THE GODS OF GREECE
HE Greeks believed that the world was round and flat. Its
outer border was the great river, Ocean. The
Mediterranean Sea was in the center of this circle.
Far to the North lived the Hyperboreans in a beautiful
land where cold winds did not blow and snow never fell.
These people were not obliged to word, and they had no
enemies with whom to fight. Sickness and old age did
not trouble them. Their lives were happy and tranquil.
In the distant South were the Æthiopians, who were
so good and happy that the gods often went to visit
 In the far-off West were the Fortunate Isles, or
"Islands of the Blessed," where everything was
charming, and where a few people, beloved by the gods,
lived for ever without pain or sorrow.
The Greeks thought there were many gods, most of whom
lived above the clouds on top of Olympus, a mountain in
Thessaly. They had bodies like men and women, but they
were larger, stronger, and usually handsomer than human
The king of all the gods, and the father of many of
them, was called Zeus. The Latin name for this god is
Jupiter. He was the ruler of the weather. At his
command the clouds gathered, rain or snow fell, gentle
winds blew, or storms roared. He darted lightning
across the sky and hurled thunderbolts upon the world.
The tallest tress and highest mountain peaks were
sacred to him.
He was also the god of justice, and sent his servants,
the Furies, to punish men and women who did wrong.
His wife was Hera, who in Latin is called Juno. She
was very handsome and stately. Her eyes were large and
dark, so that one poet called her "ox-eyed." She was
proud and quarrelsome and ready to harm those who made
This couple had several children. One of them,
Hephæstus, the Latin Vulcanus, is said by some to
have been born lame. Others say that his father in a
fit of anger threw him out of heaven. He fell for a
long summer day, and when he reached the island of
Lemnos he had little life remaining in him, and limped
 forever after. He was the blacksmith god, who built
houses for the other gods and made the scepter of Zeus,
the arrows used by Apollo and Artemis, and other
wonderful things. He was good-natured and fond of fun,
but not foolish. Volcanoes were called his earthly
His wife was Aphrodite, the Latin Venus, the loveliest
of all the goddesses, who was said to have been born
from the foam of the sea. She was the ruler of love
and beauty. Wherever she went soft and gentle breezes
followed her, and flowers sprang up where her feet
touched. She made some people happy, but for others
she caused much grief and trouble.
One day Zeus had a terrible headache. Hephæstus,
with an ax, split open his father's aching head. The
goddess Athene, the Latin Minerva, sprang out, full
grown and dressed in armor. She became the goddess of
wisdom, and also took care of cities. She never
married but lived alone in her house upon Mount
Phbus the Latin Apollo, was the god who ruled the
sun. He loved music and poetry.
Artemis, the Latin Diana, was his twin sister. She had
charge of the moon and was the friend of the hunters.
Hermes, the Latin Mercurius, whence our Mercury, was
handsome and swift, the messenger of the gods. Under
his care were merchants, travelers, and public
speakers. He wore a low-crowned hat with wings, and
wings grew from his ankles. In his hand, he carried a
want around which snakes twines. He was very cunning
and full of tricks.
 Ares, the Latin Mars, was the god of war, finding
pleasure in battle and death.
Hestia, the Latin Vesta, was the sister of Zeus. She
was the goddess of the fireside and watched over the
homes of men. She never married, but Zeus gave her a
seat in the center of his palace and sent her the
sweetest morsels at every feast. On earth she was
worshiped as the oldest and best of the gods. In her
temple a sacred fire was kept forever burning, watched
by un-married women, who were called "Vestal Virgins."
These ten gods formed the "Great Council" of Olympus.
They lived in their own houses of brass, built by
Hephæstus, but every day they went to the palace
of Zeus and feasted on ambrosia and nectar. Hebe, the
beautiful daughter of Zeus and Hera, waited upon the
table. After her marriage to Heracles her place was
taken by Ganymede, a beautiful Trojan boy, whom Zeus in
the form of an eagle carried away to heaven. At the
feasts Apollo played on his lyre and the Muses sang.
The Muses were nine sisters, who lived on Mount
Parnassus. They had charge of poetry, history, music,
tragedy, comedy, dancing, love-songs, hymns, and
The ruler of the sea was Poseidon, whose Latin name was
Neptune. Under the waves he had a shining palace, the
work of Hephæstus.
Demeter, the Latin Ceres, was goddess of the earth,
especially of harvests of grain. Dionysus, or Bacchus,
was the god of vineyards and wine, and was particularly
adored by the Greeks. Eros, the Latin Cupid, the
little god of love, was the son of Venus. Eos was the
 the dawn. Iris was the messenger of Hera, and the road
by which she traveled from heaven to earth was the
rainbow, which vanished when her errand was done.
There were three Fates, who spun the thread of human
life and cut it off at their pleasure.
There were three Graces, who favored everything
beautiful and charming in manners and dress.
There were also three Furies, who had snakes for hair
and were frightful to look at. It was their duty to
follow wicked men and women and punish them with
Nemesis, like the Furies, pursued those who had done
wrong, particularly those who had insulted the gods.
Wherever she went trouble and sorrow followed.
Momus was the god of laughter, Morpheus of sleep, and
Plutus of riches. Plutus was blind and could not see
those to whom he gave his gifts. When he approached
men he limped slowly along. When he left them he flew
All these went and came as they pleased, being
sometimes in the sky, sometimes on the earth. They did
not always do right, and they often quarreled and
fought among themselves. Although they could not be
killed, they could be wounded. Then ichor
instead of blood flowed from their veins. They took
much interest in human affairs; they had their
favorites whom they helped, and their enemies whom they
tried to harm.