The Olympian Gods

In this week’s lesson, we explored the twelve Olympian Greek gods, their Roman counterparts and where our ideas about these gods come from. The twelve Olympian gods are well-known, with the final place in the pantheon being given sometimes to Dionysus and sometimes to Hestia.


They can be found depicted in ancient times on places like the Parthenon Frieze, a 160 metre long frieze that ran around the “cella” (statue room) of the temple. This beautiful frieze can now be found in the Acropolis Museum and it shows the celebration of a festival called the “Panathenaia” which honoured the goddess Athena and presented her with a new “peplos” (ancient Greek dress). the frieze depicts, amongst many other things, the Olympian gods relaxing with each other.


One of the earliest pieces of evidence we have for some of these gods comes from Mycenaean palace sites, where archaeologists have found tablets inscribed with a script known as Linear B.


We then moved on to look at a very different set of goddesses. We first looked at this clip, this clip and this clip from a film called The Adjustment Bureau. This features a group of men who appear to represent fate. They keep a close eye on everyone’s lives, and nudge people back in line if they are somehow veering away from their ‘plan’.


The ancient Greeks grappled, just as we do today, with the ideas of free will and destiny. They imagined that there were three goddesses of fate, Clotho, who spun the thread of someone’s life (each person’s life was represented by a thread), Lachesis, who allotted the path, and Atropos, who cut the thread and thus represented death.


One genealogy of the Fates (Moirai in Greek), imagines that they are the daughters of Zeus and Themis. This makes them seem under the control of Zeus and part of the civilised, more modern, Olympians.

Another genealogy traces the Fates as the daughters of the primeval goddess Nux (Night) and Erebus (Shadow), both much earlier, more mysterious deities who sprung directly from the Chaos at the start of ancient Greek creation.


For homework, please either:

a) Write an eye witness account of the last days of Knossos;


b) create a Minoan-inspired mural!

The homework is due on 5th October.


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