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Zeus, King of the Gods

Roman name: Jupiter

Zeus was the king of all the gods. Zeus ruled the entire universe - no one was mightier than the mighty
Zeus. Zeus was not afraid of anything except possibly his wife, the horrible Hera.

Magically, Zeus was the only god who could throw lightning bolts. He could shape shift, and look like
anybody. He could throw his voice and sound like anybody.

As king, he had powers that came from being king of all the gods. These were powers of government. He
could give other gods titles and jobs. He could take those titles and jobs away. He could direct other gods,
like any leader. There were 12 gods on the council. They could have voted someone else king. But they
never did. And Zeus never retired.

Hera, Queen of the Gods


Roman name: Juno

Hera was the queen of all the gods, and also the goddess of marriage. She was Zeus' sister. She was also his
wife.

Hera and Zeus had two children, both boys, Ares and Hephaestus. Zeus also had children with other
mothers, children like Hermes and Apollo and Artemis and Hercules. Hera did not like that. She was very
jealous. She was often mean to Zeus' other children. Some, like Hercules, she even tried to kill.

She was also jealous of Zeus. Probably the only thing in the earth or heavens that Zeus truly feared was his
wife, Hera - or rather, he feared her temper. You never knew what Hera might do, but quite often, it was
something pretty rotten.

Here are two Hera myths that will show you how jealous and rotten she truly was!

Poseidon, Lord of the Sea


Roman name: Neptune

Poseidon was an important god. Poseidon was the Lord of the Sea. He was one of the 12 Olympians who
made up the council of the gods.

Poseidon had two powerful brothers - Zeus, king of all the gods, and Hades, lord of the underworld.
Poseidon was not at all jealous of his brothers or their power. He did not want to be in charge of the
Underworld. And he certainly did not want all the responsibility that Zeus had shouldered. He was very
happy being Lord of the Sea.

The job suited him perfectly. Poseidon had deep blue eyes and streaming green hair. He had a roaring laugh.
He was moody and restless and powerful. He could magically make an island appear, or a tidal wave cover
the shoreline, or send a wave to suck you right off the beach. All it took was a wave of his hand!

People who lived inland were not that worried about Poseidon. But the ancient Greeks who lived along the
coastline were terrified of him. They build temples to honor him. They brought gifts every day. Sometimes
the gifts made Poseidon happy, and the water was calm and sparkling. Sometimes the gifts did not make him
happy, and a terrible storm would break over the land. The people tried very hard to keep Poseidon happy.

Like most of the gods, Poseidon had many wives. He especially loved his main wife, who was not jealous of
the other women in his world. That was unusual, and Poseidon was grateful for it. His main wife was the
only wife who lived under the sea and made her home in their fabulous underwater palace.

Like Hades, Poseidon had a huge mansion on Mount Olympus, but he only stayed there if he needed to a
meeting of the council of 12 gods. He much preferred his palace under the sea. It was a beautiful place.
There were Greek columns and colorful seaweed and white sand and glowing jewels and shimmering shells
and magical amber, with fish swimming in and out in every color of the rainbow. At night, glow worms kept
every corner bathed in soft light. It was a peaceful, colorful place. There was nothing else like it in the
world. As moody and wild as he might be, Poseidon always calmed when he came home to his beautiful
palace and his gentle main wife.

The Greeks told a great many myths about the sea god, Poseidon.

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty


Roman name: Venus

The ancient Greek goddess, Aphrodite, showed up one day, thousands of years ago, and began appearing in
ancient Greek myths, the myths told by the ancient Greek storytellers. According to the stories that sprang
up about her, she was as vain as she was beautiful, and she was very beautiful. Zeus was delighted to claim
her as his daughter. It was Zeus' habit to give his children titles and jobs. He gave Aphrodite the title of
Goddess of Love and Beauty, and the job of spreading love and beauty everywhere.

Aphrodite had a son, Eros (known as Cupid in Roman mythology) whom she loved dearly. She had a
husband, the handyman to the gods, Hephaestus, whom she tolerated. She even got along with Hera, Queen
of all the Greek gods, most of the time. She worked very hard at the job Zeus had given her as the goddess
of love and beauty.

Aphrodite tried to be nice to everyone, usually, and tried to spread love and beauty everywhere she went.
But unfortunately, her plans for people (and gods and goddesses) did not always work out the way she
thought they would, which caused no end of trouble. As Aphrodite often insisted, the things that went wrong
were not really her fault. Not really.

If you believe Helen, the Queen of Sparta, it was Aphrodite's vanity that caused the Trojan War. Aphrodite
would tell you the whole thing was Helen's fault. Whose fault was it really? Decide for yourself as you read
this ancient Greek myth: What really caused the Trojan War

An Ancient Greek Myth for Kids


The Gift of Fire
Zeus and Prometheus

As the story goes .... From the very first, humans had trouble with the gods. Most gods thought of humans
as toys. But some gods found themselves interested in the human race. Some gods even made friends with
the humans. One of those gods was named Prometheus.

The first people created by the gods lived happily together. They thought the gods were wonderful. But their
children were not as grateful or as content. The children argued among themselves, and sometimes even
argued with the gods.

Zeus was very disappointed at mankind. He decided he was not going to give mankind a most important tool
- fire! Without fire, humans were not going to last very long.

Prometheus felt sorry for his human friends. Fire was important for many things - like heat and cooking, and
hundreds of others. Prometheus stole a lightning bolt from Zeus and gave it to mankind. That's when man
discovered fire.

Zeus was furious. He ordered Prometheus chained to a rock as punishment for stealing his lightning bolt,
and for going behind his back to help the humans. To make Prometheus even more miserable, Zeus sent
storms to beat angry waves against Prometheus, helplessly chained to his rock. Zeus made the sun shine
really brightly now and then to burn his skin. Zeus even sent an eagle to nibble at poor Prometheus' body. It
was quite a punishment for a god who had only tried to help mankind. But he had defied Zeus, and that was
what made Zeus so angry.

It was Hercules who finally released the helpless god from his chains. By the time Hercules saved him,
nearly a thousand years had passed. That's probably not a lot of time if you happen to be immortal. But
humans had changed a great deal over 1000 years. By then, Zeus found humans quite entertaining. Zeus no
longer cared if anyone rescued Prometheus or not.

HERACLES

For a very long time, Hercules (Heracles) did not know he was half man and half god. His mother was a
mortal. But his father was a king - a very special king, the king of all the gods, the mighty Zeus.

Zeus loved his little son. But Hera, Zeus' wife, hated Hercules. She was very jealous. She tried all kinds of
ways to kill Hercules, including sending a couple of big snakes into his crib. Hercules crushed those snakes
in a flash! Hercules was incredibly strong, even as a baby!

To keep his small son safe from attack, Zeus sent him to live with a mortal family on earth in the ancient
Greek city-state of Argos. Hercules grew up noble and loved. He married and had a couple of kids. He was
happy, but he did not fit in on earth. He was too big and too strong. He was hard to miss. Hera soon
discovered his location.

The rest of the story of Hercules is a bunch of little stories that together tell the tale of how Hercules used
clever tricks and great courage to stay alive and earn his way into the heavens, to take his place with the
gods.

As the story goes .....

One day, while thinking up ways to kill Hercules, Hera came up with an idea. It might not kill him, but it
would certainly devastate him. Using an evil magic spell, she made Hercules fall into a fit of madness.
While under this spell, he butchered his wife and children. As the spell passed and his vision cleared,
Hercules saw what he had done. He knew it was a mistake. He knew he had been bewitched, but he was
filled with guilt. He wanted to find some way to atone for his terrible mistake, only he had no idea what to
do. In desperation, he visited the most powerful wizard of his day, the Oracle at Delphi, and asked for her
help.

The trouble with Oracles was that their advice was often misunderstood. This time, the Oracle was clear. She
believed Hercules would never have butchered his family unless he had been in the grip of an evil spell. She
had no doubt that the evil spell was probably cast by Hera. She also knew that Hercules would never forgive
himself unless first he was punished. She told Hercules exactly what he needed to do to atone. She
whispered that he had to visit his cousin, King Eurystheus, who would give him 12 labors (tasks) that
Hercules must successfully complete. Once all 12 tasks were accomplished, Hercules would be forgiven.

"Are you sure that such a simple thing will atone for my mistake?" Hercules asked her.

The oracle answered: "If you complete 12 Labors, immortality will be yours." Being an oracle, she never
explained what she meant by "immortality" - would he live forever in legend or for real? Hercules never
asked. (She would not have told him anyway.) Hercules could barely hear her, her whisper was that soft, yet
somehow, and just as the Oracle had predicted to herself, Hera's spies discovered what the Oracle had told
him.

Before Hercules could arrive at his cousin's palace, Hera got there first. Eurystheus (Eury for short) was the
king of a little village in the city-state of Argos. Hera convinced Eury that Hercules was coming to steal his
crown! It was not enough that Hercules had killed his family, she told Eury. Now he wanted to be king! Eury
believed her. Hera suggested that Eury challenge Hercules to 12 labors (missions or tasks.) If he failed,
Hercules had to defend Eury from anyone who tried to take Eury's crown. Eury loved that idea. Hera and
Eury designed 12 impossible tasks. They were certain that one of the 12 labors they designed would surely
kill Hercules, probably the very first one. Hercules was not interested in Eury's crown, but he accepted the
challenge as Hera knew he would.

Hercules not only lived, he had great adventures, discovered true friends, and rid the world of some really
nasty critters. Here are the famous 12 Labors of Hercules, each told in the form of a little short story.

Pandora's Box

As the story goes ...

Once up a time, a long time ago, there were two brothers named Epimetheus and Prometheus. They were
good gods. They had good hearts. They were good friends.

One day, Prometheus got in trouble with Zeus. Angry over something or other, Zeus had declared that man
did not deserve fire. Because he had a kind heart, and he knew how much man needed fire for food and
warmth, Prometheus gave man the secret of fire even though Zeus had told all the gods not to do that. Zeus
was furious that his order had been ignored. As punishment, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock for many
years.

But that was not enough punishment, not for Zeus. Once Prometheus was chained to a rock, Zeus went after
Prometheus' brother, the gentle, kind-hearted Epimetheus. Zeus did not chain Epimetheus to a rock. Zeus
had a more sneaky punishment in mind.

First, Zeus ordered the gods' handyman, the maker of things - Hephaestus - to make Zeus a daughter.
Hephaestus made a woman out of clay, a beautiful woman. He brought her to life, and then brought her to
Zeus. Zeus named his lovely new daughter Pandora.

Zeus knew that Epimetheus was lonely. Zeus told Epimetheus that his brother, Hephaestus, had to be
punished and that's why he was chained to a rock, but he felt sorry that this punishment left Epimetheus
without the company of his brother. That's why Zeus had decided to give Pandora in marriage to
Epimetheus. It was not the truth of course, but then nearly everyone in the ancient Greek world knew better
than to believe the mighty Zeus.

Epimetheus was kind-hearted and gentle and thoughtful, but he was no fool. He knew Zeus was up to
something. But he loved Pandora at first sight.

Zeus gave the newlyweds a gift. Some say it was a jar. Some say it was a box. Whatever it was, it was
locked. It came with a note. The note said: "DO NOT OPEN." Attached to the note was a key. It was all very
curious.

You can guess what happened next. It was Pandora whose curiosity got the better of her. One day, she used
the key to open the box. As she raised the lid, out flew all the bad things in the world today - envy, sickness,
hate, disease. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late.

Epimetheus heard her weeping. He came running. Pandora opened the lid to show him it was empty.
Quickly, before she could slam the lid shut, one tiny bug flew out. He gave Pandora a big buggy smile in
thanks for his freedom and flew away. That tiny bug was named Hope. And Hope made all the difference in
the world.
Apollo's Oracle at Delphi
Ancient Greek Myths for Kids

The ancient Greek god Apollo enjoyed having temples built in his honor. He liked the gifts. He liked the
attention. Everyone knew that Apollo was the god of music. He also brought out the sun each day. He had
other special powers. Apollo could see the future, not always, but sometimes. Everyone wanted to know the
future. So Apollo's temples were busy places, full of people full of questions about their future. His temples
were so busy, in fact, that the stream of visitors asking him questions wore him out.

As the story goes ....

Apollo decided he needed an assistant, a wise woman, an oracle. An oracle, in ancient Greece, was someone
who could see the future. But Apollo did not want any old oracle to speak for him. He wanted a real one. But
there weren't any real ones, not really. The oracles he had met always had vague answers.

For example, if you asked an oracle if you should plant your garden tomorrow, they might say "the frost will
be gone if the gods will it." Not really helpful.

Apollo had the power to magically make someone truly see the future, just as he could. But Apollo didn't
want to take the fun out of things. So Apollo set some ground rules for his oracle. He would use his magic to
allow her to truly see the future. Apollo's rules stated that she had to tell the truth, but she could not be too
specific. That would allow the possibility of misunderstanding. That would made it fun!

Apollo magically turned a young priestess into a real oracle. He magically built a special temple for her
home. He magically told a few people here and there about his wonderful oracle.

It did not take long for the word to spread. People came from all over to ask Apollo's oracle a question.
People had heard she could really see the future and could only tell the truth.

One day, a weary king came to the temple. He asked Apollo's oracle if he would win the battle. She smiled
and told him a great king would win the battle. That was exactly what he had wanted to hear. He went away
happy, leaving many gifts for the oracle behind him.

When he led his men into battle, they lost. The king was killed. But people still flocked to Apollo's oracle.
They knew she had told the truth. She had to tell the truth. What a pity the king had not listened.