I am by no means an expert or insider on mythology, and maybe I misuse or misunderstand Greek mythology. But there has always been a question that has been on my mind.

Why do the gods have such compartmentalized and specific powers or domains? Why is it logical that there is a goddess of agriculture and a different one of hunting? What process leads Artemis to become the goddess of hunting? Isn't Zeus clearly powerful enough to take on that role as well? Aren't the muses redundant?

It makes more sense to me that there were a handful of deities with vaguely defined powers, and through your fervor to them, they granted you prosperity or knowledge. For example, you could worship Zeus and not Poseidon to seek protection on the high seas. The first would watch over you on your journey while the second could be indifferent or, in the case of being envious, manipulate nature and collide head-on with Zeus. It would be something similar to a human looking for an alliance system with a few supernatural beings.

2 Answers 2


It's a myth that the gods had compartmentalized domains. You in fact find dozens of gods to pray to for any given thing. If you wanted protection against the seas, you'd actually pray to Ino-Leucothea, Melicertes-Palaemon, Achilles, or even (and especially) Aphrodite.

The gods do not have domains. They have powers, and you pray to a god for their powers to help you in whatever venture you have.

Sure, some gods are more associated with activities, but again, these aren't compartmentalized in any way. Hermes is most commonly associated with travel, but if you wanted protection through xenia, you'd also make a sacrifice to Zeus. You certainly find inscriptions where multiple gods are addressed for some activity.

And it's not even individual gods. Sometimes, it's individual aspects of gods. Robert Parker, whose study On Greek Religion (Cornell: 2011) is a great, updated summation of the topic, make as much clear:

It was common in oaths for a single god to be several times invoked under different epithets; oracles would very regularly advise cities to add a cult of a god under a new epithet to their existing set of cults of that god; and in a famous episode Xenophon, regular worshipper of Zeus Basileus, was told by a seer that his financial problems were caused by his neglect of Zeus Meilichios. Even if in one perspective Zeus Meilichios was simply one aspect of Zeus, in another he had to be treated as an independent figure. He was often portrayed differently too, as a gigantic snake.

These different "aspects" of a deity shows their branching specialties:

To take an easy example, Aphrodite is not just the patroness of sexuality but also, as “Aphrodite of All the People,” a source of civic harmony, and, as “Aphrodite Fair Voyage,” a friend to sailors. As wife/cult-partner of Ares, she even has a certain relation, which is apparently not merely one of antithesis, with the world of war: in 480 BC, for instance, the women of Corinth are said to have prayed to the goddess to inspire in their menfolk “desire [n.b.] for battle against the barbarians.”

Structuralists have looked for a "unifying principle" embedded in these activities. So praying to Aphrodite so that men "desire for battle" calls on her power over desire, which is clearer from her sexual powers. Even this is a bit too simplistic, and Parker finds it difficult to naturally see "Why does Zeus, if his characteristic mode is sovereignty, watch over the household stores, in the form of a jar, as Zeus Ktesios?" (p. 93). Explanations for these activities would be ad hoc.

Parker doesn't give a real conclusion, but rather lets the gods just be gods: they have powers, they take up different domains, these domains are absolutely not specific to a single god, and the way they develop is sometimes a mystery and rarely a necessity. This is a more naturalistic explanation for the gods' powers: they have the powers because their worshippers attributed those powers to them.


Hello Artemis19 and welcome to the forum. Hopefully someone can verify the validity or add to my answer, or even correct it! Till then though I have to tell you that you should take the following answer with a grain of salt, since it is my personal opinion. I am not an academic, I did my personal research, and I just state that so you will take it as an answer of a non-academic person on that subject.

In order to understand why gods are so specific, we should ask ourselves what a god is, or to be more precise, what a god was back then. Gods were representing specific concepts. For instance, the concept of the night was personified by Nyx. The weather changes as a concept was explained by the myth of Persephone. So gods were related to specific concepts. That of course does not mean that all concepts are related to only one deity. For instance the concept of Justice has to do with Themis (Θέμις) , Diki ( Δίκη ).

Metis ( Μήτις) is by herself a very specific concept and set of skills. Wisdom, trickery, hustling, engineering, problem solving skills in general.

So gods got what they got because of the deep human need to personify a concept, so they could ask for specific help or explain - give meaning to unexpected or unexplained phenomena.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.