In Greek mythology, the Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon (Greek: Δωδεκάθεον < δώδεκα, dōdeka, "twelve"+ θεοί, theoi, "gods"), were the principal deities of the Greekpantheon, residing atop a mythical Mount Olympus. The Olympians gained their supremacy in a war of gods in which Zeus led his siblings tovictory over the Titans.
The concept of the "Twelve Gods" is older than any extant Greek or Roman sources, and is likely of Anatolian origin. The gods meet in council in the Homeric epics, but the first ancient reference to religious ceremonies for the Olympians collectively is found in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. The Greek cult of the Twelve Olympians can be traced to 6th-century BC Athens andprobably has no precedent in the Mycenaean period. The altar to the Twelve Olympians at Athens is usually dated to the archonship of the younger Pesistratos, in 522/521 BC.
There was some variation as to which deities were included, but the canonical twelve as commonly portrayed in art and poetrywere Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Dionysus, Apollo,Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes.
Fragment of a Hellenistic relief (1st century BC – 1st century AD) depicting the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession; from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hephaestus (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff),Artemis (bow and quiver), and Apollo (cithara) (from the Walters Art Museum)
Hades, known in the Eleusinian tradition as Pluto, was not usually included among the Olympians because his realm was the underworld. Plato connected the Twelve Olympians with the twelve months, and implies that he considered Pluto one of the twelve in proposing that the final month be devoted to him and the spirits of thedead. In Phaedrus Plato aligns the Twelve with the Zodiac and would exclude Hestia from their rank.
In ancient Greek religion, the "Olympian Gods" and the "Cults of Twelve Gods" were often relatively distinct concepts. The Dodekatheon of Herodotus included Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hermes, Athena, Apollo, Alpheus, Cronus, Rhea and the Charites. Herodotus also mentionsthat Heracles was included as one of the Twelve by some. At Kos, Heracles and Dionysus are added to the Twelve, and Ares and Hephaestus are not. For Pindar, the Bibliotheca, and Herodorus, Heracles is not one of the Twelve Gods, but the one who established their cult. Lucian (2nd century AD) includes Heracles and Asclepius as members of the Twelve, without explaining which two had to give way forthem.
Hebe, Helios, Eros, Selene and Persephone are other important gods and goddesses who are sometimes included in a group of twelve. Eros is often depicted alongside the other twelve, especially his mother Aphrodite, but not usually counted in their number.
The Roman poet Ennius gives the Roman equivalents (the Dii Consentes) as six male-female complements, preserving the placeof Vesta (Greek Hestia), who played a crucial role in Roman religion as a state goddess maintained by the Vestals.
Greek Name | Roman Name | Image | Functions and attributes | Generation |
Zeus | Jupiter | | King of the gods and ruler of Mount Olympus; god of the sky and thunder. Youngest child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. Symbols include the thunderbolt, eagle, oak tree, scepterand scales. Brother and husband of Hera, although he had many lovers. | First |
Hera | Juno | | Queen of the gods and the goddess of marriage and family. Symbols include the peacock, pomegranate, crown, cuckoo, lion and cow. Youngest daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Wife and sister of Zeus. Being the goddess of marriage, she frequently tried to get revenge on Zeus' lovers and...