The Olympian Gods – All Twelve (or fourteen) gods of Olympus

If you asked any random person on the street to list Greek gods, they would probably mention Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. All these gods belong to the Olympian generation of Greek gods. Even though they are the best-known Greek gods, they aren’t the only ones. 

As a matter of fact, Olympian gods are the third generation of Greek gods. To establish their rule, they had to overcome some adversities. Probably the biggest such was the fight against the previous generation of gods – the Titans. So, before we learn more about each Olympian god, let’s first see how they rose to power. 

The Titanomachy And The Rise Of The Olympians

Cronus was a powerful Titan god, leading all the other Titans. He gained his power by castrating and deposing his father, Uranus. However, Cronus didn’t enjoy his power for long. He learned that one of his children would depose him, just like he did to his father. 

Cronus had a consort, his sister Rhea. Once she started giving birth to his children, Cronus feared for his throne. As Rhea gave birth to their first five children: Hestia, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera, and Hades, Cronus swallowed them all, one by one.

However, when Rhea gave birth to their sixth child, Zeus, she decided to hide and protect him from Cronus. Instead of Zeus, Cronus swallowed a stone, wrapped up like a baby. Later on, when Zeus grew up, he managed not only to overthrow his father but also to force him to spit out Zeus’ five older siblings. 

The Fight Was Far From Over

Peter Paul Rubens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The new generation of gods decided to settle on Mount Olympus, earning the name Olympians.  Titans, on the other side, lived on Mount Othrys. The two groups occasionally interacted but mostly kept to themselves. Still, that wasn’t the end of Zeus’s struggles. 

When he and his siblings deposed Cronus, the other Titans still wanted to stay in charge, while the Olympians wanted to seize full power.  As a result, the two groups of gods started a  decade-long war. 

This period of conflict became known as the Titanomachy. The conflict with the Titans paved the way for the rule of the Olympians. The final thing that Zeus had to do in order to become the ruler of all was to defeat all opposing Titans. 

While most of the male Titans fought against Zeus, the female Titans, also referred to as Titaniades, refrained from fighting. Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus were among the male Titans from the younger generations who refused to fight alongside their parents. 

Determined to win at any cost, Zeus enlisted the help of Gaia and Uranus’ monstrous children. He set free the Hecatonchires, also called the “Hundred-handers”, and the Cyclopes from their prison in Tartarus. The Cyclopes created exquisite and potent weapons for the Olympians. Some of their most notable creations were Poseidon’s powerful trident and Zeus’ thunderbolts. 

The Titans were finally defeated by the combined might of the Olympians and the Titan’s siblings. The Titans who had fought against Zeus were banished to Tartarus after the conflict. There, the hideous Hecatoncheires served as guards of the defeated Titans. 

Unlike their brothers and spouses, the Titaniades did not suffer the same fate. The Titaniades either vanished from the writings entirely, while some even had children with Olympians. The new generation of gods took over many of the roles that the older gods embodied. 

The Gods Of Mount Olympus

Despite being the youngest generation of the Greek pantheon, the Olympian gods and goddesses became the most important Greek gods. They are also by far the best known today.

Each Olympian god is related to their leader, Zeus. These gods ruled over the world and the entire universe. Belief in the Olympians dominated everyday life in ancient Greece. According to the epic poem by Homer, the Iliad, when Zeus and his siblings defeated the Titans after the divine war, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades divided the Sky, Sea, and Underworld between them. 

The Difference Between Olympian Gods and 12 Olympians

Still, although Hades played a vital role in ancient Greek religion, he was not always recognized as one of the ruling twelve deities. The simple reason being that Hades spent most of his time in the Underworld, rarely going to Olympus, where the other Olympian gods dwelt. 

Hestia, the goddess of hearth and family, also stayed away from Olympus most of the time because she spent that time residing in the homes of her most faithful followers. As such, even though she is one of the oldest Olympian gods, she is sometimes not counted among the Olympians group.

Apart from Zeus and his remaining three siblings, Hera, Poseidon, and Demeter, other gods became members of the 12 Olympians group. These gods were Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Dionysus, Hermes, and Hephaestus.  

These “younger” Olympians were mostly the offspring of the oldest Olympian gods. So, technically, there were 14 Olympian gods, but only 12 of them lived on Mount Olympus – hence earning the “12 Olympians” name.   


Arte greca, zeus in trono, 200 ac. circa
I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The most well-known and significant god in Greek mythology is Zeus. As the Olympian god of storms, he has the ability to manipulate the weather. Thunder and lightning were connected to this father of gods, and he used them as weapons. Zeus was naturally connected with justice and maintaining order in both the mortal earth and the skies, given his position as the king of the cosmos. 

Unfortunately for Hera, Zeus was also a “womanizer” before and after he married her. Greek mythology is full of stories about Zeus’s numerous love affairs. Zeus fathered several gods as well as mortal heroes. 

He also punished everyone who had transgressed against the gods as the highest deity. Basically, he kept the universe in order. To do this, he would frequently act as a calm person and voice of reason in these challenging circumstances. 


Hera was Zeus’ sister and wife. She was the queen of other Olympian gods as Zeus’ wife. She was also the Greek goddess of marriage, family, and women, guarding mothers during delivery. However, she also had a reputation for being immensely jealous. 

Wedding of Zeus & Hera
ArchaiOptix, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When confronted with one of her husband’s countless mistresses or children, Hera could be very vengeful. She was responsible for the deaths of several of Zeus’ lovers. One such unhappy lover was Dionysus’ mother. She perished when she gazed upon Zeus in all his almighty majesty. 

Callisto, another of Zeus’ love obsessions, was turned into a bear by Hera and shot by Artemis. Hera postponed the birth of the hero Hercules (another Zeus child) so that Hercules’ cousin, Eurystheus, would become king instead of Hercules. She then tried in vain to impede Hercules’ success on his many travels. 


Majestic marble Poseidon statue with dolphin support from Milos
DerHexer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Poseidon was a Greek god of the sea and rivers. He was seen as angry and ill-tempered due to his ability to summon catastrophic storms, high winds, and earthquakes. Poseidon’s weapon was Trident. He is almost never shown without it in ancient art. Poseidon is said to have created the first horse. 

He was a fiery god who frequently clashed with other gods. Mortals dreaded him because of his potential to shake the Earth and turn a tranquil sea into a stormy one if he was enraged. Additionally, Poseidon was revered as a “stabilizer.” 


Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture, harvest, and grain. Hesiod portrays Demeter in Theogony as the corn mother who gives grain for bread and cereals. This goddess oversaw ancient farmers’ crops and food. 

Demeter, as the goddess of grain, was also in charge of the land’s fertility. Demeter and her brother Zeus had a daughter whom she named Persephone. The goddess appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, one of the oldest accounts of abduction and one of the most well-known stories in Greek mythology. 

In the Homeric Hymn, Hades kidnaps Persephone, Demeter’s precious child. Demeter, overcome with sadness, renders the Earth barren, resulting in a catastrophic famine. Zeus eventually requested Hades to return Persephone to Demeter, but Persephone still had to live between the two worlds because she had eaten food in the Underworld. 

As a result, Persephone lived in each world for a portion of the year. This was also the ancient Greek explanation for the seasons of the year. Because of Demeter’s sadness, the land was barren while Persephone was in the Underworld, and that was during the winter season. In the spring, when Persephone came back to her mother, the land would again become fertile and full of food.  


After Cephisodotus the Elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Athena was the goddess of war and wisdom. She was also the goddess of handicrafts, such as weaving. Athena was also the protector of cities, especially the city of Athens, which got its name from this goddess. According to legend, Athena became the patroness of Athens after defeating Poseidon in a contest. 

Athena was Zeus’ daughter in the Theogony. She sprang fully formed from Zeus’ brow. Zeus swallowed his consort Metis while she was pregnant with the goddess of war and wisdom, resulting in Athena’s unique birth. As the goddess of war and wisdom, Athena is frequently assisting the great heroes, such as Hercules. 


Majestic statue of Apollo
Statue of Apollo Located at the Academy of Athens, Greece

Apollo was the Greek god of prophecy, music, healing, light, and archery. He is Artemis’ twin brother and the son of Zeus and the Titaness Leto. In the Theogony, Apollo and Artemis were born on the island of Delos because their mother feared Zeus’ wife, Hera. Apollo was born with a golden sword in his hand. 

He was also the protector of children. Apollo, in particular, guarded the young as they grew into adults. In Greek art, Apollo’s depictions always showed him as attractive and young. 

Apollo was not only the patron of the arts but also of shepherds. He kept an eye on shepherds’ cattle. For nearly 2,000 years, the temple of Apollo at Delphi, which housed the legendary oracle, was the most important religious institution in the ancient Greek world. 

This god and his sister have invented archery. Apollo got a nickname as the ‘Far-shooter’ due to his skills with bow and arrow. During the Trojan War, Apollo’s arrows could cause plagues and epidemics, and he guided the arrow that defeated the great warrior Achilles, the mightiest champion of the Trojan War. 


Bronze depiction of Artemis
George E. Koronaios, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Artemis was a goddess of childbirth, with close connections to the moon. She also frequently danced in the outdoors, with nature’s spirits, the nymphs. Homer called Artemis the Mistress of Animals, recognizing her efforts to preserve animals from overhunting.

Artemis, like her twin brother Apollo, was a protector of young children, particularly girls. She had the capacity to both cause and treat ailments in women and children, reflecting her brother’s ability to start epidemics.


Marble head of Ares Ludovisi
Museo nazionale romano di palazzo Altemps, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ares was the Greek god of war, famous for having a fiery temper. This god was Zeus’ and Hera’s son, as well as Athena’s brother. The siblings represented the various aspects of combat and battle. Ares symbolized war’s brutality and chaos, while Athena symbolized wisdom and strategy.  

He is the embodiment of both bravery in battle and brutality on the battlefield. When it comes to love conquests, Ares had an affair with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite and Ares had multiple children together in later tales, including Eros, the god of desire. 


Limestone statue of Aphrodite holding winged Eros
Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

She is the goddess of beauty, love, and fertility. According to Hesiod, after the castration of Uranus, his ashes created sea foam, from which Aphrodite emerged in her full form. As a result of her unusual birth circumstances, ancient Greeks worshiped her not just as the goddess of love and beauty, but also as a sea deity.

She married Hephaestus, but she was often unfaithful to him with mortals and gods alike. The goddess of love also enjoyed interfering in the love affairs of other gods and mortals, frequently by using her son, Eros’ gold-tipped love-inducing arrows. 


Hephaestus at the Forge
Guillaume Coustou the Younger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hephaestus was the god of blacksmiths and fire. According to Homer, Hephaestus is the son of Zeus and Hera. However, according to Hesiod, Hera alone created Hephaestus. This god of blacksmiths and fire was lame and limping. Unfortunately, Hera was so horrified by her son’s appearance that she flung him off Mount Olympus. 

According to some other accounts, Hephaestus became lame after Zeus flung him from Mount Olympus for interfering in a dispute between his parents. Homer renders Hephaestus lame both at birth and after he is flung from Mount Olympus. 

After some time, Dionysus managed to bring Hephaestus back to Mount Olympus, where he created the Olympians’ weapons. Hephaestus created Hermes’ winged sandals and helmet, among other things. 


Mary Harrsch, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dionysus was the Greek deity of wine, merriment, theater, and fertility. Another thing that made him distinct is the fact that he was born twice. First time, as the son of Zeus and Persephone and the deity of wine. However, his narrative took a drastic turn after a Titan killed him.

Years later, Zeus infused Dionysus’ soul into a drink he served to Semele (the daughter of Harmonia and Cadmus), a mortal with whom he had an affair. Dionysus was then born again as the son of Zeus and Semele. 

Zeus placed Dionysus in his thigh after Semele died while still pregnant with him (Hera was behind this premature death). After his second birth, satyrs nurtured Dionysus. On Mount Nysa, Silenus, an old and intelligent satyr trained Dionysus. He was also most likely the one who taught Dionysus how to make wine.

There are numerous stories in which Dionysus appears. For example, he was the one who bestowed the golden touch on King Midas. Unfortunately, this blessing turned into a curse, since whatever food or drink this king touched has turned to gold. 


Zde, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hermes was the herald and messenger of gods. He was also the deity of commerce, money, animal husbandry, and good fortune. Ancient Greeks revered him as the guardian of travelers, thieves, and merchants. Hermes possessed a renowned pair of winged shoes that enabled him to travel between the mortal world and the heavens.

Because of his capacity to travel fast between worlds, he received the task of transporting recently deceased mortal souls from the mortal world to the Styx, The Goddess of the Underworld River.

Hermes is one of the most cunning and mischievous Olympian gods. Homer refers to Hermes as the ‘divine trickster’ in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. While still just a baby, he committed one of the many scams that would eternally link him with thieves. He achieved this by kidnapping Apollo’s precious herd of oxen. 

As one of the oldest gods, Hermes is supposedly the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia. He also plays an active role in many other stories. One of these stories describes Hermes destroying Argos, the hundred-eyed monster.

Greek Gods Associated With The Olympians

I already explained how not all Olympian gods are among the 12 Olympians. As a reminder, two gods fall into this category: Hades and Hestia. Both of them live outside Mount Olympus, which in some people’s minds disqualifies them from being “true” Olympian gods. Personally I feel both of them were Olympians at birth, and should be included among the true Olympian gods.


Museo nazionale romano di palazzo Altemps, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He was the god of the Underworld and the eldest son of Rhea and Cronus. The Underworld, according to the ancient Greeks, was where mortal souls went after death. The name Hades means ‘unseen one,’ because the Underworld was an invisible realm. 

As the King of the Underworld, Hades rarely left his domain, which eventually became known as Hades. The lord of the dead only left his land to steal his wife, Persephone (Demeter’s daughter). 

Hades was frigid but not cruel. He kept the balance of life and death, as well as order in the Underworld. Once a mortal soul passed the Styx River into the Underworld, they could never return. 

If someone attempted to flee or steal a soul from Hades, the King of the Underworld would become angered and punish them appropriately. Hades did not like mortals who tried to avoid death. He would unleash his wrath on anyone who attempted to do so. 


Hestia Goddess
Illustrated by Engravings on Wood., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hestia was the virgin goddess of the hearth, the home, the family, and the state. She is the Titans Rhea and Cronus’ firstborn daughter. This goddess of the sacrificial flame was also the goddess of the heart and family. 

This goddess of the hearth and home presided over family meal preparation and bread baking. At any ritual, Hestia got the first sacrifice. She also presided over any dinner containing sacrificial meat. 

She did not reside with her godly siblings on Mount Olympus. Instead, the ancient Greeks believed she lived in the homes of her most devoted disciples.

Featured Image Credit: Claus Ableiter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Evangelia Hatzitsinidou is the creator and author of which has been merged with She has been writing about Greek Mythology for almost twenty years. A native to Greece, she teaches and lives just outside Athens.