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Who are The Hellenes? Greek Mythology in All its Glory

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Last updated on March 2nd, 2021 at 02:27 pm

Greek Mythology is familiar to most people on Earth, it wasn’t the oldest but undoubtedly is the most famous and the richest of all.

It may borrow some tales from preexisting mythologies but it evolved them and made them beautiful stories that will remain forever.

Hellas was and is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The Hellenes have a long history and an endless culture that created and shaped almost everything that we know today. That is why Hellas considered the cradle of the so-called western civilization.

Coast in Greece
Coast in Greece

Α diverse land shaped by the wild fury of nature and the intense geological activity that is constantly still changing it. That’s why you can find some unbelievable landscapes making you feel they are out of this world, and thousands of islands with distinct characteristics that don’t exist elsewhere.

Only a land of this variety and beauty can inspire its people to imagine and create such fantastic stories!

But why we call Greece Hellas and who are the Hellenes?

Well, the question is wrong and should be reversed!

It should be as:

Why we call Hellas Greece and Who are the Hellenes?

Hellenes and Hellas

Note here that the name Hellen has nothing to do with Helen of Troy, but Hellen (written with two ll), was the first son of Defkalion.

And the Flood of Defkalion was the start of the Hellenic civilization according to Hesiod’s cosmogony.

A common factor in almost all mythologies is the fact that they meddle myths with historic reality, you don’t know what is true and what’s fictional.

There were people living and thriving in the Aegean islands of Cyclades and Crete for many centuries before the Achaeans, the first Greek civilization in Mycenae.

In the Cyclades, the Pelasgians created the first European civilization dated back to 3000 years BCE.

There are not many things known about them except that they had a written language using linear A script, a not decrypted script yet.  Later they used Linear B, obviously an evolution of Linear A.

Linear B is decrypted and can be understood, it is a syllabic writing system revealing Greek words and Greek names when read.

We still don’t know the exact relation between Pelasgians and Greeks.

The same civilization on the island of Crete is known as the Minoans, from the name of their most famous king Minos. Minoans also used the Linear B writing system as the Mycaeneans also did.

Greek Mythology - The flood
Greek Mythology – The flood

The Flood of Defkalion

Here is the part of Cosmogony that explains the origin of the Greeks(Hellenes), hence the origin of the name of the Hellenes and Hellas.

Flood of Defkalion
Flood of Defkalion

Greek Cosmogony although a fairy tale is more entertaining than the bible’s boring cosmogony.

The tales passed from generation to generation with a degree of skew or beautification each time.

Here we go!

After a terrible flood (not that of Noah), Hellenic civilization disappeared and only two survivors remained.

Defkalion and Pyrah.

Defkalion was the son of Titan Prometheus who created the human species and gave them the fire.

Pyrah was his wife, the daughter of Pandora, the first woman created by the gods.

How many of you know the name Pandora? many I’m sure.

Before the flood, Prometheus advised his son Defkalion, when he reigned in Thessaly, to build a large ark, to fill it with supplies, and to pray for the best.

Soon the heavens opened and the earth flooded. The ark with Defkalion and Pyrah rained for 9 days and nights until it ran aground on the top of Mount Parnassus. From here they had a good view of Delphi, where later the famous Oracle was.

Delphi considered the navel, the center of the earth, as the ancient Hellenes believed.

Does all this remind you of the biblical version of Noah’s ark? Sure it does, it’s the same myth.

The first Hellenes after the Flood

After rescued, the couple received an order from the God of Gods Dias(Jupiter). They should collect as many stones as they could and throw them behind their back.

The stones that Defkalion threw became men and stones threw by Pyrah became women.

They were the first Hellenes to repopulate Hellas.

The first stone of Defkalion became a man named Hellen or Hellenas, who in turn had many children. Among his children were Aeolus, Dorus, Xuthus, and Ion.

They became the ancestors of the Greek tribes of Aeolians, Dorians, Achaeans, and Ionians respectively.

They were all called Hellenes, and their land was Hellas.

Nice story for children, isn’t it?

Ancient Myths and The Hellenic(Greek) Mythology

Greek Mythology
Greek Mythology

We, the Hellenes, have our Cosmogony, which is part of Hellenic(Greek) mythology.

Greek mythology, without a doubt, is the richest of all with the most tales and myths by far. There is no natural thing in this world without a deity behind it. The ancient Greeks left absolutely nothing without a mythological explanation.

The tales are so many that if someone wants to gather them all in books it needs a lifetime to do it.

Stories are deeply human, with gods, humans, heroes, semi-gods, good and bad monsters, all of them full of passions, defects, and human weaknesses. Greek Mythology has nothing to do with any religion since it interprets everything with humans and not God at its center.

See some of the nicest Greek myths here, it’s really worth reading some of these beautiful stories. As Love, Passion, Terror, Sins, Life and Death, the unexpected, betrayal, self-sacrifice, remorse, happiness, misery are all included!

Greek Mythology and its legacy

Greek mythology is the source of most myths borrowed later by monotheistic religions and adapted to every monotheistic religion’s purposes.

The myth of the flood of Deucalion borrowed by the Jews to construct the tale of the flood of Noah. The God Sun also borrowed to form their God.

In the traditions of the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean, India, Mesopotamia, Scandinavia, and Central America, there are at least two dozen Gods who experienced the drama of death and redemption of the resurrection. Long before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Odin of the Vikings, Ganesha and Krishna in India, Leminkaiken, Tamuz, Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs, Mithras, and dozens of others killed and resurrected. So say the mythologies and the same says the Bible about Jesus Christ.

But one of the biggest legacies of Greek Mythology is the huge pool of tales that inspire until today. Science still draw names from mythology’s endless name list to name newly discovered planets and other space objects.

Greek Cosmogony

Every ancient religion has a kind of Cosmogony. The Greek cosmogony is quite rich in stories, with wars between Gods and Titans, most of them really funny and naive.

These tales were passed from generation to generation and skewed from mouth to mouth.

Cosmogony was an epic poem written by Hesiodos (Hesiod).

Hesiod was an epic poet like Homer. He collected all the tales and around 700 BCE wrote an epic poem, the Cosmogony. Long after the two epic poems of Homer who wrote Iliad and Odyssey around 762 BCE, and long after the Trojan war.

Hesiod tried to collect all the myths that circulated in Greece regarding the creation of the world. Ηe also tried to decipher the genealogical tree of the gods out of these myths.

Order out of Chaos – The Primordial Gods

In the beginning, there were only three autogenous elements, Chaos, Gaia (Earth), and Eros.

Eros does not give birth to any offspring himself but unites the other two elements and helps them to give birth to their offspring.

So, from Chaos that is a deity without sex, Erebus and Night are born, which in turn gave birth to Etheras and Hemera(Day).

Gaia(Mother Earth) gives birth without fertilization to Uranus, Pontus, and the Mountains. In essence, Gaia creates the world and the Universe by creating its characteristics.

From the unification of Gaia(Earth) with Uranus, the Titans were born, Cronus(Saturn), Koios, Kreios, Hyperion, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys.

Also, the Cyclops and the Hundred-hands creatures were born.

The Titans

Cronus, the strongest and the leader of Titans defeats his father Uranus and takes over his power, he cuts his genitals and throws them into the sea near the coast of Cyprus. From the sperm inside them, Aphrodite is born who comes out of the sea naked.

From the blood of Uranus the Erinyes, the Giants, and the Melies are born.

Cronus takes his sister Rhea as his wife.

But the defeated Uranus had prophesied that his son Cronus would also be defeated by one of his children.

Cronus trying to eliminate the danger decides to eat his children, in fact, to swallow them alive.

So Rhea continuously gives birth and Cronus swallows his children one after another. Dimitra(Demeter), Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon were all eaten by their father Cronus.

When the 6th child Dias(Jupiter) born, Rhea hid the baby in a cave on Mount Dikti in Crete and gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to swallow.

The Gods

Dias or Zeus grows up with the help of the Nymphs who raised the newborn feeding him with the milk of a goat.

Soon he became strong enough to challenge his father and force him to take his brothers out of his womb.

Thus is formed the group of gods led by Dias(Zeus) that comes into war with the group of the Titans of Cronus. We have the first War of the Titans. The Great Titanomachy lasted for 10 years.

The Gods of Zeus prevailed, and the defeated Titans exiled in Tartara(Tartarus), a dark and miserable place very far away from the Earth.

Gods had to face another challenge though, the Giants.

There was another war, the Gigantomachy that lasted equally long.

Finally, the gods beat them all and settled on the top of Olympus mountain from where they ruled the world.

Gods and other Deities

Greek Gods and Goddesses are countless. There were deities for every natural phenomenon, rain, night, moon, trees, lakes, rivers, mountains, sea, storms, thunder, love, hate, fear, passion, betrayal, jealousy, literally anything you can think of. Also, the tales behind them are thousands.

Ancient Greeks saw their Gods as humans with all kinds of human defects, human weaknesses, and passions.

The 12 Olympian Gods – The Greek Pantheon

Olympus mountain is in Thessaly, a region north of Thermopylae, and it is the highest mountain in Greece. It was the home of the 12 ruling Gods.

The 12 Olympian gods were the following 14!
(Hephaestus wasn’t a permanent Olympus resident and Hestia gave up her Olympian throne in favor of Dionysus. God’s tricks!)

1- Dias or Zeus (Jupiter in Roman)

He was the son of the Titan Cronus (Saturn in Roman) and Rhea, daughter of the Gaia(Earth). He overthrew his father, Cronus, king of the Titans, and became the leader of the Gods comprising mostly of his siblings and children. His wife was Hera known for her jealousy, as Dias was always unfaithful to her.

He controlled the lightning and used it as the tool of his strength.

2- Poseidon (Neptune in Roman)

The God of the sea, horses, and earthquakes. He had the trident as a tool and many strange children. Among them were the flying horse Pegasus and the one-eye Cyclop Polyphemus.

3- Hermes (Mercury in Roman)

The winged messenger of the Gods, but he was also involved in many spheres. He was the protector of animals and associated with fertility, music, luck, and deception.

4- Hera (Juno in Roman)

The queen goddess, sister, and wife to Dias. She was almost always jealous and not without a reason.

5- Hades (Pluto in Roman)

The lord of the underworld or the world of the dead. Husband of Persephone. Ηe had to give Persephone magic pomegranate seeds so she could manage to stay with him for a part of the year.

6- Dionysus (Bacchus in Roman)

Son of Zeus born to a mortal woman. Zeus accidentally killed his mother before Dionysus was born. In order to save his son Zeus sewed the young infant into his thigh and, when the young Dionysus emerged, passed him to the care of the Maenads. Dionysus is symbolized by a bull and he is the God of sex, celebrations, and wine.

7- Demeter (Ceres in Roman)

Demeter, the Goddess of agriculture, was the mother of Persephone who was the wife of Hades. Demeter is related to the Eleusinian Mysteries, the most important religious rites in ancient Greece.

8- Apollo

Brother of Artemis, Son of Zeus. He is the God of music, light, protector of the arts, and divination.

9- Ares (Mars in Roman)

Ares is the Greek god of war and son of Zeus and Hera.

10- Artemis (Diana in Roman)

Artemis is one of the oldest, most complex, and the most interesting forms of the Greek pantheon. Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Twin sister of Apollo, queen of mountains and forests, goddess of hunting, protector of children and animals.

11- Athena (Minerva in Roman)

Athena was the goddess of wisdom, the olive trees, strategy, and war.

She was the beloved daughter of Zeus. Her mother was Metis, the first wife of Zeus.

Zeus after prophecy learned that Metis would give birth to a child who would overthrow his father, so he swallowed Metis while she was pregnant in Athena.

Later, Zeus began to suffer from headaches and called on Hephaestus for help. So Hephaestus with a big hammer hit the head of Zeus and Athena came out from Zeus’ head in armor, wearing helmets and holding a shield.

12- Aphrodite (Venus in Roman)

Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, sexuality, pleasure, and childbearing.

According to Hesiod, in his Theogony, Aphrodite born from the foam of the sea (hence her name as the foam is Aphros in Greek) when Saturn cut off the genitals of Uranus (his father) and threw them into the sea. The foam pushed by Zephyrus to the coast of Cyprus, Aphrodite came out of the sea naked on the shores of Paphos.

There are more tales about the birth and later life of Aphrodite, many of them contradictory.

13- Hephaestus (Vulcan in Roman)

God of fire and the great metalworker. He was the son of Zeus and Hera. Despite his ugliness and deformation, he married Aphrodite who frequently cheated on him with her lover Ares, the god of war. He could visit Olympus, but he didn’t live there, most of the time he stayed at home, the island of Lemnos where he had his workshop.

14- Hestia (Roman Vesta)

She was the goddess of the house, fireside, and family, she gave up her Olympian throne to Dionysus.

Other deities

Those were the 12 most important gods of the Greek pantheon, but as we said before, ancient Greeks had thousands of deities, anything natural or unexplained represented by a deity.

It is not worth mentioning every deity, every monster, every human-form monster, or a human-animal hybrid of Greek mythology because they are countless.

Roman Imposition of Christianity

Hellenes were always a danger for the early Roman Empire because they were free minds. They didn’t believe in the lies of the new religion.

The emperors, used persecutions, massacres, and destruction of ancient monuments. They burned libraries where the ancient knowledge was and stopped Human progress. Oppression and many other atrocities used against the Hellenes.

The first historical destruction of the Parthenon took place in 4th-century CE by Christian fanatics. This is a historical fact that is shamelessly hidden by our educational system.

Acropolis Parthenon - Destruction by Christians
Acropolis Parthenon – Destruction by Christians

But the Greek culture prooven too strong to suppress and the Emperors had to do more to get rid of the danger of Hellenism. And they did. They changed our name.

A name used by the Romans for the Hellenes of Southern Italy was Graecus.

Hellas and the inhabitants named Graecia(Greece) and Graecus respectively after this name. In order to eliminate the word Hellas and minimize any danger to the new religion as the Hellenes identified as Pagans.

It is well known that the word Hellenes was strictly forbidden for several centuries in the Roman and later the Byzantine Empire.

Thus the Latin names Graecia and Graecus prevailed later on in Romance languages, ​​for both the land and its inhabitants.

The correct name for Greece is Hellas

Therefore this is the correct name for the Greeks, they should be called Hellenes, and their land Hellas.

In 1827 the Greeks gained their freedom from the Ottomans. The European public opinion of the Philhellenes wished to name the new country Hellas. It would be easy, as Iran did with Persia, to have Greece changed to Hellas internationally.

But the Greek church totally opposed the international name Hellas for the new nation. It was a name reminiscent of the old Hellenic legacy and in the minds of the priests, the pagan religion.

So, Why it doesn’t happen now although the name Hellas is the only name in use inside the country among Hellenes?

Such a decision, the change of the international name of a country, is a very serious matter and has its pros and cons. By the time most people believe that it will be a very difficult task with contradictory results, and they agree that the gain will not be that big and therefore it is not worth the effort.

I just have a thought

If all of us who maintain websites change the word Greece, where it exists, with the word Hellas, what is going to happen?

It’s just a thought though, don’t take it seriously.

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