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I was just thinking about some gods in mythology, and I was thinking how I notice some gods are shown as being older (Zeus), while others are shown as younger. I am curious if age has anything to do with respect or possibly power in mythology.

There are mentions of parents and such, so I'm curious if there is any mention of birth and how mythology handles birth/growth.

Are there instances that show/mention gods looking different throughout history (aging at all?), or do the gods usually stay the same in terms of appearances?

Note: There are gods in mythology that can control time, and possibly even their looks, etc, but I'm not looking at them per se, but more the entire picture, if gods were shown to age or whatnot.

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    Greek mythology has many stories of the birth of gods. Just about all the major ones (Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo, etc.) have some sort of origin story, though they tend to age differently, if at all. (Apollo becomes an adult just four days after his birth in one story.) – user1079 Oct 3 '17 at 19:06
  • Great question, and welcome to Mythology! – DukeZhou Oct 3 '17 at 23:25
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The Greek gods could definitely age.

Zeus, unlike his most famous daughter, Athena, who sprang from his head fully grown and armored, is an infant at his own birth:

Enraged at this, Rhea repaired to Crete, when she was big with Zeus, and brought him forth in a cave of Dicte. She gave him to the Curetes and to the nymphs Adrastia and Ida, daughters of Melisseus, to nurse ... these nymphs fed the child on the milk of Amalthea, and the Curetes in arms guarded the babe in the cave ... Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to Cronus to swallow, as if it were the newborn child.
SOURCE: Apollodorus 1.1.6 ff.

Zeus, of course, grew into the bearded sky-father he is most commonly depicted as.


Hermes is the best example of a Greek god beginning as a child and ultimately having adult form:

Maia, the eldest, as the fruit of her intercourse with Zeus, gave birth to Hermes in a cave of Cyllene. He was laid in swaddling-bands on the winnowing fan, but he slipped out and made his way to Pieria and stole the kine which Apollo was herding.
SOURCE: Apollodorus 3.10.2

Hermes was definitively in child form:

...Apollo came to Pylus in search of the kine, and he questioned the inhabitants. They said that they had seen a boy driving cattle ... Apollo came to Maia at Cyllene and accused Hermes. But she showed him the child in his swaddling-bands.
SOURCE: ibid.

Hermes, like Zeus, grew into adulthood, but is commonly depicted as a kouros (young man), such as in this statue, or as a bearded man.

Although some of the Greek gods age into their final, adult forms, there are no examples of the Greek gods getting old or dying of old age, so far as I am aware.

Thus, although the Greek gods could age, they are nevertheless eternal, ageless, and immortal.

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The entire Norse pantheon could definitely age and become weaker, and possibly even die of old age. This was counteracted by the goddess Iðunn and her apples, which restored youth. In Skáldskaparmál, Snorri tells of how she was kidnapped by the giants, and how the gods subsequently began to grow old and sent Loki to reclaim her before they grew to feeble.

However, in the story of Thor's meeting with Útgarða-Loki, also told by Snorri, Thor is at one point forced to wrestle with "old age" disguised as an old woman. While he is defeated by being forced down one knee, the giants are still impressed that he is not felled completely.

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