Who were the Greek gods? - Greek Mythology
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Who are the Greek Gods?

Greek gods on the Siphnian treasury
Greek gods on the Siphnian Treasury, Delphi, ca. 530 BC

January 2017 - People in ancient Greece believed in many gods: they were polytheistic (PA-lee-thee-ISS-tick). It is impossible to say how many Greek gods there were, because different Greek people worshipped different gods, or called their gods by different names. Certainly there were hundreds of gods and goddesses. The most famous of these gods, and the ones which the most people sacrificed to, were Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Artemis, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Athena, Demeter, Hermes, Ares, and Hades.

mosaic of woman
Persephone being kidnapped

But there were many others: Asclepius, the god of medicine, Persephone, Demeter's daughter, Gaia the earth goddess, Hecate, and so forth.
In addition, every little village had its own gods. The local stream, an especially big oak tree, an oddly shaped rock, all were thought to have their own god inside them, who had to be worshipped or he or she would get mad. It was, as Keith Hopkins has said, "a world full of gods."

Greek people also worshipped foreign gods, if they thought other people's gods might help them somehow. The Egyptian goddess Isis was especially popular in Athens in the Hellenistic period, for instance. And many Hellenistic Greeks worshipped Astarte, too.

To keep their gods happy, most Greek people sacrificed to their gods. Most people in Greece also asked the gods to tell them about the future through oracles.

Learn by doing - Greek Gods Bingo!
Greek myths (stories about the gods)
More about Greek religion

Bibliography and further reading about the Greek gods:

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire.

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1987). By a leading expert. He has sections on each of the Greek gods, and discusses their deeper meanings, and their function in Greek society.

More about Greek mythology
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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