Greek mythology: Olympic gods and the origin of the world

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Everyone in Italy has spent the first hours of the art history of their lives observing white statues in which the characters of ancient legends are carved out: the Greek temples are in fact all a proliferation of more or less light stories, rebuilt and often causing cold sweats during interrogations. In these stories, however, the foundations of the whole of European culture are hidden, and without worrying about a study, reading them can become a fun distraction, through which one can understand that despite the millennia that separate us from them , the people of Ancient Greece did not do anything so differently from us: basically, they simply questioned the world and tried to give it a coherent explanation.

Greek mythology, however, is divided into a series of cycles that an entire library would hardly be able to contain them all: the same events are thus very different from area to area, leaving us modern readers often stunned by their complexity. Let’s start with the element that unites them all: the composition of the Pantheon, always the same and made up of fifteen of the most fascinating gods ever.

Greek heroes

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The gods of Olympus in Greek mythology

As mentioned, the gods of Greek mythology are fifteen, and originally they all – or almost all – resided on top of the mythical Mount Olympus, from whose peaks they observed earthly life and ruled it according to their inclinations. Born after the expulsion of the Titans, Zeus was at the head of all, the king of deities always associated with the element lightning and the sky; his brother was instead Poseidon, the god of the seas and protector of anyone who made a voyage by ship. Estia was the goddess of the house and the home, and had left Olympus to give her place to Dionysus, the god of wine and drunkenness, whom men celebrated at banquets with high alcohol grades. Hermes was then the messenger between the gods and man, while Heracles was the illegitimate son of the king of the gods, he had not with Hera (his wife), but with the Alcmene. Next to them were Hephaestus (the god of fire and weapons), Demeter (goddess of agriculture and nature), Athena (symbol of wisdom and military skills) and Ares (the god of bloody and violent warfare). Finally, Apollo (god of beauty), Artemis (his twin sister and goddess of hunting), Aphrodite (goddess of love and seduction) and Hades, the only ones mentioned not to possess a throne on Olympus as a god. circle of the underworld and the material possession of goods.

characters in Greek mythology

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How the world was born according to Greek mythology

According to Greek mythology, before the creation of the world, the universe was dominated by chaos: heaven, sea, and earth were indistinguishable, and chaos — a true divinity — was an abominable and evil creature capable of creating children. The first to be born were the personification of the earth (Gea), along with Tartarus, Erebus, and Eros. The first was the deepest place on the planet, made inaccessible by huge iron gates and as far from Hades as Gaea was from heaven: here sinners and deities were actually banished. The second was the night, while the last represented love.

But among the four, it was Gaea who gave life to all that man could enjoy during his life: She actually created the sky and populated it with stars and clouds. This one, who personified himself, took the name Uranus and joined his mother, who gave birth to twelve titans, three cyclops, and three fifty-headed monsters called Hecatonchirs. Then Gea gave birth to Pontus, the sea from which Taumante (later father of the Harpies), Forco (symbol of the storm), Ceto (personification of the dangers of those who sail) and Euribia (that is, the violence of a sea always harsh) were born. .

The fear of Uranus and the kingdom of Cronus

Uranus, however disgusted by his own children and afraid of the idea that they could steal his throne, decided to make them sink to the center of the earth: Gaea then ordered everyone to rebel, but only Cronus followed her, who – wounded his father – became king of the world and decided to marry his sister Rea.

From him were born Thanatos (death), Nemesis (revenge), Elios (sun), Selene (moon), Iris (rainbow) and many other entities: among their children there are for example also Poseidon, Hades, Zeus, Hera, Demeter and Estia. After hearing about a prophecy – that is, his reign would end because of one of his descendants – Cronus then began to swallow them all, but Rhea managed to provide shelter for Zeus, as when he grew up , got his father to drink an elixir that can bring brothers back to life. A war then broke out between the future gods Olympus and Titans: this is the famous gigantomachy that appears in almost all temples in Greece, including the Parthenon. At the end of the battle, the Titans were barricaded inside Tartarus, while the gods conquered Olympus and always promised to live in peace and harmony.

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