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Olympian family tree

Suggesting tragedy with names and arrows

22 October 2015

The purpose of this family tree is to be a memory aid for of the best loved myths and stories about the Olympians.

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My selection criteria for what characters to include have been

  • which are the best stories
  • that can be hinted at through maps of family relations
  • that are linked to the gods or their close descendants.

Showing all the in-family marriages and criss-cross relationships of the Olympians was a challenge and some compromises had to be made. Most noticeble is the omission of most heroes from the Iliad. They are too many generations off to qualify for direct family ties with the Olympians, but some key figures appear as they relate to Zeus child, Helen of Troy. Some generations are passed over if they are only interesting, from a story perspective, as parents or grand-parents of more prominent figures.

There are also several conflicting accounts of the genealogies of among others Prometheus, Aphrodite, Eros, Gaia, Echidna, Styx, Orpheus, Ares and Pegasus. I have chosen to use the most well-known version, as the aim is to aid recall of stories, not determine a truth which can only be based on who made assertations first.

In the question of the origin of the world, I have used one of the oldest sources; the beginning of this family tree uses Hesiod's Theogeny (700 BC) as a base. From there on, mixed sources are used.

What I think is striking in the chart is the ancient Greeks' fascination with eternity, mortality, birth and death. What does it mean to be immortal, and more importantly, what does it mean for us who aren't? As generations go by, and the immortal ichor is diluted with human blood, the children become less powerful. There are various forms of half-mortal states that the characters find themselves in: earned resurrection, eternity as star constellations for those who lead significant lives and near-invunerability for the much beloved.

The chart is not, and cannot be, complete. To make it I have had to make omissions and compromises that leave many family origins unclear. I particularly regret not being able to fit in Io. My hope is that if you come across a name not in the tree, you will at least find their principal ancestors and know their place in the greater picture.

It speaks to the lasting interest in these myths that just seeing the family connections can kick-start long-buried school memories of the greater tragedies and adventures behind them.

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