Greek MythologyMythology

5 Gods You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Greek mythology has a lot of gods. Like, a lot. And many of them don’t show up in popular myths. It’s not that they’re not important (though ‘important’ is relative) but because they play more of a background role in a lot of stories. Or their influence, though wide-reaching, is very subtle. But they’re interesting, so let’s remedy that! Here are 5 gods you’ve (probably) never heard of.

Table of Contents

1. Erebus

Taurus Molecular Cloud 1 - Flickr - kees scherer

Erebus was one of the first beings, predating even the titans. If it’s appropriate to refer to someone so ancient and powerful as just a ‘god’, then he was the god of primordial darkness. Primordial. Darkness. He predates and was actually the father of daylight, the goddess Hemera. Despite that, he’s not anthropomorphized. The image of deep space above is all I could think of to represent him.

2. Momus

1561 v. Heemskerck Momus tadelt die Werke der Goetter

You may never have heard of Momus, but if you’re an avid social media user, you’ve probably enjoyed his work. He was one of Nyx’s sons that she birthed parthenogenically. He was the god of satire and mockery, able to find fault in the work of the gods.

Momus was selected to judge the competition, for he was still living among the gods at that time. Given that Momus was inclined to dislike them all, he immediately started to criticize…

Aesop’s Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World’s Classics): Oxford, 2002.

While amusing, there was a dark side to his domain. At least one ancient poem put him at fault for starting the Trojan War!

3. Tartarus

Punishment sisyph

I’m sure you know this name, but what you may not know is that before it referred to a specific part of the underworld, it was actually the name of a god. We simply don’t know much about him at all. Most of what we have is genealogical. Per Hyginus, he was the son of Aether and Gaia. Per Hesiod, he was the third being to exist and was the father of Typhon. From that, we can infer that he was incredibly powerful. And the fact that his name came to be used to describe a region of the underworld where people were tortured eternally, he was likely feared. But we don’t know about any worship of him or any cults. Any depictions at all are always of Tartarus the place, like the above image of Sisyphus being punished in Tartarus.

4. Epimetheus

Prometheus and Epimetheus before Pandora by Hermann Julius Schlösser

Prometheus was a twin. He had a brother who was his exact opposite. Whereas Prometheus represented foresight, Epimetheteus represented hindsight. He shows up in mythology much less frequently, though Hesiod does mention him as the one who accepted the gift of Pandora from the gods. It is assumed that he married her. He was also mentioned in one of Plato’s dialogs, Protagoras:

321b-c

Now Epimetheus, being not so wise as he might be, heedlessly squandered his stock of properties on the brutes; he still had left unequipped the race of men, and was at a loss what to do with it.

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 3 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1967.

presumably, this was a known myth.

5. Paean

Lycian Apollo Louvre Ma928 n3

A sculpture of Apollo, who absorbed Paean’s role. To my knowledge, there’s no art depicting Paean

Gods and goddess often got merged into each other when they occupied similar or related domains. Often the name of one would become the title or epithet of another. That’s what happened here. Paean was the divine physician on Olympus and later conflated with Apollo. We know he existed as a separate entity at some point, as the following two excepts show:

Hom. Il. 5.899-900

He spake, and bade Paeëon heal his hurt; [900] and Paeëon spread thereon simples that slay pain, and healed him; for verily he was in no wise of mortal mould.

Homer. The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.

And one of Hesiod’s fragments shows him as someone separate from Apollo

“Unless Phoebus Apollo should save him from death, or Paean himself who knows the remedies for all things.”

We know he existed as a separate entity at some point, but in the later stories, his name just became an epithet for Apollo or Asclepius.

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