greek mythology

Zeus

Zeus the Father of the Greek Gods

Zeus is the father of all the gods and humans, he is the most senior of the Olympian gods Master of the Heavens and Lord of the Universe. He was a third generation god. His grandmother was Gaea the first mother and he was the youngest child of the first race of deities, his parents being Cronus and Rhea. He escaped the fate of his brothers and sisters of being swallowed by his father and was brought up in secret by the Nymph, Neda and the wives of the Corybands, Idaeon, Andron, dictaie and Melliai who were assisted by Adrastea and the goat Amalthea. He led the younger generation of gods in the battles against the older race of Titans and afterwards the Giants and finally conquered the mighty serpent Typhon to win his position of King of all the Gods.

As king, Zeus created the world from scratch and after Prometheus’ attempt to help mankind, created a new race of humans that did not have the arrogance of the old human race but instead honoured their gods. He did this by sending a tremendous flood to the world with only Deucalion and Pyrrha surviving, then allowing them to create new humans from the rocks that they threw behind them.

He was married to Hera although he is known for his erotic philanderings, endless abductions and seductions of other women, appearing as either human or an animal to trick women to lay with him. He fathered many children, some godly but others heroic semi-gods. These included Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Persephone, Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen (of Troy), Minos, the Muses, Ares, Hebeand and Hephaestus. By fathering a whole generation of gods and semi-divine heroes he usurped the powr of procreation from the Mother Goddess, Gaea.

As guarantor for the order and harmony of the world he would avenge and exterminate any god that went against him and upset this harmony. He was, however, also a protector and a fair god, who judged the actions of both gods and mortals with compassion. He protected the states and defended cities during wars. He granted freedom to those who were under his protection, protected the homes of humans, their peace and safeguarded the institution of marriage and friendship. Besides caring for families he protected the poor, strangers and refugees. He also was responsible for the climate and the changes in weather, sending rain to make the fields fertile.

His symbols of the eagle and the thunderbolt were linked to his powers with the eagle being the sacred bird which flies higher in the sky than any other bird and faster than everything but lightening. As well as these two symbols the oak tree is sacred to Zeus and in Zeus’ oracle in Dodona, Epirus, an oak tree was in the centre of the temple and the priests would divine the god’s pronouncements by interpreting the rustling of its leaves. Finally, the bull is a sacred animal that symbolizes Zeus. The god took the form of a white bull when he seduced the mortal Europa and in his seduction of Io, changed her into a heifer to conceal her from his jealous wife Hera.

As the sky god Zeus had easy access to the women of the world and took full advantage of it. Also, his power as a supreme god made him difficult to resist. Prior to his marrage to Hera he was married first to Metis, then Themis. He was interested in Demeter but she resisted him. His third wife was Mnemosyne.

Zeus was the most powerful god. He had overturned his father Cronus and seized power, and everything was ultimately in his hands. Zeus was a weather god, as well as the protector of the law, the state, the society, the city, the family and strangers. According to the myth, Zeus was the son of Cronus and Rea and born in Crete. He was the God of all gods and belonged to the second generation of the gods of Olympus. The story told is that before the birth of Zeus, Cronus was told by an oracle that one of his children would seize his power and so, rather then let this happen, he murdered all his children by eating them.

His wife, Rea, determined not to let this happen again on the birth of the baby Zeus, tricked Cronus by presenting him with a rock disguised as a newborn wrapped in swaddling clothes.

She then sought refuge in a cave on top of Mt. Dikti in Crete to give birth to her baby. Soon after this, the infant was moved to another lonely cave, Idaion Andro on Mt. Idi where he was raised by Nymphs and was suckled by a goat, Amalthia. In order that Cronus should be kept in ignorance about his secret son, the baby,s cries were drowned out by the giant gods, the  kourites  who created a cacophony by beating on their drums and singing loudly. When Zeus became an adult, he defeated his father and so became the king of the Gods.

All the other Olympian gods were either his siblings or his children. His wife was Hera but he had countless trysts with other goddesses as well as mortal women. One of these mortals was Europa whom he brought to Crete. The rock that tricked his father was put in Delphi to remind all mortals and gods of his magnificence.

Zeus main shrine was in Dodona, where it was believed one could hear the future being told by the wind blowing through the the leafs of the holy oak trees that grew there. In Olympia he was honoured every four years with the Olympic Games and Phidias statue of him there was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The Nemean Games were also held in his honour. The birds, especially the eagle, were believed to be Zeus messengers and so his priests were careful to try and foretell the future through the birds flight. Mountains were often named after Zeus and still today there are mountains of Zeus all over Greece, for example on Crete and Naxos.
On Crete Zeus was especially worshipped since it was believed he grew up there, in hiding from his father who would have eaten him had he known of Zeus existence. On Crete his worshippers believed he was born there, and that he also died there. There was even a tomb there said to be his.

The name Zeus is believed to originate in the Sanskrit dyaus which means heaven. The ancient Greeks also called him Dias, and this name has through the Latin Deus become a common word for God in many languages.

Apart from being the highest God, Zeus was also a mischievous one. Constantly unfaithful to his jealous wife and sister Hera, Zeus had many children with other women, both mortal and immortal. With Hera he had Ares, Hebe, Hephaestus and Eileithyia.

In the guise of a swan he had seduced queen Leda of Sparta, and she bore Helen of Troy and Polydeukes as a result. As a bull he kidnapped the Phoenician princess Europa and she gave birth to Minos and Rhadamanthus..

With the goddess of memory Mnemosyne he became the father of the nine muses and with other goddesses and mortal women he had amongst others Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus and Heracles.
He was also the sole parent of Athena, whose remarkable birth had happened after Zeus had suffered a terrible headache. Hephaistus then hit him over the head with a sledgehammer, and out of Zeus head sprung the goddess, fully grown and in armor.

Not only women were his victims. The young Trojan prince Ganymedes was kidnapped by Zeus and taken to Mount Olympus, where he was made the servant of the gods.

Zeus and Europa

Europa was a Phoenician princess, the daughter of the Aginor the king of Tyre (modern day Lebanon), and his queen, Telephassa. According to the legend, Zeus fell in love with her after watching her playing on a beach with her friends. In order to lure her back to Crete he turned himself into a fabulous but amiable white bull with golden horns and, the unsuspecting but foolish, Europa climbed upon his back to frolic in the waves.

However, once she was astride he rushed into the sea and carried her off to Crete. As a gesture of his love for her he gave her a quiver of arrows that never failed in hitting their target, a golden dog as a guardian angel and the giant Talos to protect the island. It is claimed that the consummation of their love was in the area of Gortys, under a plane tree which then became evergreen.
Alternatively, it was at Diktaion Andron where their bridal bed was prepared by nymphs. They had three sons: Radamanthys, Sarpedon and Minos (who later became king). Unfortunately the faithless Zeus grew tired of her and passed her on to Asterionas, the king of Crete, who married her and took on her children. On her death, the Cretans paid tribute to her memory by naming one of the earth's continents after her.

In Rome Zeus was worshipped under the name Jupiter. He also had the following epithats:
Acraeus, Actaeus, Aeneius, Aethipos, Agamemnon, Agetor, Agoraeus, Ambulius, Ammon, Anchesmius, Apemius, Apesantius, Aphesius, Apomyius, Arbius, Areius, Astrapaeus, Atabyrius, Athous, Basileus, Bolaeus, Cappotas, Caraos, Carius, Cassius, Catharsius, Cenaeus, Charmon, Cithaeronius, Clarius, Coccygius, Conius, Cosmetas, Croceatas, Ctesius, Cynthius, Dictaeus, Dodonais, Eleutherius, Epacrius, Epidotes, Euanemus, Genethlius, Hecaleius, Hecatombaeus, Hetaareius, Homagyrius, Homarius, Homoloius, Horceius, Hyetius, Hymettus, Hypatus, Hypsistus, Icmaeus, Ithomatas, Laphystius, Larissaeus, Lecheates, Leucaeus, Lycaeus, Lycoreus, Maemactes, Mechaneus, Meilichius, Messapeus, Moiragetes, Morius, Nemeius, Ombrius, Olympius, Panhellenius, Parnethius, Phyxius, Phratrios, Plusius, Poleius, Scotitas, Semaleos, Soter, Teleius, Thaulius, Thenatias, Tropaeus