Now that you know about how it was all created, it’s time to dive into all the great stories that came from this mythical world, but before we begin the tales of the Greek gods, let us take a closer look at their home.
As you probably know, the Greek gods lived on Mount Olympus, located in the Thessaly. The mountain is 3000 meters high and with snow on top. According to Homer, the entrance to the home of the gods is a great sky gate guarded by the seasons (Horae). Inside are the palaces of the gods, where feasts with ambrosia and nectar are held every day. The server is the beautiful Trojan king’s son Ganymede, whom Zeus in the form of an eagle abducted to Olympus. Heras daughter, Hebe (the goddess of youth) serves as another server of the gods. She married Heracles when he was admitted to the gods’ circle (Hercules was the illegitimate son whom Zeus has with the king’s daughter Alcmene very much to Heras dislike). During the meal, they listen to Apollo’s lyre. Apollo leads the choir of the nine muses. The Muses are daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Remembrance), and their song makes both gods and people forget all worries. No storm disturbs the peace of the Olympics, nor rain or snowfalls.
The divine family consists of 12 Olympic gods: Zeus and his two brothers Poseidon and Hades, their sister Hestia and Zeus’s wife Hera. In addition, the war god Ares, the goddess of wisdom Athena, the lovemaking goddess Aphrodite and the hunting goddess Artemis and the archer Apollo. The messenger of the gods Hermes and the smith god Hephaistos are also part of the 12 divine gods. In fact, there are 4 gods who “fight for” 2 of the seats at mount Olympus. These are Hestia, Dionysus, Demeter, and Hades. Hestia abandoned her position as an Olympian god to join Dionysus and live among men (she gets the role of guarding the sacred fire at Olympia). Persephone spends six months a year in the underworld with her spouse Hades; in that time there is winter on earth. The other six months she spends at mount Olympus with her mother, Demeter (the grain goddess). Although Hades is definitely one of the most important gods, he spends so much of his time in the underworld that he is periodically deprived of being one of the inhabitants of Mount Olympus.
In honor of Zeus, a temple was built in Olympia from 470-456 BC. The temple, which had 10 meter high Doric columns on all sides, was at that time the largest in Greece. On the marble base were carved mythological scenes where the gods appear among men. For example, the depiction of a famous race between King Oinomaos and Pelops with Zeus in the middle. Above the entrance were the 12 labors that the greatest of Greek heroes Heracles performed for King Eurystheus depicted. The Temple of Zeus contained a 12-meter-high statue of Zeus made of gold, ivory and colored glass from the most famous sculptor of the time, Fidias, from Athens. The statue was famous throughout Greece and ranks among the seven wonders of ancient times. The statue base was about 1 meter high. The throne’s legs were decorated with Greek gods and mythical figures. On the head, Zeus had an olive wreath of gold. The throne was decorated with gold, precious stones, ivory, and ebony. In the 1st century, the Roman emperor Caligula tried to move the statue to Rome, but he failed. Later, the statue was moved to Constantinople, where it was destroyed by a fire in 462. Today, only the foundation, the fallen pillars, and some rubble are left of the once impressive temple. Outside the temple was a sacred grove of olive trees, poplars, oak trees, and pine trees, in which people hung gifts (votive gifts) to the gods.
The Olympic Games were, according to tradition, founded in 776 BC and held every four years in honor of Zeus. In the early years, the games lasted a single day, and there were only competitions in wrestling and races. Since then, other disciplines were exercised, such as boxing and pentathlon. The games eventually lasted five days, and religious sacrifice ceremonies were introduced. On the last day of the games, the winning athletes were hailed in front of the Temple of Zeus and crowned with a wreath of olive branches from the sacred grove of Zeus. The games continued into Roman times and were first abolished in the year 393 by Emperor Theodosius I, who banned all pagan festivals.
Next time I will tell the tale of Zeus, the Master of the Heaven and ruler of Mount Olympus.
Thank you for reading this blog post. This is the first post in a series regarding greek mythology. If I have piqued your interest, and you want to read the next blog posts I do on the topic or on other subjects I write about; please remember to subscribe in the box on the right sidebar.
If you wish to follow/connect with me on social media. you can click one of the social icons at the top of the page.