The Twelve Olympians

The twelve Olympians is the group of supreme deities in Greek culture that resided in Mount Olympus. They were all related somehow, and were ruled by Zeus who had led them to the victory in their war with the Titans. The concept of the twelve Olympians dates back to Anatolian origins.
The gods in this select group were: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Athena, Hestia, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes. Dionysius was added later in substitution of Hestia. Hades is not counted in this classical arrangement because he spent most of his time in the underworld.
Many discuss whether or not Hades belongs. Plato considered that each god represented one month of a year each and explained that the last month of the year was dedicated to Hades, therefore making him one of the twelve. Others philosophers included other gods, for example Heracles, Rhea and Cronus. The discussion is far from settling, but the mostly accepted list of Olympians is the Canonical Twelve used in art and poetry, listed above.
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Zeus

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He is the king of the gods, son of Cronus and Rhea and youngest brother of Poseidon and Hades. He rules over the skies and rain with his thunderbolt as weapon. Zeus overthrew his father Cronus, the king of the titans and after the war drew lots with Hades and Poseidon to decide who ruled over the gods.
Zeus is symbolized by the thunder, eagle, oak tree, scepter and scales. He is married to Hera, but has had many lovers including humans, who he constantly visits. In Rome, Zeus is knows as Jupiter.

Poseidon

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Poseidon is the lord of the sea, therefore seamen worshiped him widely. Poseidon rules over the waters but can shake the earth with his trident, his weapon of choice. Poseidon is known as the creator of horses, which he made to impress Demeter. Poseidon is married to Amphitrite but as his brother, Zeus, he had many lovers. He is symbolized by the trident, bull, horse and dolphin.

Hera

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She is Zeus’ wife and sister. Her marriage with the king of gods was actually intended to cover up her shame after Zeus raped her. The marriage of both was characterized by much revenge from Hera caused by Zeus’ infidelities; she was successful in her plans many times.
Hera is the goddess of married woman and protector of marriage. Her symbols are the cow, pomegranate, crown, cuckoo, lion and peacock. Hera had deep feelings for Argos, the city.

Demeter

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Demeter is goddess of harvest; she presides over the seasons, grains and earth fertility. She is mother to Persephone. Demeter is not married but had many affairs with Poseidon. She once ruled over marriage and the cycle of life. Her symbols are wheat, poppy and pig.

Athena

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She is Zeus’ daughter who sprang from his forehead. She is the goddess of wisdom, city, handicrafts and agriculture. Athena is the embodiment of reason and purity; she is also a virgin goddess. Thanks to her invention of the bridle humankind was able to tame horses and ships. Her symbols are the owl and olive tree.

Hestia

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She is Zeus sister, and is famous for being a virgin goddess. She is the goddess of earth and of the right of ordering domesticity. She plays little parts in myths, which limits the knowledge about her. Stories suggest that when Dionysus arrived on Olympus she gave him her place fearing future discords.

Apollo

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Apollo is son to Zeus and Leto. He is the god of music, medicine, light and truth. He is unable to tell a lie and is very agile with the bow. Apollo plays a golden lyre. He is the god that drives the sun across the sky daily dragging it with his chariot and four hoses. He is famous for the oracle of Delphi. His symbols are the laurel, lyre and crow.

Artemis

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She is Apollo’s twin sister. Artemis is the goddess of chastity and wild things. She takes care of childbirths, although she is a virgin, because she caused no pain to Leto when she was born. She hunts with silver arrows, like her brother. Her symbols are the moon and the deer.

Ares

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He is the son of Zeus and Hera, who both disliked him. Ares is the god of war and bloodshed. He is seen as murder and bloodstained creature, but also a coward. Ares is despised by all gods that consider him violent.
His symbols are the boar, serpent, dog, vulture, spear and shield.

Aphrodite

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She is the goddess of lover, fertility and beauty. She is very beautiful and has the power to induce anyone to desire her. Her ancestor are not clear, some say she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, others say she was born from Uranus sperm. She is married to Hephaestus. Her symbols are the dove, bird, apple and myrtle tree.

Hephaestus

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He is son of Zeus and Aphrodite. He is god of fire and forge, and patron of smiths. He is the smiths of the gods, and the only one to be ugly and crippled. There are to explanations as to why he is lame, some say Hera threw him of Olympus for being ugly, and other that Zeus threw him off the Olympus when he took Hera’s side in a discussion. He is married to Aphrodite and is known as kind and peace lover. His symbols are the fire, anvil, axe and donkey.

Hermes

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He is the son of Zeus and Maia. He is god of thieves and commerce. He is known for being Zeus’ messenger, the fastest of all gods, the guide of the dead to the underworld and inventor of the lyre, musical scale, astronomy, pipes, boxing, weights and measures. He wears winged shoes and winged hat while he carries a wand. His symbols are the sandals, caduceus and caps.

Others

  • Dionysus

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He is the god of wine and celebration and is patron of the theater. He is a demigod, because of his human mother, Semele, and his father Zeus. He is married to Ariadne and is the youngest of Olympians. He is symbolized by grapevines, cup, ivy, leopard, panther and goat.
  • Hades

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Hades is brother of Zeus and Poseidon, with whom he drew lots for the world gaining the worst kingdom: the underworld. He rules over the dead and is the god of wealth because of the many minerals found in earth. Hades has always been seen as the bad brother because the occidental culture thinks of underworld as the equivalent of hell. This is a misconception, to the Greeks the underworld meant to place where all dead were destined to even if they were good or bad.
Hades is very greedy and leaves the underworld very little. Hades doesn’t allow anyone out the underworld. He is married to Persephone, a human who he abducted.

Reference


http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/greekmythology/g/12Olympians.-iA5.htm

http://gogreece.about.com/cs/mythology/a/olympiangods.htm
http://kathomas.stu.cofc.edu/info.htm