The Twelve Olympians
In the ancient Greek world, the Twelve great gods and goddesses of the Greeks were referred to as the Olympian Gods, or the Twelve Olympians. The name of this powerful group of gods comes from Mount Olympus, where the council of 12 met to discuss matters.
All 12 Olympians had a home on Mount Olympus and that was where they were most commonly found. Hades, the god of the Underworld, preferred to live there, and Poseidon often chose to stay in his palace under the sea. Most of the other Olympians would be on Mount Olympus year round unless they were travelling.
Hestia used to be one of the Olympians, but the constant fighting and bickering between the gods annoyed her and she eventually gave up her seat to the god of wine, Dionysus. Even though she left the council, Hestia still kept a home on Mount Olympus.
Aphrodite was on the council but, in most Greek mythological stories, her husband Hephaestus was not. At the famous Parthenon temple in Greece, there is a statue of each of the 12 Olympian gods. Hades does not have a statue, but Hephaestus does.
The question of who the 12 Olympians are really depends on who is telling the story. Nobody is truly sure if Hades of Hephaestus can be classed as the Twelfth Olympian. So, because of the way Greek myths were told and retold in different ways, there are actually 14 gods and goddesses who can be considered as an Olympian god. Below is a list of all of the gods who have been considered an Olympian in one story or another.
Olympian Gods and Goddesses
Aphrodite was the goddess of fertility, love, and beauty. During the Trojan War, Aphrodite fought on the side of Paris. Aphrodite and her son Eros (Cupid) teamed up to cause Zeus to fall in love with a human named Europa.
Apollo was the son of Leto and Zeus. He was born on the island of Delos. He and his twin sister Artemis, also an Olympian, shared an aptitude for archery. The nine Muses were companions of his; they were goddesses known for inspiring art and music.
He was the son of Zeus and Hera, both of whom hated him (according to Homer). Eros (more commonly known as Cupid) was the child of Ares and Aphrodite. Ares was most notably referred to as the God of War; he represented the unpleasant aspects of battle.
Artemis was daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo. She was primarily a virgin huntress, goddess of wildlife and patroness of hunters. She was an important goddess in the lives of women, especially when it came to marriage and young creatures.
Athena was the Goddess of War, the female counterpart of Ares. She is one of three virgin goddesses; the other two were Hestia and Artemis. Athena served as a guardian of Athens, where the Parthenon served as her temple.
Demeter was the daughter of Cronos and Rhea. She was the goddess of harvest and fertility. Only women attended the Thesmophoria, a fertility festival held in honor of Demeter.
Dionysus was primarily known as the God of the Vine. Upon reaching adulthood, Dionysus wandered the Earth, teaching men the culture of the vine. Dionysus was the last god to enter Olympus.
He was also called the God of Wealth or “the rich one” because he possessed the precious metals of the earth. Hades had a cap or helmet that made its wearer invisible. His wife was Persephone, Demeter’s only daughter, whom he kidnapped and made his queen.
Hephaestus was the only ugly god among perfectly beautiful immortals. He was the workman of the immortals: he made their dwellings, furnishings, and weapons. Hephaestus was known as the God of Fire.
Hera was Queen of the Olympian gods. In the story of the Quest of the Golden Fleece, Hera was a gracious protector of the heroes. Hera had few, if any, redeeming qualities. She never forgot an injury.
Hermes was considered a “trickster” due to his cunning and clever personality. He primarily served as the herald or messenger of the gods. Hermes was born in a cave on a mountain in Arcadia; he was conceived and born within the course of one day.
Although Hestia appeared in a few stories, she was not overly significant in Greek mythology. She was a sibling to Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, and Zeus. Hestia is completely omitted from the works of Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Poseidon was allotted his dominion after the fall of the Titans. He wielded the trident or three-pronged spear, and this image of him is reflected in art. Poseidon was most notably the God of the sea and the protector of all waters.
Zeus was the father of the famous Greek hero Hercules. The name Zeus means "bright" or "sky." His weapon of choice was the thunderbolt, made for him by the Cyclops.