Sunday, January 27, 2019

Guest Article: 5 Lesser-Known Greek Gods And Goddesses

In a previous article (read it HERE), I mentioned six ancient Greek gods that you might not have known. This article continues that list with five more gods and goddesses that may be uncommon to some.


1. Aiolos

Aiolos (Aeolus) was a Greek god, divine keeper of the winds and king of the mythical, floating island of Aiolia (Aeolia). He kept the forceful storm winds locked safely away inside the cavernous interior of his island, releasing them only at the commandment of the greatest gods to unleash devastation upon the world.

As mentioned in Homer's “Odyssey”, Odysseus once visited Aiolos' isle and was given a closed bag containing all winds, except the gentle west wind that would ensure a safe voyage to Ithaca. However, during the trip, Odysseus’ greedy companions opened the bag thinking it contained riches, and the escaping winds carried their ship in all directions, extending their voyage back home.

2. Iris

Iris was the personification of the rainbow in Greek mythology, as well as a messenger of the Olympian gods along with Hermes. She was also famous for being the goddess of the sky and the sea. Thaumas and Electra were her parents. She was married to Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, and had a son, Pothos (Desire). She traveled on rainbows while carrying celestial messages to mortals and had a pitcher filled with water from the River Styx, which she would give to anyone who committed perjury, putting them to sleep. In ancient Greek vase paintings, Iris was portrayed as a gorgeous young woman having golden wings, a herald's rod, and sometimes a water pitcher in her hand. Most of the time, she was depicted standing beside Hera or Zeus, often serving nectar from her jug. Being a gods’ cupbearer, Iris is often indistinguishable from Hebe in vase paintings.

During the Titanomachy, the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Iris fought on the side of the Olympians, while her twin sister Arke sided with the Titans; both served as messengers. Zeus tore off Arke's iridescent wings and later gave them as a present to Thetis. Then, Thetis, gifted them to her son, Achilles, who wore them on his feet.

3. The Horai 

The Horai (Hours) were the goddesses of the seasons, eras and the natural portions of time. They were placed on the revolutions of the divine constellations by which the year was counted, while their three sisters, the Moirae (Fates) dealt with the web of fate. The Horai were also supposed to be the goddesses of justice and order. They guarded the gates of Olympus and rallied the stars and constellations of the galaxy. Their duty was to watch people's works and they were the first to welcome Aphrodite and, after dressing her, they accompanied her to Mount Olympus.

The Horai were worshipped by farmers who planted their crops and gathered their harvest in time with the rising and setting of the stars. According to Hesiod, they were named Eunomia (Good Order), Eirene (Peace), and Dike (Justice), goddesses who individually represented the conditions required for farming prosperity.
It is known that they opened and closed the gates of Mount Olympus using clouds and took care of Hera’s horses. The association of agriculture with law and order can also be found in the divinities of Demeter and Zeus.

4. Thalassa

Thalassa (the sea) was a protector and anthropomorphic deity of the seawater. She was daughter of Aether (Ether) and Emera (Day) and mother of Aphrodite. Portraits of this deity were few because she was less popular than the powerful sea-god, Poseidon. One of the most famous depictions of Thalassa was at a temple of Poseidon in ancient Corinth, where she was depicted along with the gods Poseidon and Amphitrite, holding her daughter Aphrodite in her arms, and surrounded by the Nereids. The wealthy Herodes Atticus is believed to be have been involved in the creation of the piece.

5. Asclepius

Asclepius, an ancient Greek god of medicine, was the son of the god Apollo and the Triccaean princess, Coronis (daughter of King Phlegyas of the Lapiths). His wife was Epione, the goddess of soothing and reassuring, and they had many children, including Panacea (goddess of medication), Hygeia (goddess of health), Iaso (goddess of convalescence), Aceso (goddess of the healing process and recuperation) and Aglaea (goddess of brilliance and majesty).

There is a story about how the rod wreathed with a snake became the symbol of Asclepius and later healing. The centaur, Chiron, raised Asclepius as his own child and instructed him in the art of medicine. One day, Asclepius healed a snake, which turned out to be a being filled with wisdom and mystical knowledge. In return for the healing, the snake taught Asclepius otherworldly methods of medicine. He grew up to be so skilled in the craft that he was capable of restoring the dead to life. This was considered a crime against the natural order and as a result Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt, maintaining the balance and placing him on the night sky under the constellation of the Ophiuchus (the snake holder). Asclepius was depicted as a noble, bearded man, holding a staff wrapped with a serpent. While he is widely absent from ancient Greek vase painting, his statues are quite common.

Written by Stefanos Karampalis

Picture Attribution: (Primavera, by Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons). 


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