A DICTIONARY OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY

By Tim Lambert

The Ancient Greeks were polytheists (they worshipped many gods). The Greeks imagined that gods and goddesses were like human beings. Often they behaved just as badly!

A

Acamas Acamas was the son of the hero Theseus. He fought in the Trojan War.

Achilles Achilles was a Greek warrior who fought in the Trojan war. His mother was a nymph named Thetis. When Achilles was a child she dipped him into the River Styx in the underworld to make him immortal but she held him by his heel and that part of his body remained mortal. During the Trojan War the Trojan Paris fired an arrow at Achille's heel and killed him.

Actaeon Actaeon was a hunter who saw the goddess Artemis bathing. She turned him into a stag and he was killed by his own dogs.

Aeneas Aeneas was a Trojan and a great warrior. He survived the Trojan War and fled to Italy.

Agamemnon Agamemnon was commander of the Greeks during the Trojan War

Ajax Ajax was a great Greek warrior who fought in the Trojan war

Amazons The Amazons were a mythical race of women warriors

Ambrosia Ambrosia was the food of the Greek gods

Amphitrite Amphitrite was the was the wife of Poseidon the sea god

Andromeda Andromeda was a princess. Her parents unwisely boasted that she was lovelier than the nereids. Poseidon flooded the land and to appease him Andromeda was chained to a rock to be sacrificed to a sea monster. Perseus turned up just in time to kill the monster.

Apollo Apollo was Greek god of music and poetry. He was also god of prophecy.

Aphrodite Aphrodite was Greek goddess of love

Arachne Arachne was a Greek woman who was very good at weaving. The goddess Athene turned her into a spider.

Ares Ares was the Greek god of war

Argus Argus was a giant with 100 eyes

Ariadne Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete and she helped Theseus to kill the Minotaur

Artemis Artemis was the goddess of hunting and wild animals

Ascelpius Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine and healing

Asphodel Fields The Asphodel Fields were a part of the underworld where people who were not particularly good or bad went after their death

Athene Athene was Greek goddess of wisdom and crafts

Atlas Atlas was a titan (a human shaped giant) who held up the sky to prevent it falling to earth

Augeus Augeus owned stables with cattle which had not been cleaned for years. One of the tasks of Hercules was to clean them. he did so by diverting a river through it.

Auster Auster was god of the south wind

B

Bellerophon Bellerophon was a Greek hero who killed the chimera. However he tried to ride Pegasus the winged horse to Mount Olympus (dwelling place of the gods). Zeus sent a gad fly which stung the horse and threw its rider to the ground.

Boreas Boreas was god of the north wind

C

Cassandra Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam of Troy. The god Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy but he later added a curse that nobody would ever believe her prophecies.

Centaurs Centaurs were mythical beings. They were half human and half horse.

Cerberus Cerberus was a dog with 3 heads who guarded the underworld and prevented the dead from escaping

Ceres Ceres was the Greek goddess of agriculture and the harvest

Cerynean hind The Cerynean hind had golden antlers and bronze hooves. It was caught by Hercules.

Charon Charon was the boatman who ferried the dead across the River Styx

Charybdis Charybdis was a huge whirlpool that wrecked ships

Chimera Chimera had the head of a lion, the body of a goat and a snake's tail

Chiron Chiron was one of the centaurs

Chloris Chloris was the Greek goddess of flowers

Circe Circe was a sorceress who met Odysseus

Cronos Cronos was the leader of the Titans. He was overthrown by his son Zeus.

Cyclops The cyclops were one-eyed giants. The most famous was Polyphemus who was outwitted by Odysseus. The cyclops were children of Gaia the earth goddess and Uranus the sky god.

D

Daedalus Daedalus was the first man to fly with his son Icarus

Danae Danae was the mother of the hero Perseus

Demeter Demeter was Greek goddess of harvests and fertility

Deucalion In the Greek version of the flood story Zeus sent a terrible flood. Deucalion built an ark and survived with his wife Pyrrah.

Diomedes Diomedes was a Greek hero who fought in the Trojan War

Dionysus Dionysus was Greek god of wine

Dryads Dryads were female spirits who lived in woods and groves

E

Echidna Echidna was part woman and part snake

Echo Echo was a nypmph. The goddess Hera cursed her so she could only repeat what other people said. Unable to speak to her lover Echo faded away till only her voice remained.

Elysian Fields The Elysian Fields were part of the underworld. They were a paradise for the righteous after death.

Endymion Endymion was a handsome man. Zeus put him into an eternal sleep in which he never grew old.

Eos Eos was goddess of the dawn

Eris Eris was goddess of discord

Eros Eros was a Greek god who made people fall in love by piercing them with his arrows. He was the son of Aphrodite.

Erymanthian boar The Erymanthian boar was a ferocious beast captured by Hercules

Eurydice Eurydice was the wife of Orpheus

Euris Euris was god of the east wind

Europa Europa was a princess of Tyre. The chief god Zeus appeared to her in the form of a bull and took her to Crete. She was the mother of King Minos.

F

Fates The fates were 3 goddesses who decided each persons destiny

G

Gaia Gaia was the first goddess. She was the earth goddess and she gave birth to Uranus the sky god. Later she gave birth to the cyclops and the titans.

Galatea Galatea was the statue made by Pygmalion who became a woman

Ganymede Ganymede was a boy who was abducted by the gods and became their cup bearer

Gorgon A gorgon was a female monster with snakes for hair. Gorgons were so hideous they turned anyone who saw them into stone.

H

Harmonia Harmonia was goddess of harmony

Harpies Harpies were evil creatures, part women, part birds

Hector Hector was a Trojan warrior. He was killed by Achilles.

Hecuba Hecuba was queen of Troy and mother of Paris

Helen Helen was the wife of Menelaus. A Trojan prince called Paris took her to Troy.

Hephaestus Hephaestus was Greek god of fire and craftsmen

Hera Hera was the wife of Zeus and goddess of marriage

Heracles Heracles was a hero. He was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman and he performed a series of heroic tasks known as the labours of Hercules.

Hermes Hermes was the messenger the Greek gods

Hesperides The Herperides were nymphs who looked after the golden apples that belonged to Hera

Hestia Hestia was Greek goddess of the hearth (the centre of family life)

Hippolyta Hippolyta was a queen of the Amazons (women warriors)

Hydra The hydra was a snake like monster with 9 heads. It was eventually killed by Hercules.

Hypnos Hypnos was the god of sleep. Our word hypnosis comes from him.

I

Icarus Icarus was the son of Daedalus the first man to fly. Unfortunately Icarus flew too near the sun and the wax holding his feathers melted.

Iphigenia Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon. She was sacrificed by her father.

Iris Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow

Ixion Ixion was an evil man who was punished by being tied to a wheel of fire that rolls forever

J

Jason Jason was a hero who led a group of heroes in a quest to obtain the golden fleece. They were called the argonauts after their ship the argo.

L

Labyrinth The Labyrinth was an underground maze in Knossos in Crete. The Minotaur lived there.

Leda Leda was queen of Sparta and mother of Helen

M

Maenads Maenads were female followers of the god Dionysus

Medusa Medusa was a gorgon. She was killed by Perseus.

Menelaus Menelaus was a Greek king. His wife was Helen.

Midas Midas was king of Phrygia (in what is now Turkey). He foolishly wished that everything he touched would turn to gold.

Minotaur The Minotaur was a monster with a human body and a bulls head. He lived in a labyrinth in Crete. Every 9 years 7 young men and 7 young women from Athens were sent to be devoured by him. He was killed by Theseus.

Morpheus Morpheus was Greek god of dreams

N

Naiads The Naiads were fresh water nymphs who presided over streams, rivers and lakes

Narcissus Narcissus was a young man who fell in love with his own reflection

Nectar Nectar was the drink of the Greek gods

Nemean Lion The Nemean Lion was a ferocious beast with skin so tough no weapon could penetrate it. Hercules managed to strangle it.

Nemesis Nemesis was the Greek goddess of vengeance and retribution

Nereids Nereids were nymphs of the sea

Nymphs Nymphs were minor goddesses

O

Odysseus Odyssesus was king of Ithaca. He fought in the Trojan War and on his journey home he had many adventures, which are told in the Odyssey.

Mount Olympus Olympus was the dwelling place of the main Greek gods

Orpheus Orpheus was a musician. He was one of the argonauts.

Orthus Orthus was a two headed dog

P

Paris Paris was a Trojan prince who killed Achilles

Patroclus Patroclus was a Greek warrior in the Trojan war. He was killed by the Trojan Hector.

Pelops Pelops was the son of Tantalus. His father killed him and served him at a feast for the gods. They bought him back to life. The goddess Demeter had eaten one of his shoulders but they replaced it with ivory.

Penelope Penelope was the wife of Odysseus

Pentheus Pentheus was king of Thebes. He tried to stop the worship of the god Dionysius and was torn limb from limb.

Pan Pan was the Greek god of shepherds. In appearance he was half man, half goat.

Pandora In Greek mythology Pandora was the first woman

Pegasus Pegasus was a winged horse

Persephone Persephone was the daughter of the gods Zeus and Demeter. For part of the year she lived in the underworld with Hades and during that time Demeter refused to let anything grow.

Perseus Perseus was a hero who killed Medusa and rescued Andromeda from a sea monster

Phyllis Phyllis was a woman who was turned into an almond tree

Pirithous Pirithous was king of the Lapiths and a friend of Theseus

Plutus Plutus was Greek god of wealth

Polydeuces Polydeuces was a Greek hero. He was one of the argonauts.

Poseidon Poseidon was Greek god of the sea

Priam Priam was king of Troy

Procrustes Procustes offered hospitality to travellers. He then made them fit a bed by stretching their limbs if they were too short and cutting off parts if they were too long. Procrustes was killed by the hero Theseus.

Prometheus Prometheus was a titan. He stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind. As a punishment Zeus chained him to a rock and an eagle ate his liver each day. (It regrew each time it was eaten).

Pygmalion Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue of a woman he had carved. The goddess Aphrodite turned the statue into a real woman.

Psyche Psyche was a mortal woman but Zeus made her immortal so she could marry Eros

Pyrrha Pyrrha was the wife of Deucalion, the hero who survived the flood

R

Rhea Rhea was one of the Titans. She married Cronos, rule of the titans. She had 6 children, the gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades and the goddesses Hestia, Hera and Demeter.

S

Satyrs Satyrs were creatures who looked like young men but they had horses tails and ears

Semele Semele was the human mother of the god Dionysus. (Zeus was his father).

Silenus Silenus was a satyr. He was usually drunk!

Sirens The Sirens were part birds and part women. They lived on an island with a rocky shore and they sang a song so beautiful that passing sailors would sail towards them and be shipwrecked on the rocks.

Sisyphus Sisyphus was a king who, after his death was punished by being made to roll a huge boulder up a hill. Every time he did it rolled back down again.

Sphinx In Greek mythology the sphinx had the body of a lion, the head of a woman and wings like an eagle

Styx In Greek mythology the River Styx was the boundary between the world of the living and the underworld. The dead had to cross it in a boat.

T

Talos Talos was a giant living, bronze statue who guarded Crete.

Tantalus Tantalus was an evil man who invited the gods to a feast and served them his own son as food! As a punishment Tantalus was made to stand in a pool of water but whenever he tries to drink the water receds from him. Over his head are the branches of fruit trees but whenever he tries to eat fruit the branches move out of his reach. This myth gave us the English word tantalise.

Tartarus Tartarus was a place where the evil were punished after death

Telemachus Telemachus was the son of the hero Odysseus

Terpsichore Terpsichore was the muse of dancing

Thanatos Thanatos was god of death

Theseus Theseus was the Ancient Greek hero who killed the Minotaur

Thetis Thetis was a nereid or sea nymph. She was the mother of Achilles

Tiresias Tiresias was a blind seer (a person who could see the future)

Titans The titans were a race of giants who ruled the Earth until they were overthrown by the gods of Olympus

Triton Triton was a sea god. He was the son of Poseidon and he acted as his herald.

Tyche Tyche was the Greek goddess of fortune

Typhon Typhon was a giant monster. There are different versions of how he looked but he is usually described as having a human upper half and snake coils instead of legs.

U

Urania Urania was the muse of astronomy

Uranus Uranus was the sky god. He was the son and husband of Gaia the earth goddess. He was the father of the Cyclops and the Titans. Uranus was overthrown by his son Cronos.

Z

Zephyr Zephyr was god of the west wind

Zeus Zeus was ruler of the Greek gods. He also controlled lightning, thunder and rain.

Life in Ancient Greece

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