ike a tall, buff guy with longish dark hair. He wore only a loincloth, and his skin changed color—sometimes blue with cloudy patterns across his muscles, sometimes dark with glimmering stars. Hey, Gaea dreamed him up to look like that. Don’t blame me. Sometimes you’ll see pictures of him holding a zodiac wheel, representing all the constellations that pass through the sky over and over for eternity.
BOOKS BY RICK RIORDAN
Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book One:
The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book Two:
The Sea of Monsters
Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book Three:
The Titan’s Curse
Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book Four:
The Battle of the Labyrinth
Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book Five:
The Last Olympian
The Demigod Files
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, illustrated by John Rocco
The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel
The Sea of Monsters: The Graphic Novel
The Titan’s Curse: The Graphic Novel
The Kane Chronicles Book One:
The Red Pyramid
The Kane Chronicles Book Two:
The Throne of Fire
The Kane Chronicles Book Three:
The Serpent’s Shadow
The Kane Chronicles Survival Guide
The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel
The Heroes of Olympus Book One:
The Lost Hero
The Heroes of Olympus Book Two:
The Son of Neptune
The Heroes of Olympus Book Three:
The Mark of Athena
The Heroes of Olympus Book Four:
The House of Hades
The Demigod Diaries
The Son of Sobek
The Staff of Serapis
Text copyright © 2014 by Rick Riordan
Illustrations copyright © 2014 by John Rocco
Cover design by Joann Hill
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
Books by Rick Riordan
The Beginning and Stuff
The Golden Age of Cannibalism
The Olympians Bash Some Heads
Hestia Chooses Bachelor Number Zero
Demeter Turns into Grainzilla
Persephone Marries Her Stalker
Hera Gets a Little Cuckoo
Hades Does Home Improvement
Poseidon Gets Salty
Zeus Kills Everyone
Athena Adopts a Handkerchief
You Gotta Love Aphrodite
Ares, the Manly Man’s Manly Man
Hephaestus Makes Me a Golden Llama (Not Really, but He Totally Should)
Apollo Sings and Dances and Shoots People
Artemis Unleashes the Death Pig
Hermes Goes to Juvie
Dionysus Conquers the World with a Refreshing Beverage
List of Illustrations
About the Author and Illustrator
To my father, Rick Riordan, Sr., who read me my first book of mythology
To my heroes of illustration: N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, and Frank Frazetta
I HOPE I’M GETTING EXTRA CREDIT FOR THIS.
A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, “Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again.”
But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.
If you don’t know me, my name is Percy Jackson. I’m a modern-day demigod—a half-god, half-mortal son of Poseidon—but I’m not going to say much about myself. My story has already been written down in some books that are total fiction (wink, wink) and I am just a character from the story (cough—yeah, right—cough).
Just go easy on me while I’m telling you about the gods, all right? There’s like forty bajillion different versions of the myths, so don’t be all Well, I heard it a different way, so you’re WRONG!
I’m going to tell you the versions that make the most sense to me. I promise I didn’t make any of this up. I got all these stories straight from the Ancient Greek and Roman dudes who wrote them down in the first place. Believe me, I couldn’t make up stuff this weird.
So here we go. First I’ll tell you how the world got made. Then I’ll run down a list of gods and give you my two cents about each of them. I just hope I don’t make them so mad they incinerate me before I—
Just kidding. Still here.
Anyway, I’ll start with the Greek story of creation, which by the way, is seriously messed up. Wear your safety glasses and your raincoat. There will be blood.
IN THE BEGINNING, I wasn’t there. I don’t think the Ancient Greeks were, either. Nobody had a pen and paper to take notes, so I can’t vouch for what follows, but I can tell you it’s what the Greeks thought happened.
At first, there was pretty much nothing. A lot of nothing.
The first god, if you can call it that, was Chaos—a gloomy, soupy mist with all the matter in the cosmos just drifting around. Here’s a fact for you: Chaos literally means the Gap, and we’re not talking about the clothing store.
Eventually Chaos got less chaotic. Maybe it got bored with being all gloomy and misty. Some of its matter collected and solidified into the earth, which unfortunately developed a living personality. She called herself Gaea, the Earth Mother.
Now Gaea was the actual earth—the rocks, the hills, the valleys, the whole enchilada. But she could also take on humanlike form. She liked to walk across the earth—which was basically walking across herself—in the shape of a matronly woman with a flowing green dress, curly black hair, and a serene smile on her face. The smile hid a nasty disposition. You’ll see that soon enough.
After a long time alone, Gaea looked up into the misty nothing above the earth and said to herself: “You know what would be good? A sky. I could really go for a sky. And it would be nice if he was also a handsome man I could fall in love with, because I’m kind of lonely down here with just these rocks.”
Either Chaos heard her and cooperated, or Gaea simply willed it to happen. Above the earth, the sky formed—a protective dome that was blue in the daytime and black at night. The sky named himself Ouranos—and, yeah, that’s another spelling for Uranus. There’s pretty much no way you can pronounce that name without people snickering. It just sounds wrong. Why he didn’t choose a better name for himself—like Deathbringer or José—I don’t know, but it might explain why Ouranos was so cranky all the time.
Like Gaea, Ouranos could take human shape and visit the earth—which was good, because the sky is way up there and long-distance relationships never work out.
In physical form, he looked l
Anyway, Ouranos and Gaea got married.
Happily ever after?
Part of the problem was that Chaos got a little creation-happy. It thought to its misty, gloomy self: Hey, Earth and Sky. That was fun! I wonder what else I can make.
Soon it created all sorts of other problems—and by that I mean gods. Water collected out of the mist of Chaos, pooled in the deepest parts of the earth, and formed the first seas, which naturally developed a consciousness—the god Pontus.
Then Chaos really went nuts and thought: I know! How about a dome like the sky, but at the bottom of the earth! That would be awesome!
So another dome came into being beneath the earth, but it was dark and murky and generally not very nice, since it was always hidden from the light of the sky. This was Tartarus, the Pit of Evil; and as you can guess from the name, when he developed a godly personality, he didn’t win any popularity contests.
The problem was, both Pontus and Tartarus liked Gaea, which put some pressure on her relationship with Ouranos.
A bunch of other primordial gods popped up, but if I tried to name them all we’d be here for weeks. Chaos and Tartarus had a kid together (don’t ask how; I don’t know) called Nyx, who was the embodiment of night. Then Nyx, somehow all by herself, had a daughter named Hemera, who was Day. Those two never got along because they were as different as…well, you know.
According to some stories, Chaos also created Eros, the god of procreation…in other words, mommy gods and daddy gods having lots of little baby gods. Other stories claim Eros was the son of Aphrodite. We’ll get to her later. I don’t know which version is true, but I do know Gaea and Ouranos started having kids—with very mixed results.
First, they had a batch of twelve—six girls and six boys called the Titans. These kids looked human, but they were much taller and more powerful. You’d figure twelve kids would be enough for anybody, right? I mean, with a family that big, you’ve basically got your own reality TV show.
Plus, once the Titans were born, things started to go sour with Ouranos and Gaea’s marriage. Ouranos spent a lot more time hanging out in the sky. He didn’t visit. He didn’t help with the kids. Gaea got resentful. The two of them started fighting. As the kids grew older, Ouranos would yell at them and basically act like a horrible dad.
A few times, Gaea and Ouranos tried to patch things up. Gaea decided maybe if they had another set of kids, it would bring them closer….
I know, right? Bad idea.
She gave birth to triplets. The problem: these new kids defined the word UGLY. They were as big and strong as Titans, except hulking and brutish and in desperate need of a body wax. Worst of all, each kid had a single eye in the middle of his forehead.
Talk about a face only a mother could love. Well, Gaea loved these guys. She named them the Elder Cyclopes, and eventually they would spawn a whole race of other, lesser Cyclopes. But that was much later.
When Ouranos saw the Cyclops triplets, he freaked. “These cannot be my kids! They don’t even look like me!”
“They are your children, you deadbeat!” Gaea screamed back. “Don’t you dare leave me to raise them on my own!”
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Ouranos growled.
He stormed off and came back with thick chains made from the night sky’s pure darkness. He bound up the Cyclopes and tossed them into Tartarus, which was the only part of creation where Ouranos wouldn’t have to look at them.
Gaea screamed and wailed, but Ouranos refused to release the Cyclopes. No one else dared to oppose his orders, because by this time he was getting a reputation as a pretty scary dude.
“I am king of the universe!” he bellowed. “How could I not be? I am literally above everything else.”
“I hate you!” Gaea wailed.
“Bah! You will do as I say. I am the first and best of the primordial gods.”
“I was born before you!” Gaea protested. “You wouldn’t even be here if I didn’t—”
“Don’t test me,” he snarled. “I’ve got plenty more chains of darkness.”
As you can guess, Gaea threw a total earthquake fit, but she didn’t see what else she could do. Her first kids, the Titans, were almost adults now. They felt bad for Mom. They didn’t like their dad much either—Gaea was always bad-mouthing him, with good reason—but the Titans were scared of Ouranos and felt helpless to stop him.
I have to keep it together for the kids, Gaea thought. Maybe I should give it one more try with Ouranos.
She arranged a nice romantic evening—candles, roses, soft music. They must have rekindled some of the old magic. A few months later, Gaea gave birth to one more set of triplets.
As if she needed more proof that her marriage to Ouranos was dead….
The new kids were even more monstrous than the Cyclopes. Each one had a hundred arms all around his chest like sea urchin spines, and fifty teeny, tiny heads clustered on his shoulders. It didn’t matter to Gaea. She loved their little faces—all hundred and fifty of them. She called the triplets the Hundred-Handed Ones. She’d barely had time to give them names, though, when Ouranos marched over, took one look at them, and snatched them from Gaea’s arms. Without a word, he wrapped them in chains and tossed them into Tartarus like bags of recycling.
Clearly, the sky dude had issues.
Well, that was pretty much it for Gaea. She wailed and moaned and caused so many earthquakes that her Titan kids came running to see what was wrong.
“Your father is a complete __________!”
I don’t know what she called him, but I have a feeling that’s when the first cuss words were invented.
She explained what had happened. Then she raised her arms and caused the ground to rumble beneath her. She summoned the hardest substance she could find from her earthy domain, shaped it with her anger, and created the first weapon ever made—a curved iron blade about three feet long. She fixed it to a wooden handle made from a nearby tree branch, then showed her invention to the Titans.
“Behold, my children!” she said. “The instrument of my revenge. I will call it a scythe!”
The Titans muttered among themselves: What is that for? Why is it curved? How do you spell scythe?
“One of you needs to step up!” Gaea cried. “Ouranos isn’t worthy to be the king of the cosmos. One of you will kill him and take his place.”
The Titans looked pretty uncomfortable.
“So…explain this whole killing thing,” said Oceanus. He was the oldest Titan boy, but he mostly hung out in the far reaches of the sea with the primordial water god, whom he called Uncle Pontus. “What does it mean, to kill?”
“She wants us to exterminate our dad,” Themis guessed. She was one of the smartest girls, and she immediately got the concept of punishing someone for a crime. “Like, make him not exist anymore.”
“Is that even possible?” asked her sister Rhea. “I thought we were all immortal.”
Gaea snarled in frustration. “Don’t be cowards! It’s very simple. You take this sharp pointy blade and you cut your dad into small pieces so he can’t bother us again. Whichever of you does this will be the ruler of the universe! Also, I will make you those cookies you used to like, with the sprinkles.”
Now, in modern times, we have a word for this sort of behavior. We call it psycho.
Back then, the rules of behavior were a lot looser. Maybe you’ll feel better about your own relatives, knowing that the first family in
creation was also the first dysfunctional family.
The Titans started mumbling and pointing to each other like, “Hey, you’d be good at killing Dad.”
“Uh, no, I think you should do it.”
“I’d love to kill Dad, honestly, but I’ve got this thing I have to do, so—”
“I’ll do it!” said a voice from the back.
The youngest of the twelve shouldered his way forward. Kronos was smaller than his brothers and sisters. He wasn’t the smartest or the strongest or the fastest. But he was the most power-hungry. I suppose when you’re the youngest of twelve kids, you’re always looking for ways to stand out and get noticed. The youngest Titan loved the idea of taking over the world, especially if it meant being the boss of all his siblings. The offer of cookies with sprinkles didn’t hurt, either.
Kronos stood about nine feet tall, which was runty for a Titan. He didn’t look as dangerous as some of his brothers, but the kid was crafty. He’d already gotten the nickname “the Crooked One” among his siblings, because he would fight dirty in their wrestling matches and was never where you expected him to be.
He had his mother’s smile and dark curly hair. He had his father’s cruelty. When he looked at you, you could never tell if he was about to punch you or tell you a joke. His beard was kind of unnerving, too. He was young for a beard, but he’d already started growing his whiskers into a single spike that jutted from his chin like the beak of a raven.
When Kronos saw the scythe, his eyes gleamed. He wanted that iron blade. Alone among his siblings, he understood how much damage it could cause.
And as for killing his dad—why not? Ouranos barely noticed him. Neither did Gaea, for that matter. His parents probably didn’t even know his name.
Kronos hated being ignored. He was tired of being the smallest and wearing all those stupid Titan hand-me-downs.
“I’ll do it,” he repeated. “I’ll chop up Dad.”
“My favorite son!” Gaea cried. “You are awesome! I knew I could count on you, uh…which one are you again?”