The "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He is the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. Zeus was the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he was married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort was Dione: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. He is known for his sexual escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.
As Walter Burkert points out in his book, Greek Religion, "Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence." For the Greeks, he was the King of the Gods, who oversaw the universe. As Pausanias observed, "That Zeus is king in heaven is a saying common to all men". In Hesiod's Theogony Zeus assigns the various gods their roles. In the Homeric Hymns he is referred to as the chieftain of the gods.
His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward, with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.
Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son as he had overthrown his own father— an oracle that Zeus was to hear and avert. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him, so that Cronus would get his retribution for his acts against Uranus and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Cronus a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed.
Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. According to varying versions of the story:
1. He was then raised by Gaia.
2. He was raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes— soldiers, or smaller gods— danced, shouted and clashed their spears against their shields so that Cronus would not hear the baby's cry (see cornucopia).
3. He was raised by a nymph named Adamanthea. Since Cronus ruled over the Earth, the heavens and the sea, she hid him by dangling him on a rope from a tree so he was suspended between earth, sea and sky and thus, invisible to his father.
4. He was raised by a nymph named Cynosura. In gratitude, Zeus placed her among the stars.
5. He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat's-milk and honey.
6. He was raised by a shepherd family under the promise that their sheep would be saved from wolves.
King of the gods
After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge first the stone (which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, the Omphalos) then his siblings in reverse order of swallowing. In some versions, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the babies, or Zeus cut Cronus' stomach open. Then Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes, from their dungeon in Tartarus, killing their guard, Campe.
As a token of their appreciation, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt, or lightning, which had previously been hidden by Gaia. Together, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, along with the Gigantes, Hecatonchires and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans, in the combat called the Titanomachy. The defeated Titans were then cast into a shadowy underworld region known as Tartarus. Atlas, one of the titans that fought against Zeus, was punished by having to hold up the sky.
After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers, Poseidon and Hades, by drawing lots: Zeus got the sky and air, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the world of the dead (the underworld). The ancient Earth, Gaia, could not be claimed; she was left to all three, each according to their capabilities, which explains why Poseidon was the "earth-shaker" (the god of earthquakes) and Hades claimed the humans that died (see also Penthus).
Gaia resented the way Zeus had treated the Titans, because they were her children. Soon after taking the throne as king of the gods, Zeus had to fight some of Gaia's other children, the monsters Typhon and Echidna. He vanquished Typhon and trapped him under Mount Etna, but left Echidna and her children alive.
Zeus and Hera
Zeus was brother and consort of Hera. By Hera, Zeus sired Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus, though some accounts say that Hera produced these offspring alone. Some also include Eileithyia and Eris as their daughters. The conquests of Zeus among nymphs and the mythic mortal progenitors of Hellenic dynasties are famous. Olympian mythography even credits him with unions with Leto, Demeter, Dione and Maia. Among mortals were Semele, Io, Europa and Leda (for more details, see below).
Many myths render Hera as jealous of his amorous conquests and a consistent enemy of Zeus' mistresses and their children by him. For a time, a nymph named Echo had the job of distracting Hera from his affairs by incessantly talking: when Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to repeat the words of others.
Roles and epithets
Zeus played a dominant role, presiding over the Greek Olympian pantheon. He fathered many of the heroes and was featured in many of their local cults. Though the Homeric "cloud collector" was the god of the sky and thunder like his Near-Eastern counterparts, he was also the supreme cultural artifact; in some senses, he was the embodiment of Greek religious beliefs and the archetypal Greek deity.
Aside from local epithets that simply designated the deity to doing something random at some particular place, the epithets or titles applied to Zeus emphasized different aspects of his wide-ranging authority:
* Zeus Olympios emphasized Zeus's kingship over both the gods in addition to his specific presence at the Panhellenic festival at Olympia.
* Zeus Panhellenios ("Zeus of all the Hellenes"), to whom Aeacus' famous temple on Aegina was dedicated.
* Zeus Xenios, Philoxenon or Hospites: Zeus was the patron of hospitality and guests, ready to avenge any wrong done to a stranger.
* Zeus Horkios: Zeus he was the keeper of oaths. Exposed liars were made to dedicate a statue to Zeus, often at the sanctuary of Olympia.
* Zeus Agoraeus: Zeus watched over business at the agora and punished dishonest traders.
* Zeus Aegiduchos or Aegiochos: Zeus was the bearer of the Aegis with which he strikes terror into the impious and his enemies. Others derive this epithet from αἴξ ("goat") and οχή and take it as an allusion to the legend of Zeus' suckling at the breast of Amalthea.
Additional names and epithets for Zeus are also:
* Zeus Meilichios ("easy-to-be-entreated"): Zeus subsumed an archaic chthonic daimon propitiated in Athens, Meilichios.
* Zeus Tallaios ("solar Zeus"): the Zeus that was worshiped in Crete.
* Zeus Labrandos: he was worshiped at Caria. His sacred site was Labranda and he was depicted holding a double-edged axe (labrys-labyrinth). He is connected with the Hurrian god of sky and storm Teshub.
* Kasios: the Zeus of Mount Kasios in Syria
* Ithomatas: the Zeus of Mount Ithomi in Messenia
* Astrapios ("lightninger")
* Brontios ("thunderer")
From Men, Myths & Minds
Zeus, Greek god of the sky was also the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and all the other Greek gods and goddesses of the Olympian pantheon. Not an easy job for they were quite an unruly bunch! When the Olympians won the war against the ruling Titans, Zeus and his siblings wrested the throne from his father Cronos (Kronos) and the Olympic age began.
Zeus, Greek God of the Sky:
As ruler of the sky, the Greek god Zeus was responsible for bringing (or not, if he so chose) rain, drought, and thunderstorms. No one dared challenge the authority of the mighty Zeus since he was prone to release his fearsome thunderbolts to express his displeasure . . . an awesome way to keep the peace and maintain order, but it worked for several centuries!
The birth of Zeus was to be a fateful event . . . and it certainly was an unusual one! Sixth child of the ruling Titan god Cronos and the goddess Rhea, Zeus was the first to escape the fate of being swallowed by his father. Cronus, made fearful by a prophecy that one of his children would overthrow him, had eaten each of his children shortly after their births to prevent this from happening.
Rhea, understandably, was not happy about this, and after the birth of Zeus, tricked Zeus into swallowing a rock that she had wrapped in a blanket, leading him to believe it was his newborn son. With the help of Gaia (the great Titan goddess we call Mother Earth, Rhea placed the care of her infant Zeus in the hands of the ash nymphs who hid him in their cave. Sometimes they hid him in the boughs of an ash tree where he could not be found on earth, in the sea or in the sky. The nymphs were helped by the divine goat Amalthei who allowed Zeus to nurse on her milk. Later when she died Zeus turned the goat's skin into his royal shield, Aegis, to honor her.
Zeus grew nicely under the nymphs' care, and, as a young boy, came to be an attendant to his father. Cronus had no reason to suspect that his new cup-bearer was actually his son.
His mother and the goddess Metis (a Titan goddess of wisdom) prepared a special potion for Zeus to slip into his father's cup. When Cronus drank from the cup he grew nauseous and vomited u[ Zeus' five siblings that he had swallowed -- Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon.
Understandably outraged at having been imprisoned all these years, the siblings decided to wrest the throne away from Cronus. The wise Zeus realized that they would need both weaponry and powerful allies to accomplish this feat so, with his brothers; he freed the Cyclopes (one-eyed giants) from their imprisonment in Tartarus (the unpleasant part of the Underworld that we would describe as Hell).
Grateful for their release and willing to help battle Cronus, the Cyclopes presented the brothers with gifts to show their appreciation. To Zeus they gave his thunderbolts, to Poseidon his trident, and to Hades a helmet that, when worn, made the wearer invisible.
Now well armored, the siblings began the battle against their father and his troops. The war was long and bloody, but eventually won when the invisible Hades crept up behind Cronus, Poseidon immobilized him with his trident, and Zeus knocked him unconscious with his thunderbolts. The reign of the Olympians had just begun!
Since he was a god and couldn't die, Cronus was imprisoned in Tartarus. Later he managed to escape, changed his name to Saturn, and made his way to Italy where he lived quietly among the mortals.
Meanwhile the three brothers drew lots to divide up their new kingdom. Zeus drew the heavens (which made him the supreme ruler), Poseidon got the sea, and Hades won the Underworld. They agreed to share the rulership of the earth, with all having power over the mortals and the earth's other creatures.
Unfortunately Zeus let his newly acquired power go to his head. Consequently his first few years of rule were marred by his tendency to abuse his powers.
He built an enormous palace that sat far above the clouds on the top of Mount Olympus and, ensconced there, used his thunderbolts rather liberally, hurling them at anyone who had the misfortune to displease him.
Zeus decided he needed a queen and picked Metis, the goddess who had helped him trick Cronos into disgorging his brothers and sisters. Only one problem . . . Metis declined and changed forms to hide herself from the persistent Zeus. But Zeus wasn't about to take no for an answer and pursued her relentlessly until she finally fell from exhaustion and consented.
When Metis became pregnant, the great goddess Gaia, irritated with his high-handed ways issued a prophecy that any son of Zeus and Metis would grow to eventually usurp the throne of his father. So, in a variation of his father's routine, Zeus swallowed the pregnant Metis to prevent her from giving birth to a son.
He need not have bothered for Metis was carrying a daughter, not a son. As the unborn daughter grew for years inside his head, Zeus developed the headache to end all headaches! Hephaestus, the god of the forge, could see how miserable Zeus felt, and fashioning a golden axe especially for the occasion, split Zeus' head open to relieve the pain. When he did, out stepped Athena, full-grown daughter of Zeus who was fully-clothed and ready to assume her divine responsibilities as the goddess of war. She was to become her father's most trusted ally and advisor.
Now with Metis out of the way, Zeus went on to have several other consorts (and children by them) before actually marrying. Eventually Zeus decided that it was time for him to marry, and he picked the goddess Hera.
But Hera was not at all interested in this arrogant young god and wouldn't let him near her. Realizing what it was that was "putting her off", Zeus transformed himself into a cuckoo and created a thunderstorm that drenched him thoroughly. Finding the little bird wet, bedraggled, and shivering, the kindly Hera picked him up and cradled him next to her heart. Changing back into his usual form, Zeus convinced her that she should take pity on him too, that, like the bird, he was also vulnerable and madly in love with her. greek gods Quiz
Hera realized she loved him too and agreed to marry him and become the Queen of Heaven (she wasn't about to settle for just being another of his consorts!) Everyone was jubilant for Hera was greatly loved, and they thought that she would manage to settle Zeus down a bit. Their marriage got off to a good start, with the honeymoon lasting over 300 years!
But Zeus, married or not, wasn't quite ready to become the mature and benevolent ruler that he would later be. He was soon to resume his philandering ways, pursuing and capturing goddesses, nymphs, and mortals when they caught his wandering eye. Many of the myths of Zeus involve these seductions, with Zeus changing into various forms to seduce his unwilling prey, turning himself into a swan to rape Ledo, a golden rain to impregnate Danae.
And it is no wonder that they were all unwilling, for the jealous Hera, unable to vent her rage on her powerful husband, turned her ire on the women he had seduced and their children.
To his credit, Zeus was always a wonderful father, empowering all his children . . . acknowledging them all as his, protecting them from Hera if need be, giving them positions of power and responsibility.
Zeus could be quite vengeful himself, especially in response to any affront to his power. Take his punishment of Prometheus, for example -- he had the poor Prometheus chained to a rock for eternity and sent his eagle daily to pick out and feast on pieces of his liver, punishment for stealing some fire from Mount Olympus to give to the mortals. Many years later the hero Heracles (Hercules) would kill the eagle and free the suffering Prometheus.
At any rate, the other Olympians were growing tired of Zeus' antics and his arrogance; they decided to revolt. A conspiracy was organized by Poseidon (resentful of having gotten less power than Zeus) and went so far that the conspirators had disarmed and trapped Zeus. But while the brothers and sisters argued among themselves about how their new power would be divided, Zeus escaped and the plot was foiled.
But apparently Zeus had gotten the message that it was time to grow up, and so he resolved to do better. And he did. (Well, maybe not totally, for the amorous escapades continued.)
Superbly rational, Zeus became an outstanding administrator and a respected leader. He set high standards and was a very strict disciplinarian, even-handedly meting out punishments to those who broke the rules and settling all their disputes with great wisdom and impartiality.
Seldom acting out of anger, the Greek god Zeus rarely held a grudge and was usually willing to let "bygones be bygones" once you'd served your time.
He even let the conspirators off lightly, banishing the ringleaders, the bright Apollo and his brother Poseidon, to earth to work as manual laborers, but only for one year. And he forgave Athena for her role, saying that she'd been "duped" by the others.
Hermes later became Zeus' messenger and trusted aide and extricated Zeus from many tricky situations. Athena, in addition to her responsibilities as the goddess of war, was made the goddess of wisdom and given the responsibility of serving as a judge.
Zeus had two other special attendants . . . Nike (Winged Victory) and a cup-bearer named Hebe. When Hebe left to marry Heracles (Hercules), a beautiful boy named Ganymedes caught the eye of Zeus. Captivated by the youth, Zeus turned himself into an eagle and swept down from the sky to capture the boy. Returning with him to Mount Olympus, he installed him as his personal cup-bearer, a position of great trust.
Zeus had reserved the greatest punishment for his wife Hera and had her strung from the stars with silver thread, heavy anvils tied to her ankles as punishment for her part in the conspiracy to unseat him.
Painful as it was, Hera moaned and groaned night and day. Zeus couldn't get any rest, so after a few sleepless nights he agreed to let her down if she would promise to honor and respect him forever more. She gladly did.
It should be noted that, in spite of all his infidelities and her repeatedly taking her revenge out on his lovers, the two really loved each other. Eventually, by using her strong sense of humor, Hera convinced him that he didn't really need to keep "fooling around" and he quit. They lived happily ever after, of course.
The great Titan goddess Gaia, furious that the Olympians had imprisoned her children the Titans, once decided to take Zeus to task for it. She sent an army of giants (who could not be killed by a god, only by a mortal) to lay siege to Mount Olympus.
Gigantic as they were, they were about to scale the walls of the fortress when Heracles (Zeus' mortal son, also known as Hercules) came to Zeus' assistance and killed the giants.
Gaia was furious! She created a gigantic monster by the name of Typhoon who had a human shape but, instead of legs had thousands of snakes measuring a hundred miles long when uncoiled. When stretched out to his full length, Typhon's head touched the stars.
When the monster reared his ugly head over the walls of Mount Olympus, the gods and goddesses shivered in fear. Then changing themselves into various animals to escape unnoticed and ran away to escape. All but one did, that is . . .
Athena remained behind. Disgusted with their departure, she began to taunt Zeus, asking him what kind of a king he was, "A coward king, I'd say!" Zeus was embarrassed and summoned his courage, turned around and fought Typhon. The earth shook for days from their mighty blows.
Finally the beast turned to pick up a tall mountain to hurl at Zeus, and just when he was distracted Zeus unleashed a hundred perfectly aimed thunderbolts at the monster, blasting the mountain to bits and burying the Typhon beneath it. The Typhon didn't die, but still lays buried beneath Mount Aetna where it periodically shakes and hisses with volcanic fury!
As powerful as he was, there were two powers that Zeus could not have -- the power over the Fates and destiny, for they alone could determine the paths that gods and mortals would have to take.
Ambitious, intelligent, persistent, and always keenly focused on his goals, the mighty Zeus looms large in the myths of the Greek gods. Whether defending the peace and political order, seducing a goddess or nymph, punishing an errant son, or doting on one of his many daughters, the Greek god Zeus was always up to something interesting.
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