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Twelve Olympians

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The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon (Greek:Δωδεκάθεον,[1] dōdeka, "twelve"+ θεοί, theoi, "gods"), in Greek mythology, were the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. The Twelve Olympians gained their supremacy in the world of gods after Zeus led his siblings to victory in war with the Titans. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, Hades, and Chiron(who was not a god, but a trainer to the children of the gods, also known as, demigods) were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, the Charites, Heracles, Dionysus, Hebe and Persephone were children of Zeus. Some versions of the myths state that Hephaestus was born of Hera alone, and that Aphrodite was born of Uranus' blood.

The first ancient reference of religious ceremonies for them is found in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. The Greek cult of the Twelve Olympians can be traced to the 6th century BCE Athens and probably has no precedent in the Mycenaean period. The altar to the Twelve Olympians at Athens is usually dated to the archonship of the younger Pesistratos, in 522/521 BCE. The concept of the "Twelve Gods" is older than any of our Greek or Roman sources, and is likely of Anatolian origin. There seems to have been a great deal of fluidity when it came to who was counted among their number in antiquity.[2]

The classical scheme of the Twelve Olympians (the Canonical Twelve of art and poetry) comprises the following gods:

Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes.

Hades (Roman: Pluto) was not generally included in this list. He did not have a seat in the pantheon because he spent almost all of his time in the underworld. The respective Roman scheme as given by Ennius gives the Roman equivalents of these Greek gods, [3] but replaces Bacchus (Dionysus) with Vesta (Hestia) so as to list six gods and six goddesses. The difference in the list is explained by the story that when Dionysus was offered a seat among the Olympians, the total number of Olympians became thirteen. Believing this would create a fight amongst the gods, Hestia stepped down.

Herodotus included in his Dodekatheon the following deities: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hermes, Athena, Apollo, Alpheus, Cronus, Rhea and the Charites.[4][5] Herodotus also includes Heracles as one of the Twelve.[6] Lucian also includes Heracles and Asclepius as members of the Twelve, without explaining which two had to give way for them. At Kos, Heracles and Dionysus are added to the Twelve, and Ares and Hephaestus are left behind.[7] However, Pindar, Apollodorus,[8] and Herodorus disagree with this. For them Heracles is not one of the Twelve Gods, but the one who established their cult.[4] Hebe, Helios, Eos, Selene and Persephone are other important gods and goddesses which are sometimes included in a group of twelve. Eros is often depicted alongside the other twelve, especially his mother Aphrodite, but is rarely considered one of the Olympians.

Plato connected the Twelve Olympians with the twelve months, and proposed that the final month be devoted to rites in honor of Hades and the spirits of the dead, implying that he considered Hades to be one of the Twelve.[9] Hades is phased out in later groupings due to his chthonic associations.[10] In Phaedrus Plato aligns the Twelve with the Zodiac and would exclude Hestia from their rank.[11]

List of the Olympians

Classical Olympians

The twelve gods and goddesses listed among the Twelve most often.

Greek Name Roman Name God or Goddess of... Generation
ZeusJupiterKing of the gods and ruler of Mount Olympus; god of the sky and thunder. Youngest child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. Symbols include the thunderbolt, eagle, oak tree, scepter and scales. Brother and husband of Hera, although he had many lovers.First
HeraJunoQueen of the gods and the goddess of marriage and motherhood. Symbols include the peacock, pomegranate, crown, cuckoo, lion and cow. Youngest daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Wife and sister of Zeus. Being the goddess of marriage, she frequently tried to get revenge on Zeus' lovers and their children.First
PoseidonNeptuneLord of the seas, earthquakes and horses. Symbols include the horse, bull, dolphin and trident. Middle son of Cronus and Rhea. Brother of Zeus and Hades. Married to the Nereid Amphitrite, although, like his brother Zeus, he had many lovers.First
DemeterCeresGoddess of fertility, agriculture, nature, and the seasons. Symbols include the poppy, wheat, torch, pig and serpent. Middle daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Her Latin name, Ceres, gave us the word 'cereal'. One of her surnames is Sitos as the giver of food, ('corn').First
AthenaMinervaVirgin goddess of wisdom, handicrafts, defence and strategic warfare. Symbols include the aegis, owl, olive tree, snake and spider. Daughter of Zeus and the Oceanid Metis, she rose from her father's head fully grown and in full battle armor after he swallowed her mother.Second
DionysusBacchusGod of wine, celebrations and ecstacy. Patron god of the art of theatre. Symbols include the grapevine, ivy, cup, tiger, panther, leopard, dolphin and goat. Son of Zeus and the mortal Theban princess Semele. Married to the Cretan princess Ariadne. The youngest Olympian, as well as the only one to have been born of a mortal woman.Second
ApolloApolloGod of light, music, poetry, prophecy and archery. Symbols include the sun, lyre, bow and arrow, raven, dolphin, wolf, swan and mouse. Twin brother of Artemis. Youngest child of Zeus and Leto.Second
ArtemisDianaVirgin goddess of the hunt, virginity, archery and all animals. Symbols include the moon, deer, hound, she-bear, snake, cypress tree and bow and arrow. Twin sister of Apollo. Eldest child of Zeus and Leto.Second
AresMarsGod of war, violence and bloodshed. Symbols include the boar, serpent, dog, vulture, spear and shield. Son of Zeus and Hera, all the other gods (excluding Aphrodite) despised him. His Latin name, Mars, gave us the word 'Martial'.Second
AphroditeVenusGoddess of love, beauty, and desire . Symbols include the dove, apple, bee, swan, myrtle, rose and seashell. Daughter of Zeus and the Oceanid Dione, or perhaps born from the sea foam after Uranus' blood dripped onto the earth and into the sea after being defeated by his youngest son Cronus. Married to Hephaestus, although she cheated on him frequently, most notably with his brother Ares. Her name gave us the word 'Aphrodisiac'.either
or from the
HephaestusVulcanMaster blacksmith and craftsman of the gods; god of fire and the forge. Symbols include the fire, anvil, ax, donkey, hammer, tongs and quail. Son of Hera, either by Zeus or alone. After he was born, his parents threw him off Mount Olympus, and he landed on the island of Lemnos. Married to Aphrodite. Unlike most mythical husbands, it is never stated that he cheated on her. His Latin name, Vulcan, gave us the word 'Volcano'.Second
HermesMercuryMessenger of the Gods; god of commerce and thieves. Symbols include the caduceus (staff entwined with two snakes), winged sandals and cap, stork and tortoise (whose shell he used to invent the lyre). Son of Zeus and the nymph Maia. The second-youngest Olympian, older only than Dionysus. He married Dryope, the daughter of Dryops, and their son Pan became the god of nature, lord of the satyrs, inventor of the panpipes and comrade of Dionysus.Second
  • According to an alternate version of her birth, Aphrodite was born of Uranus, Zeus' grandfather, — after Cronus threw his castrated genitals into the sea. This supports the etymology of her name, "foam-born". As such, Aphrodite would belong to the same generation as Cronus, Zeus' father, and would technically be Zeus' aunt. See the birth of Aphrodite

  • Romans also associated Phoebus with Helios and the sun itself.[12][13] However, they also used the name legaced by the Greeks, Apollo.[14]

Other definitions

The following gods and goddess are sometimes mentioned amongst the twelve Olympians.

Greek Name Roman Name God or Goddess of... Generation
HadesPluto God of the Underworld and the riches under the Earth ("Pluto" translates to "The Rich One"); he was born into the first Olympian generation, but as he lives in the Underworld rather than on Mount Olympus, he is typically not included amongst the twelve Olympians.First
HestiaVestaGoddess of the hearth and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family; she was born into the first Olympian generation and was one of the original twelve Olympians, but stories suggest that when Dionysus had arrived at Mount Olympus she gave him her spot in the twelve to prevent discordFirst
AsclepiusVediovis The god of medicine and healing. He represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia ("Hygiene"), Iaso ("Medicine"), Aceso ("Healing"), Aglæa/Ægle ("Healthy Glow"), and Panacea ("Universal Remedy").Third
ErosCupid The god of sexual love and beauty. He was also worshipped as a fertility deity. either
HebeJuventas She is the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hebe was the cupbearer for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, serving their nectar and ambrosia, until she was married to Heracles.Second
HeraclesHercules A divine hero, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus (Περσεύς). He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. Second
PanFaunusThe god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, as well as the companion of the nymphs. Generally
PersephoneProserpina Queen of the Underworld and a daughter of Demeter and Zeus. She became the consort of Hades when he becomes the deity that governs the underworld. Also goddess of spring time.Second

Close to the Olympians

The following gods and goddesses were not usually counted as Olympians, although they had close ties and friendships with them.

  • Aeolus - God of the wind, keeper of the Anemoi, master of the seasonal winds.
  • Amphitrite - Queen of the Sea, wife of Poseidon.
  • Anemoi – Wind gods: Boreas (north wind), Notus (south), Zephyrus (west), Eurus (east).
  • Aura - Goddess of cool breezes and fresh air
  • Bia – Personification of violence.
  • Circe - minor goddess of magic, not to be confused with Hecate.
  • Kratos – Personification of power.
  • Deimos - God of terror, brother of Phobos.
  • Dione – Oceanid; Mother of Aphrodite by Zeus in Homer's writings.
  • Eileithyia – Goddess of childbirth; daughter of Hera and Zeus.
  • Enyo - ancient goddess of warfare, companion of Ares.
  • Eos – Personification of dawn.
  • Eris – Goddess of discord.
  • Ganymede – Cupbearer of the god's palace at Olympus.
  • Graces - Goddesses of beauty and attendants of Aphrodite and Hera.
  • Harmonia - Goddess of concord and harmony, opposite of Eris, daughter of Aphrodite.
  • Hecate - Goddess associated with magic, witches and crossroads
  • Horae – Wardens of Olympus.
  • Hypnos - God of sleep, father of Morpheus and son of Nyx.
  • Iris – Personification of the Rainbow, also the messenger of Olympus along with Hermes.
  • Janus - God of doors, beginnings, ends and choices
  • Leto – Titaness; the mother of Apollo and Artemis.
  • Moirae - Goddesses ofdestiny and a lotters of fate, more powerful than Zeus.
  • Morpheus – God of dreams.
  • Muses – Nine ladies of science and arts.
  • Nemesis – Greek goddess of retribution and revenge.
  • Nike – Goddess of victory.
  • Nyx - Goddess of night.
  • Paeon – Physician of the gods.
  • Perseus – Son of Zeus, slayer of Medusa, the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty.
  • Phobos - God of fear, brother of Deimos.
  • Pomona - Goddess of plenty, fruits and orchards, never had a Greek counterpart.
  • Selene – Titaness; personification of the Moon.
  • Styx - Goddess of the River Styx, the river where gods swear oaths on.
  • Thanatos - God of Death.
  • Triton - Messenger of the Seas, Son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, holds a twisted conch shell.
  • Tyche - Goddess of Luck, companion and opposition of Nemesis.
  • Zelus – Emulation.


  1. Used comparatively rarely, in Byzantine Greek, e.g. by Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos, Athanasius of Alexandria or Doukas.
  2. According to Stoll, Heinrich Wilhelm (translated by R. B. Paul) (1852). Handbook of the religion and mythology of the Greeks. Francis and John Rivington. p. 8. "The limitation of their number [of the Olympians] to twelve seems to have been a comparatively modern idea" 
  3. "Greek mythology". Encyclopedia Americana. 13. 1993. p. 431. 
    * "Dodekatheon" (in Greek). Papyros-Larousse-Britanicca. 2007. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Dodekatheon" (in Greek). Papyros-Larousse-Britanicca. 2007. 
  5. Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Ulrich von (1931–1932) (in Deutsch). Der Glaube der Hellenen (Volume 1). Berlin: Weidmansche Buchhandlung. pp. 329. 
  6. Herodotus, The Histories, 2.43–44
  7. Berger-Doer, Gratia (1986). "Dodekatheoi". Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae. 3. pp. 646–658. 
  8. Pindar, Olympian Odes, 10.49
  9. Plato, The Laws, 828 d-e
  10. "Greek mythology". Encyclopedia Americana. 13. 1993. p. 431. 
  11. , Plato: Phaedrus, 246 e-f
  12. North John A., Beard Mary, Price Simon R.F. "The Religions of Imperial Rome". Classical Mythology in English Literature: A Critical Anthology. (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p.259. ISBN 0-521-31682-0.
  13. Hacklin, Joseph. "The Mythology of Persia". Asiatic Mythology (Asian Educational Services, 1994), p.38. ISBN 81-206-0920-4.
  14. See, for example, Ovid's Metamorphoses I 441, 473, II 454, 543, 598, 612, 641, XII 585, XVIII 174, 715, 631, and others.

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Twelve Olympians. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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