The 6 most important Greek Goddesses of Ancient Greece

We explain to you which were the main goddesses of ancient Greece, the characteristics of each one and their mythological origins.

goddesses ancient greece
Greek goddesses are protagonists of numerous myths.

What were the main goddesses of Ancient Greece?

When we talk about Ancient Greece, we mean one of the most culturally fertile periods of Mediterranean Antiquity, whose protagonists were the inhabitants of the Greek city-states, throughout the historical period that began with the Doric invasion from the year 1200 a. C., until the year 146 a. C., when the Battle of Corinth occurred and the Romans invaded Greece.

The culture of this period had great importance in the constitution of the Western culture that we know, since the Roman invaders, dazzled by the Greek cultural wealth, assumed it as their own and inherited their religion, simply adapting the names of their deities to Latin.

The ancient Greeks not only developed philosophy and the arts, but cultivated a very diverse and complex religion, sustained in a vast mythology from which numerous stories and representations survive. This religion was characterized by being polytheistic and having numerous goddesses and female deities in its pantheon (called Olympus), among which those detailed below stand out.

Hera (Juno to the Romans)

Hera is the greek goddess of marriage and one of the first goddesses to be worshiped by the Greeks, especially in the Samos region, where many ancient temples have been discovered in her honor, where she was honored by sacrificing peacocks and cows. Religiously was associated with housework, motherhood, family.

In the Pantheon of Olympus she held a place of authority, as the sister and wife of the father god Zeus, with whom she conceived the gods Ilithia, Ares and Hebe. However, she is depicted in mythological tales as a jealous consort in the face of her husband’s numerous infidelities, acting in a vengeful manner against her lovers and the illegitimate children who begot her.

The clearest example of this is his determination against Hercules, a hero whom he professed an eternal hatred. Also, as revenge against Zeus, Hera conceived the god Hephaestus by herself.

Hera was commonly depicted full-length, wearing a cylindrical crown called poles, and was associated with the symbols of the peacock, the lion, the cow, the fruit of the pomegranate and the capsule of the poppy.

Aphrodite (Venus for the Romans)

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Aphrodite emerged as an adult from the foam of the sea.

One of the most popular goddesses in modern culture, Aphrodite she was the goddess of erotic love, sensuality, eroticism and passion. Born of the seed of the titan Uranus spilled into the sea by her son Cronos at the time of castrating him, Aphrodite held a place in the Olympian Pantheon despite being born before Zeus. She was married to Hephaestus, to whom she was often unfaithful, especially to Ares, god of war.

Often depicted in Greek tales as fickle, moody, moody, and terribly beautiful, Aphrodite was symbolically associated with the sea, from whose foam it would have arisen fully adult, as well as dolphins, pigeons, swans, clams, pearls, roses and pomegranate, apple and myrtle trees.

The cult of Aphrodite was common throughout Greece, and festivals were celebrated in her honor: the Aphrodisias, particularly in Athens, Paphos and Corinth, the latter city in which there was a temple dedicated to her (destroyed during the Roman invasion of 146 BC . C.), whose priestesses practiced ritual prostitution as a form of divine veneration.

Athena (Minerva for the Romans)

Also known as Pallas Athena, she was revered in Greece as a warrior and virginal goddess, associated with civilization, wisdom, justice, science and freedom. She was one of the main deities of Olympus, whose worship was common throughout Greece and its areas of cultural influence, although she was considered the patroness of Athens and the entire Attica region.

In mythological accounts Athena is described as unbeatable in combat, perpetually celibate, level-headed, and wise, and her advice was highly valued in combat or in challenging situations. It is said that he had as his protégé the hero Odysseus, who was justly famous for his ingenuity.

In other traditions It can also appear associated with the defense of the crop and the plow, although her most common representations always show her dressed in armor and helmet, and armed with a spear and shield.

Of Athena it was said that she was the daughter of Zeus (and of Zeus only, since the myth says that she was born from his head, after the father god had swallowed one of his lovers), although other stories say that she was the daughter of the winged giant Pallas or Palante, whom she herself must have killed when he tried to rape her. Given the extensiveness of his cult in those times, it is normal that there are different versions of it.

Artemis (Diana to the Romans)

goddesses ancient greece artemis
Artemis is usually depicted carrying a bow and arrows.

In the Greek tradition, Artemis or Artemis, also called Delia, was a very important virginal goddess, whose cult spread throughout Greece, especially on the island of Delos, where it was said that she had come into the world, as well as in Braurón, Muniquia and Sparta.

In the latter city, the famous Greek warriors dedicated sacrifices to her before marching into battle, and in general it was common for young maidens to be sent to the goddess’s temples to serve her for a year.

Sagebrush She was a hunting goddess, associated with wild animals, virgin land, female virginity and childbirth, commonly represented carrying a bow and quiver of arrows, along with her favorite symbols: the deer, the cypress and even game animals. Daughter of Zeus and Leto, she was Apollo’s twin sister and rival of the goddess Aphrodite, with whom she often rivaled and competed for the favor of mortals.

Artemis had no consorts or lovers, but jealously guarded her virginity, although the legendary hunter Orion is said to have been her hunting companion for a time, before she herself, for uncertain reasons, murdered him.

The same happened with Actaeon, the young Theban hunter who accidentally saw Artemis taking a bath naked in the forest, and the goddess in revenge transformed him into a fawn, encouraging her own hunting dogs to tear him to pieces.

Demeter (Ceres for the Romans)

Known as Demeter or Demetra, this She is the Greek goddess of agriculture and the cycles of nature, which is why she was venerated as “bearer of the seasons”, according to the Homeric Hymns. It is one of the oldest deities of the Greek religion, protagonist with his daughter Persephone of the so-called Eleusinian mysteries, prior to the cult of the Olympian gods.

The roles associated with Demeter can be very diverse and varied, almost always associated with land, foundation, legislation and agriculture. It is assumed that humanity owes the knowledge of planting and cultivation to her, so her cult was especially popular in agricultural regions, and even appears in early Greek Neolithic times.

Perhaps for this reason their places of worship were very diverse: Eleusis, Hermíone, Megara, Celeas, Lerna, Muniquia, Corinth, Delos, Priene, Acragante, Pergamum, Tegea, Toricos, Díon, Licosura, Mesembria, Enna and Samothrace, without focusing in a specific region of the Greek world.

She was the sister of Zeus in mythology, and the change of seasons is due to her. She was the devoted mother of Persephone, who is the consort of the god of the dead, Hades. The myth tells that Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, and that Demeter spent a great deal of time searching for her on earth, until she found out that she now ruled alongside the lord of the underworld.

Zeus interceded on her behalf and thus an agreement was reached between the parties: Persephone would spend six months with her mother and six months with Hades. Here is the Greek origin for the seasons. The first six months Demeter is happy with her daughter and entertains her with flowers and fruits (spring and summer), while the rest of the year she regrets her absence and the soils get cold and dry (autumn and winter).

Persephone (Proserpina for the Romans)

goddesses ancient greece persephone
At first, Persephone was kidnapped by her later husband.

Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Proserpina or Koré She is the goddess of the underworld, where she reigns over the dead along with Hades, after her mother and her husband reached an agreement that allows her to spend six months on earth and six months in hell.

However, and contrary to what one might think, her marriage to Hades was one of the happiest and most enduring in all of Greek mythology, and her authority in the underworld was totally equivalent to that of her husband, unlike others. goddesses consorts. Persephone was a ruthless goddess, nicknamed in the Odyssey as the “iron queen”, in which the Greeks perhaps symbolized death itself.

He was merciful only to the hero Orpheus, whose music was so moving that the goddess allowed him to go down to the underworld and retrieve his wife, Eurydice. The only condition was that when he took her back he walked in front of her and never turned his face until he reached the surface. Orpheus accepted the deal but could not bear the uncertainty of knowing if his beloved was following him, and when he looked back he broke the deal and lost her again.

Hades and Persephone had no offspring, and Hades’s attempts to have other concubines were always cruelly punished by his wife, transforming his lovers into trees or plants. On the other hand, Persephone herself was seduced by Zeus in the form of a serpent, and thus begot Zagreo, although there are also versions that attribute her paternity to Hades.