Ancient Greece—Gods and Myths

Gaia and Uranus to Reign of the Olympians

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      

Era Summary—Gods and Myths

The myths and legends of Ancient Greece are such an essential part of Greek culture that the first three units of the Ancient Greece Classical Curriculum are dedicated entirely to myth and folklore. Greek mythology is important, not only because it reflects the pagan religion of the Ancient world, but also because it gives great insight into Greek thought and expression. References to Greek Gods and folklore are present throughout the recorded history of the ancient world, in religious symbols and ceremonies, in literature, in poetry, in art, in archeological artifacts, and in day to day life.

The Greeks worshiped Pagan gods but did not credit them with the same qualities of omniscience and goodness that Christians associate with their God. Greeks Gods shared many human foibles so the legends that arose concerning them were almost invariably dramas involving jealousy, indulgence, revenge, debauchery, and misunderstandings. Greek myths were often quite humorous and frequently involved a morale applicable to human relations.

The myths, heroes and legends of Ancient Greece are too numerous to list, but a few general categories of the types of heroes and stories can be given. The first category of Greek myths involves the Gods, or immortals, who have a human form, and decidedly human personality traits, but possess enormous powers over the earth. The twelve Olympians are the most important, and they include Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades who rule over the heaven, Sea, and Underworld respectively. Most of the rest of the Olympians are either sisters or children of Zeus, the King of Gods.

The Olympians are the third generation of Greek Gods, descended from the Titans, who in turn, descended from the Primordal "Mother Earth" and "Father Sky." Besides the twelve Olympians and their ancestors, there there are hundreds of other lesser gods, fairies, and demigods that preside over a vast variety of entities, such as field and stream, poetry, music and medicine. A list of the fields of influence of the Titans, Olympians, and lesser gods is provided here.

The second category of Greek myths involves human, or semi-human heroes, and a spectacular array of monsters and villains. Many legendary Greek heroes are demigods, who descended on one side from a human, and from the other from a God and have superhuman power. But others are merely humans, whose lives were blessed or cursed by the gods, and whose feats were immortalized in Greek folklore and literature. The final category of Greek legends involves the famous characters who appear in the Iliad and Odyssey, the two epic poems most closely associated with Ancient Greece.

This unit deals only with the legends surrounding the Greek Gods and Titans. It begins with the overthrow of the Titans by the Olympian descendents of Cronus and Rhea. It explains how Prometheus created the human race and gave it the gifts of craftsmenship, agriculture, and fire. The myth of Pandora's box, explaining how evil entered the world of man, is similar in some ways to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, while the story of Decaulion and the Flood has some similarities to the story of Noah's flood. The section also covers the founding of several important cities in Greece, and how the race of Hellenes—the original Greeks, came into existence.

Characters—Gods and Myths


Olympians-Second Generation of Gods, related to Zeus

Zeus  (Jupiter) God of Heavens, Weather, Lightning - King of Gods
Poseidon  (Neptune) God of the Sea, Rivers, Earthquakes, Horses
Hades  (Pluto) God of the Underworld,Dead, Precious Metals
Hera  (Juno) Goddess of Marriage, Women - Queen of Gods - Mother (with Zeus) of Ares, Hephaestus, Hebe, and Eris
Hestia  (Vesta) Goddess of the Hearth, Home, Chastity
Ares  (Mars) God of War, bloodshed, violence
Athena  (Minerva) Goddess of Wisdom, Strategy, Handcrafts, Skill
Apollo  (Apollo) God of Light,Prophecy,Music,Healing
Artemis  (Diana) Goddess of the Hunt,Forest,Wild Animals,Maidens
Aphrodite  (Venus) Goddess of Love,Beauty,Desire, mother of Cupid
Hermes  (Mercury) God of Travel, Commerce, Speed, Diplomacy, Trickery - Messenger of Gods
Hephaestus  (Vulcan) God of the Forge, Fire, Craftsmanship
Demeter  (Ceres) Goddess of Grain, Agriculture, Harvest, Fertility - Mother (with Zeus) of Persephone
Dionysus  (Bacchus) God of Wine, Revelry, Festivals, Madness
Persephone (Proserpina) Goddess of Spring - Wife of Hades
Hebe   (Juventus) Goddess of Youth - Cupbearer of the Gods
Eris  (Discordia) Goddess of Discord - Sister of Ares
Eros  (Cupid) God of Love - Son of Aphrodite
Pan  (Faunnus) God of Nature, Shepherds, Flocks

Recommended Reading—Gods and Myths

Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Harding - Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men   The Greeks to Eros, the Love-God (20)
Macgregor - The Story of Greece   Wonderland to The Purple Flowers (6)

Supplemental Recommendations

Shaw - Stories of the Ancient Greeks   The Gods of Greece to Sowing Dragon's Teeth (11)
Lang - The Book of Myths   Prometheus and Pandora to Pan (27)
Hawthorne - Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys   The Pygmies to The Pomegranate Seeds (4)
Hawthorne - A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys   The Golden Touch (1)

Easy Reading Selections

Haaren - Famous Men of Greece   The Gods of Greece to Cadmus and the Dragon's Teeth (3)
Baldwin - Old Greek Stories   Jupiter and His Company to Cadmus and Europa (9)
Francillon - Gods and Heroes   Saturn to Man Who Never Died (23)
Peabody - Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew   The Wood-Folk to Apollo's Sister (11)