When children are asked to name Greek gods, they are almost always really being asked to name the Olympian pantheon. Twelve spirits are officially classified as Olympians. They were considered the official ruling pantheon of Greece. Zeus, head of the pantheon, hand-picked the Olympians. With the possible exception of Aphrodite, all are somehow related to him (brother, sister, spouse, child). Worship of some of the Olympian spirits (Demeter, Hera) predates the establishment of the Olympian pantheon in the region. Other spirits may originally be out-of-towners who either arrived with conquering people (Zeus) or were so popular they had to be incorporated, lest they rival the Olympians (Dionysus, Aphrodite).
Other Greek spirits do exist and continued to be actively worshipped even after establishment of the Olympian pantheon. The Greeks dated the Olympian era as coinciding with the first festival of the Olympiad in 776 BCE.
The original Olympian spirits include:
The number twelve is crucial to the Olympians. When Dionysus was admitted to the inner circle, Hestia resigned her place.
To call a council of the entire Olympian pantheon, petition the goddess Themis to summon them to convene.
Other spirits live on Mount Olympus but are not considered among the official Olym pians (Dionysus and Hermes both brought their mothers to live with them; also Psyche, Heracles, Hebe, and Ganymede just to name a few). Not all the Olympian spirits prefer to live on Mount Olympus. Demeter famously prefers to live on Earth with people. Artemis prefers living in the forest.
Zeus and his brothers reputedly divided the world between them by casting lots, although it’s difficult to imagine that Zeus would have been content with any position other than the one he has: head of the pantheon. Athena is second in power to Zeus, followed by Apollo. In the context of the pantheon, Hera, Zeus’ queen, is not at the top or even near it.
They live atop Mount Olympus between Macedonia and Thessaly.
Amphitrite; Aphrodite; Apollo; Ares; Artemis; Athena; Demeter; Dione; Dionysus; Echidna; Ganymede; Hades; Hebe; Hephaestus; Hera; Heracles; Hermes; Hestia; Hydra; Keto; Maia; Nats, Thirty-Seven; Nymphs; Persephone; Polyboea; Poseidon; Prome theus; Psyche; Semele; Themis; Titans; Zeus; and the Glossary entry for Pantheon
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.