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Greek Goddesses Essay, Research Paper

The Greek Goddesses

In Greek mythology the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus played a major role in everyday life. The Greeks respected them and thought of the gods as all mighty.

In Ancient Greece the people honored and believe in the deities. Myths, poems, and epics

tell the stories and beliefs referring to the gods and goddesses. Many literary works

display the power and jobs of the goddesses. The Greek people lived to please the deities

in hope of gaining a better lifestyle. The goddesses of Greece acted as an important part of

Greek mythology ( Hamilton 28-35 ).

Historians placed the goddesses into categories. The first category included the

major goddesses of Olympus. The goddesses placed in this category were Hera, Athena,

Aphrodite, Hestia, Demeter, and Artemis because most people knew and worshipped them.

The people held these six goddesses the most high and with the most respect ( Hamilton 28 ).

Hera, the goddess of the protection of marriage, took care of married women.

The sister and also wife of Zeus, the king of the gods, Hera may be the most well known

of the goddesses. The Titans of the Ocean along with the Tethys raised Hera ( Hamilton

28 ). Most people knew Ilithyia , Hera s daughter, for her help of women through

childbirth. Hera held the city of Argos sacred along with the peacock and cow. In Roman

mythology, the name of Hera was changed to Juno, queen of goddesses ( Pinset 20 ).

Artemis, or Diana in Roman mythology, had the role of Leto and Zeus s daughter

and also twin sister of god Apollo. Known as the goddess of wildlife and hunting, Artemis

held all animals sacred, but the deer more then any other. Artemis also held the cypress

tree sacred. Not many myths feature this goddess, but she lives on through the years in

poems and other works ( Hunt 3 ).

Many myths from the Greeks feature Athena, or Minerva as known to the Romans.

Myths say that Athena had a very original birth. Some writers have said that Hephaestus

took an ax and shaved her from Zeus s forehead and therefore she has no mother ( Pinset

22 ). Zeus thought of Athena as his favorite child and she had the privilege of using his

weapons. First known as the guardian of the city and protector of civilized life, Athena

later took on the role of goddess of wisdom, purity, and reason. Athena held the city of

Athens sacred and this city took on her name. The owl symbolizes wisdom and Athena

referred to this as her sacred bird ( Hamilton 29 ). Athena created the olive tree and

therefore holds it sacred and important. The Greeks built a temple called the Parthenon

to honor Athena. With this temple built, the Greeks had somewhere to go to place their

offerings in front of the goddess. Many Greeks thought of Athena as most important of

the goddesses ( Pinset 100 ).

Some Greeks placed high importance on Aphrodite, the goddess of love and

beauty. Aphrodite loved men and most men returned her love while women honored her

for her beauty. The Romans called her Venus but still thought of her the same way the

Greeks did. Even though the daughter of Zeus and Dione, the story of Aphrodite s birth

has many variations. The most commonly told story says that the goddess rose from the

sea foam. Aphrodite held the myrtle tree sacred along with the dove and sometimes swan.

Most commonly written of in poems and myths, Aphrodite has many stories to go along

with her reputation. The Greeks placed the goddess of love in a very important position in

regards to everyday life ( Hamilton 32 ).

Hestia, or Vesta, was also a very important, but less well known deity. Hestia s

brother Zeus gave her the role of goddess of the hearth. Hestia protected the home and

family. The household had a special place in her heart and priorities. This goddess had no

special or well known personality and so she didn t get featured in many myths. Hestia

held no tree, animal, or city sacred. Although not her sacred city, each city maintained a

sacred fire in the center of town which they never allowed to burn out. Hestia does not

get spoken of very often, but remains important to Greeks after all the years that have

passed ( Hamilton 35 ).

Another goddess still honored today is Demeter. Demeter, the goddess of

agriculture and the harvest, received offerings all through the year in hopes of a good

harvest come fall. The Greeks depended on the harvest for their food therefore they

depended on Demeter s grace. Every fall, the Greeks held a large festival to honor

Demeter known as the Eleusian Festivals. Each gathering, the Greeks broke and ate the

first loaf of bread in the temple called Eleusis. The festival took place every five years and

grew larger each time it was held. Historians don t know much about these large festivals

because those who attended had an oath of secrecy to honor. The Greeks received a

plentiful harvest and in return showed Demeter great respect, praise, and glory ( Hunt 1 ).

Another category of goddesses includes Gaea and Hebe. These goddesses are

known as the lesser goddesses of Olympus. Although known as the lesser goddesses

these goddesses had important roles. Without these two goddesses much of mythology

would not have come to exist ( Hamilton 64 ).

Gaea to the Greeks portrayed mother nature. Not only did Gaea take care of the

earth, but she also took care of her many children. Her children, the Cyclops and Titans,

seemed like monsters to many Greeks ( Richardson n.pag. ). Gaea held the worlds best

interest in her heart and protected all the creatures and other organisms. The Greeks

knew that if they harmed the Earth in any way that Gaea would smite them. This goddess

protected the planet and so played an important role in the Greek beliefs ( Hamilton 64 ).

Hebe, the goddess of youth and wife of Hercules, maintained throughout time an

image like that of a child. The Greeks thought of her as playful, sweet, kind, and trusting.

Along with Ganymede, Hebe acted as a cupbearer to the Gods of Olympus ( Hunt 2 ).

The portrayal of the goddesses in many myths was that of a beautiful and majestic

creature which contained many aspects to her personality. These personalities live on

today through stories in the forms of poems, myths, and epic tales. Modern movies, art,

and literature help to show these creations of the Greeks in powerful along with

interesting ways. The goddesses of Ancient Greece impacted Greek culture in such ways

that people today know the goddesses in the same aspect the Greeks did. The Greek

goddesses of Mount Olympus will forever live in the literature of Greek writers along with

writers of today. The importance of the goddesses to the Greeks will remain high for

years to come.

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