Also called the Gigantomachy. After the Titanomachy (war against the Titans) Gaia was not exactly happy with the Olympians for slaughtering\locking up all the Titan in Tartarus. Her displeasure would send ripples throughout mythology, often resulting in different monsters and such that had to be defeated. Unsurprisingly, the biggest attack against the Olympians came from the Giants.
A bit of background. There were twenty-four giants were born in full armor carrying weapons, spears specifically, and had “serpent like lower limbs.” They were rather large, and easily made angry. They could only be defeated by gods and heroes working together. Hence the premise for the Percy Jackson series. (House of Hades can come out any day now).
The giants, led by Alcyoneus attacked the Olympians. Otus and Ephialtes attempted to storm Olympus by piling Mount Ossa upon Mount Pelion. The fates teamed up with the Olympians to drive them back but were not successful, though they did manage to club the giants Thoon and Agrios. Hecate burned the giant Clytius to death with her torches. Athena killed the giant Enceladus, who had the scales of a dragon for feet, and buried him under Mount Etna, where he sometimes breathes and causes lava to flood the land. She also killed the giant Pallas.
Artemis killed a giant with her arrows, and either Hephaestus or Ares depending on the myth killed the giant Mimas by throwing fire balls at him. Dionysus even got a kill in when he slew Eurytus with his pine-cone wand (not joking, google it, it’s called a Thrysus). Ares also killed the giant Pellorus.
Hermes killed the giant Hyppolytus by using his flying shoes and invisibility hat. The last giant the Olympians killed on their own was Polybote. Poseidon crushed him with an island.
Why did I just list off every giant killed by the gods alone? For one very important reason. The giants could only be killed by a god and a hero working together. Many versions of the myths featuring the death of these giants were solo missions. In other words, some gods, not many, but some were also heroes.
Athena, Poseidon, the Moirae, Ares, Hepheastus, Hecate, Hermes, Artemis, and Dionysus have earned an honorable mention for being able to do what Zeus, Hera, Hades, Demeter, and EVERY other god of the time could not.
It wasn’t enough. The giants were still coming. At that point, Hera had a prophecy that the Olympians would never win without the help of the demigods. Specifically the demigod she’d spent the last several decades torturing with endless quests, and madness, and bad luck.
Talk about an “oh crap” moment.
How Hera managed to get Hercules on board is beyond me, because I seriously would have told her to go f–
This is a young adult blog, isn’t it?
Ahem, I would have been less than polite in my refusal.
But Herc was a hero, and by this point probably was legitimately crazy, so he helped the gods best the giants in a series of uber-epic battles. Now remember, Hercules was also dramatic, so rather than saying “Sure, I’ll help,” he loaded up one of his hydra poisoned arrows, shot Alyoneus, picked him up, and dragged him from the magical borders of Pallene where he could not die, and beat him to death with a club.
Interesting side note: Alyoneus had seven daughters known as the Alkyonides. Upon their father’s death they threw themselves into the sea and became fish. There are a group of islands named for the sisters. The word Alkyonides also refers to a beautiful weather pattern that repeats in Greece every year after Christmas until the middle of January there is a non-interrupted period of days with clear blue skies and warm temperatures. I would really love to move there.
Aphrodite assisted Hercules in the slaughter of several giants by forcing the giants into a cave and locking them in with the hero. Hercules teamed up with Apollo to kill Ephialtes and Otus with Apollo’s arrows, though some versions of the myth feature the two giants accidentally killing each other.
In a lovely father-son moment of bonding, Hercules and Zeus worked together to defeat the giant Porphyrion, who was trying to rape Hera thanks to a misfire from one of Eros’ bows.
Hercules defeated the giants Leon and Peloreus on his own because as a demigod, he was also a god and a hero. Go figure.
Because Hercules helped the gods so much, after his death he was turned into a god and brought to Mount Olympus.
I’m sure Hera was thrilled.