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The Celtic Pantheon


The Celts were not unified either culturally or politically.  Many of the Celtic deities were local tribal gods, who often had Roman equivalents. There were, however, a few gods that were broadly recognized by the Celts as a whole. The Celtic god Sucellus (the Irish Dagda) was known as the Good Striker. The powers attributed to him include protection as symbolized by a mallet and provision which was symbolized by a libation saucer.  Julius Caesar equated him with the Roman god Dis Pater, the god of the underworld.


Another prominent god of the Celtic pantheon was Taranis, the god of thunder who Caesar equated with Jupiter.  Votive Celtic wheels, found by the thousands, were dedicated to him. He is represented with a thunderbolt in one hand and a wheel in the other. He was associated with a triad of gods to whom human sacrificial offerings were dedicated.


The god appearing most frequently in the tales is Lugh. Caesar said that Mercury (Lugh?) was the god most revered in Gaul.  Caesar described him as a patron of trade and commerce, protector of travellers, and the inventor of all the arts.

Many others deities resided in the Celtic Pantheon including the goddess Brigid and Epona, the horse goddess. Many representations have been found that have no deity’s name identified.  The images include a three headed or three faced god, a squatting god, a god with a snake, a god with a wheel, and a horseman with a kneeling giant.

Tomorrow,  The Druids   Rita Bay

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Mythic Heroes: Hercules

Hercules in Marble

Hercules (Greek-Heracles) was the demi-god son of Jupiter  (Greek – Zeus) and the most beautiful of all women, Alceme. Hercules attributes included a lion skin and a gnarled club that was his favorite weapon. Throughout his career as a hero, he killed many monsters and made the world safer for mankind.

Hercules & the Nemean Lion

Juno hated the children of Zeus that were not hers and often gave them trouble.  When Hercules was born, Juno slipped snakes into his cradle.  Hercules killed the snakes with his massive strength.  During his adult life, Juno sent Hercules into a blind rage in which he killed wife and children.  Hercules consulted the Oracle of Delphi (we’ll visit her in a few days) for expiation.  The Oracle sent him to Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae, who (with the spiteful assistance of Juno) assigned him a set of impossible tasks that became known as the Labors of Hercules which took 12 years.  His labors included killing the Nemean lion, destroying the Lernaean Hydra, capturing the Ceryneian Hind, trapping the Erymanthian boar, cleaning the Augean stables, destroying the Stymphalian birds, capturing the Cretan bull, rounding up the Mares of Diomedes, taking Hippolyte’s girdle, returning the cattle of Geryon, delivering the golden apples of the Hesperides,  and capturing the Cerberus from Tartarus.

Kevin Sorbo as Hercules

After Hercules was married the second time, he killed the centaur Nessus with a poisoned arrow for abducting his wife.  Before Nessus died, he gave Hercules’ wife Deianeira a vial of blood and told her that the blood was a love potion that would bring Hercules back to her when he strayed.  When she suspected he had been unfaithful, she sent him a cloak that had the blood spread in it.  When he donned the cloak, the blood burned like acid and destroyed his body.  Hercules died in horrific pain.  He was taken to Olympus and deified.  His wife committed suicide in despair.

Tomorrow,  The Heroes of the Trojan War   Rita Bay

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The Wonders of the World: The Statue of Zeus Olympia

Artistic Representation

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia in Greece is one of the Ancient Wonders of the World.  It was created by the famous Greek sculptor Phidias circa 450 BC.  The statue was located at the site of the Olympic Games where once every four years since 776 BC truce was declared across Greece to give safe passage to the athletes to travel to compete in the holy games.

Statue of Zeus on Coin

The sculpture was considered the most famous artistic work in all of Greece and the pagan Greeks believed the statue of Zeus on Olympus was the god himself. Philo of Byzantium wrote “Whereas we just wonder at the other six wonders, we kneel in front of this one in reverence, because the execution of the skill is as incredible as the image of Zeus is holy…”

The statue of Zeus housed in a temple built on a raised, rectangular platform. Thirteen large columns supported the roof along the sides and six supported on each end with a pediment that depicted the twelve labors of Heracles.  The sculptor Phidias who had already worked on the Parthenon in Athens took 12 years to complete the project.

Another View of Statue

In the 2nd century AD, Pausanias wrote a very detailed description of the sculpture and its throne. Images of the statue survive on ancient coins.  The seated statue of Zeus itself was about 43 feet tall and 22 feet wide. The technique by which the statue was constructed is chryselephantine, where gold-plated bronze and ivory sections were attached to a wooden frame. The figure’s skin itself was of ivory and the beard, hair and robe of gold.  Zeus’ cedar wood throne was adorned with gold, ebony, ivory and inlaid with precious stones. Zeus held the figure of crowned Nike, the goddess of victory and his left hand held a scepter with an eagle perched on the top. Carved into the chair were figures of Greek gods and mystical animals.

The statue was damaged by an earthquake in 170 BC and repaired. In the early 4th century AD, the Emperor Constantine ordered that all gold be stripped from pagan shrines. One story claims that after the Olympics were abolished in 392 AD by a Theodosius, a Christian Emperor who viewed the games as a pagan rite, it was taken to Constantinople where it was destroyed by fire in 475 AD.  Others claim that it burned with the temple in 425. In the 1950s, the workshop at Olympia was discovered where Phidias sculpted the statue.  Among the tools and moulds, a cup was discovered inscribed “I belong to Pheidias.”

Tomorrow, Lighthouse of Alexandria   Rita Bay

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