The Greeks created images of their deities for many purposes. A temple would house the statue of a god or goddess, or multiple deities, and might be decorated with relief scenes depicting myths. Divine images were common on coins. Drinking cups and other vessels were painted with scenes from Greek myths.
DeityDescriptionAphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη, Aphroditē)Goddess of love, beauty, desire, and pleasure. Although married to Hephaestus she had many lovers, most notably Ares, Adonis, and Anchises. She was depicted as a beautiful woman and of all the goddesses most likely to appear nude or seminude. Poets praise the radiance of her smile and her laughter. Her symbols include roses and other flowers, the scallop shell, and myrtle wreath. Her sacred animals are doves and sparrows. Her Roman counterpart was Venus.
Cnidian Aphrodite, a Roman work modeled after an original by Praxiteles
Apollo (Ἀπόλλων, Apóllōn)God of light, music, arts, knowledge, healing, plague and darkness, prophecy, poetry, purity, athletism, manly beauty, and enlightenment. He is the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis. As brother and sister, they were identified with the sun and moon; both use a bow and arrow. In the earliest myths, Apollo contends with his half-brother Hermes. In sculpture, Apollo was depicted as a very handsome, beardless young man with long hair and an ideal physique. As the embodiment of perfectionism, he could be cruel and destructive, and his love affairs were rarely happy. His attributes include the laurel wreath and lyre. He often appears in the company of the Muses. Animals sacred to Apollo include roe deer, swans, cicadas, hawks, ravens, crows, foxes, mice, and snakes.
Apollo holding a tortoise-shell lyre and pouring a libation, on a kylix from a tomb at Delphi
Ares (Ἄρης, Árēs)God of war, bloodshed, and violence. The son of Zeus and Hera, he was depicted as a beardless youth, either nude with a helmet and spear or sword, or as an armed warrior. Homer portrays him as moody and unreliable, and he generally represents the chaos of war in contrast to Athena, a goddess of military strategy and skill. Ares' sacred animals are the vulture, venomous snakes, dogs, and boars. His Roman counterpart Mars by contrast was regarded as the dignified ancestor of the Roman people.
Roman marble head of the war god modeled after a Greek bronze original
Artemis (Ἄρτεμις, Ártemis)Virgin goddess of the hunt, wilderness, animals, young girls, childbirth and plague. In later times she became associated with the moon. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin sister of Apollo. In art she was often depicted as a young woman dressed in a short knee-length chiton and equipped with a hunting bow and a quiver of arrows. Her attributes include hunting spears, animal pelts, deer and other wild animals. Her sacred animals are deer, bears, and wild boars. Diana was her Roman counterpart.
Artemis reaching for arrow (missing) from her quiver, with hound
Athena (Ἀθηνᾶ, Athēnâ)Goddess of intelligence and skill, warfare, battle strategy, handicrafts, and wisdom. According to most traditions, she was born from Zeus's head fully formed and armored. She was depicted crowned with a crested helm, armed with shield and a spear, and wearing the aegis over a long dress. Poets describe her as "grey-eyed" or having especially bright, keen eyes. She was a special patron ofheroes such as Odysseus. Her symbol is the olive tree. She is commonly shown accompanied by her sacred animal, the owl. The Romans identified her with Minerva.
Athena on a red-figure cup dating 500–490 BC
Demeter (Δημήτηρ, Dēmētēr)Goddess of grain, agriculture and the harvest, growth and nourishment. Demeter is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea and sister of Zeus, by whom she bore Persephone. She was one of the main deities of the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which her power over the life cycle of plants symbolized the passage of the human soul through its life course and into the afterlife. She was depicted as a mature woman, often crowned and holding sheafs of wheat and a torch. Her symbols are the cornucopia, wheat-ears, the winged serpent, and the lotus staff. Her sacred animals are pigs and snakes. Ceres was her Roman counterpart.
Demeter, typically seated, on a relief from Turkey
Dionysus (Διόνυσος, Diónysos)God of wine, parties and festivals, madness, chaos, drunkenness, drugs, and ecstasy. He was depicted in art as either an older bearded god or a pretty effeminate, long-haired youth. His attributes include the thyrsus (a pinecone-tipped staff), drinking cup, grape vine, and a crown of ivy. He is often in the company of his thiasos, a posse of attendants including satyrs, maenads, and his old tutorSilenus. The consort of Dionysus was Ariadne. Animals sacred to him include dolphins, serpents, tigers, and donkeys. A later addition to the Olympians, in some accounts he replaced Hestia. Bacchus was another name for him in Greek, and came into common usage among the Romans.
Dionysus reclining on a leopard
Hades (ᾍδης, Hádēs) or Pluto (Πλούτων, Ploutōn)King of the underworld and the dead, and god of the earth's hidden wealth, both agricultural produce and precious metals. His consort is Persephone. His attributes are the drinking horn or cornucopia, key, sceptre, and the three-headed dog Cerberus. The screech owl was sacred to him. He was one of three sons of Cronus and Rhea, and thus sovereign over one of the three realms of the universe, the underworld. As a chthonic god, however, his place among the Olympians is ambiguous. In the mystery religions and Athenian literature, Pluto (Plouton, "the Rich") was his preferred name, with Hadesmore common for the underworld as a place. The Romans translated Plouton as Dis Pater ("the Rich Father") or Pluto.
Hades reclines, holding a giant drinking horn, offering a wine bowl to Persephone
Hephaestus (Ἥφαιστος, Hḗphaistos)Crippled god of fire, metalworking, and crafts. The son of Hera by parthenogenesis, he is the smith of the gods and the husband of the adulterous Aphrodite. He was usually depicted as a bearded man with hammer, tongs and anvil—the tools of a smith—and sometimes riding a donkey. His sacred animals are the donkey, the guard dog and the crane. Among his creations was the armor of Achilles. Hephaestus used the fire of the forge as a creative force, but his Roman counterpart Volcanus (Vulcan) was feared for his destructive potential and associated with the volcanic power of the earth.
Thetis receives the armor made for her son Achilles by Hephaestus
Hera (Ἥρα, Hḗra)Queen of the heavens and goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings, and empires. She is the wife of Zeus and daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She was usually depicted as a regal woman in the prime of her life, wearing a diadem and veil and holding a lotus-tipped staff. Although she was the goddess of marriage, Zeus's many infidelities drive her to jealousy and vengefulness. Her sacred animals are the heifer, the peacock, and the cuckoo. At Rome she was known as Juno.
Bust of Hera wearing a diadem
Hermes (Ἑρμῆς, Hērmēs)God of boundaries, travel, communication, trade, thievery, trickery, language, writing, diplomacy, athletics, and animal husbandry. The son of Zeus and Maia, Hermes is the messenger of the gods, and apsychopomp who leads the souls of the dead into the afterlife. He was depicted either as a handsome and athletic beardless youth, or as an older bearded man. His attributes include the herald's wand orcaduceus, winged sandals, and a traveler's cap. His sacred animals are the tortoise, the ram, and the hawk. The Roman Mercury was more closely identified with trade and commerce.
Hermes holding his caduceus and wearing a cloak (chlamys) and hat (petasus) for travel
Hestia (Ἑστία, Hestía)Virgin goddess of the hearth, home and chastity. She is a daughter of Rhea and Cronus and sister of Zeus. Not often identifiable in Greek art, she appeared as a modestly veiled woman. Her symbols are the hearth and kettle. In some accounts, she gave up her seat as one of the Twelve Olympians in favor of Dionysus, and she plays little role in Greek myths. Her counterpart Vesta, however, was a major deity of the Roman state.
Hestia from a relief depicting all twelve Olympians in procession
Poseidon (Ποσειδῶν, Poseidōn)God of the sea, rivers, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and the creator of horses; known as the "Earth Shaker". He is a son of Cronus and Rhea and brother to Zeus and Hades. He rules one of the three realms of the universe as king of the sea and the waters. In classical artwork, he was depicted as a mature man of sturdy build with an often luxuriant beard, and holding a trident. The horse and the dolphin are sacred to him. His wedding with Amphitrite is often presented as a triumphal procession. His Roman counterpart was Neptune.
Poseidon, hand uplifted to wield his trident (missing), from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Zeus (Ζεύς, Zeus)King of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky, weather, thunder, lightning, law, order, and fate. He is the youngest son of Cronus and Rhea. He overthrew Cronus and gained the sovereignty of heaven for himself. In artwork, he was depicted as a regal, mature man with a sturdy figure and dark beard. His usual attributes are the royal scepter and the lightning bolt, and his sacred animals are the eagle and the bull. His counterpart Jupiter, also known as Jove, was the supreme deity of the Romans.
Coin issued under Alexander the Great showing Zeus on his throne holding a scepter and eagle.
Primordial deitiesAncient Greek nameEnglish nameDescriptionΑἰθήρ (Aithḗr)AetherThe god of the upper air and light.Ἀνάγκη (Anánkē)AnankeThe goddess of inevitability, compulsion, and necessity.Χάος (Cháos)ChaosThe nothingness from which all else sprang.Χρόνος (Chrónos)ChronosThe god of time. Not to be confused with the Titan Cronus, the father of Zeus.Ἔρεβος (Érebos)Erebos or ErebusThe god of darkness and shadow.Ἔρως (Eros)ErosThe god of love and attraction.Γαῖα (Gaîa)Gaia or Gaea or GePersonification of the Earth (Mother Earth); mother of the Titans.Ἡμέρα (Hēméra)HemeraGoddess of daylight.Ὕπνος ("Hypnos")HypnosGod of Sleep.Nῆσοι (Nē̂soi)The NesoiThe goddesses of the islands and sea.Νύξ (Nýx)Nyx or NightThe goddess of night.Οὐρανός (Ouranós)UranusThe god of the heavens (Father Sky); father of the Titans.Οὔρεα (Oúrea)The OureaThe gods of mountains.Φάνης (Phánēs)PhanesThe god of procreation in the Orphic tradition.Πόντος (Póntos)PontusThe god of the sea, father of the fish and other sea creatures.Τάρταρος (Tártaros)TartarusThe god of the deepest, darkest part of the underworld, the Tartarean pit (which is also referred to as Tartarus itself).Θάλασσα (Thálassa)ThalassaSpirit of the sea and consort of Pontos.Θάνατος ("Thánatos")ThanatosGod of Death.TitansThe Titans are depicted in Greek art less commonly than the Olympians.
Other TitansἈστερία (Astería)AsteriaTitan of nocturnal oracles and falling stars.Ἀστραῖος (Astraîos)AstraeusTitan of dusk, stars, and planets, and the art of astrology.Ἄτλας (Átlas)AtlasTitan forced to carry the sky upon his shoulders by Zeus. Also Son of Iapetus.Αὔρα (Aúra)AuraTitan of the breeze and the fresh, cool air of early morning.Διώνη (Diṓnē)DioneTitan of the oracle of Dodona.Ἠώς (Ēṓs)EosTitan of the dawn.Ἐπιμηθεύς (Epimētheús)EpimetheusTitan of afterthought and the father of excuses.Εὐρυβία (Eurybía)EurybiaTitan of the mastery of the seas and consort of Krios.Εὐρυνόμη (Eurynómē)EurynomeTitan of water-meadows and pasturelands, and mother of the three Charites by Zeus.Ἥλιος (Hḗlios)HeliosTitan of the sun and guardian of oaths.Κλυμένη (Clyménē)Clymene or AsiaTitan of renown, fame, and infamy, and wife of Iapetos.Λήλαντος (Lēlantos)LelantosTitan of air and the hunter's skill of stalking prey. He is the male counterpart of Leto.Λητώ (Lētṓ)LetoTitan of motherhood and mother of the twin Olympians, Artemis and Apollo.Μενοίτιος (Menoítios)MenoetiusTitan of violent anger, rash action, and human mortality. Killed by Zeus.Μῆτις (Mē̂tis)MetisTitan of good counsel, advice, planning, cunning, craftiness, and wisdom. Mother of Athena.Ὀφίων (Ophíōn)OphionAn elder Titan, in some versions of the myth he ruled the Earth with his consort Eurynome before Cronus overthrew him.Πάλλας (Pállas)PallasTitan of warcraft. He was killed by Athena during the Titanomachy.Πέρσης (Pérsēs)PersesTitan of destruction and peace.Προμηθεύς (Promētheús)PrometheusTitan of forethought and crafty counsel, and creator of mankind.Σελήνη (Selḗnē)SeleneTitan of the moon.Στύξ (Stýx)StyxTitan of the Underworld river Styx and personification of hatred.Gigantes (giants)
Hermes watches Hypnos and Thanatos carry the deadSarpedon from the battlefield at Troy (Euphronios krater)