Become a fan of h2g2
Greek Myths: The Origins | Centaurs | The 12 Olympians | Achilles
Gods of Greek Mythology | Heroes of Greek Mythology | The Trojan War
Heracles | Sirens | Prometheus | Perseus | Pygmalion and Galatea
Jason and the Argonauts | The Children of Nyx | Death and the Underworld
The twelve great Gods were very important, but it is a mistake to forget the other Gods. Some of them had very important roles, indeed.
The Moerae were also known as the Fates. The blind daughters of Zeus and the Titan Themis, their names were Atropos, Clotho and Lachesis. They were in charge of the life of every living being - even the Gods could not change fate. They assigned every man his share of good and evil at birth, although the way he lived his life could alter the proportions of each.
Life was a thread, spun by Clotho, representing birth, measured by Lachesis, who decided what the life would be like, and cut by Atropos, the smallest but most terrible of the three, in charge of death. Only once were the Fates ever cheated - by Asclepius the physician. This son of Apollo managed to bring a man back to life, so Hades1 and the Fates collaborated to persuade Zeus to kill Asclepius with a thunderbolt.
Eros was only married once, to Psyche, a woman cursed with beauty so great all men were terrified of her. She consulted the Dephi Oracle in despair, where she was told to wait on a rock for a monster who would love her. She waited all day but it was not until the night that she felt someone beside her. The monster asked her never to look at him, a condition she agreed to. They lived in happiness until Psyche could bear it no longer - she hid a lamp so that when the monster came to her at night she could shine it on him. The lamp revealed that the monster was actually Eros, who was devasted at being discovered and fled. Both despaired separately until Eros came back for her, this time taking her to Zeus, who gave them permission to wed.
Eros was not worshipped like the other gods and never became an Olympian. However, the Greeks thought he was an important part of life, and he was eventually adopted as Cupid by the Romans.
Hestia was the sister of Zeus and a powerful goddess. However, she chose not to live on Olympus, instead becoming Goddess of the home.
She was a calm Goddess, and did not get involved in wars. When Poseidon and Apollo arranged a duel for her love she stopped them by swearing to remain a virgin forever. Zeus was so grateful for her peacekeeping that he allowed her the first victim of every sacrifice made to the Gods.
In honour of her place by the hearth, fire was made sacred, with households always keeping at least one fire alight. Her temples contained ever-burning flames tended by virgin priestesses.
The Muses were the daughters of Zeus and the goddess Mnemosyne. They inspired artists and even accompanied Apollo, because of his love for music. There were nine Muses:
- Calliope, muse of epic poetry,
- Clio, muse of history,
- Polyhymnia, muse of mime,
- Euterpe, muse of the flute,
- Terpsichore, muse of the dance,
- Erato, muse of love poetry,
- Melpomene, muse of tragedy,
- Thalia, muse of comedy,
- Urania, muse of astronomy.
The Muses would glorify gods and heroes in their song, thereby keeping their names and deeds alive. It was a great dishonour to be forgotten by the Muses.
Nymphs were minor goddesses, but they were very popular because they represented the beauty of nature. There were many types of nymphs:
- The Melias were the first nymphs. When Uranus was castrated by Cronos, blood from his wounds dripped onto the earth and the Melias were born. They lived in ash trees.
- The Naiads lived in springs and streams. They could cure or transmit disease and tell the future.
- The Nereids lived in small calm seas, while the Oceanids lived in the wide oceans.
- The Oreads lived in the mountains and the Dryads lived in the woods.
Nymphs had very few powers, but they were still respected - they were said to be so beautiful that seeing one in the midday sun could lead to madness and terror.
Many beings sought them for their beauty, especially satyrs, who were similar to a male version of nymphs, although they had horns and tails. Sometimes the nymphs seduced the Gods - even Zeus was not immune.
Pan was the son of the god Hermes and an unknown woman. He was born half man, half goat, terrifying his mother, but Hermes took him to Olympus. There, the Gods laughed at him and so Pan became a god who lived in the wilderness, away from people and gods both. He was at one with nature and a guardian of shepherds2.
Pan had very little luck in love, mostly because he was so hideous. He made several attempts to seduce nymphs, but nearly all failed. He was in love with Syrinx, who he chased to the river bed, where she turned into a reed. He cut her and several other reeds down and made the first Pan-pipes.
He was also in love with the nymph Echo, who had been cursed so she could only repeat what others had just said. He jealously guarded her cave, fighting anyone who came near until the shepherds got so angry they attacked and tore Echo to pieces.
His only real success was with the goddess Selene, who he tricked with a disguise.