Parting the ocean reveals the land of the living above supported by the pillars of Hades and the land of the dead below. Although Hades and Hell are synonomous in present terminology, for the ancient Greeks, Hades was not exclusively a place of punishment. All the dead were required to go there and in fact would anxiously await the crossing of the river Styx to reap their eternal reward.
Hades is divided up by five rivers: Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (forgetfulness) and Styx (hate). The river Styx acts as the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Atlas, the former general of the Titans, holds up the vault of heaven as part of his punishment from Zeus for fighting against the Olympians.
The ancient Greeks perceived a world that had unseen divine influences everywhere. For every action or object there was a patron deity that maintained a sphere of control. Of course, for every power there was also an opposing force and therefore the pious worshiper always walked a fine line between appeasing one god and offending another.
The gods and monsters of the Greek pantheon represent the many forces of nature and the many elements of social structure. For every event in human life there was a representative god or goddess overseeing the fortunes of those who paid them tribute. It was an open ended system that allowed the deities from other cultures to be added into their own system of beliefs. According to legend even though the gods may take any form, their human aspect most commonly represents them.
Monsters tended to be whimsical combinations of many creatures. The creation of monsters was typically from interspecies breeding or from beings who lost their humanity due to some misdeed and later became powerful agents of destruction.
Much of their pantheon is familiar to us even today. Below are the most common:
Uranus & Gaia - The god of the sky and goddess of the earth were at one time lovers and from their union was born the race of Titans. Among the births however, were the one-eyed Cyclops' and the hundred-handed Briarius, which Uranus buried deep within the Earth. This caused Gaia great discomfort but Uranus ignored her pleas and refused to free them. Gaia then turned to her other childern to free their siblings, but they were afraid to act against thier father's will. It was only after Gaia offered up a sickle, forged of the hardest metal, that Cronus stepped forward to defy Uranus. With the sickle, Cronus castrated his father while he was making love with Gaia. He then took Uranus' genitalia and cast it into the sea. From Uranus' blood and semen were born the Giants, the Furies, and Aphrodite. Cronus then took up the mantle of Lord of Heaven and supplanted Gaia with his sister Rhea. After overthrowing his parents, Cronus still refused to free the Titans imprisoned within his mother. For his treachery, both Uranus and Gaia prophesized that Cronus would be overthrown by his children.
Cronus (Saturn) - King of the Titans, Ruler over the Golden age of the Universe. The youngest Titan, son of Uranus and Gaia. After overthrowing his parents, he married his sister Rhea and from their union begat Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Hestia. He attempted to cheat his fate of being overthrown by one of his children by swallowing them as soon as they were born. With the help of Gaia, Rhea hid Zeus and presented Cronus with a stone wrapped in a swaddling cloth, which he swallowed. Later Zeus tricked him into drinking a potion that caused him vomit out his children. Zeus then led the Olympian gods in a battle called the Titanomachy, where they came out victorious against the more powerful Titans by use of wit and superior tactics.
Prometheus - Creator and benefactor of the human race. The son of the Titan Iapetus and of Clymene or Themis. He foresaw the defeat of the Titans and sided with the Olympians, he was therefore spared the punishment of the other Titans. Prometheus later created mankind out of clay and water. Zeus abused humanity, so Prometheus stole fire from the hearth of the gods and gave it to man. In defiance of Zeus' will, he taught mankind the arts and sciences he gleaned from Athena. Zeus in turn plagued man with Pandora and her box of evils, and punished Prometheus by chaining him to a mountain peak in the Caucasus. There his liver was repeatedly torn out and devoured by a giant eagle. He was later released by Hercules. Zeus restored his place among the gods when Prometheus revealed the danger of Zeus' having a child by Thetis, who was fated to bear a son that would be more powerful than his father.
Zeus (Jupiter) - Supreme god of Olympus, Son of Cronus and Rhea.
Hera (Juno) - Queen of Olympus and wife of Zeus. Patron goddess of marriage and childbirth. Daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Sister to Dimitra, Hestia, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. She is known for her jealous rages concerning the infidelity of her husband, Zeus, and punished many of his lovers with plague, disfigurement, and misfortune. The animals sacred to her are the peacock and the cow.
Hestia (Vesta) - Goddess of the Hearth. Virgin Goddess of the Eternal flame. Daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Sister to Dimitra, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. She is the patron deity of domestic life, the family hearth, and security. Hestia was was known for her kindness and gentle ways. She presides over all sacrifices.
Poseidon (Neptune) - Lord of water, the sea, and earthquakes. Son of Cronus and Rhea. Brother to Dimitra, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Zeus. He is closely associated with horses and through his union with Medusa, fathered the winged horse Pegasus. His wife Amphitrite bore him many children including Triton and Rhode. He shared his brother Zeus' tendency for promiscuity and begat many monsters and heros, among them are Orion, and Polyphemus.
Dimitra - Goddess of springtime and agriculture. Daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Sister to Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. When her daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and carried off to the underworld, she negelected her duties as the goddess of the harvest and went in search of her child. The world went into a famine until she was once again united with Persephone. Hades however maintained a hold over Persephone because she ate from the food of the dead. It was decided before Zues that Persephone would two-thirds of the year with her mother and a third with her husband. And so for the four months of the year that she is in the the underworld, Dimitra will let nothing grow until her daughter returns.
Hades (Pluto) - Lord of the underworld, ruler of the dead, and god of material wealth. Son of Cronus and Rhea. Brother to Dimitra, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, and Zeus. Known for his stern demeanor and lack of pity, Hades presides over the judgement and sentancing of the wicked in the afterlife. His one love was Persephone, the daughter of Dimitra, whom he kidnapped from earth and carried off to the underworld to make his queen.
Aries (Mars) - God of war and glory in battle. Son of Zeus and Hera. Aries was not widely worshiped among the Greeks (who abhorred the destructive nature of war), but was later adopted as a patron deity for Roman soldiers.
Hephaestus (Vulcan) - Blacksmith of the gods. Son of Zeus and Hera. Was cast out of Olympus and fell for nine days before crashing down on the island of Lemnos where he would be honored by its inhabitants. Although crippled from the impact he set up a workshop and became a brilliant artisan, reknowned among the gods for his metalworking skills. During the war with the Titans, Hephaestus created a helm of invisibility for Hades, a trident for Poseidon, and thunderbolts for Zeus.
Athena (Minerva) - Virgin goddess of wisdom in battle and handicraft. Born fully armored from the head of Zeus when he was struck by Hephaestus. She bears a weapon known as the Aegis (a gift from her father, Zeus) which is descibed as either a goatskin breastplate adorned with serpents or a shield bearing the image of Medusa, which had the ability to strike terror into the hearts of her enemies. She is often shown in the company of an owl.
Nike (Victoria) - Born of the Giant Pallas and the River Styx, Nike became the goddess of victory in battle and athletic events. She acted as a mediator for the gods and has been depicted in miniture in the hand of Zeus or Athena. She is often shown carrying a wreath, palm leaf or staff which was to be presented to the mortal who found favor in the eyes of the gods.
Artemis (Diana) - Moon goddess, virgin goddess of the hunt, protector of wilderness and wild animals. Daughter of Zeus and Leto (a Titan famous for her beauty). Twin sister to Apollo. Served as midwife immediately after her her own birth. After witnessing the birth of her brother she became so horrified at the prospect of childbirth that she made a vow of chastity before Zeus. She would tolerate the company of virgin females only and shunned the presence of men.
Apollo - God of the sun. Patron of the civilized arts, poetry, music and medicine. Son of Zeus and the Titan Leto. Twin brother to Artemis. As the sun god, he is known for driving his sun/chariot across the sky on a daily basis.
Aphrodite (Venus) - Goddess of love, marriage, harlotry, and beauty. Was said to be born from the sea foam and the semen of Uranus when he was castrated and his genitalia were cast into the ocean.Was forced to marry Hephaestus (the homeliest Olympian) after rejecting Zeuses attempts to seduce her. She had many lovers, both god and mortal and from these unions gave birth to several children. She was mother to two children by Hermes: Cupid, the god of passion and Hermaphroditus, a half-man and half-woman diety. With Dionysos she conceived the fertility god Priapus, who is always shown with a huge erection. By Ares she had Ateros, the god of orderly, lawful, and tender love. Her second child by Ares was Harmony, who had the gift of balacing love and anger.
Hermes (Merury) - Messenger of the gods, god of fertility, cunning and thieves. Son of Zeus and the Pleiade, Maia. Hermes out performed all other gods in boxing and racing, he therefore became the patron deity athletes. Hermes is the trickster in the Greek pantheon. He is also known for bringing dreams to the mortal world and escorting the dead to the underworld. He is often depicted with a winged hat and/or sandals and carrying a staff known as the caduseus.
Dionysos (Bacchus) - God of wine, fertility, and diplomacy. Said to be the son of Zeus and Semele.Dionysos was the first creator of wine and travelled the mortal world teaching his craft. Wine being a gift that freed one of "ones own mind", it was looked upon as a source of madness and creativity. He is a parton diety of agriculture and theater. Dionysos kept the company of of satyrs, sileni, maenads, and nymphs, all of which idulged in his orgiastic festivals.
Wine being a gift that freed one of "ones own mind", it was looked upon as a source of madness and creativity. He is a parton diety of agriculture and theater. Dionysos kept the company of of satyrs, sileni, maenads, and nymphs, all of which idulged in his orgiastic festivals.
Pan - God of joy and wild passion. Protector of woodlands. Allegedly the son of either Apollo or Hermes and a female nature spirit. Was born half man and half goat. Credited with introducing music to the world.
Eros (Cupid) - Mischievous child-god on passionate love. Son of Hermes and Aphrodite. Has the power to impart love with his gold tipped arrows or hatred with lead tipped arrows.
Griffin - Guardian beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Said to dwell on the Scythian steppes that reached from Ukraine to central Asia. The one-eyed Arimaspian folk frequently attempted to steal the gold and precious stones which were protected by the creatures. Anyone caught by the griffins would be torn to pieces. Giant petrified bones found in this area were shown as proof of the existence of griffins and used to frighten away strangers.
Centaur - A race of beings half-man and half-horse. They were created by an incident between Ixion (the king of Thessaly) and Zeus. After Ixion killed his father-in-law to avoid paying a bride price, he was invited to Olympus for a rite of purification. While in the home of Zeus he attemped to seduce Hera. When Zeus found out, he created a cloud in the shape of Hera which Ixion raped. From the union of Ixion and the cloud came the race of Centaurs. As punishment for his impiety, Ixion was eternally bound to a revolving wheel of fire in the lowest depths of Hades.
Medusa - One of the three Gorgon sisters. Unlike her sisters Stheno and Euryale who were wrathful hags, she was once young beautiful. However, she made love with Poseidon in the temple of Athena. Being that Poseidon was Athena's rival and Athena herself was a virgin, the goddess became outraged. As punishment she turned Medusa's hair into snakes and made her face so ugly that anyone looking upon it would turn to stone. She was slain by Perseus who cut off her head and from her blood was born the giant Chysaor and the winged horse Pegasus.
Pegasus - Winged horse born from Medusa's neck when Perseus decapitated her. Was later tamed by the hero Bellerophon with the help of a bridle given to him by Athena. Bellerophon went on many advetures with Pegasus including the slaying of the Chimera. In attempt to attain godhood Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus to Olympus. Zeus, outraged by Bellerophon's audacity, caused Pegasus to throw him to the ground.
Cyclops - One-eyed race of titans born of Gaia and Uranus. Having been buried in the body of the Earth/Gaia by their father, they learned the skill of metalworking which was later exploited by Zues in his battle against the Titans. After Zues freed them from their mother's body they became the assitants to the blacksmith god Hephaestus.
Briarius (The Hundred Handed) - Born of Gaia and Uranus, Briarius was buried in the underworld along with the Cyclops. He had the ability to throw a barrage of stones with deadly accuracy. Cronus vowed to free him along with the other Titans trapped inside of Gaia, but never followed through with his promise. Zues recruited Briarius in his war against the Titans and later set him up to guard the stairwell to the underworld.
Scylla - Sea monster who devoured six crewmembers of Odysseus ship. At one time a beautiful sea-nymph, she found favor in the eyes of the young sea-deity Glaucus, but spurnned his advances. He sought the help of the enchantress Circe who advised him to seek love from a woman worthy of his stature. Circe in turn became indignant at the scorn shown by Scylla and poisoned the waters she bathed in. As she bathed her body became a mass of serpents and barking monsters. Her hands changed into monsterous jaws. She grew twelve feet and six heads (each with a mouth with three rows of teeth). She became confined to a cave looking out over the sea, where she could threaten any passing ship.
Charybdis - Whirlpool monster from the Odyssey. At one time was the Daughter of Poseidon and Gaia. She was struck by a thunderbolt from Zeus as punishment for trying to steal Heracles' oxen. Charybdis fell into the sea across from Scylla where three times a day she opens her mouth, swallowing vast amounts of water, which she then spews out again.
Typhon - This one-hundred headed beast was the consort of Echidna and through her beame the father of many monsters. He eventually me his defeat in a great battle with Zeus when he lifted a huge chunk of earth to crush his opponent. Zeus struck him with a lightning bolt first causing Typhon to loose his grip and the rock to fall on top of him instead. The rock under which Typhon became trapped would later be known as Mount Etna.
Echidna - Mother of Cerberus, Chimera, Ethon, Hydra, Ladon, Nemean Lion, Orthrus, and the Sphinx. Daughter of Uranus and Gaia she fought along side Typhon against Zeus and was defeated. Typhon was imprisoned beneath Mount Etna, but Zeus spared her so that she and the creatures she spawned, would provide challenges to future heros.
Chimera - Fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion and a goat and a tail that was a serpent. Offspring of Typhon and Echidna. In an incedent where Bellerophon rejected the love of the wife of King Proteus of Argos, she falsely accuses him of attempted rape. Proteus in turn, sent him to Iobates, king of Lycia, with a sealed message requesting the death of its bearer. Iobates gave Bellerophon the suicidal task of trying to kill the Chimera. With the aid of Pegasus and a well aimed spear he managed to slay the Chimera.
Hydra - Multi-headed monster, if one of its heads were cut off two would grow in its place. Offspring of Typhon and Echidna. The second labor of Hercules was to kill the monster. He did so by burning the neck after cutting off each head.
Sphinx - A winged monster with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. She waylaid travelers on the roads near the city of Thebes and asked them a riddle. If they could not give the correct answer the sphinx would kill and devour them. She was finally defeated by Oedipus, who came up with answer to this riddle: “What creature walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” The answer: A man, who crawls on all fours as an infant, walks upright in maturity, and in old age relies upon the “third leg” of a cane. Upon being bested the Sphinx threw herself from her high rock and died.
Cerberus - A three-headed watchdog that guarded of the gates to Hades. He would devour any souls that attempted to escape and prevent the living from entering the underworld. It was Heracles 12th labor to bring Cerberus into the land of the living. In other tales Orpheus, Hermes, Aeneas, and Psyche managed to sneak past Cerberus through various methods of putting him to sleep.
The current calendar for most of the civilized world is based upon one of the most confusing and inaccurate time pieces ever developed. The Calendarium was originally the name of the books used for tracking taxes paid to the Roman empire. The collection of taxes took place on the first of every month and was so regular that the word calendar became the name of any device used for tracking the year. However, the schedule for collecting taxes was based on an arbitrary numbering system which was not based on the lunar cycles or the solar year. As a result, the tax-months would keep shifting season they fall in.
The first Calendarium is attributed to the founder of Rome, Romulus. It was composed of ten months: Martius (31 days), Aprilis (30 days), Maius (31 days), Junius (30 days), Quintilis (31 days), Sextilis (30 days), September (30 days), October (31 days), November (30 days), and December (30 days). There was also approximately sixty nameless days in the middle of winter which were concidered a time of bad omens and cleansing. Months with an even number of days were also concidered bad luck which left only four months that were concidered lucky. The months were broken down further by an eight day week with a letter designating the weekday.
The earliest kings and emperors were given the power to regulate the calendar. The first to do so was Numa Pompilius who changed the sixty nameless days of the calendar into the months we now call January and February. After all, you can't collect taxes on days that aren't on the calendar. This however had the effect of locking in a number of days that did not allign with the solar year and had no period to correct the offset of days.
By the time of Julius Caesar, the Roman calendar had January falling in autumn. Upon consulting the astronomer Sosigenes, Julius Caesar added 90 days to the year 46 B.C. These days were not officially on the calendar so that the date repeated until the calendar was "corrected". 67 days were added between November and December, and 23 days were added to the end of February. The result was to cause spring of 45 B.C. to begin in March. He also changed the length of each month for the following years, so that the year totalled out to be 365.4 days long. This is the system that became the Julian Calendar.
Over time it was noted that a solar year was actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds; making the Julian calendar a little too long. By the 16th century the vernal equinox was offset by ten days. Pope Gregory XIII corrected the calendar in 1582 by suppressing 10 days in the year 1582. It was ordained that from that point on, years ending in hundreds should not be leap years unless they were divisible by 400. This system became known as the Gregorian Calendar.
There are many cosmological models attributed the classical Greek philosophers which have been greatly influencial in our current appoach to understanding the universe. It is with these early philosophers that secularism was born and the study of the world became scientific.
Thales (625-547 B.C.) - This scholar from Miletus is consdered to be the father of western philosophy. It was his belief that all things came from water and everthing was filled with gods. His observations of water and the many forms it can take (liquid, a solid as ice, and vapor), and how all living things had to fill themselves with it to survive, how it too permiated the earth and expelled water through springs and even fell from the sky as rain, led him to believe that it was the singular source of physical world.
Anaximander (611-547 B.C.)- Anaximander is concidered to be the father of astromony for his work in mapping stars and tracking the movement of the sun along the ecliptic. Although he was a student of Thales, he accepted that life may have had its origins from water, Anaximander disageed that water could be the source of all things. Fire and rock had no rational connection with water and from this he instead chose to focus on a formless cosmos, the apeiron, out of which opposites evolved. Wet separated from dry, hot from cold, and eventually the encroachment upon one another caused them to decay back into the eternal formless mass from which they sprung. He percieved the world as multi-layered series of disks that created a cylindrical form around which a solid mass of air created a barrier to the outermost realm of fire. According to this model, Anaximander saw the stars as holes in the atmosphere that allowed the light of the fire to shine through.
Anaximenes (fourished c. 545 B.C.) - Anaximenes, third Milesian philosopher rejected Anaximander's concept of a boundless universe creating opposites. The aperion, being nothing in particular, could not logically have an opposite. He therefore looked to air as being the single source of the material world as Thales did with water.
Heraclitus (fourished c. 500 B.C.) - As a scholar of lonian city of Ephesus, Heraclitus is best known for his observations of the impermanence of the world. "With all things changing, no one can step into the same stream twice." He perceived the cosmos as having existed but looked to the source of reality as being a divine fire which generated change in a process he called "logos".
Xenophanes (flourished c. 560 - 478 B.C.) - Xenophanes observed that depending whatever culture that you looked to, each culture perceived their gods as a reflection of themselves in appearance and behavior. He spoke out against this anthropomorphic view and argued that if oxen could imagine the gods, their gods would be in the image of oxen. He therefore postulated that there was only one immutable godform which was intimately connected with the world and as human beings we are unable to see the true nature of reality.
Parmenides (flourished c. 515 B.C.) - Parmenides argued that the underlying nature of reality is unchanging and that any processes or distinctions we percieve in this world are illusions. Thinking and being are the same and beyond our perceptions of the material world, there are no true distinctions between objects. In addition, because existance indicates the presence of something, there is no such thing as empty space and therefore movement impossible because it required taking over a space where something was not. In the greater reality all things were omnipresent and nothing new ever came into being just as nothing ever ceased to exist. Unfortunately, he had no proofs for his concepts, but I'm sure he had a lot of fun messing with peoples minds.
Zeno (335 - 263 B.C.) - Founder of the school of Stoicism; the philosophy of accepting the unalterable nature of the universe as the will of god. According to Zeno, this is the best of all possible worlds, created by a benevolent god, with a devine purpose for everyone and everything. The only freedom available to humanity in god's grand design is to let go of expectations, vain hopes and selfish desires.
Empedocles (490 - 430 B.C.) - Empedocles took a pluralist view of the universe, looking upon its basic structure being of water, earth, air, and fire. The forces of Love and Strife were the driving forces behind intermingling and separation of all matter. He believed in the transmigration of souls from man to animal and for this reason was a vegetarian.
Anaxagoras (c.500 - 428 BC) - Observed the infinite divisability of all things and from this was the first to formulate a molecular concept of the universe. He theorized that in the smallest state of matter were the seeds (spermata) of all possible material forms. In this cosmos there is no birth or death, creation or destuction; all matter is in a state of change, migrating from one form to another. Things moved in and out of existence through pre-existing matter. The underlying laws and structure of the universe came from a universal mind which was everywhere and in everything. The mind was the purest and most delicate part of reality and is what would late be understood as natural law. From his observations of the heavans, he concluded that the moon does not give off its own light and that all celestial objects, including the sun, are made of stone for which he was accused of atheism and blasphemy.
Pythagoras (570 - 500 B.C.) - This mathematician/philosopher had a cult-like following that was obsessed with numbers. Most famous for the equation that bears his name, (Pythagorean Theorum: in right triangles, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.) he is also credited with the discovery of irrational numbers.
The Pythagoreans viewed Earth as a sphere that orbited a firey mass at the center of the universe. In this model, the earth did not spin and the light of the fire could only be seen by the reflections from the sun, moon, planets, and fixed stars which also orbited the center of the universe. In addition they believed there was a counterearth which could not be seen because it was closer to the center.
Plato (427–347 B.C.) - Most of Plato's writings take the form of dialogues with his teacher Socrates. Although Plato's writings do not speculate on the structure of the universe, they do bring into question the nature of our beliefs and put forth an appeal for the pursuit of truth being the noblest cause of humanity.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) - Aristotle laid out the intellectual process for the scientific method. For Aristotle the world he observed demonstrated a well defined natural order with all things having a specific purpose for their existance. By observation nature could be understood through a logical process and was outside the need of devine influence for its justifcation.
The four Aristotelian causes set up a method of objective analysis and testing that allowed future sciences to develop:
For anything to exist as a fact a demonstration of syllogistic proof was needed for its acceptance into the larger body of knowlege.