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In ancient Greece religious beliefs were complex and often contradictory. Mixed with local deities and Greek myth many of the beliefs became subject to conjecture. Much later, cults of mortal heroes and gods became mixed as legend spawning a mythology that lives today.
According to mythology Greek gods had at one time lived the savage, brutal and ugly life of humans. In time they had risen above this ancient fierceness to become gods. Homer in the Iliad wrote the first record of these gods around 1000 B.C. Although Greek mythology is made up stories about the gods and goddesses, it is not an account of Greek religion. Instead it is a simplified explanation of how everything in the universe came into being with the help of the gods.
According to mythology the Greeks did not believe that the gods created the universe, but instead that the universe created gods. Once heaven and earth had been formed there were the first parents. Their children were the Titans and the gods were their grandchildren. The enormous elder gods were supreme in the universe and of untold age. The most important of these was Cronus or Saturn who ruled over the Titans until his son Zeus dethroned him. Of the older gods not banished by Zeus, Ocean was the river that encircled the earth. Hyperson was the father of the sun, the moon and the dawn. Mnemosyne ruled memory while Themis was in charge of Justice. Atlas carried the world on his shoulders and Prometheus was the first savior of mankind.
The abode of perfect blessedness was Mount Olympus in Thessaly. This was the home of the gods, but not heaven. From here Zeus, also known as Jupiter, was chief ruler. His brother Poseidon (Neptune) ruled the sea while brother Hades (Pluto) ruled the dead. Daughter Pallas Athena (Minerva) was a ruthless battle goddess. Phoebus Apollo son of Zeus and Leto was the Archer of god. His twin sister Artemis (Diana) was the Lady of wild things. Aphrodite (Venus) was the goddess of love and beauty. Statues of Hermes (Mercury) show him with winged sandals which is quite appropriate for Zeus messenger. Hephaestus (Vulcan and Mulciber) was the god of fire. Hestia was the goddess of hearth. Eros was the god of love. Hebe was the goddess of youth.
Although there were numerous lesser gods who were the children of the gods, many born through earthly unions, most were not allowed to live on Mount Olympus. According to Greek mythology, these gods and goddesses ruled over the earth and roamed it freely. By the 5th century B.C. the literal belief in gods began to fade as poets and philosophers began to picture a cosmos where moral struggle was of the greatest importance.