Gods of the Sky in Egyptian, Roman & Greek Mythologies

Ivy Roberts, Mary Deering, Lesley Chapel
  • Author
    Ivy Roberts

    Ivy Roberts has taught undergraduate-level film studies for over 9 years. She has a PhD in Media, Art and Text from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA in film production from Marlboro College. She also has a certificate in teaching online from UMGC and non-profit marketing and fundraising from UC Davis.

  • Instructor
    Mary Deering

    Mary has a Master's Degree in History with 18 advanced hours in Government. She has taught college History and Government courses.

  • Expert Contributor
    Lesley Chapel

    Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Learn about the Greek God of the sky, the Roman God of the sky, and the Egyptian sky god. Learn about Uranas, God of the Sky, and Horus, god of the sky. Updated: 04/20/2021

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Who Is the God of the Sky?

In ancient cultures around the world, people have told stories about powerful deities who live in the heavens and watch over the workings of human beings. The appearance of a sky god in so many cultures would suggest that the concept is universal. Civilizations that worshiped sky gods include:

  • Ancient Egypt
  • Ancient Greece
  • Ancient Rome
  • Mesopotamia, Babylon and Sumer
  • Native American tribal cultures

The sky god tends to be one of the most, if not the most, powerful within polytheistic religions (worship of many gods). In monotheistic religions (worship of one god), the high god also possesses power most commonly attributed to the sky god:

  • Control of weather, including rain, thunder and lightning
  • Associated with the sun and heat
  • Full of wrath

As such, dishonoring a sky god could bring long periods of night and/or drought.

Why Create Gods?

Those who worshiped sky gods did so because they held firm beliefs about the ability of such deities to control aspects of their daily life and survival. This includes:

  • Weather
  • Sunlight and heat
  • Change from daytime to nighttime
  • Fertility and agriculture

Myths are stories that people tell to explain the way the world functions. In sacred societies, environmental factors are anthropomorphized in the form of gods. Sky gods explain large-scale environmental factors that plague as well as bring bounty.

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  • 0:01 Why Create Gods?
  • 0:45 Egyptian Sky Gods
  • 2:46 Greek and Roman Sky Gods
  • 4:31 A Native American Sky Goddess
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Who Is the Egyptian Sky God?

In Ancient Egypt, statues of the gods resided in shrines, churches, and domestic spaces. Priests made offerings in churches, and ordinary people worshiped gods in their domestic spaces as well.

Because the gods were modeled after humans and animals, they required food, drink, and shelter. The Ancient Egyptians took caring for the gods very seriously by offering tributes in the form of:

  • food,
  • wine,
  • anointing of oils and perfumes,
  • washing statues.

Making offerings to the gods

Making offerings to the gods

Although archaeological evidence shows that worship of mother goddess Nut was minimal, this fact should not detract from the importance given her in the mythology.

Nut (pronounced like newt) would most likely be considered the quintessential goddess of the sky in Egyptian mythology. She is the wife and counterpart to Geb, god of the earth. Stories describe Nut as the physical manifestation of the sky itself. As the stories tell, Nut gives birth to the sun, Re, every morning. In depictions from the New Kingdom period, her body is ornamented with stars. Effigies also feature the sun prominently, either being swallowed or birthed by the mother goddess.

Nut had many children:

  • Osiris
  • Set
  • Nephthys
  • Isis
  • Horus (The Elder)

Horus: God of the Sky

The Egyptian Horus god of the sky holds a particularly strong, and elusive, place in the mythology. He is known as the god of light and day, and therefore of the sky. He is depicted with the head of a falcon.

He appears in two manifestations:

  • Horus the Elder, son of Nut and Geb
  • Horus the Younger, son of Isis and Osiris

The worship of Horus is entwined with rituals honoring his parents Isis and Osiris. Festivals throughout the year coinciding with the equinoxes celebrated the birth, death, and rebirth of the gods. Supplicants would act out a play depicting the myth of Isis and Osiris, symbolizing the rebirth of the king. The Sed festival, for example, was held on the thirty year rule of the king. The king would dress in ceremonial attire and demonstrate his vitality. Ceremonies incorporated:

  • theater
  • costume
  • voice and music

All of these attributes were highly symbolic, serving to associate the king with a godly presence.

Horus and Osiris

The plays performed at the festivals enacted the myth of Isis and Osiris. As the story goes, Osiris was the eldest son of Geb, making him king upon his father's death. Enraged with jealousy, another of Geb's sons, Set, killed Osiris and dismembered his body. Set then ascended to the throne.

Grief-stricken, Isis reassembles her husband's body and brings him back to life with her godly powers. Once he has been resurrected, Osiris impregnates Isis, and Horus is born. When Horus becomes an adult, he struggles to gain the throne himself, eventually killing Set in battle. Horus avenges his father's death.

Horus and Set

Horus' ascent to the throne takes the form of a contest with Set, judged by the gods. They performed a series of battles in which each demonstrated their strength and honor. Set cheated while Horus performed nobly.

  • In one episode, Set removes Horus' eyes.
  • They race boats made of stone.
  • They transform into hippopotamuses to see who can hold their breath longer underwater.

Some versions of the myth end the contest in a tie. Others say Horus claims the throne after much deliberation among the gods. Since Set is depicted as an underhanded trickster, Horus takes on the attributes of honor and nobility.

Horus's Sons

Horus' four sons are attributed to the Ancient Egyptian burial process, in which the body's organs are removed and placed in ceremonial vases. The four organs associated with Horus' sons were mummified and placed in special receptacles called canopic jars.

  • Imsety guards the liver.
  • Hapy guards the lungs.
  • Duamutef guards the stomach.
  • Qebehsenuef guards the intestines.

Who Is the Greek God of the Sky?

Within the Ancient Greek pantheon, or family of gods, there are many gods associated with the sky. Though the Ancient Greeks had no scripture, their religious practice infused everyday life. Sanctuaries were erected in the honor of specific gods, and were situated in places that reflected those deity's attributes. Temples of the sky gods would have been located in elevated places, for instance. Sanctuaries were separated off from surrounding areas by a wall. Temples housed an altar and statue of the god or goddess. Other characteristics of the temple include sacred trees or springs.

Animal sacrifice was a common religious act. Goats or sheep were usually the victims, with the worshipers consuming the meat after the slaughter. Sacrifices such as these were made with the expectation of receiving gifts from the gods. Festivals were also a prominent facet of Ancient Greek religious life. Some such festivals devoted to sky gods include:

  • The July Kronia, devoted to the worship of Cronos, involved feasting.
  • The January Gamelia celebrated the union of Zeus and Hera, both of whom were associated with the sky.

Zeus: God of the Sky

Zeus god of the sky and wielder of thunder was king of the gods. Zeus was one of the children of the Titan, Cronos. Cronos was vengeful, and Zeus followed after his father. In fear of being overthrown, Cronos swallowed his children. But Rhea, Cronos' wife and Zeus' mother, placed a stone in Zeus' place.

Cronos and his child, by Romanelli

Zeus held a central place in the Greek festivals:

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Sky Gods:

Essay Prompt 1:

In one paragraph, write an essay that explains why civilizations create gods.

Example: Creating gods helps people understand the workings of nature, such as storms.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of at least three to four paragraphs that discusses Native American sky gods. Your essay should explain the story of Atahensic, and also describe the roles of Loon and Great Turtle. Also, make sure that your essay addresses how Native American matriarchal societies influenced stories about their gods.

Example: Many Native American groups, such as the Huron and the Iroquois, lived in matriarchal societies. This helps explain why Atahensic was so powerful and had no husband; she didn't need one.

Family Tree Prompt:

Create a family tree of the ancient Egyptian sky gods. Your family tree should also note what areas of nature each god controlled.

Example: Set controlled storms as well as the desert.

Presentation Prompt:

Make a PowerPoint presentation that details the ancient Greek and ancient Roman sky gods. Make sure that your presentation explains notable acts of each god.

Example: Selene drove the moon across the sky at night in a white chariot.

Research Prompt:

Choose one of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, or Native American gods mentioned in the lesson and research that god further. Present your research findings in an essay of at least two to three paragraphs in length.

Example: You want to learn more about Cronus, because, after all, he was the father of Zeus.

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