Who is the god Zeus? Confusing character
There is one name that comes up time and again when looking at Greek Mythology. Zeus. So we decided to ask the question. Who is the god Zeus? You may be surprised at just how complex a character this Olympian god was.
Who is the god Zeus?
Where to start on this description. Who is Zeus? He is many things both wise and unpredictable. Noted for many qualities:
- Easily angered
- Fell in love easily
- Jealous of Hera’s interactions with other men
He was the god of gods. The king of all gods and men. Still he had his flaws just as any good character does. He loved women to a fault. He was not a faithful husband to Hera. He deceived and manipulated women to get what he wanted.
He has sired several children both legitimately and not so much. Here is a full list of his known children:
- Helen of Troy
- The Muses
Most of his illegitimate children were sired through deceit. For example, he fathered Hercules by disguising himself as Amphitryon, the husband of Alcmenes in order to sleep with her. He fathered Perseus by appearing to Danae as a golden shower. He fathered the muses by having an affair with Mnemosyne for nine nights. Each night producing a daughter. the man needed to learn to keep it in his pants. Or robe back in the day.
His symbols are the scepter and the lightning bolt. Often depicted with one in each hand. He is said to wear a crown of oak leaves. Oak being his sacred tree. He sits upon a golden throne on Mount Olympus. Ruling over gods and men alike.
From the Beginning
Cronus the Titan and his wife Rhea had been informed of a prophecy that said one of his children would overthrow him. This made Cronus take drastic measures. He started to swallow all of his children as they were born.
As you can imagine this must have been very upsetting for Rhea. By the time he had swallowed 3 daughters and 2 sons, she had a plan. When her next child (Zeus) was born she gave her husband a rock dressed in swaddling clothes instead of the baby. She hid Zeus away in a cave on Mount Ida.
There Zeus was raised by nymphs and met his first love Metis (Wisdom). She advised him that he should disguise himself as an Olympian cupbearer and trick his father Cronus into drinking poisoned wine. This wine made Cronus so ill that he began to vomit. All of Zeus’ siblings were disgorged intact and really pissed off.
They wanted revenge. Zeus had suddenly gone from being the youngest sibling to the eldest. As the act of vomiting counted as a second birth to each of the siblings. Who then deferred authority to him as eldest.
Led by Zeus and with the help of the Cyclops and the hundred handers. Both of whom Zeus had also freed from his father. They began a long battle with the Titans. Eventually winning and imprisoning the Titans.
This infuriated Gaia Zeus’ grandmother. She summoned the Gigantes to avenge her. Another war was fought with the Olympians claiming victory again. Further enraging Gaia. She then summons Typhoeus, a giant fire breathing serpent. This creature was mighty enough that Zeus needed the help of Hermes and Pan to defeat, yet not so much that all of the Olympians were involved.
Zeus and his brothers drew lots to see who would control what portion of the world. Poseidon got the sea. Hades received the underworld and Zeus the heavens. Sounds like a fair lot right? No mention of the female siblings. They must have figured things out for themselves.
The siblings decided to challenge Zeus’ rule. Except for Hestia who was wise enough to stay out of it. They stole his thunderbolt and tied him with hundred knotted chord while he was sleeping. A Nereid by the name of Thetis was able to call Briareus, one of the hundred handers, to come and untie the King of the gods.
Furious he punished the three leaders of this uprising. Especially his now wife Hera. The siblings promised to never challenge him again.
Prometheus the protector and creator of mankind, however did so two more times.After tricking Zeus into choosing between two offerings. One beef hidden in an Ox’s stomach, something pleasing inside something revolting. Or two bones wrapped in glistening fat, something inedible inside something pleasing. Zeus chose the second option thus allowing mankind to sacrifice bones instead of the more nutritious meat to the gods.
Zeus was angered and withheld the divine fire from mankind. The first time Prometheus challenged Zeus was when he stole the divine fire and gave it to the mortals. Zeus retaliated by creating Pandora, to unleash all sorts of evils upon mankind.
The second he found out the name of a mortal woman prophesied to have a son who was to become greater than his father. Prometheus kept this information from Zeus.
Angered that he was being kept from this knowledge he chained Prometheus to a rock to have an eagle eat his liver during the day. The organ grew back each night, to allow the torment to continue indefinitely.
Continuously asking for the woman’s name eventually leads to Prometheus giving up the name Thetis. Zeus stopped pursuing the woman and gave her to Peleus. Later when they bore a son he was to become one of the most well known heroes of all time. Achilles.
Part of all of us
Really the Greeks were fond of making their gods similar to the rest of us. They all have faults and strengths. Just like everyone, even the best fighters or wisest scholars have an Achilles heal both literally and figuratively. These stories serve as an example of both what to aspire to and what to avoid. What will you take away from the lessons presented by the ancient Greeks? Please comment below.