To the Olympians, Zeus was the God of the both thunder and the sky.
He was the king of men and the other Gods. This made him a major figure in Greek mythology. Zeus is the son of Rhea and Cronus. He became famous for his infidelity to his wife and sister, Hera. Many of his erotic affairs resulted in many children including the Muses, Heracles, Hermes, Apollo, Helen of Troy, Dionysus, Artemis and Athena. His legitimate children are Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.
The name Zeus is believed to have originated from the ancient Greek alphabet. The word Zeus means bright in Greek and the Latin translation is day. The history of this word is ancient. The majority of mythologists believe one of the oldest Greek Gods is Zeus.
Zeus is usually portrayed with a thunderbolt in one hand and a scepter in the other. These both symbolize his authority. Certain depictions show him wearing a crown made of oak leaves. This is believed to be his sacred tree. Zeus has been described as aegis-bearing. This is in reference to the enormous shield he carried frequently. He lent his shield to his daughter Athena on numerous occasions, Zeus also has a pet named Aetos Dios. This is an giant golden eagle. Zeus is considered the governor of the weather and the ruler of the heavens. He is associated with battles and power, authority and destiny and wisdom and awareness. Prior to the fight between Hector and Achilles, Zeus blessed their outcomes by weighting their lots.
Poets claim Zeus has two urns. One is filled with blessings, the other with ills. He gives whichever of these gifts he decides upon to the mortals. Zeus has been attributed with numerous epithets including savior, all-Greek, guest-patron, oath-keeper and warlike. Zeus is both the oldest and the youngest son of Rhea and Cronus. Cronus was the ruler of the Gods shortly after the creation of the world. He found out he would be overthrown by one of his children. For this reason, he swallowed the two brothers and three sisters of Zeus when they were born.
These siblings were Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Hera and Demeter. The only reason Zeus was not eaten was due to Rhea. When Zeus was born, she gave Cronus a stone disguised in swaddling clothes in his place. Zeus was then hidden on the Cretan Mount Ida in a cave.
Nymphs raised Zeus on Cretan Mount Ida. This is where he met Wisdom or Metis, his first wife. He took her advice and used trickery to get his father to drink poisoned wine by disguising himself as an Olympian cupbearer. Cronus vomited so much from the wine, Zeus’ siblings were disgorged. They were completely intact and wanted revenge. This second birth made Zeus their older brother despite his being the youngest of them all. They acknowledged his authority and leadership as they freed the hundred-handed Hecatoncheires and the one eyed cyclops from the imprisonment on Cronus. The Titans and Cronus were overthrown by the siblings during a war that lasted for a decade. This war is known as the Titanomachy.
Lots were drawn between Zeus and his brothers so the world could be shared among them. Zeus received the sky, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. Zeus was crowned as the ruler of all men and Gods. He was referred to the Father. Zeus did not have a good start. His grandmother Gaia was angry because Zeus had imprisoned the Titans. She summoned the Gigantes to avenge her. The Gigantes were her children. The Gigantomachy war followed and the Olympians won once again. Gaia became further enraged and gave birth to a giant, serpentine monster that blew fire she name Typhoeus. Zeus enlisted Pan and Hermes for help in defeating the mighty creature in a cataclysmic battle.
When Zeus was a young ruler, he was too petulant and prideful. Apollo, Poseidon and Hera decided he needed to be taught a lesson. During his sleep, they took his thunderbolt and used hundred-knotted cords to bind him. Zeus was helpless, but quick action was taken by the Nereid Thetis. Briareus the Hecatoncheir was called and Zeus was untied in a second by his hundred arms. The three who led the rebellion were brutally punished by Zeus, especially Hera. They all swore they would never again challenge him. Prometheus broke his word, stole the divine fire and placed it in the hands of the mortals. Zeus was then prevented from learning a mortal woman’s identity. The prophecy had stated her son would be greater than his father.
Prometheus was chained to a rock by Zeus and tormented for a lengthy period of time. Prometheus still refused to reveal the woman’s identity. Zeus was eventually told the name of the woman was Thetis. This was when the God stopped his pursuit and gave the woman to Peleus. The marriage resulted in a son named Achilles. He was celebrated as a Greek hero and possibly the greatest of all of them. The same circumstances resulted with Metis, the first wife of Zeus. Hesiod warned Zeus his first child was a potential threat. Zeus made the decision to swallow his wife when she was pregnant. The child was born eventually, fully armored and grown from Zeus’s forehead. This was the Goddess of wisdom, Athena.
Zeus later married Tehmis and she birthed the Fates and the Horae. Eurynome was Zeus’s third wife and brought the world the Charites. His sister Demeter birthed Persephone a little later. The Muses began with Mnemosyne, his fifth wife. Leto was his sixth wife and gave birth to Artemis and Apollo. The seventh and last wife Zeus took was Hera, his sister. He knew she sympathized with the animals, so he transformed himself into a little cuckoo in distress to woo her. When Hera tried to warm the cuckoo with an embrace, Zeus transformed back into himself and slept with Hera. Hera was so ashamed, she married him.
The marriage to Hera was bittersweet. This was because Zeus was a promiscuous God. He took the shape of numerous different animals and had love affairs with a lot of mortals and nymphs. Hera became so jealous she scolded him. Zeus slept with his mother Rhea after transforming into a serpent. This is why so many of the heroes and Gods are the children of Zeus. It is not possible to name them all.
In Roman mythology, Zeus is referred to as Jupiter. The stories, symbolism and powers about Zeus have similarities with some of the other deities including the Norse Gods Odin and Thor, Perun the Slavic God of thunder and the Hinduist deity Indra.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was carved by the famed Classical sculptor Phidias (435 BC). In AD 394, after over 800 years at Olympia, it was taken to Constantinople (modern Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Historians believe it was probably destroyed in an accidental fire. This statue was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.