After the imprisonment of the Titans in Tartarus, by Zeus and his older brothers and sisters, the age of the Olympians had begun. Who were the Olympians, how did they rule and is there any significance in their number?
The Olympians were a race of third and fourth generation deities, who gained their supremacy after a ten-year war with Cronus (their father/ grandfather) and the Titans. They were worshipped as the principal gods of the Greek pantheon and gained their name because they resided atop Mount Olympus. They were a family of gods and the most important were the offspring of Cronus and Rhea: -
• Zeus - King of Mount Olympus; god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order and justice
• Hera – Queen, both wife and sister of Zeus, goddess of marriage, women, childbirth and family
• Poseidon - God of the seas, water, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes and horses
• Demeter - Goddess of the harvest, fertility, agriculture, nature and the seasons
• Hestia - Goddess of the hearth, fire and the family.
The others were offspring of Zeus: -
• Athena - Goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare
• Apollo - God of the sun, enlightenment, archery, poetry, music, arts, manly beauty, medicine, healing and plague
• Artemis - Goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, virginity, the moon, archery, childbirth, protection and plague
• Ares - God of war, violence, bloodshed and manly virtues. Disliked by all Olympians, except, except Aphrodite
• Aphrodite - Goddess of love, pleasure, passion, procreation, fertility, beauty and desire
• Hephaestus - Craftsman of the gods; god of the forge, invention, fire and volcanoes
• Hermes - Messenger of the gods; god of communication, eloquence, diplomacy, thieves and games. Hermes can travel between the boundaries of the mortal, the divine and the dead
• Dionysus - God of wine, the grape, the theatre, fertility, festivity, ecstasy, madness and resurrection.
Although these actually number thirteen, Hestia gave her throne to Dionysus to preserve peace, so was replaced. There were many other residents of Olympus, such as Heracles who married another Olympian resident Hebe. The children of Styx; Zelus (Envy), Nike (Victory), Cratos (Power), and Bia (Force) are also said to also dwell with Zeus. Others include the Muses and the Graces, Iris, Dione, Eileithyia, the Horae, and Ganymede.
Whilst Cronus was considered a God of chaos, the Olympians brought law and order to the Greeks. Zeus was respected as an Allfather chief of the gods and he assigned roles to the other Olympians. Even gods who weren’t his natural children address him as Father and all gods rise in his presence. Although promiscuous, fathering many children by both mortal women and goddesses, Zeus was referred to as king in heaven by the Greeks.
In ancient times twelve was considered a divinely complete number and the twelve Olympians weren’t the first grouping of twelve gods in ancient times. Many other places had cults of twelve gods, including Delos, Chalcedon, Magnesia on the Maeander, and Leontinoi in Sicily. Plato connected twelve months with twelve gods. There are the twelve signs of the zodiac and even in the Bible we have the twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles.
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