Zeus ("divine king") was the leader of the gods and god of the sky and thunder in Greek mythology, equivalent to the Roman god Jupiter or Jove and associated with various other deities, such as the Egyptian Ammon and Etruscan Tinia.|
Worship of Zeus originated among the Minoans, where he was known as the Earthshaker.
Zeus Ceneus was a frequent ephithet of Zeus', referring to a temple on Cape Canaeum of Euboea. Another epithet was Zeus Panhellenios, to whom Aeacus' famous temple on Aegina was founded as well Zeus Lycaeus, in which he was the god of the sun and light (see also Lycaon and that section below). He (along with Dionysus) absorbed the role of the Phrygian god Sabazius).
Zeus' role in the Greek pantheon can not be understated. He fathered many of the heroes and heroines (see list at bottom of article) and was featured in many of their stories. Though he was the god of the sky and thunder, he was also the most supreme cultural artifact; in some senses, he was the embodiment of Greek religious beliefs and the archetypal Greek deity. For example, in much of Greek literature, Zeus was seen as the patron of hospitality and guests and the keeper of oaths. Liars who were exposed were made to dedicate a statue to Zeus, often at the sanctuary of Olympia.
In Epirus, there was an oracle devoted to Zeus called Dodona. The shrine of Dodona is extremely ancient, and dates to pre-Hellenic times. Originally, the oracle was both Zeus' and the Earth Mother's. The Earth Mother eventually earned the name Dione and was relegated to a minor or nonexistent part in the Greek pantheon.
In the 2nd millennium BC, the cult of the holy beech or oak tree sprung up at Dodona. By the thirteenth and fourteenth century BCE, priests had begun to interpret the rustling of the oak or beech leaves to determine the future. When Homer wrote the Iliad (circa 750 BCE), no buildings were present and the priests slept on the ground. By the time Herodotus wrote about Dodona, female priestesses called peleiades had replaced the male priests. A much later story, Jason and the Argonauts mentioned that Jason's ship, the Argos, had the gift of prophecy because it was made out of oak wood from Dodona.
In Roman mythology, Jupiter (Jove) held the same role as Zeus in the Greek pantheon. He was called Jupiter Optimus Maximus as the patron deity of the Roman Empire, in charge of laws and social order.
Birth and Childhood
Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, 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. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Uranus and Earth 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 stone wrapped in swaddling clothes which he promptly swallowed.
Then 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 goat named Amalthea, while a company of Koryvandes, soldiers, or smaller gods danced, shouted and clapped their hands to make noise so that Cronus would not hear the baby's cry.|
| • ||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 after her death.|
| • ||He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat-milk.|
Zeus Becomes King Of The Gods
After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge the other children in reverse order of swallowing: first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, then the rest. 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; he killed their guard, Campe. As gratitude, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt and 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.
After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers, Poseidon and Hades by drawing lots: Zeus got the land, Poseidon the sea and Hades the world of the shadows (the dead). (See also: Penthus)
Soon after taking the throne as King of the gods, Zeus fought the monsters Typhon and Echidna, defeating them. He left them and their children alive as challenges for future heroes.
Zeus was brother and husband of Hera. Their son was Hephaistos. Zeus is famous for his many extramarital affairs with various goddesses - notably Demeter, Latona, Dione and Maia -- and mortal women -- notably Semele, Io, Europa and Leda (for more details, see "Affairs" below). His wife, Hera, was very jealous and consistently tried to harm 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 only speak the words of others (hence our modern word "echo").
Though Zeus was often petty and malicious, he also had a righteous streak, perhaps best exemplified in his aid on behalf of Atreus and his murder of Capaneus for unbridled arrogance.
Zeus turned Pandareus to stone for stealing a bronze dog from one of his temples on Crete.
Zeus killed Salmoneus with a thunderbolt for attempting to equal him, riding around on a bronze chariot and loudly imitating thunder.
As a child, Zeus had had a friend named Celmis. Many years later, Rhea became offended by the antics of Celmis and asked Zeus to turn him into a lump of steel or diamond. Zeus obliged.
Zeus turned Periphas into an eagle after his death, as a reward for being righteous and just.
At the marriage of Zeus and Hera, a nymph named Chelone was disrespectful (or refused to attend). Zeus condemned her to eternal silence.
When Memnon died, Zeus felt pity for his mother, Eos, the dawn-goddess, and granted him immortality.
Zeus made the decision to marry Aphrodite off to Hephaestus in order to prevent violence over her between the many gods who lusted after the goddess of beauty.
Zeus, with Hera, turned King Haemus and Queen Rhodope into mountains (Balkan and Despoto, respectively) for their vanity.
Zeus exchanged a caduceus for the first flute with Hermes.
Zeus turned Atalanta and Hippomenes (or Melanion) into lions because they had sex in one of his temples.
Arcas was the son of Zeus and the nymph Callisto, whom Hera turned into a bear. Arcas unknowningly attempted to kill his mother during a hunt, not recognizing her. Zeus put them both in the sky as Ursa Major (Callisto) and Ursa Minor (Arcas).
An alternate version: One of Artemis' companions, Callisto lost her virginity to Zeus, who had come disguised as Artemis. Enraged, Artemis changed her into a bear. Callisto's son, Arcas, nearly killed his mother while hunting, but Zeus or Artemis stopped him and placed them both in the sky as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Heracles was a son of Zeus and Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon. Zeus seduced Alcmene in the disguise of her husband.
One account of the origin of the Milky Way is that Zeus had tricked Hera into nursing the infant Heracles: discovering who he was, she had pulled him from her breast, and a spurt of her milk formed the smear across the sky that can be seen to this day.
He wooed Aegina, daughter of Asopus by abducting her and taking her to an island near Attica, thereafter known by her name. Kidnapping was a frequent method of Zeus' to attract women. Aegina eventually gave birth to a son Aeacus, who became king of the island.
Zeus pursued Taygete, one of the Pleiades, who prayed to Artemis. The goddess turned Taygete into a doe but Zeus raped her when she was unconscious. She thus conceived Lacedaemon, the mythical founder of Sparta.
Zeus hid one lover, Elara, from Hera by hiding her under the earth. His son by Elara, the giant Tityas, is therefore sometimes said to be a son of Gaia, the earth goddess, and Elara.
When Zeus pursued Asteria, she flung herself into the ocean to escape him and became the island of the same name. Alternatively, she changed herself into a quail to avoid him.
Disappointed by his lack of male heirs, King Acrisius of Argos asked an oracle if this would change. The oracle told him that one day he would be killed by his daughter's child. She was childless and, meaning to keep her so, he shut her up in a bronze tower or cave. But Zeus came to her in the form of rain or a shower of gold, and impregnated her. Soon after, their child Perseus was born.
None too happy, but unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods by killing his offspring, Acrisius cast the two into the sea in a wooden chest. The sea was calmed by Poseidon at the request of Zeus and the pair survived. They washed ashore on the island of Seriphos, where they were taken in by Dictys, the brother of King Polydectes, who raised the boy to manhood.
Zeus loved the Argive princess Io and changed her into a cow to protect her from Hera. Hera suspected his deception and asked for the cow as a present. Zeus was unable to refuse and she placed the watchman Argus to guard the cow. Hermes, at the request of Zeus, lulled Argus to sleep and rescued Io but Hera sent a gadfly to sting her as she wandered the Earth in cow form. Zeus eventually changed her back to human form, and she became, through her son with Zeus, Epaphus, the ancestress of Heracles.
Lamia was a queen of Libya, whom Zeus loved. Hera turned her into a monster (or she killed Lamia's children and the grief turned her into a monster) and murdered their children. Lamia was cursed with the inability to close her eyes so that she would always obsess over the image of her dead children. Zeus gave her the gift to be able to take her eyes out to rest, and then put them back in. Lamia was envious of other mothers and ate their children.
Eos, the goddess of the dawn, kidnapped Ganymede and Tithonus to be her lovers. Zeus decided he wanted the beautiful youth Ganymede for himself but to repay Eos he promised to fulfill one wish. She asked for Tithonus to be immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth. Tithonus indeed lived forever but grew more and more ancient, eventually turning into a cricket. Ganymede became Zeus' cupbearer.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Zeus".