Greek MythologyMythology

The Nature of the Gods in Greek Mythology

Largely thanks to modern emphasis on good vs. evil styles of storytelling and our need to see everything as an either/or black/white divide, we tend to have this idea about gods in Greek mythology as well. And pop culture doesn’t help. It’s always so desperate to paint Hades as ‘evil’ and the Olympians as ‘good’, or at least heroic. None of those interpretations really fit with the mythology as it came down to us, in any of the sources.

I’m not saying that good and evil are human constructs and the gods were beyond that or anything. I’m saying that the gods were more. They were very “human”, having a society, bodies, relationships, etc. All of their actions and emotions, good or evil, could essentially be seen as aspects of humanity writ large.

Look at some of their interactions, both with each other and with humans. They could be benevolent, kind, loving, cruel, petty, angry, etc. They often behaved like people behaved on a larger scale and with divine powers. They just represented different aspects of reality and the human experience. For example, Hades was feared and respected for his role as Lord of the Underworld, but he was never regarded as evil because of it. Some were certainly terrifying and unpleasant (Erinyes, for example) but they all had roles in the cosmic balance and none were really evil. 

Or good, for that matter. They were all capable of things that we would consider both. And because they were both so very ‘human’ and powerful, their actions took place on a sometimes-cosmic scale.

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