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Let’s face it, we love drama and the Olympian Gods and Goddesses in Greek mythology have no shortage of drama. There were betrayals, curses, murders, wars, romance, affairs, love and friendships.

While the gods and goddesses had their positive traits, they were no models of perfection. Perhaps this is why, even today, people find their ancient tales so fascinating. It’s why the islands and places that these gods originated from still bear their names and the Greek people still share their stories.

These are some of the most interesting, yet slightly horrifying, stories I have come across in Greek mythology. Let me introduce you to the worst Greek gods!

Kronos

Kronos was the Titan father of the Olympian gods and goddesses. To know why he is on this list of the worst Greek gods, we must first start from the beginning.

Kronos was the son of Ouranos, who turned out to be a cruel and unjust leader who was particularly awful to his wife and Kronos’s mother, Gaia. So, it didn’t take much for his mother to convince him of a cunning yet gruesome plan. A plan that led to Kronos castrating his father with the swing of a scythe!

Understandably, you don’t come away from an event like that unscathed and a rather traumatised Kronos was indeed worried that he would live out the same fate as his father. So, to ensure his children never had the chance to overpower him he swallowed them as soon as they were born! Castration, baby eating, it’s easy to see why Kronos is one of the worst Greek gods in mythology.

Kronos’s worst nightmares eventually came true as Rhea tricked him into thinking he had swallowed their last child, Zeus. But Rhea had smuggled Zeus away on the island of Crete and he eventually came back to defeat Kronos and free his brothers and sisters.

Kronus-eating-baby-worst-greek-god
© By Luis Fernández García - Public Domain

Zeus

Ironically, Zeus, just like his father, had the same fear that he would one day be overthrown by his children. But he was also a lover of all things women, much to the distaste of his wife Hera. Determined and undeterred by this potential threat (and his relationship status) he pursued the lovely Titaness, Metis, and in an attempt to get rid of any unborn baby they may have created he swallowed her whole!

A myth about Zeus that solidifies his name on the list of the worst gods in Greek mythology is his punishment for his close friend and Titan, Prometheus. After Prometheus disobeyed him by giving humans the gift of fire Zeus got his revenge, for no one ignored the orders of the king of the gods and got away with it unpunished.

Prometheus was shackled to Caucasus Mountain where an eagle would feast upon his immortal liver and because it regrew he would suffer the same fate every day.

Torture-of-Prometheus
© Salvator Rosa - Public domain

Hera

If there was ever a disgruntled wife, it was Hera and you can’t blame her because, as you know, Zeus was a notorious adulterer! Hera’s wrath was so vengeful that it makes her one of the worst Greek gods, alongside her husband. She was well known for taking her frustrations out on both Zeus’s lovers and their illegitimate children.

Zeus had an affair with Leto the daughter of the Titans, Phoebe and Coeus. From this affair Leto fell pregnant with twins (Artemis and Apollo) and Hera was anything but forgiving. When Hera found out that Zeus had been unfaithful, she cursed Leto, making it impossible for her to find anywhere on land to give birth.

Leto was certainly not the last of Zeus’ affairs. Hera also enacted her revenge on Io, a mortal servant that Zeus had his lustful eye on. Zeus had turned her into a heifer in the hopes his affections would be less obvious, but Hera was no fool and swiftly sent a gadfly after her, whose painful stings tormented Io wherever she went.

As well as being one of the worst Greek gods she was also one of the worst mothers. She had high hopes when she was pregnant with her first-born son, who she would name Hephaestus. But when he was born, she was appalled to find that he was hideously ugly and in disgust she threw him off Mount Olympus! Poor Hephaestus landed all the way on the island of Lemnos and was left with a permanent limp.

Athena

Athena is known as the patron saint of Athens and she is how the city got its name. While she is known as being wisest of the gods and a level headed strategist, like the others she also had a dark side.

You have most likely heard of Medusa, the snake headed monster whose gaze turns people to stone. What you mightn’t know is that Medusa wasn’t always like this. She was in fact a beautiful mortal. A mortal who unfortunately attracted the attention of Poseidon, who raped her in Athena’s temple. When Athena found out her temple had been defiled in such a way her rage was not directed at Poseidon, but upon poor Medusa who she punished with a head of serpentine locks and looks that could kill (and no longer the good kind!).

Another instance where Athena showed herself to be one of the worst Greek gods involves the myth of Arachne, a beautiful and talented weaver. Arachne made the mistake of boasting of these talents, saying she was the best in the world. When Athena heard about this, she challenged her to a competition, but what Arachne weaved was a depiction that mocked the gods. For her indiscretion Athena punished her by turning her into a spider!

☞ Related: You can see the Temple of Athena at the Acropolis in Athens

Athena-and-arachne
© Public Domain

Hades

Hades was the ruler of the underworld, or Tartarus as it was called. Being a dark and gloomy job, he was keen to cheer things up a little and to do this he had his eye on Persephone, the daughter of the god Demeter. Hades came along in a chariot, swooped her up and took her down to the underworld.

As if kidnapping and forcing someone to be your wife isn’t bad enough, Hades neglected to care, when in Persephone’s absence, Demeter was stricken with grief and nature itself began to die. Spending all her time searching for her daughter, the goddess of harvest wasn’t doing her job. All the crops died, nothing would grow and the leaves fell from the trees.

Needing to intervene the gods joined the search and discovered Persephone in the underworld and demanded Hades let her go. But Hades, determined not to lose his queen completely, tricked her into eating some pomegranate seeds, as those who eat from the depths of hell must always return.

So, Persephone went back to earth for 6 months every year. Demeter, being delighted at the return of her daughter was able to return to her work. Crops began to grow, flowers bloomed, and the leaves returned to the trees, giving of course the seasons. For kidnapping and ruining an endless summer we place Hades on the list of the worst Greek gods.

hades-abducting-persephone-worst-greek-gods
© Public Domain
  • We have some real contenders here! Who do you think is the worst Greek god in mythology?

Marcia

Kia Ora. My name is Marcia Welch and I am a traveller from New Zealand. I have always dreamed of visiting and exploring Europe and have finally begun my overseas experience, or OE as we call it. I have always been drawn to the vibrancy and beauty that embodies Greece and I am excited to document and share my experiences. I am currently in Athens.

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