Most of us are well aware of those astounding heroics of ancient Greek gods. But the goddesses from ancient Greek mythology are none lesser at all both in terms of popularity and symbolic significance. Just like the Olympian gods, most of the ancient Greek goddesses resided in the realms of heavens above mount Olympus (though there were quite a few exceptions too). The goddess too had special powers and could also control specific aspects of life. From the motherly Rhea who dared to trick her own husband to save her children, to the queen of gods Hera or the goddess of wisdom Athena who was much revered by the gods and mortals alike, the ancient Greek goddesses were as much of a divine force to be reckoned with as were the gods. Here is a list of top 10 ancient Greek Goddesses.
Also known as the ancient Greek goddess of hearth, Hestia was the eldest among the first Olympian siblings – her brothers being Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. It is believed that there were three virgin goddesses in the ancient Greek mythology and Hestia was one of them – the other two being Athena and Artemis. Poseidon and Apollo relentlessly pursued her since they both desired to marry her. But she kept her oath she had made to Zeus that she would forever remain pure and undefiled and thus never went into a marital union with a man.
She symbolized the warmth a house received from the burning fire in the hearth. Most of the ancient Greeks believed her to be the divine representation of tranquility in a normal domestic life. Despite this, historical and archaeological evidences show that her pilgrimage never took off. In fact, it is even said that she was removed from the Olympian gods, her place given to Dionysus. And in many ways, her Roman counterpart Vesta was far more influential since she represented the coalition between the various colonies and the major cities in the Roman era.
The youngest daughter of Zeus and Hera, Hebe was considered the godly personification of ever-lasting youth and beauty. Being the mistresses of elegance and charm that never seemed to fade away, she is labeled as the goddess of youth in the Greek mythology. Her name itself means “youth” in the Greek dialect and many believed she could even restore the youthfulness back into the old.
Her role on Mount Olympus was to serve the nectar that made the Olympian gods immortal.
Despite being worshiped as a deity who could bless with youthfulness, she was more involved in the daily chores at Olympus – like being the handmaiden to Queen Hera and even preparing the royal chariot. She later married the much popular demigod Hercules and had two children with him – Alexiares and Anicetus.
As the name would suggest, Nemesis was the god of retribution. She would carry out judgment to inflict punishment upon those who would perpetrate evil deeds against others or amass good fortune that they never deserved. Also known as the god of revenge, she represented the consequences one had to face for his every single felony. For this reason, many worshiped her as the very personification of all repercussions that one had to live through after being the sore point of general resentment for all their sins.
Nemesis was never known to judge crime and criminals over a personal vendetta. She would rather scrutinize the very status of every man before ruling out what one shall receive – a shade of happiness or mounds of retribution. Her actions were aimed at maintaining a balance within the human affairs. She was the one who distributed glee and, at the same time, dealt misery. It was her job to make sure that there was neither too much happiness nor too much sorrow.
Leto was one of the earliest and, as many would argue, the favorite lover of the mighty Zeus. But she is known far more for all her struggling years of motherhood and is also considered as the goddess of motherhood. Zeus and Leto were deep in affair and Leto had already conceived his children much before Zeus got married to Hera. But that did not lessen Hera’s anguish as she went through all ends to bring utter despair upon a pregnant and helpless Leto.
Eventually, Leto was able to give birth to the twin deities Artemis and Apollo. Having two such powerful gods are her children, Leto had her lost honor avenged in due time, and both Artemis and Apollo glorified their status in the Greek mythology. Amid all her hardships, her cult began to spread as she wandered places together with her children. At the end, she successfully carved her name in the Greek mythology as a modest, motherly and respectful figure.
A popular deity in the age of titans, Rhea was the wife of Kronos – another titan who dethroned his father Uranus to become the new ruler, effectively making Rhea the queen. Rhea is known to have given birth to the first generation of Olympian gods – Hestia, Hades, Poseidon, Hera and Zeus being her children. For this reason, she is often called the mother of gods – a title far more deserving than her predecessor goddesses like Gaea and Cybele.
She further strengthened the given title when she gathered much needed courage to trick her own husband Kronos in order to save her children. In his utter paranoia that his children might dethrone him, Kronos would gobble up his every single new born. In her ultimate effort to put stop to this lunacy, Rhea gave him a stone to swallow instead of Zeus when he was born. Kronos ended up throwing up all the children he had swallowed and thus Rhea was able to revive the first of Olympian gods.
Popular in the Greek mythology as the most beautiful deity whose angelic appearance could allure even the most robust and dignified hearts, she possessed the title of goddess of beauty, love and desire. Besides her astounding beauty, she also had the power to infatuate love and desire among gods, mortals and even birds and beasts. She was also said to have a role in the natural cycle of birth, death and rebirth of all mortals and living beings in the nature.
She is known to be the daughter of Zeus, though the stories behind her birth diverge according to the depiction of ancient Greek narrators. Worried that her captivating charm would enchant a lot of unnecessary commotion among gods, Zeus had her married to Hephaestus, the legendary craftsman among Olympians. But that did not stop her from having a not so secret love affair with the god of war Ares. Aphrodite remained the divine personification of all desire and affection that binds everyone together.
She was the daughter of the two prominent titans Kronos and Rhea. Being the goddess of harvest and grain, she was given specifically higher stature in the mythology of ancient Greece. Even though she was one of the first Olympian gods, she took a path much different from other contemporary Olympians when the age of Olympus took off. She refused to be confined within the realms of Mount Olympus and went to the temples dedicated to her by the devotees – living close to those who worshiped her, and in many ways depended on her.
She always had a substantial following among mortals since she had the power to bless them with better harvest and agriculture. She created seasons that were favorable for plantation. But when Hades abducted her beloved daughter Persephone and took her to the underworld, she went into a state of immense gloom and sorrow, causing the plants to wither and die. Then onward, whenever Persephone would leave for the underworld, the season of winter would fall in the world of mortals and Persephone’s return to Demeter would mark the beginning of spring.
The twin sister of Apollo and the love child of Zeus and Leto, Artemis is popularly known as the goddess of hunt and natural environment among other things. Where Apollo much preferred playing with the strings of lyre, she far more enjoyed plucking the strings of her bow and established herself as a gifted archer and skilled huntress. When she was born, she was capable enough to assist her mother Leto to then give birth to her brother Apollo and rightfully earned the title of protector of childbirth and labor.
Having seen all the harshness her mother had to go through for having mothered the love children of Zeus, she vowed to practice eternal chastity for all her life and remained a virgin forever. For this reason, she was also called the goddess of virginity – a rather neat trick for she was also the goddess of child birth. She never gave in to approaches from gods and mortal alike with love interests. But it is said she eventually fell for her hunting companion Orion who sadly was accidentally killed untimely by Artemis herself or Gaea.
Also known as the goddess of marriage and birth, Hera was the wife of Zeus and by that extension, also the queen of all gods. Being the divine representation of marriage, she always showed special interest in protecting married women and preserving the sacred bond that kindled when two souls would bind in a marital relation. But she had particularly tough time putting a hook on Zeus for he had far more love affairs outside his marriage than one could care to count.
To be fair to her, she ruled over the heavens and the mortal world far before her marriage to Zeus. Even the mighty Zeus feared her. She was particularly vicious towards all of his love interests and would go to all ends to get them punished. So much so that she would not even spare their children. In her absolute anger and anguish over Zeus’s never ending affairs, she would blindly punish others in the name of justice. The queen of gods was destined to remain forever jealous and plotting revenge upon Zeus’ love interests.
At the top comes the goddess of wisdom, reasoning and intelligence – Athena. As much unique she was as a deity with unfathomable popularity among the gods and the mortals, her birth was far more unique given she was not bore by her mother (technically speaking). Her to-be-mother was Metis, who was swallowed by Zeus while she was pregnant because of a prophecy that the child Metis was going to bore would become the lord of heavens. But when it was time for Athena to born, Zeus started complaining of a massive headache. And then she sprang out of his head full grown and in armor.
Athena was known for her ferocity in battles but unlike Ares, she never displayed hotheadedness and always believed in fighting for restore justice and righteousness. She only took part in wars fought in defense of her state from outside attacks. She was the divine personification of reasoning, wisdom and knowledge. No wonder she was Zeus’ favorite child and was even allowed to use his powerful thunderbolt whenever the need arose. The sheer scale of influence she had on the mortal world is evident from that the name “Athens” took the same root as that of “Athena”.
The Greek goddesses represented the feminine aspect of ancient Greek mythology. At the same time, each individual goddess also personified the different aspects of life. Demeter was the divine embodiment of agriculture and harvest, thus by extension she represented the life sustaining food. Similarly, despite being notorious for her heartless ferocity towards Zeus’ love interests, Hera did epitomize the significance and sacred value of a marital bond. These goddesses not only justified their status as a member of Olympian fraternity courtesy of their own angelic personas but also equally complimented their male counterparts with their divine presence.