Helpful Vocabulary for Understanding Greek and Roman Myths

Ambrosia: The fabled food and sustenance of the gods and immortals. 

Classical: The most highly developed stage of an early civilization; of or relating to the texts from ancient Greece or Rome considered a canon of acknowledged excellence.

Demigod: Beings that have some amount of the divine within them, such as those born from the intercourse of a god and a mortal or a hero raised to divine rank; a minor deity.

Epic: A poem, usually of ancient oral tradition, told in a continuous narrative that recounts and celebrates the achievements of one or more heroic characters from history or legend.

Fable: A myth or legend; generally, a story relating supernatural or extraordinary events.

Fates: Three goddesses believed to determine the course of all life and events in later Greek and Roman mythology; a personification of the concept of Fate.

Furies: Avenging goddesses who punish crime; avenging spirits; associated with the Fates.

Giants: A race of beings with supernatural abilities born of Gaia and Uranus or Tartarus; the Giants known as Titans war with Zeus for control of heaven and are defeated. 

Hades: Name of the god of the dead and location of his kingdom; generally, the underworld, hell, or the place of departed spirits and shades.

Legend: A traditional story that is widely known and believed by people; sometimes popularly regarded as historical, but not authenticated; generally tells the story of someone’s life or deeds, especially those of a saint or spiritual leader; generally has supernatural or mythical aspects. 

Lineage: Line of descent from an ancestor; pedigree. 

Muses: Nine goddesses who inspire, preside over, and personify, the arts—poetry and music in particular; muse of poetry often invoked at beginning of epic stories and legends.

Myth: A traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, cause, or justification for something, such as the early history of a society, a religious belief, justification for rituals, or a natural phenomenon. 

Nectar: Drink of the gods; in extended use, a delicious wine or drink.

Nymph: Any class of semi-divine spirits, imagined as taking the form of a maiden inhabiting the sea, rivers, mountains, woods, and other locations in nature; often attended a particular god 

Offering: The presentation of something—generally bones, oils, meats, candles, or money—to a god as a sign of humility and devotion; generally presented while praying for something to happen or not to happen.

Olympus: Home of the greater gods and goddesses; in extended use, heaven.

Oracle: The instrument, agency, or medium through which the gods spoke prophecy; generally took the form of a priest or priestess thought to be the mouthpiece of the gods. 

Pantheon: A temple dedicated to all the gods where images or other memorials of all the gods of a culture are collected; generally circular.  

Parable: A story or narrative told to convey a moral or spiritual lesson; generally gives insight or wisdom; can take the form of an allegory or fable.  

Satyr: One of a class of woodland gods or demons; half human and half beast; said to be companions of Bacchus.

Sacrifice: The slaughter of a living creature, often then consumed by fire, which is then presented as an offering to a god or deity; generally performed while praying for particular outcomes from the gods.

Styx: River in the Underworld, or Hades, over which shades of the dead are ferried by Charon, the boatman; also, name by which gods and mortals swear solemn oaths.

Temple: A building or place regarded as the dwelling  of a deity where humans go to perform divine worship.

Titans: A race of gods, also known as a particular group of Giants, whom Zeus defeats for control of Olympus and expels from heaven.