses, why not try to remember them all by playing our gods and goddess memory game. You can see the tiles below and find a printable version of the drawings here! They are black and white so you can color them in!