There are twelve Olympian gods, but at the dawn of the age of the gods, there were only six of them. The six were the children of the Titan King, Kronos and the Titan of motherhood, Rhea. (as we learnt in the last episode). The initial six Olympian gods were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. Let’s start with the firstborn, the first Olympian, Hestia. I know, people always assume Zeus is the firstborn because he is the god of the sky. He is not! Zeusie is the last born. Let’s have a look at the three first ladies of Olympus.
Big sister Hestia was Kronos’ and Rhea’s first child– the first Olympian, but she was the last to be hurled out of Kronos’ belly. Hestia was very simple-natured and she wasn’t power-driven like most of her siblings. She was very similar to her mother Rhea. She was the god sitting in a less obvious place while her siblings bickered. In fact, some records left out Hestia as an Olympian, which may be true to an extent. Hestia left her throne to Dionysus, son of Zeus and chose to tend to the fire of Olympus. Although, Hestia was always portrayed as a woman wrapped in plain brown cloth, seated by the hearth. It is also possible that she never had a throne to start with.
Hestia is a virgin goddess; she never got married or had any children. Instead, she dedicated her life to taking care of her family. She is the goddess of hearth. Not much record of Hestia exists but some legends recorded that she helped the Titan Prometheus bring fire to the humans, which could also be true. I mean, hearth, the fireplace was her territory and she never left her post. See, at that time, humans had not even developed past the baboon stage and there was only one hearth, the one in Olympus that Hestia was responsible for.
After Prometheus created the first set of humans, he thought he could help their civilization if he gave them fire. He asked for Zeus’ permission to take part of Olympus’ fire and he refused, but that didn’t stop Prometheus. He stole the fire. Some legends believed Hestia allowed him to take part of the fire. Anyway, Zeus found out what Prometheus did and chained him to a rock on the edge of the world. Then, he summoned an eagle to feast on Prometheus’s liver every day. So when the eagle ate his liver during the day, being a Titan, he could heal himself and grow another liver overnight, but the eagle was coming to enjoy a freshly-grown liver the next morning. Cruel punishment for helping, right? And that wasn’t the Olympians’ worse punishment.
Demeter is all about grains and cereals! She is the goddess of harvest, grains and cereals. If not for Aunty Dee, there won’t be Weetabix! I can’t imagine. She was sweet and all grainy but don’t mess with her. There was this one dude who wanted to cut down the sacred tree of Demeter. She cursed the guy to never be satisfied. Meaning, no matter how much he ate or drank, he would forever be hungry.
We can’t talk about Demeter and not mention Persephone, her daughter whom her life mostly revolved around. Demeter was all grains and no boys until the horniest Olympian, Uncle Zeusie just had to have his way. He had a major crush on Demeter who had pledged to live her eternity as a farmer and the goddess of agriculture. When Zeus, who was her brother by the way (I know, super gross), asked her out and she refused, Demeter turned into a snake to get away from him. Zeus is that guy who doesn’t take no for an answer, so he transformed into a snake too and caught up with Demeter-the-Snake— you can imagine what happened after that; the word “rape” was created.
Months later, Aunty Dee gave birth to beautiful Persephone who also didn’t have a good charm with men. Of all the eligible bachelors that existed then, the one that chose Persephone was, Hades.
Persephone grew into a beautiful girl that loved flowers (the first Snow White) always singing and dancing with the birds as she picked flowers. Hades stalked her for months and finally kidnapped her to the Underworld. Ohhhhh! Demeter went John Wick on the world! No grain or crops grew. Humans starved, unable to make offerings to the gods which affected the gods. So, daddy-Uncle Zeus had no choice but to send Hermes, the messenger of the gods to retrieve Persephone from the Underworld. This would have been a successful and easy mission because Hades could not refuse Zeus’s order. However, Persephone already did long-throat and ate a pomegranate from the garden Hades made for her in the Underworld. Eating there meant you can’t leave, so when Hermes got there, things were a little complicated, considering the situation up there wasn’t good. But let’s get one thing right, Hades loved Persephone! He was very happy she couldn’t leave him. When Demeter heard what had happened in the Underworld, she turned Hades’ gardener into an undead-wall gecko. Sleek!
Zeus was caught between Hades’ threats that Persephone must stay because she had eaten from the Underworld and Demeter wanted her daughter back, no questions! Hestia provided a solution that Persephone spend two-third of every year with Demeter and one third in the Underworld with Hades. Zeus took Hestia’s suggestion and Persephone fell in love with Hades. So Persephone’s father was also her uncle. Welcome to Olympus, people!
Demeter really had rotten luck with her brothers. I wish it was just Zeus but nope, Poseidon fell in line too. When she refused Poseidon’s proposal, she transformed into a horse to get away from him. This is funny because Poseidon created horses. Poseidon transformed into a horse and another Zeus Episode took place, while they were in their horse form!
Poor Demeter gave birth to a set of twins…wait for it… one was a stallion, (typical) the other twin was a girl named Despoine. Despoine became the high priestess of Demeter in her temple, while the stallion brother was named Arion, the immortal horse. He made cameos in a few Greek heroes’ stories.
Now, Hera! Hera is what I will call a no-nonsense goddess. She was the embodiment of beauty, sass, attitude, revenge and don’t-mess-with-me-you-won’t-get-away-with-it! Every record described her as the most beautiful Olympian goddess. She was the queen goddess of Olympus, wife of Zeus (who was also her brother but let’s try to get over that.) Hera is the goddess of marriage, family and childbirth. Being a goddess of marriage, she married wrong by marrying Zeus who was not the faithful type. This made Hera vindictive. She adopted the role of the wicked step-mother to a lot of Zeus’ offspring.
When you think your husband is cheating on you, just call Hera, she is always a diabolical punishment away. She disliked cheating! And Zeus was the leading man in that.
Before Zeus started scratching his itch, Hera had three children for Zeus, Ares the god of war, Eileithyia the goddess of childbirth and Hebe the goddess of eternal youth. After a few hundred years, Zeus got bored with just Hera. Hera tried to keep her cool like a good wife, hoping Zeus would come back to his senses but that never happened. That was when he became the designated wicked-stepmother for all Zeus’s children apart from the ones she had for him.
Starting from a Princess in the Greek city of Thebes, she was called Semele. Hera found out Zeus had been secretly seeing the princess and decided to pay her a visit disguised as a mortal woman. She went to Semele—a very pregnant Semele—as an old friend. Hera, being a classic woman, didn’t fight her head-on, instead, she convinced Semele to ask Zeus to prove his love to her by appearing to her in his true god form. When Zeus came back, Semele did as Hera asked. Zeus refused at first because seeing a god in their true form, in all their glory is like standing next to a radioactive-supernova sun, but Zeus already promised on River Styx (a river in the Underworld. All promises made on that must be fulfilled).
Well, Princess Semele was vaporized when Zeus showed her his god form but his premature child survived. Zeus took the baby and… wait for it…. He made a cut on his thigh with his lightning bolt, hide the premature baby there and closed the cut. Months later, when it was time for the baby to be born, Zeus simply opened the cut on his thigh again and a bouncing baby boy named Dionysus was born! We will get to his story later.
Hold on, Hera’s revenge is not over. There was this one-time Zeus had an affair. The woman had died and his son was all grown-up before Hera found out about it. As punishment for his mother dying before she could get to her, Hera killed the entire citizen of the island the son resided on. She poisoned the only water source the island had.
I mean, it was always Zeus’ fault but the women and their children were the ones who always got in trouble with Hera. You don’t want to be in trouble with Hera. Overall, though, she was kind and very compassionate— if you don’t cheat or try to break up a family, you and Hera are cool.
On the next episode, we will have a look at the first macho men of Olympus, Hades, Poseidon and Zeusie—sorry, Zeus.