February 12, 2009

01-219: The Olympians - Part II: The Second 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

In Lesson #01-218, we met the first generation of the "Twelve Olympians": Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, and Hestia. We through in Hades for good measure because, while he is often left out of lists of "the Twelve," he is a full sibling (same father and mother) to these five.

Here are five of the seven second-generation Olympians (we'll see the other two next time). They all come from Zeus, but with various mothers. He was busy; some say he had nearly 100 children from over 40 mothers, human and divine. One daughter was the beautiful Helen, cause of the Trojan War.

  • Ares (Mars): God of war, born of Zeus and Hera. Mars, the "red planet," fourth from the sun, is his Roman name, and his name is also found in the month of March (when armies start "marching" and fighting again after winter) and in the "martial arts," the arts of war.
  • Hermes (Mercury): Messenger of the gods, known for his speed. He also presides over trade and commerce. His Greek name gives us "hermetic" (tightly sealed), a process he is said to have invented. His Roman name "Mercury" is a metal used in thermometers due to its changeable nature. The adjective "mercurial" describes something highly changeable, like "my boss is subject to mercurial moods." Mercury is also the first planet from the sun. His mother was the nymph Maia, after whom the month of May was named.
  •  Hephaistos, or Hephaestus (Vulcan): Also a son of Hera, blacksmith to the gods, and so a god of fire. He thus presided over technology and manufacturing. From his Roman name we get the words "volcano" (the fiery mountains that seem like a forge of the gods) and "vulcanize" (a process for hardening rubber). The beautiful Aphrodite was given to him in marriage, but had a hard time keeping her: she was beautiful, and he was both lame and ugly.
  • Aphrodite (Venus): The well-known goddess of love. The second planet from the sun is named Venus. Her origin is confusing. One tradition says she was born when part of Ouranos's body fell into the sea, which would make her older than the other Olympians. But others say she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, an ancient mother goddess, or Zeus and Thalassa, an ancient sea goddess. At any rate, as goddess of love, "Aphrodite" shows up in "aphrodisiac" (a supposedly desire-inducing drug), and her name "Venus" is given to sexually transmitted, or "venereal," diseases.
  • Athena (Minerva): The goddess of wisdom. It was she who was disguised as Mentor, helping Odysseus's son Telemachus. The Greek city of Athens is named for her. She is the daughter of the Titan Metis, who was the first wife of Zeus (before Hera). Athena is sometimes called "Pallas," which is the name of a large asteroid.

In Lesson #01-220, we'll meet two more Olympians, do a review of the planets, and take a look at the days of the week.


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

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 12, 2009

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