Please select a name from the list below to view the Greek god's description.
Roman name: Jupiter
pomegranate, cow (the motherly animal – no comments, please!), peacock
Roman name: Juno
Roman name: Neptune
Torch, Corn plant (though popcorn works, too)
Roman name: Ceres
A bloody spear, a wild boar (the animal with the nastiest attitude)
Roman name: Mars
Roman name: Minerva
the lyre, laurel wreath
Roman name: Apollo (you can't improve on perfection, baby!)
The moon, the deer
Roman name: Diana
The anvil and hammer
Roman name: Vulcan (no Star Trek jokes, please)
the dove, which is odd, since it’s a symbol of peace and Aphrodite started a war, but oh well. Looks are everything.
Roman name: Venus
Roman name: Mercury
the leopard, the grape vine
Roman name: Bacchus
the helm of darkness
Roman name: Pluto
God of Sleep (Hip-nos)
Distinguishing features: Hypnos appears as a young man with wings sprouting from his brow, probably to keep him from doing a face plant whenever he falls asleep. He carries a poppy stem and a branch dripping in water from the River Lethe, which can make you forget anything, even tomorrow’s history test. Sometimes he is seen carrying an upside-down torch. Why? Probably because the flames keep him awake.
Now: Hypnos lives in Erebos, deep in the Underworld, but can often be found trying out the mattresses at the Sleep Shop. He is the son of Nyx (Night) and loves putting people to sleep. If you’re lucky, he’ll wait until you are actually in bed before he conks you out. If you’re unlucky, he’ll put you to sleep in the middle of algebra class. He is the brother of Thanatos (Death). But unlike his brother, Hypnos might let you wake up eventually.
Then: Hypnos could be good or bad in ancient times. He brought rest and dreams, but he could also sneak up on you and cause you to doze off at bad moments. In his Roman form of Somnus, the god liked to make sentries fall asleep on duty (which was an automatic death sentence) or make ship navigators fall asleep at the wheel. “Somnus made me do it!” is not a good defense when trying to explain to your captain why you steered the trireme into the side of a cliff.
Roman name: Somnus
Goddess of Victory (Ni-key)
Distinguishing features: Nike has the wings of an angel and rides a chariot. She usually has a golden laurel wreath handy to give to the winners of major battles, sports competitions, and the state lottery.
Now: If you ever meet Nike, you should not say, “Hey, isn’t that a kind of sports shoe?” unless you want to lose every competition for the rest of your life. The goddess does not find it amusing to be confused with footwear. You are likely to meet Nike at the World Series, the Superbowl, and most other major sporting events, where she will be hovering overheard, deciding which team to grant victory. She values bravery and skill, though she also likes a good halftime show.
Then: Nike was very popular, since everybody wanted victory. Olympic athletes would sacrifice to her, as would soldiers before a big battle. Nike would sometimes serve as Athena’s charioteer in battle. After all, the goddess of victory is pretty much the best wheelman you can ask for.
Roman name: Victoria
God of beginnings, choices and doorways (Jay-nus)
Distinguishing features: Kind of hard to miss Janus, since he has two faces. He can be a pain, since he can never make up his mind and tends to argue with himself. On the bright side, he can sing a solo in two-part harmony.
Now: Janus likes to dress as a New York City doorman. He shows up just when heroes have an important choice to make, usually offering them two doors to choose from. At least one of the doors typically leads to a nasty death. Janus isn’t all bad. He can open many doors and he stands for new beginnings, but think carefully before making choices. Janus won’t let you change your mind afterwards!
Then: Janus was one of the most important Roman gods. January, the beginning month of the year, was named after him. It’s said that Janus showed Saturn hospitality when he fled to Italy after the Titan war, so Saturn gave Janus the power to see both the past and the future. Twice the faces. Twice the fun! Gee, thanks, Saturn. Super gift.
Roman name: Janus (he has no Greek name)
Goddess of Revenge (Nim-uh-sis)
Distinguishing features: Nemesis is often pictured as a winged maiden, but don’t confuse her with Nike! The evil look in her eyes should tell you that this lady is not here to give you victory. Nemesis’s symbol is a scale, with which she measures how much fortune you actually deserve. If you’ve gotten more than your fair share, she brings out her other tools – a lash and a sword. She also carries a wheel sometimes, symbolizing how fate can turn on you. Notice above she is trampling some poor fool underfoot. She just loves doing that.
Now: Nemesis usually hangs around the classroom the day major projects are due. All those who put off working until the last minute are likely to feel her lash. She hates it when things work out for people who don’t deserve it, and thinks her sister Fortuna is way too generous with the good luck. Whenever you feel like things are going too well, like something bad has got to happen to balance it out – that’s the shadow of Nemesis falling over you. She’s all about payback. If it seems like somebody is out to get you, she is.
Then: Nemesis was feared more than she was worshipped. The Greeks and Romans didn’t really have the concept of karma, but Nemesis was pretty close. Whenever something good happens, you’d better look out, because Nemesis is probably watching, ready to balance things out with a little bad luck. Watch your step and stay humble!
Roman name: Nemesis
Goddess of the rainbow, messenger of the gods (Eye-ris)
Distinguishing features: Iris appears as a beautiful maiden with wings (rainbow-colored, naturally) carrying the symbolic staff of a herald like Hermes. When she’s not running around delivering messages, she serves nectar to Zeus and Hera in the throne room on Olympus, which is not as exciting but does let her rest her wings.
Now: Iris is constantly in demand to deliver Iris-messages for demigods. While this brings her a lot of supplemental income, she does wish Zeus would let her upgrade her network to 4G, since her coverage is spotty in many metropolitan areas.
Then: Iris was mostly the handmaiden to Hera. She never got much attention in the old myths, but everyone was always happy to see her. Much like a rainbow, she would show up where you least expected her and then disappear quietly. The colorful part of the eye, the Iris, is named after her. Not much of a tribute, but better than nothing, I guess.
Roman name: Iris or Arcus
Goddess of magic, crossroads and ghosts (Heck’-ate or Heh-cah’-tay)
Distinguishing features: Hecate is usually dressed in dark robes, holding twin torches (all the better to see you and burn you with, my dear). She is accompanied by a she-dog and a polecat, which used to be her enemies before she morphed them into animals. In later times, Hecate was pictured as a woman with three heads, or three entirely different forms for morning, noon and night. Talk about split personalities . . .
Now: Hecate is the daughter of the Titans, and although she sided with the gods in the Titan war, she’s a mysterious and crafty figure. Magic is her territory, and her followers include Circe and Medea, who were not exactly girl scouts. You can find Hecate in foggy graveyards, or at abandoned crossroads at night. If you see a woman with two torches, be nice to her, unless you want to become one of her animal familiars.
Then: Hecate was a goddess to be feared. The Greeks and Romans respected her power, but didn’t usually worship her. She was the goddess of dark and unknown forces, and the fact that she had three different forms meant you never knew whether she would be a good cop or a bad cop. It was best just to steer clear!
Roman name: Hecate
(Tike-ee) Goddess of good luck and fortune
Distinguishing features: Tyche can look just like Nemesis, her sister, which means you’ve got to be careful. Sometimes good luck can look like bad luck, and vice versa! Tyche usually holds a cornucopia, the horn of plenty, which is filled with nuts, berries, fruitcakes, bonbons, and all kinds of goodies representing the fortunes she bestows on mankind. The horn of plenty has become a symbol of Thanksgiving in America thanks to Tyche. She is also pictured with an orb – a ball which can roll in any direction, just as a reminder than good luck doesn’t always roll your way.
Now: Tyche is a hard goddess to find. People are always looking for her at the racetrack, the casino and the lottery ticket dealer, but she hardly ever hangs out there. She mostly likes to give good luck to those who worked hard to get it. Nevertheless, sometimes Tyche gets random. Next time you find a bag of cash in the street, you know whom to thank.
Then: People don't change! Back in the day, Greeks and Romans prayed for Tyche's favor at gambling, contests, and competitions. Funny thing about Tyche, though. She hardly ever shows up when you call. She prefers to surprise you. Sadly, her sister Nemesis does too.
Roman name: Fortuna