Long before the establishment of the ancient Greek pantheon lived many lesser-known deities. One example is Olympus. This name should be familiar to anyone who’s even vaguely acquainted with Greek mythology. It’s the exact name of the mountain on which the Olympic gods reside. Not only that, but many scholars believe that the famous Twelve Olympians get their name from this mountain.
But we’re not talking about the mountain. We’re referring to the god that presided over it.
Olympus is the name given to two mountain demi-gods ruling over two different mountains in Greece. They’re primordial deities, so their role is minimal in Greek mythology. But even still, their stories are crucial because they serve as precursors to the colorful tales of future deities.
The Origins of Olympus
Both of the demi-gods named Olympus are Ourea. The Ourea were a group of ten primordial deities that came from Gaia.
Gaia is one of the first beings to exist on this planet. She was born out of Chaos, the unpredictable state of emptiness before the world came into being. Gaia is considered by many to be the mother of all things. She predates all other gods. Without her existence, we wouldn’t have the Titans or the Olympians.
The primordial goddess is the personification of the Earth. Many cultures outside of Greece refer to this figure as “Mother Nature” or “Mother Earth.”
According to Hesiod’s “Theogony,” Tartarus and Eros came shortly after Gaia. Then, she created Uranus, Pontus, and the Ourea.
Uranus was the personification of the sky. With him, Gaia would create the Titans. Meanwhile, Pontus represented the sea, and the Ourea personified the mountains.
There are ten Ourea for every one of Greece’s mountains. The Ourea don’t have a father and rarely appear in Greek mythology. Like most primordial deities, the Ourea didn’t appear much in ancient artwork. In the few instances where they did make an appearance, the Ourea were usually shown as elderly wise men. They reportedly emerged from mountain crags only to provide counsel of judgment.
The Ourea were considered wise and king-like. They ruled over their respective mountains and only intervened in matters in their domain. Beyond that, they were quiet and virtually invisible from the mythos.
Differentiating the Olympus Demi-Gods
There’s a lot of confusion regarding the Ourea named Olympus. That’s because poets write about two different figures.
The first is the demi-god for the most famous mountain in Greece, Mount Olympus. It’s the tallest mountain, which likely made this Ourea the most powerful.
The second is the ruler of a mountain commonly referred to as Mysian Olympus. That was its name in Ancient Greece. It was in Anatolia, which was also known as Asia Minor. Today, the same mountain goes by Uludag. It’s in modern Turkey.
Olympus – the Demi-God of Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus needs no introduction. It’s a Thessalian mountain that rose higher than any other. Standing tall at 2,919 meters, it trumps most of the other mountains in the area. That’s why it was chosen as the resting place for Olympian gods. Some scholars believe that the famous deities of the Greek pantheon even chose their name based on the mountain.
As for the demi-god, there’s not much information out there about him. He’s essentially lost to history, as no surviving ancient texts detail his existence. What has survived the sands of time only briefly mention the god in passing.
Like the other Ourea, Olympus was likely a background player. In fact, he may have had less rule over his domain than the other Ourea despite having the largest mountain in the known world.
Mount Olympus was where the gods ruled and lived. It’s frequently mentioned throughout Greek mythology, and many stories take place there. If the demi-god Ourea did exist to some capacity, he probably had little say in what happened on his mountain.
After the Titanomachy, the Olympians rose to power and ruled over all other beings. That included older deities. There’s a good chance that Olympus resided in the shadows watching over the events on Mount Olympus. But, he didn’t seem to intervene or make his presence known in any way.
Olympus – the Demi-God of Mysian Olympus
The second Olympus ruled over Mysian Olympus in Anatolia. This mountain stands at 2,543. It wasn’t small by any means, acting as a foreboding figure in the Greek landscape. Its location was far from other events in Greek mythology, but several stories did occur on the mountain and its surrounding range.
Like the first Olympus, this demi-god Ourea doesn’t appear much in human form. But, there are some accounts of his family life. The exact details are muddled, but some poets wrote about this Ourea having a wife and child.
His child is more well-known in Greek mythology. His name was Marsyas, and he has two stories involving a flute.
Athena reportedly crafted the first flute ever to exist. However, she once looked into the mirror while playing it. Aghast by how it made her cheeks puff out, Athena tossed the flute. It reportedly landed on Mysian Olympus, where the demi-god’s son found it.
Marsyas quickly became quite skilled. He was so talented that he felt he could challenge Apollo to a musical contest. Apollo was the god of music and dance, so a challenge like that was unheard of in ancient Greece. During the first round, Marsyas held his own. But for the second, Apollo demanded he plays upside down. The feat was impossible for Marsyas, so he lost.
Apollo punished Marsyas for his hubris by tying him to a tree and flaying him. This may have occurred on Mysian Olympus. According to some accounts, Olympus and rustic gods from the surrounding area turned Marsyas into a stream.
Olympus may refer to two of the ten Ourea demi-gods.
Most scholars agree that two Ourea shared the name of Olympus. While confusing, poets wrote about two different figures and the mountains they presided over.
The primary Olympus was the god of the tallest mountain in Greece. It stands at 2,919 meters tall.
The second Olympus was a mountain god who presided over a mountain in Anatolia called Mysian Olympus. It stands 2,543 meters tall.
Another spelling for Olympus is “Olympos.”
Mount Olympus is one of the most famous locations in Greek mythology because it was the home of the gods.
The second Olympus in Anatolia had a famous son called Marsyas.
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