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Fragment of a "Hellenistic "relief (1st century BC – 1st century AD) depicting the twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession; from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hephaestus (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), Apollo (lyre), from the "Walters Art Museum.[1]

In "ancient Greek religion and "mythology, the twelve Olympians are the major deities of the "Greek "pantheon, commonly considered to be "Zeus, "Hera, "Poseidon, "Demeter, "Athena, "Apollo, "Artemis, "Ares, "Aphrodite, "Hephaestus, "Hermes, and either "Hestia or "Dionysus.[2] "Hades and "Persephone were sometimes included as part of the twelve Olympians (primarily due to the influence of the "Eleusinian Mysteries), although in general Hades was excluded because he resided permanently in the "underworld and never visited "Olympus.



The twelve Olympians were the principal "deities of the Greek "pantheon, said to reside atop "Mount Olympus. The Olympians gained their supremacy in a ten-year-long "war of gods in which Zeus led his siblings to victory over their predecessor gods, the "Titans.

The concept of the "Twelve Gods" (Greek: Dodekatheon, from dōdeka, "twelve" and theoi, "gods") is older than any extant Greek or Roman source.[3] The gods meet in council in the "Homeric epics, but the first ancient reference to religious ceremonies for the Olympians collectively is found in the "Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Although the names of nearly all the Olympian deities are individually attested in "Linear B texts of the "Mycenaean Period,[4] the Greek cult of the Twelve Gods as a collective group can only be traced to 6th-century BC Athens and probably has no Mycenaean precedent. The "Altar of the Twelve Gods at Athens is usually dated to the "archonship of the younger "Pesistratos, in 522/521 BC.

In "ancient Greek religion, the "Olympian Gods" and the "Cults of Twelve Gods" were often relatively distinct concepts.[5]


While the number was fixed at twelve,[6] there was considerable variation as to which deities were included.[7] However, the twelve as most commonly portrayed in art and poetry were "Zeus, "Hera, "Poseidon, "Demeter, "Athena, "Apollo, "Artemis, "Ares, "Aphrodite, "Hephaestus, "Hermes and either "Hestia, or "Dionysus.

"Hades, known in the "Eleusinian tradition as "Pluto, was not usually included among the Olympians because his realm was the underworld. "Plato connected "twelve gods" with the twelve months, and implies that he considered "Pluto one of the twelve in proposing that the final month be devoted to him and the spirits of the dead.[8][9] In "Phaedrus, Plato seems to exclude Hestia from the rank of "the twelve great gods".[10]

At "Olympia there were six altars dedicated to six pairs of gods: Zeus and Poseidon, Hera and Athena, Hermes and Apollo, the "Charites and Dionysus, Artemis and "Alpheus, and "Cronus and "Rhea.[11] The historian "Herodotus states that "Heracles was included as one of the Twelve by some.[12] At Kos, Heracles and "Dionysus are added to the Twelve, and Ares and Hephaestus are not.[13] For "Pindar,[14] the "Bibliotheca, and "Herodorus of Heraclea, Heracles is not one of the Twelve Gods, but the one who established their cult.[15] "Lucian (2nd century AD) includes Heracles and "Asclepius as members of the Twelve, without explaining which two had to give way for them.

"Hebe, "Helios, "Selene, "Eos, "Eros and "Persephone are other important gods and goddesses who are sometimes included in a group of twelve.["citation needed] Eros is often depicted alongside the other twelve, especially his mother Aphrodite, but not usually counted in their number.

The Roman poet "Ennius gives the "Roman equivalents (the "Dii Consentes) as six male-female complements,[9] preserving the place of "Vesta (Greek Hestia), who played a crucial role in "Roman religion as a state goddess maintained by the "Vestals.


The "twelve" Olympians[edit]

There is no single canonical list of the twelve Olympian gods. The thirteen gods and goddesses most commonly considered to be one of the twelve Olympians are listed below.

Greek Roman Image Functions and attributes
"Zeus "Jupiter ""Jupiter Smyrna Louvre Ma13.jpg King of the gods and ruler of "Mount Olympus; god of the sky, storms, lightning, thunder, law, order and justice. Youngest child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. Symbols include the thunderbolt, eagle, oak tree, lion, scepter, and scales. Brother and husband of Hera, although he had many lovers, also brother of Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, and Hestia.
"Hera "Juno ""Hera Campana Louvre Ma2283.jpg Queen of the gods and the goddess of marriage, women, childbirth and family. Symbols include the peacock, cuckoo, and cow. Youngest daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Wife and sister of Zeus. Being the goddess of marriage, she frequently tried to get revenge on Zeus' lovers and their children.
"Poseidon "Neptune ""0036MAN Poseidon.jpg God of the seas, water, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes and horses. Symbols include the horse, bull, dolphin, and trident. Middle son of Cronus and Rhea. Brother of Zeus and Hades. Married to the "Nereid "Amphitrite, although, like most male Greek Gods, he had many lovers.
"Demeter "Ceres ""Demeter Altemps Inv8546.jpg Goddess of the harvest, fertility, agriculture, nature and the seasons. Who presided over "grains and the "fertility of the earth. Symbols include the poppy, wheat, torch, cornucopia, and pig. Middle daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Also the lover of Zeus and Poseidon, and the mother of Persephone.
"Athena "Minerva ""Mattei Athena Louvre Ma530 n2.jpg Goddess of wisdom, knowledge, reason, intelligent activity, literature, handicrafts, science, defense and strategic warfare. Symbols include the owl and the olive tree. Daughter of Zeus and the "Oceanid "Metis, she rose from her father's head fully grown and in full battle armor.
"Apollo /
Apollo[A] ""Apollo of the Belvedere.jpg God of light, the sun, "prophecy, "philosophy, truth, inspiration, poetry, music, arts, medicine, healing, and plague. Son of Zeus and Leto. Symbols include the sun, lyre, swan, and mouse. Twin brother of Artemis.
"Artemis "Diana ""Diane de Versailles Leochares.jpg Goddess of the hunt, virginity, birth, archery, the moon, forests, all animals, protection and plaque. Symbols include the moon, horse, deer, hound, she-bear, snake, cypress tree, and bow and arrow. Daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo.
"Ares "Mars ""Ares Canope Villa Adriana b.jpg God of war, violence, bloodshed and manly virtues. Symbols include the boar, serpent, dog, vulture, spear, and shield. Son of Zeus and Hera, all the other gods despised him. His Latin name, Mars, gave us the word "martial."
"Aphrodite "Venus ""NAMA Aphrodite Syracuse.jpg Goddess of love, pleasure, passion, procreation, fertility, beauty and desire. Symbols include the dove, bird, apple, bee, swan, "myrtle, and rose. Daughter of Zeus and the Oceanid Dione, or perhaps born from the sea foam after "Uranus' semen dripped into the sea after being castrated by his youngest son, "Cronus, who then threw his father's genitals into the sea. Married to Hephaestus, although she had many adulterous affairs, most notably with Ares. Her name gave us the word ""aphrodisiac", while her Latin name, Venus, gave us the word ""venereal".[B]
"Hephaestus "Vulcan ""Vulcan Coustou Louvre MR1814.jpg Master blacksmith and craftsman of the gods; god of the forge, craftsmanship, invention, fire and volcanoes. Symbols include fire, anvil, axe, donkey, hammer, tongs, and quail. Son of Hera, either by Zeus or alone. Married to Aphrodite, though unlike most divine husbands, he was rarely ever licentious. His Latin name, Vulcan, gave us the word ""volcano."
"Hermes "Mercury ""Hermes Ingenui Pio-Clementino Inv544.jpg Messenger of the gods; god of travel, commerce, communication, borders, eloquence, diplomacy, thieves and games. Symbols include the "caduceus (staff entwined with two snakes), winged sandals and cap, stork, and tortoise (whose shell he used to invent the lyre). Son of Zeus and the nymph Maia. The second-youngest Olympian, just older than Dionysus.

Most common 'twelfth' Olympians[edit]

Most canonical listings include either one or the other of the following deities as one of the twelve Olympians.

Greek Roman Image Functions and attributes
"Hestia "Vesta ""Hestia - Wellesley College - DSC09634.JPG Goddess of the hearth, fire and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family; she was born into the first Olympian generation and was one of the original twelve Olympians. Some lists of the Twelve Olympians omit her in favor of Dionysus, but the speculation that she gave her throne to him in order to keep the peace seems to be modern invention. She is the first child of Cronus and Rhea, eldest sister of Hades, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera, and Zeus.
"Dionysus (or
"Bacchus ""Dionysos Louvre Ma87 n2.jpg God of wine, the grape vine, fertility, celebrations, ecstasy, madness and resurrection. Patron god of the art of "theatre. Symbols include the grapevine, ivy, cup, tiger, panther, leopard, dolphin, goat, and pinecone. Son of Zeus and the mortal Theban princess "Semele. Married to the Cretan princess "Ariadne. The youngest Olympian god, as well as the only one to have a mortal mother.
  1. Notes
  2. ^ Romans also associated Phoebus with "Helios and the "sun itself,[16][17] however, they also used the Greek name Apollon in a Latinized form Apollo.[18]
  3. ^ According to an alternate version of her birth, Aphrodite was born of "Uranus, Zeus' grandfather, after "Cronus threw his castrated genitals into the sea. This supports the etymology of her name, "foam-born". As such, Aphrodite would belong to the same generation as Cronus, Zeus' father, and would be Zeus' aunt. See "the birth of Aphrodite

Other Olympians[edit]

The following gods and goddess are sometimes included as one of the twelve Olympians.

Greek Roman Image Functions and Attributes
"Hades (or
"Orcus (or
"Dis Pater)
""Hades-et-Cerberus-III.jpg God of the Underworld, the dead, and the riches under the Earth; he was born into the first Olympian generation, the elder brother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, and Demeter, and younger brother of Hestia, but, because he lives in the Underworld rather than on Mount Olympus, he is typically not included amongst the twelve Olympians, and is normally viewed as a "chthonic god.
"Persephone (or Kore) "Proserpina ""AMI - Isis-Persephone.jpg Queen of the Underworld and a daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Also goddess of spring time. She became the consort of Hades, the god of the underworld, when he kidnapped her. Demeter, driven to distraction by the disappearance of her daughter, neglected all of the earth so that nothing would grow. Zeus eventually ordered Hades to allow Persephone to leave the underworld and rejoin her mother. Hades did this, but because Persephone had eaten six of the twelve pomegranate seeds in the underworld when Hades first kidnapped her, she had to spend six months in the underworld each year. This created the seasons when for six months everything grows and flourishes then for the other six months everything wilts and dies. Her symbols include the pomegranate, willow tree, waterfalls, rivers and "springs.
"Heracles "Hercules ""Hercules Farnese 3637104088 9c95d7fe3c b.jpg A divine hero, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus (Περσεύς). He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters.
"Asclepius "Vejovis ""Asklepios - Epidauros.jpg The god of medicine and healing. He represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia ("Health"), Iaso ("Medicine"), Aceso ("Healing"), Aglæa/Ægle ("Healthy Glow"), and Panacea ("Universal Remedy"). He is the son of Apollo and "Coronis.
"Eros "Cupid (or Amor) ""Eros Farnese MAN Napoli 6353.jpg The god of sexual love and beauty. He was also worshipped as a fertility deity, son of "Aphrodite and "Ares. He was depicted often as carrying a "lyre or bow and arrow. He is often accompanied by dolphins, roses, and torches.
"Hebe "Juventas ""Canova-Hebe 30 degree view.jpg She is the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hebe was the cupbearer for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, serving their nectar and ambrosia, until she was married to Heracles. She is the goddess of youth.

Minor residents of Mount Olympus[edit]

The following gods and goddesses were not usually counted as Olympians, although they had close ties to them.

Assembly of twenty gods, predominantly the twelve Olympians, as they receive "Psyche (Loggia di Psiche, 1518–19, by "Raphael and his school, at the "Villa Farnesina)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Walters Art Museum, accession number 23.40.
  2. ^ Hansen, p. 250; Burkert, pp. 125 ff.; Dowden, p. 43; Chadwick, p. 85; Müller, pp. 419 ff.; Pache, pp. 308 ff.; Thomas, p. 12; Shapiro, p. 362; Long, pp. 140–141.
  3. ^ Burkert, p. 125.
  4. ^ Chadwick, John (1976). The Mycenaean World. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 84–101. "ISBN "978-0-521-29037-1. 
  5. ^ C.R. Long, The Twelve Gods of Greece and Rome
  6. ^ Rutherford, p. 47; Burkert, p. 125; Ogden, pp. 2–3.
  7. ^ According to Stoll, Heinrich Wilhelm (translated by R. B. Paul) (1852). Handbook of the religion and mythology of the Greeks. Francis and John Rivington. p. 8. The limitation of their number [of the Olympians] to twelve seems to have been a comparatively modern idea 
  8. ^ Plato, "The Laws 828 b-d
  9. ^ a b "Greek mythology". Encyclopedia Americana. 13. 1993. p. 431. 
  10. ^ Plato, Phaedrus 246 247 a
  11. ^ Long, p. 141; Rutherford, p. 47.
  12. ^ "Herodotus, "The Histories, 2.43–44
  13. ^ Berger-Doer, Gratia (1986). "Dodekatheoi". "Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae. 3. pp. 646–658. 
  14. ^ Pindar, Olympian 10.49
  15. ^ "Dodekatheon". Papyros-Larousse-Britanicca (in Greek). 2007. 
  16. ^ North John A., Beard Mary, Price Simon R.F. "The Religions of Imperial Rome". Classical Mythology in English Literature: A Critical Anthology. (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p.259. "ISBN "0-521-31682-0.
  17. ^ Hacklin, Joseph. "The Mythology of Persia". Asiatic Mythology (Asian Educational Services, 1994), p.38. "ISBN "81-206-0920-4.
  18. ^ See, for example, "Ovid's "Met. I 441, 473, II 454, 543, 598, 612, 641, XII 585, XVIII 174, 715, 631, and others.
  19. ^ This chart is based upon "Hesiod's "Theogony, unless otherwise noted.
  20. ^ According to "Homer, "Iliad 1.570–579, 14.338, "Odyssey 8.312, Hephaestus was apparently the son of Hera and Zeus, see Gantz, p. 74.
  21. ^ According to "Hesiod, "Theogony 927–929, Hephaestus was produced by Hera alone, with no father, see Gantz, p. 74.
  22. ^ According to "Hesiod, "Theogony 886–890, of Zeus' children by his seven wives, Athena was the first to be conceived, but the last to be born; Zeus impregnated Metis then swallowed her, later Zeus himself gave birth to Athena "from his head", see Gantz, pp. 51–52, 83–84.
  23. ^ According to "Hesiod, "Theogony 183–200, Aphrodite was born from Uranus' severed genitals, see Gantz, pp. 99–100.
  24. ^ According to "Homer, Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus ("Iliad 3.374, 20.105; "Odyssey 8.308, 320) and Dione ("Iliad 5.370–71), see Gantz, pp. 99–100.


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