Character Traits of the Greek Gods

Written by julia drake
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Character Traits of the Greek Gods
Zeus had a domineering personality. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Ancient Greeks depicted their gods in anthropomorphic, or human, form. Greek gods not only looked like humans, they also had human character traits. The Greeks idealised their deities and gave them superhuman powers, according to "Classical Mythology," by Mark P.O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon. They also gave their deities with physical and spiritual weaknesses that mirrored human weaknesses. Greek gods and goddesses embody many character traits that are familiar to humans.


Conflicts permeate Greek myths, and Greek deities often seek to punish the gods or mortals that have tricked or rejected them. In one Greek myth the benefactor of humankind, Prometheus, tricks the god Zeus by stealing the gift of fire from the deity. In his rage, Zeus punishes Prometheus by chaining him to a rock and having an eagle eat at his liver. In a Trojan saga, the god Apollo bestows the gift of prophecy upon King Priam's daughter, Cassandra. After Cassandra rejects Apollo's romantic advances, he seeks to punish her. Apollo allows her to keep her prophetic gift, but he makes sure that no one will ever believe her prophecies.


Many Greek deities are inventive; they at times will use their imaginations to create objects that will benefit humankind. In one Greek myth, Athena and Poseidon compete to see who will become the patron deity of Athens. Athena creates an olive tree, while Poseidon creates a salt spring. Athenians vote for Athena's olive tree, since it provides them with more diverse uses than Poseidon's spring. Athena's invention leads her to become the patron deity of Athens. The ancient Greeks also attribute the origins of their musical instruments to their gods. For instance, they credit Pan with creating the windpipes, Athena, the flute and Hermes, the lyre.


Certain Greek deities act in clever ways to escape challenging or difficult situations. Zeus' father, Cronus, decides to devour his children so they won't grow up and overthrow him in the future. To protect her remaining unborn child, Cronus' wife, Rhea, hides Zeus after he is born and then wraps a stone in her son's blankets to give to Cronus to eat. By tricking Cronus, Rhea saves her son from his father. Hermes is another god who uses his wits to escape challenges. After a young Hermes steals Apollo's cattle, Apollo confronts the trickster god to punish him. Hermes, however, uses his clever words and his musical instrument, the lyre, to sway Apollo to forgive him.


In Greek mythology gods and goddesses can be amorous or romantic, and some deities even vie for the affection of humans. For example, the moon goddess, Selene, falls in love with a young shepherd named Endymion. Selene's infatuation with the man leads her to neglect her duties of driving her chariot across the sky each night. Eos, goddess of the dawn, is another goddess who longs for mortals. Although the goddess of love, Aphrodite, is married to the god Hephaestus, Aphrodite has an affair with the god of war, Ares. One day Aphrodite catches Eos in bed with Ares, so Aphrodite curses Eos to long perpetually for young mortal men. Helios, the sun god, is the brother of the goddess, Selene. His myths tell of him pursuing different lovers, including the sea nymph, Clymene, and the Eastern Persian princess, Leucothoe.

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