Why Were Greek Gods Blonde?


The ancient Greeks believed their deities had physical forms. And like the later Christians, the ancient Greeks believed the forms of these gods were a reflection of themselves. So why were the Greek gods blonde?

Only some Greek gods were blonde since in ancient times the Greek gods were depicted as stereotypically Greek. The main reasons for depicting some gods as blonde include the novelty of this hair color and its association with prostitution. 

This article will explore depictions of the ancient Greek gods.

Also see Why Were Greek Gods Immortal? to learn more.

Blonde Greek gods
Did Greek gods have blue eyes? See below

Which Greek Gods Were Blonde?

Most ancient Greek Gods weren’t blonde. Two ancient Greek gods who were traditionally portrayed as blonde were Aphrodite, the goddess of romantic love and sex, and Apollo, the god of music and medicine. They were probably portrayed as blondes because of the relative novelty of the hair color. 

Because of the novelty of blonde hair in the ancient Mediterranean, it was often associated with youth and beauty. It was also associated with wealth due to its similarity to gold.

Aphrodite and Apollo were two of the more promiscuous deities in the Greek pantheon. As a result, blonde hair was commonly associated with prostitutes. Greek and Roman prostitutes commonly dyed their hair with dye made from saffron or turmeric.

Ancient hair dye was typically expensive, foul-smelling, and difficult to apply. Nevertheless, it was used by Mediterranean prostitutes for over a thousand years.

Also see Why Do Greek Gods Look Human? to learn more.

Did Greek Gods Have Blue Eyes?

Most ancient Greek gods didn’t have recorded canonical eye colors. Some of them were believed to have brown eyes, some blue. Blue eyes carried somewhat menacing symbolism in the ancient Mediterranean, being associated with the “evil eye.” [1]

The ancient Greeks believed their gods were real physical beings, unlike the later Romans. Ancient Greek deities were believed to be physically idealized humans.

Poseidon, the God of the Sea, was said to have eyes that matched his domain. His eyes were described as a deep blue like the sea during a storm.

In the Iliad, Homer gave Athena the epithet “Glaukopis,” which translates to either “bright-eyed” or “gray-eyed.” [2]

Ares, the god of war, was described as having blue or red eyes. Ares was the most beautiful of Zeus and Hera’s children.

All of the Greek gods and heroes likely had canonical physical appearances. But sources with their descriptions haven’t survived to the present day.

What Is the “Evil Eye”?

The “evil eye” is an ancient superstition dating back to the 6th century B.C. The belief is that a glare cast with “evil intentions,” negative emotions like anger or jealousy, can curse the recipient with several days of bad luck. 

Women and children were said to be especially vulnerable to the evil eye.

According to superstition, people with blue eyes are especially likely to cast the curse. As a result, people in the Mediterranean Basin to this day try to ward off the evil eye with talismans showing an enlarged blue eye. These talismans are possibly related to the ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus.

Given the relation between blue eyes and the evil eye superstition, it seems unlikely that most ancient Greek deities would have blue eyes. But considering that the ancient Greeks believed their gods had all the same emotions and failings as mortal humans, some of them probably did.

Are Greek People Blonde?

Blonde hair does occur in Greeks, but it’s not common. Modern-day Greeks are descendants of several ethnic groups to settle in Greece over the last 5000 years. In general, Greeks are part of the Mediterranean ethnic melange. 

The incidence of blonde hair in modern Greeks is likely much higher than during the Classical and Hellenistic periods. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 426 A.D., Greece and the other outlying territories of the Eastern Roman Empire were repeatedly invaded by so-called “barbarian” tribes, including Goths, Vandals, and Bulgers. Slavs invaded and settled parts of Northern Greece in the mid 7th century A.D.

Genetic studies of skeletons from the classical era suggest that the rate of blonde hair in ancient Greeks was between 1% and 10%. In modern Greeks, it is around 14%. [3]

Also see Did Greek Gods Marry Humans? to learn more.

What Color Skin Did Greek Gods Have? 

Greek gods have been mostly portrayed as pale-skinned blondes. Women were portrayed as lighter than men. In general, having whiter skin was associated with wealth because being darker-skinned in ancient times typically meant working in the fields for long hours. 

However, the idea is an invention of Romantic and Victorian Era poets, playwrights, and philosophers. During those eras, it was believed that Nordics were the highest form of humans and that Mediterranean ethnicities could never have achieved the things the ancient Greeks did. 

Like it or not, racism played a large role in forming contemporary culture. Racism has influenced how many legal systems, cultural institutions, and popular culture have developed. One of the more influential racist ideas of the past 200 years was Nordicism. 

What Is Nordicism?

Nordicism is the racist ideology that “Nordics,” meaning white people from Northern European countries, are simultaneously the “superior race” and constantly under threat from “lesser races.” Nordicism is an outgrowth of the scientific racism movement of the 19th century.

Under the Nordicist hypothesis, all of humanity’s greatest achievements were made by Nordics. As evidence, they cited the contemporary dominance of the British, French, and American empires and the great acts of industry in those empires.

In the Nordicist worldview, the ancient Greeks who invented democracy and built the Parthenon had to be Nordic. That belief influenced Romantic and Victorian Era artists, who started portraying ancient Greek gods and heroes with blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin.

Nordicism was a highly influential ideology all over the world. In America, it was used as an excuse to deny full citizenship and political representation to the citizens of the country’s overseas territories. It also formed the foundation of the political philosophy of the Nazi party.

Conclusion

While we don’t know what the ancient Greek gods were supposed to look like, we can be sure they weren’t all blondes.

Also see Why Are There So Many Gods In Greek Mythology? to learn more.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

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