The mythology of the ancient Greeks includes a vast number of deities, demigods, monsters, and heroes. Despite their awesome powers, the Greek gods and goddesses were much like humans. Their actions stemmed from recognizable passions, such as pride, jealousy, love, and the thirst for revenge. The deities often left Mount Olympus to become involved in the affairs of mortals, interacting with men and women as patrons, enemies, and sometimes lovers. They were not above using tricks and disguises to influence events. Heroes and ordinary humans in Greek myths frequently discovered that things were not what they appeared to be. The underlying moral principle, though, was that the gods rewarded honorable behavior, and people who dishonored themselves or defied the gods usually paid a high price.
The word pantheon, which refers to all the gods of a particular culture, comes from the Greek pan (all) and theoi (gods). The pantheon of the ancient Greeks consisted of the Olympian gods and other major deities, along with many minor deities and demigods.
The Olympian gods were the principal deities, six gods and six goddesses, and lived on Mount Olympus the highest peak in Greece. Zeus was the king of the gods and reigned over all the other deities and their realms.
Below is an alphabetical list of the 12 Olympian gods (including their Roman names):
- Aphrodite (Venus) - goddess of love and beauty
- Apollo (Apollo) - god of the sun, arts, and medicine
- Ares (Mars) - god of war
- Artemis (Diana) - goddess of hunting and protector of wild animals
- Athena (Minerva) - goddess of wisdom, warfare, and crafts
- Demeter (Ceres) - goddess of grain, farming, and soil
- Hephaestus (Vulcan) - god of fire, volcanoes, and industry
- Hera (Juno) - queen of the gods, protector of marriage and childbirth
- Hermes (Mercury) - messenger of the gods, patron of travelers, merchants, and thieves
- Hestia (Vesta) - goddess of the hearth
- Poseidon (Neptune) - god of the sea
- Zeus (Jupiter) - king of the gods, protector of justice and social order
Other Major Deities:
- Dionysus (Bacchus) - god of wine and revelry
- Hades (Pluto) - king of the underworld
- Persephone (Proserpina) - queen of the underworld
- Prometheus - giver of fire and crafts to humans