The Ancient Greek and Roman gods were not like our modern conception of deities. Instead of being all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, they were subject to the very same frailties that govern so many of our lives. They could be capricious and cruel, loving and loyal, and reckless and brash. They could inflict appalling damage on living and breathing humans just for a bet, to prove a point to a fellow deity, or simply because the mood struck them and they darn well felt like it. Unsurprisingly, this meant that a lot of people worshiped them very hard, because falling out of their favor could have absolutely dreadful consequences, and you didn't even have to wait until the afterlife to experience them.
All of this, of course, means that the Greek and Roman gods make for absolutely brilliant storytelling. Their tales have been told and retold for literally thousands of years. They have been used as the basis for everything from Homer's "Iliad" - the second story ever told (the first being "Gilgamesh") - to Neil Gaiman's TV show, "American Gods."
Their tales have helped societies to process their problems, avoid mistakes and figure out who we want to be through examining our best and worst selves at their most powerful. This is why the gods continue to capture our imaginations - and of course, it's why you're surely so familiar that you're going to score full marks on this quiz!
Eros is the Greek god of love -- all-encompassing, from passion to fertility. Like his Roman equivalent, Cupid, he's often depicted as a mischievous boy with a bow and arrow.
Before there were the deities, according to Greek mythology, there was a primeval state of existence known as Chaos. From the nothingness of Chaos came the first gods, Gaia (goddess of the Earth) and Tartarus (god of the Underworld), and Nyx (goddess of the night) and Erebus (god of darkness). According to some accounts, Eros, the god of sexual love, is also a primordial god.
Zeus was the youngest of six kids, Hades, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera and Hestia -- born to Cronus and Rhea. After he and his brothers grew up and assassinated their father, Zeus rose to rule over both mortals and the gods of Olympus.
It's a story told again and again in the classical world -- and in the modern world, Jason and the Argonauts continue to appear in literature, film, and television. As the story goes, Jason set sail with a group known as the Argonauts, which included Castor and Pollux, Heracles, and Orpheus among others, to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the (mythical) land of the Kingdom of Colchis. With Medea, the daughter of the King of Colchis, Jason succeeds.
Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions -- which is why our first month of the year, January, is named for him. He's usually depicted as two-faced, each looking opposite directions, and often you'll see sculptures of Janus in doorways.
The Dii Consentes was a list of 12 major Roman deities, split into six gods -- Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Neptune, Vulcan, and Apollo, and six goddesses -- Juno, Vesta, Minerva, Ceres, Diana, and Venus. And it was Greek mythology that is believed to have influenced this: The idea for the pantheon of Ancient Rome came from the 12 Olympians.
The ancient Roman temple dedicated to all the major Roman deities was called The Pantheon, which means, "honor all gods." Since the 7th century, the building has been used as a church -- and it's considered the best-preserved of all the remaining ancient Roman structures.
Mount Olympus appears in Greek mythology, but it's a real place -- in fact it's the highest mountain in Greece. It was home to the Greek gods, specifically its highest peak known as Mytikas.
The Harpies were what's called hybrids: They were most often depicted as birds with female human heads, or as ancient Roman poet Virgil described them, "bird-bodied, girl-faced things they are." They were considered the spirits of the wind, specifically sudden gusts -- and they were also called "the hounds of Zeus" because were dispatched by the god to bring him things -- and people -- from among the mortals.
If you've ever thought your task was "Sisyphean," you can thank this mythological Greek king. Sisyphus was punished by the gods for betraying Zeus and for cheating death. Condemned to the underworld, he was destined to one futile task: push a boulder up a mountain, only to watch it roll back down.
The Aetos Dios -- "Eagle of Zeus" -- was a giant, golden eagle, that according to Greek mythology had once been Periphas, the mortal king of Attica, before Zeus changed him.
The story of Romulus and Remus is the story of the founding of Rome, and ancient Rome and its people were long-depicted with a symbol of the twins Romulus and Remus as infants being nursed by a wolf. But it's Romulus who goes on to found the city, solo, after killing his brother in an argument.
Bacchus is the name the Romans gave to the Greek god, Dionysus, when they adopted his mythology. Bacchus, like Dionysus, is the god of wine. He was the child of the Roman god Jupiter and Semele, a human, and born from his father's thigh.
Hades, in Greek mythology, was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. After the three brothers overthrew their father, they divided up rulership -- and Hades, often seen with his three-headed dog, Cerebus, went on to rule the underworld.
He had his hand in many things, but Hermes was primarily the messenger of the gods. Mercury in Roman mythology is based on Hermes, and Hermes was likely inherited from a similar Etruscan god.
Of the eight planets in our solar system, seven get their names from Greek and Roman mythology: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. It's Earth that's the exception. While we can't go back in time and ask, we do know that the word itself originates in Old English and German.
Apollo is the son of Jupiter and Latona in Roman mythology, and one of the 20 principal gods of Rome. He's one of the only gods who shares the same name with his counterpart in Greek mythology, who was one of the 12 Olympian gods of the Greeks.
Perseus is one of the legendary heroes of Greek mythology, but he didn't die in battle or at the tentacles of a monstrous sea creature. Perseus enjoyed a long reign as the King of Mycenae, and died of old age.
The Oneiroi were the children of Nyx, the Greek goddess of the night -- their siblings included Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death), among others. (In some tellings, the Oneiroi were the sons of Hypnus.) They were the gods of dreams, and often depicted as dark-winged spirits. And like many Greek deities, they have a Roman counterpart: Somnia.
In the ancient Roman religion, deities were grouped into triads, each including three deities for worship -- and, during the history of ancient Rome the grouping changed three times. The original group, called the Archaic Triad, included Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus.
The multi-headed serpent called the Lemaean Hydra is a mythological creature in both Greek and Roman mythologies, and battling the beast was nearly impossible because its heads would grow back if lopped off. Heracles (later spelled Hercules) killed the serpentine water monster with his sword -- to chop off his heads, and fire -- to cauterize the wounds so the heads couldn't regenerate, as part of the Twelve Labors he performed as penance for killing his wife and children.
Medusa was a fictional monster known as a Gorgon, with live, venomous snakes as her hair. In her story, people turn to stone when they look at her face -- even after she was beheaded by Perseus.
Like his Greek equivalent, Zeus, the Roman god Jupiter is the king of all the gods -- as well as the god of the sky and the god of thunder. Also called Jove, Jupiter is often depicted with his thunderbolt and sacred animal, the eagle.
The Sirens of Greek mythology are included in many Greek stories -- perhaps most recognizable in the works of both Homer and Virgil. Sirens were known to lure sailors to their deaths with seductive song.
In Greek mythology, the Nereids were water nymphs who protected sailors and fishermen, and came to the aid of those in distress in the sea. They numbered 50, maybe more, and were the daughters of the sea-god Nereus, called the "Old Man of the Sea" by Homer, and his Oceanid-nymph wife, Doris.
In Greek mythology, Centaurus was the father of a race of mythological creatures known as the centaurs. Centaurs were hybrids-- half-man, half horse.
The ancient Roman goddess Fortuna was the goddess of luck -- both good and bad. She ruled over the wheel of fortune, and was often depicted carrying the Horn of Plenty, a cornucopia.
The story of the mythical sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis, is the origin of our modern-day saying such as, "the lesser of two evils" and "between a rock and a hard place." The two lived at opposite ends of the Strait of Messina, the narrow waterway between Sicily and Italy. Six-headed Scylla was known to kill and eat sailors, and Charybdis, personified as a whirlpool, destroyed ships. Odysseus faced both, and despite losing some of his crew, made it out alive.
Saturn, son of Jupiter, was the god of agriculture and the harvest, and the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia was to honor him. It was a winter festival, celebrated annually between December 17-23, where Romans broke from their traditional social norms for days of partying, gambling and gift giving -- and that revelry included slaves.
In Greek mythology, Nike wasn't a brand of shoes -- she was the goddess of victory, and often depicted holding a palm branch. Originally in Roman mythology, she was an ancient Sabine goddess who was later identified with Nike and went on to become worshipped as a goddess of war.
Together, Carmenta, Egeria, Antevorta, and Postvorta were the Camenae. They were water nymphs, ruling over fountains, as well as goddesses of childbirth and prophecy.
Geographically, the underworld was said to be surrounded by five rivers: the Acheron, which was the river of woe); the Cocytus, which was the river of lamentation; the Phlegethon, the river of fire; the Lethe, which was the river of forgetfulness; and, the Styx, which separated the world of the living from the world of the dead. It's named for the Greek deity Styx, who was the daughter of Tethys and Oceanus, and the goddess of the River Styx.
Aurae, the Breezes, were the daughters of the Anemoi (who ruled over the cardinal directions of the wind). And the goddess Aura is the personification of the breeze -- usually a fresh, early morning breeze.
Despite what may seem to be similarity or overlap, Trivia was not the Roman incarnation of the Greek goddess, Hecate., who was the goddess of the witchcraft, the harvest moon, and of three-way crossroads. Trivia, yes, was the goddess of haunted crossroads, but also graveyards -- and sorcery. She was a goddess of the underworld, and known as the Queen of Ghosts.
The Trojan War is one of the most important events and frequently told stories from Greek mythology. The war was fought between the Greeks (called the Achaeans) and the city of Troy, after Paris of Troy took Helen, who was married to the King of Sparta, away with him. Although the war was considered part of the legend of ancient Greece, modern research has uncovered clues that suggest there may have been a real war at the time when the Trojan War is estimated to have taken place.