The Twelve Olympian Gods

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1 Greek Mythology The ancient Greeks practiced polytheism, the worship of many gods or deities. A deity is a being with supernatural powers. Unlike the gods of Egypt, Greek gods looked-- and behaved-- like human beings. Greeks expressed their religious beliefs in their mythology. Mythology is the collection of myths or stories that people tell about their gods and heroes. Myths explained the changing of the seasons, revealed why so much suffering exists in the world, explained human behavior, taught moral lessons, and told the stories of heroes, such as Hercules.

2 Gods and Goddesses Zeus was the supreme ruler of the gods, as well as the lord of the sky and the god of rain. He lived on Mount Olympus and threw thunderbolts at those who displeased him. Zeus had two brothers. The first, Poseidon, was god of the sea. His anger made the earth shake and the seas churn. Zeus s other brother, Hades, did not live on Olympus. He ruled and lived in the underworld, which was inhabited by the souls of the dead. Greek gods and goddesses behaved like human beings. They fell in love, got married, and had children. They liked to celebrate and play tricks. They also felt jealousy and rage. Athena was a popular goddess because, according to myth, she had given the Greeks the gift of the olive tree. Athena was also the guardian of the city of Athens. When the Greeks fought against other peoples, they believed Athena would appear to help them.

3 The Twelve Olympian Gods Zeus Hera Athena Apollo Artemis Poseidon Ares Aphrodite Hermes Demeter Hephaestus Hestia Father of many of the other gods; bringer of storms; god of justice. Wife of Zeus and queen of the gods; goddess of marriage. Daughter of Zeus; goddess of wisdom and protector of cities. God of prophecy, healing, music, and poetry; god of light. Twin sister of Apollo; goddess of hunting and childbirth. Brother of Zeus; god of the sea. God of war. Goddess of love and beauty. Messenger of the gods; patron of merchants; protector of travelers. Goddess of agriculture and the harvest. God of fire and of craftworkers. Goddess of the hearth.

4 Greek Religion and Life The Greeks honored their gods with public and private religious rituals. Public meetings began with prayers and animal sacrifices. Women played important roles in some of these public ceremonies. In private homes, families maintained household shrines, where they honored their favorite gods or goddesses. Each city-state built temples to its patron deity. On holy days, citizens made sacrifices in front of the gods temples. People offered gold, cakes, and wine, or prized animals such as bulls. They asked the gods for favors, such as good crops or good health.

5 Athletic Contests These games took place every four years. During the games, all conflicts between the city-states stopped. Travelers came from all over the Mediterranean to attend the games. The festival site at Olympia was crowded with merchants, food sellers, and artisans. Winners became celebrities, or famous people. Successful athletes were rewarded not with money but with privileges and fame. Some religious festivals included athletic contests. Athletes competed in boxing, wrestling, and running as well as in throwing the javelin and discus. They displayed their skill and strength to honor the gods. The leading competitions brought together athletes from many city-states. The most famous sports event was the Olympic Games, which honored Zeus.

6 Sacred Sites The Greeks considered groves of trees, springs, and other places to be sacred because they were home to a god or spirit. Mount Olympus, in northern Greece, was an important sacred spot. The Greeks believed it was home to the major gods. Another sacred site was Delphi, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Delphi contained many shrines, but the most important was the holy temple of Apollo. This temple housed Apollo s priestess, who was known as the Delphic oracle. An oracle is someone who predicts the future. People traveled to Delphi from all over Greece and other lands to ask the priestess a question. Many left confused, however, because the oracle answered with puzzling statements or riddles that could be interpreted in several ways.

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8 The Parthenon A temple to Athena on the Athens Acropolis. Also served as a treasury to the Delian League. olis-of-athens-parthenon-south-easter n-view

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