Have you ever thought of getting a tattoo of a mythological being, or a Greek deity?
You’ve come to the right place.
We are going to get into the history of tattoos in Greek culture, the many styles of Greek mythology tattoos, what each deity means as a tattoo, and all of the designs you could imagine.
Greek mythology is still important to this day because of the stories they once told about Hercules, Aphrodite, and others, as well as the legends and lessons held as a part of many of our own cultures today.
Getting a Greek mythology tattoo represents stories that were told for generations and marks important figures in a literary culture that many people study today in school as a child and teenager all the way up to the college level.
Though the history of tattoos in Greece is not a positive one, we can still celebrate their culture with a detailed tattoo of a mythological being with great meaning and significance to Western culture.
What is a Greek Mythology Tattoo?
Most often a portrait-style image of deities, Greek mythology tattoos either simply represent that deity and all that comes with them, or they use background imagery to represent a famous mythological story.
They are typically done with black ink and are very rarely done in color.
This tattoo is also most often a sleeve or medium-sized piece.
Sometimes, there are Greek mythology tattoos that are chest, back or shoulder pieces.
Greek mythology tattoos are all about symbolism.
This is not to say aesthetics don’t play a hung role as well, but the most important part about a Greek mythology tattoo is the meaning behind not only the deities but the ‘props’ used to tell characteristics about them or the props and background used to tell their mythological story.
History of Greek Tattoos
The Greeks had one of those many cultures that long associated tattoos with bad behavior.
At first considered something only barbarians do, later on even Plato thought someone who carries off with something should be marked with a tattoo.
These tattoo markings were placed on the hand or face to show to everyone in society that the person was banned (which would be considered unfair law at best today).
Did other people in ancient Greece get tattoos?
The answer is yes: vassals who were freed in Greece were also often marked on the face to show to society that they were once a servant.
Even while freed, they always carried with them the mark of their past.
Therefore, in ancient Greece, it is safe to say that no one wanted a tattoo, but rather it was forced upon them as regulation.
Along with the Greeks, the Romans had similar tattoo values.
Interestingly enough, the Latin word for tattoo is ‘stigma.’
Because of this obvious ‘stigma’ against tattoos, early tattoo removal was developed by the Greeks and Romans using a concoction of herbs and natural chemicals and sticking the potion of sorts into the skin with a pin many times over the course of about a month with little scarring.
It would be fascinating to try this recipe today and see how well it actually works!
However, anyone traveling to Greece today, have no worry!
Greece is a modern country that acts toward people with tattoos just as they would in most parts of Europe and the United States.
Many young Greeks have tattoos and many would be more curious to see your tattoos than to judge you for them.
There are many tattoo parlors in places like Athens and foreigners every day go and get tattoos in Greece.
Styles of Greek Mythology Tattoos
Greek Mythology tattoos can come in a few different styles of tattoo.
This is not a subject that is often shaken up and played around with in style, although we will explain a few different styles they have to offer.
The main concern, as we’ve mentioned, with Greek mythology tattoos is for their portraiture and meaning behind their story and legend (we will cover the portrait style as the main style concept below).
However, the style of the Greek mythology tattoo is important because it denotes a different sense of wonder and imagination.
Each style also allows for different artistic licenses as was as props, background, realistic-ness, or more of a fantasy look.
Let’s take a look at some of the different styles to be had in Greek mythological tattoos:
3D Greek Mythology Tattoos
Do you want your Greek mythological tattoo to really pack a powerful vivacity and get someone’s attention?
3D Greek mythology tattoos and done in the 3D style, meaning the tattoo is meant to look like it is jumping out from your skin.
This effect can be done through heavy shading and the use of white ink to balance out the heavy black and create an illusionary effect.
This style of Greek mythological tattoo is reminiscent of the statues you see in museums or in Greece.
The tattoo comes to life, and can look so realistic that it appears you have a statue on your limb!
This can especially be accepted by, for example, a powerful wind coming through the sky in the background of a mythological figure.
This tattoo style is meant to emphasize the beauty of Greek sculpture and the arts, as well as the meaning behind that particular figure.
It also may represent that these deities were considered to be alive in their own way, and showing them in 3D certainly gets the message across.
Portrait Greek Mythological Tattoos
A portrait-style Greek mythological tattoo is typically from the shoulders up for Goddess and chest up for men (got to show off those abs).
These portrait-style tattoos may use a little bit of color– not too much.
The color is mainly used for a Goddess’s Greek headdress (used for aesthetic purposes only), helmet, or crown.
Color may also be used in the background of the black and white portrait to provide contrast and make the portrait stand out.
All in all, most Greek mythology tattoos are done in even this style are too often done using black ink only.
As opposed to 3D portraits, these 2D representations of Greek mythology are still shaded but look more like an ink drawing on paper.
Other than elaborate headdresses or helmets, the deities’ heads are sometimes surrounded by windy clouds or lightning, creating a dramatic effect only worthy of the divines.
The meaning behind Greek mythology portrait tattoos is that you are trying to capture the essence of that deity and adorn them with accessories that elicit the strength of their character.
This style has a way of creating meaning by showing the deity in their most basic element (just from the waist or shoulder up) and focusing on their facial expression.
There is not one meaning in the style of even the same goddess– the way the portrait is shown has the potential to emphasize any characteristic of the hero or of the deities that you wish to carry with you.
Story-telling Greek Mythological Tattoos
Although this isn’t a ‘real’ style of tattoo, it is an important one for Greek mythology tattoos.
Essentially, this style is a full-body or portrait of a hero from mythology or of the Greek deities that are surrounded by architecture, dramatic weather, or Greek symbols.
This type of tattoo, especially if it is a back piece or sleeve, may have multiple figures arranged together.
This style of tattoo is not all about the foreground or the background.
In fact, it’s about the entire piece as a whole and its combining elements equaling a unique story related to Greek mythology.
The meaning behind the style of tattoo could be anything related to a Greek mythological story, depending on the symbolism and figures used.
Meaning of Greek Mythology Tattoos by Deity
Today, we have a wealth of knowledge about each deity in Greek history because of the many mythological stories left behind.
Each one represents some object, earthly or theoretical, which has a meaning for what that deity represents.
Each one also has a story, or multiple stories, that are told to tip off people of what might happen if they’re not following the deities or instruct them on morals and virtues.
Tattoos of Greek deities take these meanings with them and then you take them on your skin forever.
Not only do these tattoos look cool, but they may symbolize something that is happening in your life or happened in the past.
They may help to describe your identity.
Here are some of the many tattoos of deities of Greek mythology and their meanings:
Athena is the goddess of tactics and is often revered to as the goddess of wisdom.
She is most often dressed as a servicewoman because she is a strong Godess and posses many powerful abilities.
This is probably because Athena is the daughter of Zeus, the most powerful deity in Greek mythology.
A tattoo of Athena means that you value justice above all else and aren’t concerned with trivial matters such as love.
It means that you are not necessarily concerned with being good or evil, as the Greeks thought she believed, rather your interest lies in pure justice.
As you can imagine, she is highly logical, and follows her mind more than her heart.
This tattoo would be great for someone who wants to put all of their focus into their craft, whatever that may be, and focus solely on its completion without emotions taking over.
Also, a Athena tattoo would be a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to focus on vanity and wants to ignore societal beauty standards.
This may be especially true for women who want to use their mind rather than their body to be successful in this world.
Aphrodite is one of the more popular Godesses, especially for a tattoo.
She is the complete opposite of Athena– she is the Goddess of love and lust and everything romantic.
She instead is governed by emotion.
She typically is shown as a voluptuous and incredible beautiful figure rising from a foaming sea.
Aphrodite tattoos often show her wearing many jewels and a large headdress (which, again, is not typical in Greek culture).
It is almost for certain that these adornments in her tattoo are meant to accent her token for beauty and attractiveness.
She also often is positioned in a sensual pose with her shoulder peeking out behind her wind-blown hair.
An Aphrodite tattoo has a lot of meanings.
It could symbolize that you love to love and everything having to do with romance, just as Aphrodite feels.
Or, it could mean that you simply want to emulate her beauty and have a gorgeous tattoo yourself.
If you are someone who carries their heart on their sleeve, this tattoo may fit with your persona and add a bit of sensuality to your life.
Now we get to the most powerful deity of all– Zeus.
Zeus tattoos are a popular choice for fans of Greek tattoos because he’s such a leader of the pack.
Not only is he the King of the Deities, but he is in many mythological stories and therefore a tattoo of him may have many meanings.
Zeus tattoos are often done in black and grey portrait style, but there are no rules against putting your own spin on it.
In a story-telling style tattoo of Zeus, an entire mythological story could be symbolized.
But what does a Zeus tattoo look like?
There is often a bright blue sky with thunderbolts, and Zeus may even be holding a thunderbolt in his hands.
Zeus looks incredibly strong and has long waving hair blown in the storm that he is in complete control of.
In other tattoos, there can be a portrait of Zeus in black ink, his long flowing hair remaining, with a stern powerful look.
Sometimes, Zeus’ eyes are stone-cold white, revealing his all-knowingness as if he can see in all directions at once.
A Zeus tattoo’s meaning is, obviously, incredible strength and power.
Above all, Zeus tattoos represent strength and power.
He could also represent the yin/yang qualities that life has.
You would get this tattoo to either inspire yourself to be more powerful and challenge more people in life, or alternatively, you would get this tattoo to show others how strong you are.
Zeus also had an interesting quality: as a deity, he would bring vengeance on those he disagreed with, with being kind and compassionate with others.
Therefore, this tattoo could represent the balance between your impatience and being generous with your words and actions.
Apollo is another important Greek deity and is a son of Zeus.
In tattoos, he is often shown as a portrait with incredibly curly short hair.
He is also often shown in a statuesque style with white and grey skin that mimics what you would see in a museum.
Tattoo artist often choose to get creative with his hair and the wreath he sometimes wears on his head and use other statuesque items in the background of his portrait.
Apollo is known for being a handsome and athletic man so he is portrayed in tattoos as handsome and built.
Apollo tattoos represent the arts because he is the deity of music.
The ancient Greeks believed that he is in control of the harmony of the world and that his music delivers its listeners from all pain.
Therefore, this would be a great tattoo for a musician or artist who wants peace on Earth and to heal people with their work.
He also represents prophecy because of certain mythological stories and because he was known for teaching and nurturing children.
We can’t forget the famous Poseidon!
Deity of the sea, he is often shown in color with massive waves surrounding him.
His lengthy beard flows in the same direction as the great foaming ocean and his abs tighten as the waves pound his chest.
This is an incredibly visual tattoo fit for a deity.
Sailors of yesteryear often got Poseidon tattoos as a symbol that they crossed the equator, or as a “thank you” to the divinity for a safe journey.
Poseidon tattoos can also represent a desire to be more in control of our emotions, to learn to flow like water.
Poseidon tattoos can be large pieces or small artworks on your forearm or wrist.
Our favorite ones, though, and the large pieces, because of their creative imagery,
The Poseidon tattoo denotes bravery because of Poseidon’s great triumph over the sea.
A Poseidon tattoo is an incredible good luck charm because he has the power to master much of nature– especially calming the seas.
This tattoo is great for anyone who wants to get the better of their weakness and have luck on their side.
Poseidon tattoos can be a cool way to show your love for the sea and you can interpret them in your own way.
A Selene tattoo is a beautiful manifestation of the moon and can look however you want her to.
There are many people who choose the moon as a jumping-off point for tattoo ideas and may choose to get a tattoo design of the moon’s phases or pay homage to one of the many mythological figures associated with the moon.
People have always been fascinated by the moon and for good reason.
As a result, there have been many female deities linked to the moon.
Chief among them is Selene, a well-known lunar goddess in Greek mythology.
If you were to get a tattoo of this mysterious and beautiful moon goddess, what would it represent?
Selene belongs to the archetype of a lover- someone who may not be the most mature, but who loves deeply with reckless abandon.
She is a romantic in every sense of the word, but may not be able to commit to things.
She is a calming presence but ever-changing.
The Selene tattoo represents that duality.
What the Selene tattoo looks like is up to you and the interpretation you like best.
Some tattoo motifs associated with Selene that you may want to include are the owl tattoos and raven, pomegranates, and silvery grey colors.
If you value hard work and ingenuity, this character makes for one epic tattoo.
Though Hephaestus is not the most likely choice when it comes to Greek god tattoos, his story is an interesting one and there is a lot of value to be taken from it.
A Hephaestus tattoo piece may be suitable for someone who is very gifted at metalworking or creating things with their hands, but it can also be a good choice for somebody who beat the odds to make something of themselves.
He is also considered the god of technology, so a tattoo of Hephaestus can symbolize innovation.
Hephaestus tattoos are often done in a portrait style to reflect the classic paintings that portray him.
If you’re a craftsperson looking for a little divine inspiration or just a fan of this particular story – you’re sure to start some interesting conversations with this tattoo piece!
Meaning of Greek Mythology Tattoo Designs
Greek mythology tattoos are not just about the deities of ancient Greece– there are heroes, and mythological creatures, too.
These figures were just as important to the Ancient Greeks as the deities because they each told their own unique fantasies (real to them then, but not to us now) and came with much symbolism.
Here are some of our favorite Greek mythology tattoo designs:
The Medusa was a Greek figure in mythology with a disgusting face and instead of hair, snakes on her head.
In Medusa tattoos, the Medusa’s face is not shown as unsightly as mythology suggests, but rather as a beautiful face with the main feature as her snake hair.
Sometimes, the face looks statuesque, while at other times womanly, more like a human’s face.
The snakes on the Medusa tattoo can be depicted in many different ways.
Many times they are serpents that seem to be moving outwards towards her forehead or towards the sky, coiled together in a tangled mess, or organized in a pattern.
The meaning of the Medusa tattoo is a way of warding off.
It was believed by the ancient Greeks that if you looked into the Medusa’s eyes, you would turn instantly to stone.
Therefore, keeping a Medusa on your body may ward off evil by turning anyone who looks at it into stone (perhaps it’s true!)
For those who are familiar with this Greek mythological creature, centaurs are half-man half-horse.
The top half of them is a man typically who is built with strong limbs and abs, and their torso melts into the torso of a horse.
This tattoo often shows the centaur carrying arrows, as if entering the action.
Sometimes, the centaur tattoo shows a woman centaur.
The centaur may also be carrying an ancient Greek horn, a battlecry.
Seeing that this tattoo is so war-related, it makes sense that its meaning is for those who are bold, and not easily persuaded by others.
Everyone knows that Achilles is the ultimate hero from Greek mythology.
It is a legend that he is the central character of Homer’s Illiad, and he was the hero behind the Trojan war, one of the most popular known actions of all of Greek history.
The Achilles tattoo can be a portrait with him wearing a helmet showing his hard-as-rock abs, or, can be a full-body image of him dressed in armor with a spear.
The Achilles tattoo means strength and power like the mighty warrior that Achilles was.
It is a common tattoo for men especially soldiers, sports players, or wrestlers.
It also symbolizes protection, as if having Achilles on your body will use his powers to protect you in any situation.
Greek Statue Tattoo Meaning
Greek statue tattoos can represent any Greek mythological figure under the sun (or over the heavens, I should say).
These tattoos can be 3D or realistic in style, showing the figure with an astute profile or front-facing facial expression.
Statue tattoos of Greek mythological figures use harsh white, grey, and black lines.
The only exception is perhaps the face, which is sometimes smooth as if it were made of marble.
The figure is usually shown as a portrait: Greek Mythological statue tattoos rarely show a full-body figure.
The meaning of Greek Statue tattoos is completely related to the figure shown in the tattoo.
However, statues of deities, for example, typically represent that humanity wants to capture their essence not just for a single moment but for as long as the statue survives.
This is much like tattoos themselves, which are permanent.
It is a bold and intense tattoo, not meant for the faint of heart.
The phoenix was an important part of Greek mythology and had a similar story that we now know today– the story of rebirth.
This story is an age-old tale that has survived the test of time.
The Greeks believed it lived 1400 years at a time before it burst into flames and was reborn.
A phoenix tattoo is often large and colorful, sometimes surrounded by flames, showing the dramatic event of its ending.
The phoenix is often shown as orange, with an emphasis on its colorful and layered feathers.
A mythological Greek phoenix tattoo symbolizes the ancient magic its story tells and may provide you with the feeling of being invincible.
It also would be a great tattoo for someone who has gone through an awful experience and wants to show the world that they survived and will survive time and time again.
Why Get a Greek Mythology Tattoo?
At the end of the day, why engage in seeking tattoo symbolism from stories that exist from an ancient culture?
We have a lot to learn from the cultures of the past.
The fact that these stories have survived and are still being taught today means that they have lived on for a reason.
Take Athena, for example, and her belief in justice.
Or Zeus, and his belief in learning to control your anger.
All of these lessons we have learned for Greek mythology are important and present up until today.
Having a tattoo representing one of these figures or stories is a powerful element to add to your body not only because of its importance in history but because of the potent morals they leave behind for us to remember– perhaps with a tattoo.
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Alyssa Renee Hardy is a writer, curator, and photographer who publishes articles on the topics of the arts, culture, and social justice. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion business and art history and museum professions. Her experience working with a variety of art institutions, her world travel, and her inquisitive nature provides her with a unique insight. Check out her about page, she would love to connect with you!