List of Gods and Goddesses from Antiquity

An introduction to the major deities of major ancient cultures

Classical Greek sculptures of gods and goddesses, Athens, Greece.

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The religious traditions of antiquity continue to astound and delight modern-day people who appreciate the history of their cultures or the endearing power of their myths. If you're looking for a specific deity, consult an alphabetical list of the major gods and goddesses instead.


Although the Aztec worshiped more than 200 different deities spanning three broad classes of Aztec life (the heavens, fertility and agriculture, and war) scholars have identified 10 of them as being most important.


Among the most ancient of cultures, the people of Babylon developed a diverse melting pot of deities. Despite the vast number of individual gods in the various sub-cultures labeled as "Babylonian," 15 of these deities retain historical significance.


Early druids didn't commit their religious texts to writing, so much of Celtic antiquity is lost to modern-day students. However, after the Roman advance into Britain, first the Romans and then the early Christian monks copied the druidic oral histories. Nearly two dozen Celtic deities remain of interest today.


Modern China emphasizes its atheism and Imperial China honored Confucian ideals, but Ancient China worshiped a vast network of local and regional gods, and reverence for those gods persisted well into the modern era. Eleven ancient Chinese gods top the list of today's scholarly interest.


The history of Egyptian gods and the intermittent pull toward monotheism in antiquity provided some of the sharpest contrasts in ancient Egyptian political history. Monuments, texts, and even public offices bear the marks of Egypt's myriad gods -- but among them, 15 stand out as being the most significant religiously or the most prominent in terms of the political power of their priesthoods.


Most schoolchildren can name off at least some of the nine major Greek deities, but the list of gods in ancient Greece runs into the thousands. From their perch on Mount Olympus, the major gods acted like and even associated with, humans -- leading to god/human hybrids called demigods.


Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva represent the most significant cluster of Hindu gods, but the Hindu tradition counts thousands of major and minor gods within its ranks. Familiarity with 10 of the most widely known offers an insight into the rich tapestry of ancient Hindu belief.


The animism of ancient Japan nevertheless supported a list of various gods and goddesses prominent in Shino religious rites.


The Maya predate the Aztec, but much Mesoamerican theology remained constant among the major pre-Columbian cultures. Mayan deities, however, didn't just rule over a subject-matter like war or childbirth -- they also ruled over specific periods of time. Six Mayan gods, in particular, still invite scholarly review.


In Norse mythology, the giants came first, and then the Old Gods (the Vanir) who were later supplanted by the New Gods (the Aesir). Modern-day moviegoers know of the likes of Thor and Odin and Loki -- but a tour of just 15 of the most common Norse gods will better illuminate their pantheon.


The Romans, ever practical, adopted most of the Greek gods for their own with different names and slightly different myths, although the Romans also incorporated without much discrimination the gods of particular interest to a newly conquered group -- the better to foster assimilation. A handy crosswalk between Greek and Roman gods shows just how similar they were. 


The gods of Mesopotamia -- a hodge-podge of Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian and other ancient cultures -- divide into roughly three groups: the older gods, the younger gods, and the chthonic (earth-based) gods.