Life on Mars?
Biographies of the
Compare the Planets
Biographies of the Planetary Gods
Mercury, God of Commerce and Quick Thought, is the son of Jupiter and Maia, daughter of the titan Atlas, who holds the sky on his shoulders. He wears winged sandals and carries a caduceus, the symbol of medicine and floral delivery. The herald of Jupiter, Mercury is also the patron of all who live by their wits, including thieves. He is himself precociously accomplished in that field, having stolen Apollo's herds on the day of his birth.
Though several poets have attempted to pin paternity charges on Jupiter, it is more fitting to believe that Venus, the Goddess of Beauty and Love, arose unfathered from the foamy waves, as portrayed in Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece Birth of Venus. The lover of many, most famously the mortal Adonis, Venus is the mother of Cupid.
The God of War, Mars is the none-too-bright son of Zeus and his queen Juno, both of whom hate him. His bloodthirst makes the heroes of the Iliad queasy. His cowardice provokes Homer's scorn, for when wounded the "bloodstained bane of man," clad in invincible armor and attended by Strife and Discord, runs home to Olympus to whine to his parents.
The child of the god Saturn and the titan Rhea, Jupiter slayed his father to become the king of gods and men. The sky god, he is the most powerful deity, though is by no means omnipotent. His seat is Mount Olympus, where he reigns with thunderbolt in hand. The instigator of numerous extramarital affairs, he nonetheless demands from his followers moral conduct a step beyond the rote sacrifices that satisfy his divine counterparts. He is the patron of the Roman state.
Following his patricide, the god Saturn assumed dominion over the world. Perhaps remembering his own tense family relationships, he gulped down all of his children (by his sister, the titan Rhea) to prevent one of them from overthrowing him as he had Uranus. This precaution was a temporary expedient, however, as Rhea spirited away Zeus, who later freed his swallowed siblings in a successful revolt.
Born out of the primordial chaos, Uranus is the first lord of the heavens. He is by his wife Gaia the father of all gods and monsters, eventually slain by his son Saturn, who is jealous of his unequaled authority and fearful of his monstrous children.
Jupiter's brother and husband to Amphitrite, granddaughter of the titan Ocean, Neptune is the God of the Sea. Second only to Jupiter in eminence, he introduced, among other benefits, the horse to man. Often titled "the Earthshaker," Neptune carries a trident with which he lashes storms or smoothes seas.
Jupiter's brother, Pluto never recovered his high spirits after being swallowed by his father, Saturn. As the King of the Underworld, his kingdom doesn't help to lighten his mood. It does, however, give him sway over both the souls of the departed and the vast treasures found underground. He is married to Persephone, whom he abducted as a girl. Though melancholy and pitiless, he is not an evil god.
Copyright © 2000 by Gary Chan and Matthew McDermott. All rights reserved.