The Olympian Gods and Goddesses

Updated November 17, 2021 | Infoplease Staff

The Dii Consentes

In Ancient Greek mythology, twelve gods and goddesses ruled the universe from atop Greece's Mount Olympus. Our main sources on the gods include Hesiod's Theogony and the Homeric Hymns (although they probably aren't by the Homer who wrote the Odyssey and/or the Iliad).

These Olympians had come to power after their leader, Zeus, overthrew his father, Kronos (or Cronus), leader of the Titans. All the Olympians are related to one another; their various relationships are themselves the subject of many Greek myths. The Romans adopted most of these Greek gods and goddesses, but with new names. There were many more deities in the Roman and Greek pantheons. We've included some of the more prominent deities below, in addition to the main Olympians. You can find a more complete list of Greco-Roman deities here. You can also check out our list of Greek heroes.

Note: "Olympian" refers to the divine residents of Olympus. "Olympic" refers to things pertaining to the city of Olympia, or the Olympic Games that were held there (or the modern Olympic Games).

Zeus (Roman name: Jupiter)

The most powerful of all, Zeus was god of the sky and the king of Olympus. His temper affected the weather, and he threw thunderbolts when he was unhappy. He was married to Hera but had many other lovers. His symbols include the oak and the thunderbolt.

See also: The Reign of Thunder and Lightning: Olympus Under Zeus.

Hera (Roman name: Juno)

Hera was the Greek goddess of marriage and the queen of Olympus. She was Zeus's wife and sister; many myths tell of how she sought revenge when Zeus betrayed her with his lovers. Her symbols include the peacock and the cow.

See also: A Heavenly Marriage? Hera and Zeus.

The Olympian Gods Quiz
Zeus at Olympia

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Poseidon (Roman name: Neptune)

Poseidon was god of the sea. He was the most powerful god except for his brother, Zeus. He lived in a beautiful palace under the sea and caused earthquakes when he was in a temper. His symbols include the horse and the trident (a three-pronged pitchfork). The sea god features prominently in stories about the Trojan War, due to a grudge he bore against the former king Laomedon of Troy. He is the father of Polyphemus, the cyclops in the Odyssey, and of the demigod Triton.

See also: The Brothers of Zeus: Poseidon and Hades.

Hades (Roman name: Pluto)

Hades was the god of the underworld and king of the dead. His name is often used interchangeably as that of the Greek underworld. He was the brother of Zeus and the husband of Persephone, Demeter's daughter, whom he kidnapped.

See also: The Brothers of Zeus: Poseidon and Hades.

Aphrodite (Roman name: Venus)

Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, and the protector of sailors. She may have been the daughter of Zeus and the Titan Dione, or she may have risen from the sea on a shell. Her symbols include the myrtle tree and the dove.

See also: Aphrodite.

Artemis (Roman name: Diana)


Apollo was the god of music and healing. He was also an archer, and hunted with a silver bow. Apollo was the son of Zeus and the Titan Leto, and the twin of Artemis. His symbols include the laurel tree, the crow, and the dolphin. Apollo is famously the patron of the oracle at Delphi.

See also: Night of the Hunters: Artemis and Apollo.

Ares (Roman name: Mars)

Ares was the god of war. He was both cruel and a coward. Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, but neither of his parents liked him. His symbols include the vulture and the dog, and he often carried a bloody spear.

See also: Hephaestus and Ares.

Artemis (Roman name: Diana)

Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and the protector of women in childbirth. She hunted with silver arrows and loved all wild animals. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. Her symbols include the cypress tree and the deer.

See also: Night of the Hunters: Artemis and Apollo.

Athena (Roman name: Minerva)

Athena was the goddess of wisdom. She was also skilled in the art of war, and helped heroes such as Odysseus and Hercules. Athena sprang full-grown from the forehead of Zeus, and became his favorite child. Her symbols include the owl and the olive tree. Athena is also the namesake of the city of Athens.

See also: First in War, First in Peace: Athena.

Hephaestus (Roman name: Vulcan)

Hephaestus was the god of fire and the forge (a furnace in which metal is heated). Although he made armor and weapons for the gods, he loved peace. He was the son of Zeus and Hera and married Aphrodite. His symbols include the anvil and the forge.

See also: Hephaestus and Ares.

Hestia (Roman name: Vesta)

Hestia was the goddess of the hearth (a fireplace at the center of the home). She was the most gentle of the gods, and does not play a role in many myths. Hestia was the sister of Zeus and the oldest of the Olympians. Fire is among her symbols.

See also: Home and Harvest: The Sisters of Hera.

Hermes (Roman name: Mercury)

Hermes (Roman name: Mercury)

Hermes was the messenger of the gods, a trickster, and a friend to thieves. He was said to have invented boxing and gymnastics. He was the son of Zeus and the constellation Maia. The speediest of all, he wore winged sandals and a winged hat and carried a magic wand.

See also: The Little Rascal: Hermes.

Sometimes included:

Demeter (Roman name: Ceres)

Demeter was the goddess of agriculture. The word “cereal” comes from her Roman name. She was the sister of Zeus. Her daughter, Persephone, was forced to live with Hades each winter; at this time Demeter let no crops grow. Her symbols include wheat.

See also: Home and Harvest: The Sisters of Hera.

Dionysus (Roman name: Bacchus)

Dionysus was the god of wine, which he invented. In ancient Greece Dionysus was honored with springtime festivals that centered on theater. Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, a mortal. His symbols include ivy, the snake, and grapes. He is commonly depicted in the company of satyrs.

See also: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Dionysus.

The lesser Olympians

This isn't an official designation, but it's a handy catchall. These are the children of the Twelve Olympians, either by each other, by lesser deities, or by mortal women.

These include Pan (son of Hermes and a nymph), Asclepius (son of Apollo), Aeolus (son of Poseidon), Hebe (daughter of Zeus and Hera) and Heracles/Hercules (son of Zeus and a mortal woman). Fun fact, in Classical literature, the term demi-god was basically unknown. Instead hero and half-god were largely interchangeable. And, as in the case of Heracles, a hero could be elevated to full godhood.

The Titans

Greco-Roman mythology is replete with gods aside from the main bunch. The Romans had hundreds. There are lesser deities the Muses of Mount Parnassus, who inspire artists.

The most important are the Titans, who were the gods before the Olympians. The Titans are the children of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky. Like the Olympians, they consisted of a main twelve. They are Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Iapetus, and Hyperion, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Tethys, Mnemosyne, and Phoebe.

All of the main Olympians are the children and grandchildren of Cronus. The other Titans also had divine children, including the titans/gods Helios, Atlas, Amphitrite and Prometheus.

Many of the Titans were condemned to punishment in Tartarus, although some escaped this fate. Helios, for example, maintains a divine role in pulling the sun across the sky, and Amphitrite is the wife of Poseidon.

Other gods

Then there are the other types of gods. There are:

Primordial deities, who predate the Titans. These include Nyx, the personification of night, and the primordial Chaos.

There are the Chthonic deities who live underground beyond the River Styx. These include Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.

And there are personified concepts, such as Nemesis (vengeance), Thanatos (death), Eros/Cupid (lust), and Nike (victory).

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