February 10, 2009

01-218: The Olympians - Part I: The First Generation

In order to bring you as many of my old lessons as possible, I have begun posting them as drafts. These drafts may be in need of editing and/or formatting, and, when finished, should include a photo, an introductory note, a "Get Ready" question, a "Read more" link, and, especially, vocabulary practice exercises. Any of those missing from this lesson will be added later... I promise!

The Olympians

The first Olympic Games began in 776 BCE at Olympia in Greece, where there were temples dedicated to the god Zeus and his wife Hera.

Zeus, Hera, and the other "Olympian" gods lived on Mount Olympos (or Olympus), which is over 500 miles from Olympia. But "Olympia" means "from Olympos," and it was a home-away-from-home for those gods.

As we saw in Lesson #01-217, Zeus and the other Olympians overthrew their forebears, the Titans. Although there are many gods on Olympos, there is a classic list of twelve (like the twelve Titans).

These are: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, and Hestia. Some of their Roman names (given below in parentheses) may be familiar to you as the names of planets. Let's take a closer look at a list of the Twelve Olympians.

These five are the first generation of Olympians, all children of the Titans Kronos and Rhea:

  • Zeus (Jupiter): King of the Gods and ruler of Mount Olympos. He is the god of the sky, and also of thunder and justice. Jupiter is the name of the fifth planet from the sun. It is the largest of all the planets, fitting his status as king.
  • Hera (Juno): Zeus's wife, and therefore queen of the gods. She is also the goddess of women, marriage, and motherhood. There is no planet named for her, but Juno is the name of an exceptionally large asteroid. She also gave her name to the month of June.
  • Poseidon (Neptune): He is the lord of the sea, and also god of earthquakes. He was the creator of horses; sailors praying for safe journeys would sometimes drown horses in the sea as offerings. The eighth planet from the sun, with a blue, watery appearance, is named Neptune.
  • Demeter (Ceres): The goddess of fertility, agriculture, and the seasons, she gives her name to the "cereal" grains. A large asteroid is named Ceres.
  • Hestia (Vesta): She is the goddess of the hearth and home. Vesta is also the name of a large asteroid, but the name may be more familiar from the name of her priestesses, the "Vestal Virgins." "Vestal" has come to be an adjective meaning "pure."

One first-generation Olympian is noticeably missing from this list of "the Twelve Olympians" (but included in many other lists): Hades (Roman Pluto, like the former planet). After defeating the Titans, Zeus divided the world with his elder brothers. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon the seas, and Hades got the underworld. His dark associations may have gotten him excluded from this particular list (The Earth itself was kept by their grandmother, Gaia.)

We'll look at most of the second generation of Olympians in Lesson #01-219, and add the last two--plus a recap--in Lesson #01-220.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Olympians

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 10, 2009

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