The following quote is from the Wikipedia article on the Twelve Olympians:

Hebe, Helios, Selene, Eos, Eros and Persephone are other important gods and goddesses who are sometimes included in a group of twelve. Eros is often depicted alongside the other twelve, especially his mother Aphrodite, but not usually counted in their number.

Twelve Olympians. (2017, March 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:05, March 16, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Twelve_Olympians&oldid=770150180

Unfortunately, no sources are identified for the claim (which is in fact marked with [citation-needed]).

I am guessing that "group of twelve" does not refer to one of the multiple configurations of the Twelve Olympians. With the exception of Persephone, the other gods mentioned in the quote are minor, and wouldn't typically be considered members of the Dodekatheon.

Do we know what groups of twelve the quote may be referring to?

  • I wouldn't necessarily consider Helios and Selene to be all that minor. Persephone's importance seems to grow over time, culminating with the Eleusinian Mysteries.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 15:26

2 Answers 2


It sounds like they are referring to the Twelve Olympians. I can't think of any other groups of twelve in Greek mythology at all, except for the twelve labors of Heracles, but that's not a group of people. Hebe and Eros, like Persephone, are rarely included here, but Helios, Selene, and Eos have never been included in the Dodekatheon.

The Twelve Olympians as a concept is a rather shaky one in terms of assistance, with the line-up varying often, but most configurations of it don't mention any of those names. There are plenty of gods and titans who reside on Mount Olympus, but they aren't considered part of the Twelve.

This might be assuming, but it would appear that the person who contributed that sentence to this Wikipedia article didn't include a citation because there is nothing to cite but their personal conjecture.

  • +1 for the last part. You should never trust a citation needed
    – bleh
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:42
  • How about groupings of gods according to their functions? Hebe and Eros are included in the theoi gamelioi, for example.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 10:14
  • 2
    As for an example of another group of twelve deities, how about the twelve Titans?
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 10:22

I have found either a possible source of this claim or an alternative interpretation to the one presented in that statement of that Wikipedia article (as I understand the statement anyway).

Episode 46 of the YouTube series Mental Floss is entitled "Misconceptions About Mythology" and lists 10 apparent misunderstood points of (exclusively Greek and, by extension, Roman) mythology. All of them look good to me except, incidentally, the one in question, which is the list's Number 3. This item makes, near as I can tell, an inaccurate "correction" of the "misconception" that there was in any sense a definitive list of Twelve Olympians.

It lists all the deities you are asking about in exactly the same order but makes a slightly different claim about them, which may only be grammatical, but which nonetheless, therefore, differs from the meaning of the Wikipedia page.

Here is a transcription of the video presentation, from the Mental Floss website1:

Mental Floss 46: Misconception #3

If I am reading that aright, it is saying that there are a number of ancient Greek texts containing lists of the Olympian Dodekatheon which swap out some of the names of "the Big Twelve" who are commonly known to have been "canonical" members of the group with one or more among Hebe, Helios, Selene, Eos, Eros and Persephone. But there is no reference that I could find to which texts these might be or what the list of the Twelve should look like in these alternate versions, nor how many of the "usual" members would still be present therein.

My theory about how Wikipedia ended up with its version of this is that someone watched the aforementioned web series episode or read its transcription and then, in the process of editing the information into the Wikipedia article, the point mutated into saying that the listed deities regarding whom you are asking sometimes occurred together in a different group of twelve divinities. This is not the same thing being meant by Mental Floss.

A clue that I might be mistaken about Mental Floss being the origin of this (accurate or inaccurate) information is that the Internet series episode was published in late 2015 while the editing of that portion of the Wikipedia article seems to have taken place (and been discussed/debated) at the beginning of 2008, rendering it unlikely that the former comes from the latter. The construction of the sentence by Mental Floss, however, I find to be less ambiguous, which thus makes it appear to be more authoritative (for whatever that is worth).

Beyond all that, I can see how some of the deities in question fit together, but I am unaware of any ancient source that might link not only all the six mentioned, but which groups them together with six others, whichever those ones might be.

Helios, Selene and Eos are siblings and are among the cosmic lights of the sky: Sun, Moon and Dawn respectively. Both Selene and Persephone occur, among others, as night-goddesses, and there are some associations between them and Hebe and Eros, maybe also Eos. But putting them all together in a special class of their own seems quite random, which is why it would make more sense to me that the Mental Floss quote is the original form of this listing, which was not intending to create a new group of twelve gods but was rather stating that these six were sometimes members of the Dodekatheon.

1. An alternate link to both the YouTube video and a transcription thereof may be found on Nerdfighteria Wiki.

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