These web pages are designed with young children in mind. They could be used in the History National Curriculum for Primary School. Anyone reading about Greek gods will soon realise that sex and violence are not just modern obsessions! I have toned this down as much as I can without destroying the point of the stories. I have also tried to avoid long, boring lists. Every god has a picture and a story or facts about the god (apart from Uranus!). I have also supplied the Greek names as well as the Roman ones, given some simplified relationships, indicated connections with planets, days of the week and month names, and given some English word derivations as well. There are separate pages for Days of the week, Month names and the Solar system, in tabular form. I thought this might be interesting for children, and I hope the tables make it easier to see the information. I hope that the language and content will be suitable for the intended audience, while still being interesting enough to keep the interest of adults.
Greek and Roman Mythology has a very complex history. The Greeks developed a Pantheon of major Gods. The twelve who lived in Olympus (which I have translated as Heaven) were Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Athene, Hermes, Hephaestus and Hestia. Dionysus later took the place of Hestia. Hades was also important, but wasn't an OLympian god as he lived in the underworld, in charge of the dead. Uranus and Cronos were the previous generations of gods. The gods sometimes changed their functions. Originally there were different gods of the Sun and Moon, Helios and Selene, before Apollo and Artemis took them over.
The Romans had their own gods. Although they conquered Greece, they admired Greek culture, and they identified the Greek gods with their own gods. The Olympic Twelve became Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Ceres, Apollo (the only one to stay unchanged), Diana, Venus, Mars, Minerva, Mercury, Vulcan and Vesta, with Bacchus as the late one. Demeter became Ceres. They played the same game with the Egyptian gods, and with the Northern Gods (see my page about the Days of the week). Educated Romans spoke and read Greek, and often rewrote the stories about Greek gods using their own Roman gods' names. (In fact, I've done the same with these web pages.) So the two groups of gods gradually merged into one group. Still, you can sometimes see the difference between the Greek and Roman gods. Juno, for example, is goddess of the family, a stately Roman matron. Hera, her Greek equivalent, is bad-tempered and her only interest in the family is to seek revenge on all the single mother families created by Zeus! Some relationships get confused as well. Hephaestus was married to Aphrodite, but Vulcan (the Roman equivalent) was married to Maia. When this happens, I don't give the relationship at all. Some gods are purely Roman, such as Janus and Flora.
After the Romans, particularly in the Middle Ages, there developed an interest in astrology and alchemy, based on the planets. This is where the words Jovial, Mercurial and Saturnine come from. These were the characteristics you had if you were born under the influences of these planets. They are still used today as descriptions of character.
The next upsurge of interest in these myths came in Renaissance times. Italian painters loved to paint the gods, under their Roman names, of course. Many of our images of the gods come from here.
There are still images of the gods today. Cupid is used on Valentine cards, Mercury's staff (the caduceus) is used as a medical symbol and he is used to represent industries as separate as flowers and telephones! We have Mars bars (which help you work, rest and play, but not fight!). Old Father Time must be Saturn.
So the pictures in these pages come from classical statues, reliefs, vases, coins, Renaissance paintings and modern statues and symbols.
I originally wrote this website in 1999. I have updated it in 2009, finding better pictures, but mostly keeping the same text.
Here are some other mythology websites. I have used some of them in making up this website.
Guide to the Ancient Greek Pantheon of Gods, Spirits and Monsters
Myths connected with Space
Gods and Goddesses of Rome - in some detail
The following website deals with other aspects of Roman life.
Pages - a children's site about Romans
Romans in Britain
Know the Romans
The Roman Empire
Mores - Roman Culture
A History of the Months and the Meanings of their Names
Greek Myths Complete Edition by Robert Graves - excellent reference if sometimes a little eccentric -
Seven Ancient Wonders of the World - fun and informative pop-up book - buy UK or USA
The Romans and Their Gods by R.M. Ogilvie - useful background information - buy UK
The Iliad by Homer (Penguin Classics) - buy UK or USA
The Odyssey by Homer (Penguin Classics) - buy UK or USA
Tales from Ovid: Twenty-four Passages from the "Metamorphoses" by Ted Hughes - buy UK or USA
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis buy UK or USA
My name is Jo Edkins. I first got interested in Greek gods as a child. I have enjoyed putting these web pages together. If you have any comments, criticisms, corrections or questions, please email me (see index page).
© Jo Edkins 2009 - Return to Roman gods index