Animals have different roles and functions in ancient Greece. There are numerous mythological traditions where animals often act as gods. Animals can also serve a symbolic purpose, for example, owls symbolize wisdom and are synonymous with Athena, and dolphins are always used to indicate the presence of Poseidon.
The gods of Greece are known to dwell in the natural world alongside humans. These gods have some animals that are considered sacred to them because the animal’s characteristics resemble the god’s power. This article will present and discuss the animals that are considered the most sacred to the Greek gods.
Sacred animals of the gods
Symbolism is a vital instrument in most religions. Symbols in religion are used to pass values associated with religious principles. With symbols, different animals are associated with different gods for various reasons. Let’s take a look at the animals each Greek god has:
Zeus’ sacred animals: Eagle, Bull
The famous Olympian king Zeus was the father of gods, the god of sky and lightning. He is also known for his ability to transform into various animals. always transform into various animals whenever he is chasing women in desire.
Zeus kidnaps the attractive young man Ganymede in the form of an eagle while he transforms into a bull when abducting the young Europa. In many historical pieces, Zeus is always represented with a golden feathered eagle known as Aetos Dios, this eagle serves as his messenger and companion beside his throne.
Hera sacred animals: Peacock, cuckoo, and cow
Hera is the wife of Zeus and also the Queen of all gods. She is particularly worshiped by women. She is in control over marriage and childbirth and is represented by cows, peacocks, and cuckoos.
The cow is the major animal considered most sacred to Hera because it represented nurturing and protection for her young. The Cuckoo symbolizes her beauty while the peacock symbolizes her love for her husband.
Poseidon’s sacred animals: horse, dolphin, the Cretan bull
Poseidon was known as the god of the sea, and earthquakes. He has three animals associated with and sacred to him.
The most sacred animal to Poseidon was a horse which symbolizes beauty, valor, and prowess. He fathered many horses including the famous winged horse, Pegasus. other animals associated with Poseidon are the dolphin and Cretan bull.
Apollo sacred animals: cow, hawk, snake, crow, Cicada, and Swan.
Apollo, the god of music and art is associated with different animals.Cicada was considered sacred to Apollo because of its connection with music during the summer.Just like Zeus, Apollo uses hawks ravens, and crows as his messengers.
Another animal that was considered sacred to Apollo is the cow. He possesses the famous cattle that the god of the sun (Helios) was looking over and which Hermes stole when he was born
Athena’s sacred animals: owl, and goose
Athena is widely known as the goddess of wisdom and righteous war. Her major sacred animal is the owl because the owl is considered very cunning, deadly, and wise.
The owl symbolizes the goddess’s ability to see through the eyes of wisdom.Another animal that is more rarely considered sacred to Athena is the goose, an intelligent bird.
Hermes sacred animals: Tortoise and Ram
Hermes was the god of traders, the messenger of the gods, and the protector of athletes. He was associated with Tortoise and Ram.
He is widely known for constructing the first lyre from a tortoise shell. He later gifted the lyre to Apollo as gratitude for stealing his cattle.It was believed that he turn away the pestilence that was threatening the people of Tangara. He did this by carrying a ram on his shoulder and cycling the town’s wall.
Artemis’ sacred animals: Deer and Wild boar
Artemis is the goddess of hunting and wilderness. Her major sacred animal is the deer. According to myth, she fell in love with some deer with shining golden horns.
She captured and harnessed them into her chariot. She names them the Elaphoi Khrysokeroi.It was also known that the wild bear was sacred to the goddess since it is one of the favorite animals of hunters.
Ares sacred animals: Dog, Vulture, and Boar
Ares the god of war despises cowards and those who hesitated in battle. His most sacred animal is the dog. An animal that is very faithful but can sometimes be dangerous.
Another animal that is associated with Ares is the Boar because they are a fierce opponent that only heroes can deal with them.
He was also symbolized by vultures because they were considered to be birds of bad omen that would litter around the battlefield waiting to feast on dead bodies.
Demeter sacred animals: serpent, pig, and gecko
Demeter was the goddess of agriculture, rain, and harvest. Her most sacred animal is the serpent because it symbolizes fertility and regeneration.
She also keeps the pig as her sacred animal because pigs are farm animals. The pig is always used as a sacrifice to the goddess to ensure the fertility of the land.
Aphrodite sacred animals: swan, dove, and hare
The goddess of beauty and love had the dove as its most sacred animal. In many art representations, numerous doves are always shown pulling her chariot. Doves were frequently sacrificed to the goddess, especially during the aphrodisia festival. During this festival, priests will sacrifice a dove and use the blood to purify the goddess’s altar.Another animal considered to be sacred to Aphrodite is the swan which is a symbol of beauty. The goddess is always shown in pictures riding on the back of a swan.
Mythical creatures in Greek myth
Greek mythology is well known for its many mythical creatures. Creatures are supernatural beings with various powers and they come in various forms.
Here are some of the most popular mythical creatures in Greek myth:
Pegasus, a beautiful white horse with large wings, is one of the most popular Greek mythological creatures. He was the horse of the famous Olympian king Zeus.
Pegasus is an intelligent horse that does not allow anyone without a good heart to ride him. He can perceive people’s intentions.
Cerberus is a Greek mythical creature in the form of a dog with three heads and a snake with a tail. He is the dog of the god Hades. Its job is to guard the gate of the underworld and ensure that the dead did not leave and the living could not enter.
This mythical creature has a hybrid form of an eagle and a lion, combining their wildness and courage into a single being.They are difficult to tame as they always roam in packs. Demigods were capable of taming them and they became loyal to him.
Cyclops was a one-eyed giant and among the first beings to inhabit the universe. They are creatures dedicated to herding and hunting. The cyclops has two generations. The first generation consists of sons of Uranus and Gaea, who were dedicated to craft and construction. The second generation is a small tribe that lives on a remote island.
The Gorgons were wicked female monsters who were daughters of the sea god. The gorgons are Medusa, steno, and Euryale. They were beautiful creatures but had snakes on their heads instead of hair. Medusa was later beheaded by Perseus who used her head as a weapon and gifted it to Athena for her shield.
Hydra of Lerna
The Hydra of Lerna was known to be a ruthless aquatic monster. It has claws like a reptile and many heads. She was raised by Zeus’ wife, Hera. Hydra was a creature that lived alone until Hercules killed her.
Centaur is a mythical creature that is half man and half horse. He had the head, arms, and torso of a man and the body and legs of a horse.
The mythology of ancient Greek is filled with different stories that involve weird creatures. These creatures are supernatural and they appear in different and weird forms. They are represented in sculpture, pottery, and literary tradition.
The Greek also has a lot of gods they worship and different animals are associated with each god. When animal characteristics resemble a particular god’s power, the animal will be considered sacred to the gods. You can read more extraordinary stories on Greek mythology from other reliable sources for extensive understanding.