Though the Greek gods were much more powerful than mortals, they were not omnipotent like the god of the Abrahamic religions. For all their undeniable supremacy within the mythical cosmos, the Greek gods had flaws. They frequently fought each other and could sometimes be overpowered—by other gods, certainly, but also by very strong mortals.
Most of the Greek gods were imagined as anthropomorphic immortal beings; in other words, they looked and behaved like human beings but lived forever. This was especially true of the Olympian gods, the rulers of the Greek pantheon, who were usually represented as remarkably beautiful and strong humans. Some gods, however, were embodiments of natural or abstract forces and thus were not usually regarded as anthropomorphic (some examples include Gaia, the primordial earth goddess, and her consort Uranus, the sky).
Unlike many other cultures and religions, the Greeks did not have a fully developed creation myth. The most important ancient Greek source for the beginnings of the cosmos, Hesiod’s Theogony, describes the birth of the gods more than the birth of the cosmos itself; indeed, the cosmos was thought to have always existed (more or less).
Thales, the first Greek philosopher (sixth century BCE), claimed that “all things are full of gods.” This was true enough of the ancient Greek world, where gods and other divine figures made regular appearances in everyday life. Greek religion was therefore polytheistic, recognizing many gods rather than just one.
The Greeks had different categories of gods. The most important were the Olympians, who ruled the cosmos from their transcendent home on Mount Olympus. But the Greeks recognized other gods scattered across the world: gods of the wild, of the seas and rivers, of the air, and of the earth.
Immortal, powerful, and often unpredictable, the Greek gods were towering beings whose deeds—though not always admirable or exemplary—populated the mythology of their worshippers. Roman religion, which was also polytheistic, adapted many of the Greek gods and myths to its own pantheon.
For thousands of years, Greek religion was centered around the worship of these many gods, who were served in beautiful temples, through sacrifice, and through prayer. The Greek gods were usually regarded as anthropomorphic—that is, as having the physical appearance and qualities of human beings.
Greek polytheism began to fade after the rise of Christianity, around the fourth century CE. Temples were destroyed or collapsed because of disuse, sacrifices ended, and the ancient myths came to be seen as fictions or fables. Today, the Greek gods survive only in the stories that were told about them long ago.
Immerse yourself in the Greek pantheon and rediscover the gods and goddesses of ancient Hellenic civilization, including Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and many more.
Sensual Greek goddess and wellspring of love, passion, and procreation
Beloved divine patron of music, poetry, and artistic inspiration
Brutal Greek god of rage, aggression, and the most violent aspects of war
Greek goddess of the hunt; guardian of wild places, maidens, and mothers
Greek goddess of wisdom, craftwork, and war
“Golden-haired” Greek goddess of family, fertility and agriculture
The intoxicating Greek god of wine, revelry, music, and dance
Craftsman of the Greek gods, master of metallurgy, and patron of artisans
Queen of the Greek gods, who reigned over women, family, and marriage
Greek messenger god; patron of travelers, merchants, and thieves
Greek goddess of the home and hearth; protector of families and children
Lord of all waters; Greek god of the seas, sailors, and earthquakes
The “cloud-gatherer”—king of the Greek gods and lord of the skies
Immensely strong Greek Titan best known for carrying the world on his shoulders
Inquisitive Greek Titan and grandfather to the Olympians Apollo and Artemis
The “ram”—an obscure Greek Titan who fathered numerous gods
Titan who overthrew his father to rule the cosmos
The “high one”—Greek Titan who fathered the gods of the sun, moon, and dawn
Powerful Greek Titan who fathered Atlas and Prometheus
Inspirational Greek Titan known as the divine source of all memory
Greek Titan who embodied all the waters of the world
Greek Titan and grandmother to Apollo and Artemis
Wily Greek Titan who angered the gods by giving fire to mankind
Mother of the Olympians who helped dethrone her husband Cronus
Greek Titan known for her maternal nature, with over three thousand children
Greek Titan who gave birth to the gods of the sun, moon, and dawn
“Lady Justice”—Greek Titan who embodied the concepts of justice and fairness
The “abyss”—the original Greek entity of creation
Greek personification of darkness and consort of Nyx
“Passion” or “love” personified and one of the first beings of Greek mythology
First deity in all of Greek mythology; associated with agriculture and fertility
The Greek embodiment of night and consort of Erebus
The “mountains” personified, born to Gaia at the dawn of creation
Greek primordial deity and briny personification of the sea
One of the first beings in existence, embodying the dark Underworld
Father of the Titans and primordial Greek deity ewho embodied the sky
Grim ferryman who took the souls of the dead across the River Styx
The “Furies”—dogged avengers of criminals and sinners
Pitiless Greek god of the dead and ruler of the Underworld
Goddess of magic and witchcraft; associated with the dark Underworld
Greek torch-bearing nymphs who attended the Hecate and Persephone
The “Fates,” who ensured that every human life ran its allotted course
Reluctant bride of Hades and sullen queen of the Greek Underworld