KING OF THE GODS
“It is not possible either to trick or escape the mind of Zeus.”
According to my divine ancestors, the ancient Greeks, Zeus was the “Father of Gods” who ruled the
Olympians of Mount Olympus. He was the god of sky and thunder.
As He still is today, ZEUS was the king of the gods, the god of sky and weather, law, order and fate. He was depicted as a regal man, mature with sturdy figure and dark beard. His usual attributes were a lightning bolt, royal sceptre and eagle.
Some of the more famous myths featuring the god include:
- His birth and upbringing in the Diktaion cave, where he was nursed by Amaltheia and guarded by the shield-clashing Kouretes;
- The Titan War in which he overthrew the Titanes and imprisoned them in Tartaros;
- His battle with Typhoeus, a hundred headed, monstrous giant who attempted to capture heaven;
- The War of the Giants who attempted to storm Olympos but were slain by Zeus and the gods;
- The Great Deluge in which he flooded the earth to destroy mankind and begin the world anew;
- His conflict with Prometheus over the theft of benefactions for mankind;
- The punishment of Salmoneus, Tantalos and Ixion, men who offended the god with their impiety;
- The birth and life of Herakles, his favoured son, who he had transferred to Olympos at death;
- His extramarital affairs with women such as Leda, seduced in the form of a swan; Europa, as a bull; Danae, as a golden shower; Kallisto, as Artemis; and Antiope as a satyr;
- The Trojan War which he orchestrated from start to end, including the casting of the golden apple of discord.
Zeus was the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of their siblings. In most traditions he was married to
Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort was Dione. According to the Iliad, he was the father of
Aphrodite by Dione. He was also known for his erotic escapades which resulted in many godly and heroic
offspring including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus,
Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he was said to have
fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.
Even the gods who were not his natural children addressed him as Father Zeus. For the Greeks, he was the King
of the Gods, who ruled the universe. As Pausanias observed, “That Zeus is king in heaven.” In Hesiod’s
Theogony Zeus assigned the various gods their roles. In the Homeric Hymns he was referred to as the chieftain
of the gods. His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. 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, the Titan God, 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 Rhea was to
hear and avert.
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:
-He was then raised by Gaia.
-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.
-He was raised by a nymph named Cynosura. In gratitude, Zeus placed her among the stars.
-He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat’s milk
-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.
(Zeus in Titanomachy below)
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.
ZEUS AND HERA
Zeus was brother and consort of Hera. By Hera, Zeus sired Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus. 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 and with the young Ganymede. 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 talking incessantly, and when Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to repeat the words of others. According to legend, Metis, the goddess of prudence, was the first love of Zeus. At first she tried in vain to escape his advances, but in the end succumbed to his endeavor, and from their union Athena was conceived. Gaia warned Zeus that Metis would bear a daughter, whose son would overthrow him. On hearing this Zeus swallowed Metis, the reason for this was to continue to carry the child through to the birth himself. Hera was outraged and very jealous of her husband’s affair, also of his ability to give birth without female participation. To spite Zeus she gave birth to Hephaestus parthenogenetically and it was Hephaestus who, when the time came, split open the head of Zeus, from which Athena emerged fully armed.
Zeus: Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame on us gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given.
And now you know the story of the King of the Gods, according to the myths and the legends of my divine ancestors the ancient Greeks.