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ZEUS (JUPITER)

ZEUS (JUPITER)
[ Birth & Youth | Rise to Power | Adventures | Affairs | Properties ]

Zeus, father of the gods and people,


symbolized omnipotence and absolute
authority to the ancient Greeks. He was the
eldest of his brothers and sisters and
undertook the responsibility to govern the
universe. He could control everything, since
all the other gods, who had defined
responsibilities, were only his helpers.
However, he always had time to seduce a
goddess or a beautiful princess and in this
way provoked the jealousy of his legal wife,
Hera.

BIRTH & YOUTH: Zeus was the youngest son


of Cronus and Rhea. The modest Rhea was
indignant with her heartless husband, who
was afraid of losing his throne, and for this
reason he swallowed his children immediately
after they were born. With the help of Uranus
and Mother Earth she managed to fool him.
She traveled to Crete, where with the help of
King Melisseus and his daughters, Melissa and Adrasteia, she gave birth to Zeus in a cave at
Mount Dicte, which was named Dictaean Cave. Then she entrusted the infant to the Nymphs of
the mountain. Afterwards, she returned to the palace and gave Cronus a stone wrapped up in
swaddling clothes to swallow. The naive Cronus believed her and swallowed the stone.

There are several amusing myths in relation to the upbringing of the newly born god. The
Nymphs placed him in a golden cradle, which they hung between the leafage of a huge oak
tree, so that he would be suspended between the earth and sky and Cronus wouldn't be able to
find him. The weeping cries of the infant god were very loud. To avoid an undesirable visit from
Cronus because of this fuss, the young girls invited their friends, the Curetes. They were
unusual creatures, in fact gnomes of the forest . Every time Zeus cried, they would begin to
perform a wild war dance (Pyrrhic dance) and would sing battle-cries. They would hit the earth
with their pikes and javelins and make it tremble. That is why Cronus couldn't hear the cries of
the baby.

The beloved Nymph of Zeus, Amaltheia, milked a goat and fed the infant god, who greedily
swallowed his food. This goat was simply called Aega, and descended from Helius. She was
huge and terrifying in appearance. The Titans couldn't stand seeing her, therefore, Mother Earth
locked her up in a cave of Ida. However, Zeus was not afraid of this creature, which contributed to
his upbringing. When he grew up a little and began to walk, he would play with this giant goat,
which he named Amaltheia, after the name of his favorite Nymph. On many occasions when he
couldn't wait to be fed, he would sit underneath the goat and drink milk from its udder.

One day Zeus carelessly broke a horn of Amaltheia because he could not control his divine
power. He felt very sorry for having done this and to comfort the blessed animal, he gave the horn
to Nymph Amaltheia after he had endowed it with magical abilities. Whoever had this horn only
had to make a wish and whatever they desired would immediately appear in front of them. Since
then it has been known as 'Amaltheia's Horn' or 'Horn of Plenty'. When the goat died of old

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age, Zeus felt very sad. From the skin he made the all-powerful
aegis, which was his most significant weapon in the Battle
against Titans.

The child god was also brought up on honey. The wild colonies
of bees on the mountain would gather the best honey from their
queen bee especially for him. The Nymphs would feed the young
Zeus with this, who particularly liked its sweet taste. According to
another myth, the god was brought up on ambrosia and nectar,
that is the food and beverage of the immortals. Holy white doves
carried the ambrosia and fed the infant on their own, just as they
did with their own babies. An eagle, with shiny wings and sharp
nails, would fly every night at a breathtaking speed through the
sky and reach the spring from where it would draw the nectar,
and transport it to the mountain on Crete. When Zeus grew up
and attained authority, he expressed his gratitude to all the
creatures that helped him during his upbringing. Therefore, he
transformed the images of Amaltheia and the eagle into
constellations and he assigned the pleasurable task of
announcing the seasons to the pretty doves.

From the other Nereids of the forest who protected Zeus, Ide and Metis were the most well-
known. Ide had given the child god his first toy, a crystal sphere, which would create brightly
colored lines like the stars in the sky when it was thrown into the air.

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RISE TO POWER: Surrounded by such love and affection, Zeus became a handsome
teenager, well built and of exceptional appearance. Then the Nymphs realized that the time
had come to reveal everything to him. This is how he learnt about his cruel father and all the
adventures he and his mother had been through till that very day. With the invaluable advice,
blessings and magical herbs of the Nymphs and particularly of Metis, he approached Cronus,
told him who he was and asked for his throne. Cronus objected but after a long-lasting battle
for power Zeus managed to overcome him. Then Zeus gave him a herb and Cronus
immediately vomited his other children, Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Poseidon and Pluto (Hades).
Zeus lived through many adventures until he had absolute power.

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ADVENTURES: We only have to think back to the frightening Titanomachy which lasted for ten
whole years, the confrontation between the Olympians and the brothers and sisters of Cronus,
who wouldn't accept in any way a younger god to be superior. In the end, with the advice of
Mother Earth, Zeus freed the Cyclopes and the Hundred-handed Ones, who the Titans had
jailed at Tartarus. To express their gratitude they gave weapons to the three brothers. With
these weapons the Olympians managed to completely overwhelm the Titans after a long-lasting
war.

Immediately afterwards, Zeus and his brothers and sisters had to confront the terrifying Giants.
However, with Athena fighting like a man and with the help of Hercules and Dionysus they
managed to win again. The final and most distressing confrontation was with Typhoon
(Typhoeas), who managed to injure Zeus. However, with Hermes and Pan's slyness there was
once again a favorable ending for the Olympians and particularly for Zeus.

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After these adventures, the power was distributed among the three brothers. Zeus took control of
the kingdom of Heaven, Poseidon the Sea, and Hades the Underworld. However, even then
the problems were not over for Zeus. He had to confront the gods on many occasions and
convince them of his superiority. He would often have to cope with the dissatisfaction of
Poseidon, who continuously doubted his authority and didn't carry out his orders. He was forced
to threaten him many times to bring him back to reason. We must also mention the conspiracy
against the king of the gods which took place inside his own palace. In this conspiracy Hera,
Poseidon, Athena and Apollo all took part. Certainly, they would have managed to harm him if
Thetis hadn't brought the respected Briareus from the depths of the ocean to assist Zeus. In
order to gain revenge, Zeus tied Hera's hands and ankles to invisible chains and hung her
from the sky. In addition to this, he sent Poseidon and Apollo to work as slaves for the mortal
King of Troy, Laomedon. As for Athena, who was his favourite daughter, he didn't punish her
and from then on she was loyal and obedient.

According to some myths, after he had attained authority he created the world from the very
beginning. He took Hithonia as his wife, an old deity associated with the earth, and he gave her
a veil which had the world designed on it : the land and the sea, the mountains and the plains,
the rivers and the lakes. When the human race became sinful and didn't sacrifice to the gods, he
destroyed it with a fearsome cataclysm, of which only Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha survived.
They gave birth to new people from the stones that they were throwing behind their backs.

However, at some point within this new human race evil began to prevail. For this reason Zeus
provoked two large military clashes, the expedition of the Seven Generals against Thebes
and the Trojan War. Another reason was because the population of the earth had increased to
dangerous levels, and the war was a means to reduce it again. In the first instance, Zeus
punished the seven generals because they were disrespectful and arrogant. One of them said
that he would conquer Thebes whether or not the all mighty gods agreed, another had Typhoon
as his emblem, Zeus's worst enemy, and another one of them doubted the power of Zeus's
thunderbolt. They all met horrifying deaths. Later he helped their sons, who respected and
sacrificed frequently to the gods, to conquer the Theban castle. In the case of the Trojan War,
Zeus firstly made sure that Helen was born so that her abduction by Paris would provoke the
beginning of the war. During the course of the military expedition he put his plan into action. He
kept Achilles away from the battlefield for a long period of time, as he had promised to his mother
Thetis. In addition to this, he decided to give victory to the Achaeans, regardless of the fact that
the other Olympians were fighting for one side or the other.

Many gods and even more mortals felt the wrath of Zeus when they committed an act against
his will or something that disturbed the order of the universe and the laws of nature. For this
reason he struck Phaethon with lightning, who dared to drive Helius's chariot and almost burnt
Mother Earth when he got very close to her. He did the same with Asclepius, who had made
great progress with medicine, to the point where he was able to resurrect dead people with his
herbs. Apollo was enraged by the death of his son and wanted to kill the Cyclopes with his
golden arrows to gain revenge. Zeus was angered to the point where he was ready to throw his
son to Tartarus. However, after a request from Leto, he mitigated Apollo's punishment and sent
him to serve under Admetus for one year. Besides this, Zeus killed Iasion with lightning because
he had fallen in love with goddess Demeter. She reciprocated his love and lived happily with him
in the fields. Zeus didn't want goddesses to have affairs with mortals. All these erotic desires
which were not related to the laws of nature, were provoked by Aphrodite who wanted to make
fun of the immortals. The all-mighty Zeus, who was her most usual victim, punished her by
arousing a deep passionate love for the mortal Anchises, and with him she gave birth to the
mortal hero, Aeneas.

On occasions he would visit the mortals to test their faith. One day, he went to Kea where the
Telchines lived. They were an amphibian tribe who wouldn't accept Zeus as a superior god and
didn't welcome him with respect. Only Dexithea, the daughter of their King, fell to her knees and

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offered to be at his service like a faithful slave. Then Zeus wiped out all the tribe except for the
respectable daughter. On another occasion Zeus went to Arcadia. There, King Lycaon and his
sons slayed an infant, roasted it and gave it to Zeus to eat in order to test his power and
omniscience. Zeus was infuriated by this odious crime and transformed the king and his sons
into wolves. Salmoneus, King of Elis, had become so arrogant that he almost went insane and
claimed that he resembled Zeus. The god then threw a bolt of lightning on his palace causing
a fire which burnt down all the city. Zeus was rightly named the father of all gods and people. In
fact, many Olympians and minor deities, as well as many famous heroes of different cities, were
also his children.

LOVE AFFAIRS: Metis was considered to be his first


wife, a Nymph who gave him the magical herb to defeat
Cronus. Unfortunately though, there was a prophesy that
the son he would have with Metis, would be more
powerful than his father. For this reason he was forced
to swallow his wife. In this way he removed any danger
of being dethroned and at the same time attained all the
wisdom of the world. After nine months he had to have
a peculiar cesarean section. He suffered from a terrible
headache and his head began to grow. So Hephaestus,
despite his early objections, hit the god hard on the head
with his hammer and out came a fully armed Athena.

Besides this, during the first years of his rule, Zeus had
affairs with two Titanesses. Firstly with Themis, the
embodiment of justice. She gave birth to the three
Hours, Eunomia, Dice, and Irene, and also to the three
Fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who determined
the fate of all people and gods. With the Titaness
Mnemosyne, the embodiment of memory, nine
continuous nights of lovemaking led to the birth of the nine Muses : Calliope, Clio, Polymnia,
Euphterpe, Terpsichore, Erato, Melpomene, Thalia, and Urania. They protected music, poetry
and the fine arts in general. From the Oceanis Eurynome, Zeus had the three Graces, Aglaia,
Euphrosyne, and Thalia. At one point he also desired to make love with the sea goddess
Thetis. However, Themis warned that the child to be born from Thetis would gain a more
powerful weapon than the thunderbolt. Then he overcame his passionate love for her and had
the beautiful Nereid marry the mortal Pileus.

After his affairs with these older goddesses, Hera was acknowledged as his only lawful wife,
who was also his sister. It is said that she at first did not give in to his love, therefore, Zeus
resorted to trickery. On a cold day in winter he appeared outside the window of the respected
goddess in an image of a cuckoo. She took pity on the frozen bird and placed it in her arms to
provide it with warmth. The god transformed into his normal self and after he had promised to
make her his lawful wife, they made love. The ruling couple of Olympus had three children,
the eternal adolescent Hebe, who was given to Hercules after he was made immortal, the war-
like Ares and the blacksmith Hephaestus. Of course, it was a stormy marriage because a
jealous Hera could not put up with the continuous love affairs of her husband. On many
occasions she even tried to get away from her married life. However, the all-mighty Zeus would
always find a way to bring her back. Besides, he would always assure her that his extra-marital
affairs did not mean anything to him and that she was the only woman who aroused his
passions.

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Hermes was the son of Zeus. Zeus once caught a glimpse of Atlantis Maia who lived on Mt.
Cyllene in Arcadia. He fell in love with her, and on one night while Hera was sleeping he spent a
night with her when it was dark so that no immortal or mortal person could see them. From this
affair, Hermes was born, who turned the world upside down when he saw sunlight.

Leto, the daughter of Titans, was also embraced by Zeus.


However, Hera became aware of this infidelity and as she
couldn't harm her all powerful husband she persecuted his
lover with all her powers. After many years of wandering Leto
found a place to give birth, but Hera was holding Eileithyia,
the goddess of childbirth, as a hostage. Only with a valuable
gift did the other goddesses appease her anger. That is how
two new Olympian gods were born, Artemis and Apollo. Zeus
at one stage also desired Leto's sister, Asterie. She,
however, resisted his advances in every possible way and
was transformed into a quail. Later, he turned her into a small
island, Ortygia , which was condemned to float
continuously in the sea. Only when Ortygia allowed her
sister to give birth there, did it become a fixed island and was
named Delos. Other mythologists say that Zeus finally
conquered Asterie, who gave birth to Hecate. Zeus at one
point also fell in love with his other sister, Demeter. She
turned him down for a long time. Finally, the all-mighty God
satisfied his desires for her, and as a result Persephone was
born. With the consent of Zeus she lived in the Underworld for
six months with Pluto and for six months on Earth with her
mother. Zeus also had an affair with Selene, who gave birth
to Herse and Pandia, as he did with the Nymph Thybre, who
gave birth to Pan, the god of fertility.

The myth in relation to the birth of Dionysus is very well-known. Zeus fell for the princess of
Thebes, Semele. The mortal girl couldn't resist his godly beauty and made love with him. In order
to gain revenge, Hera presented herself in an image of Semele's wet-nurse and persuaded her
to make Zeus promise that he would appear in front of Semele in all his glory. That is exactly
what happened. Zeus tried in vain to change her mind, but Semele insisted. He then appeared in
front of her with his golden chariot, holding the thunderbolt in his hands accompanied by
lightning and thunder. Semele couldn't stand up to his glory and was burnt, like any mortal
would have been. Zeus took the infant she had conceived and sewed it to his thigh. After nine
months had gone by, Dionysus was born, the god of vines and wine. As Zeus wouldn't keep the
child on Olympus, he entrusted it to Ino, Semele's sister, and to her husband Athamas. However,
an envious Hera destroyed the couple by sending them temporary madness. Then Zeus
entrusted the infant to the Nymphs of Boeotia, where he was brought up.

Of all the immortals, Io was particularly harassed by Hera. She was the daughter of Inachus, the
King of Argos. She was exceptionally beautiful, and as was natural, Zeus fell in love with her.
From there and then her misery began. Hera devised a plan to destroy her, and in order to save
her life, Zeus transformed her into a white cow. Then the jealous wife sent a repulsive and
irritating insect, a horsefly which continually stung Io. In order to avoid the irritating stings she
frantically began to run. She crossed the sea which later was named after her, the Ionian Sea,
and after many adventures arrived in Egypt. There Zeus took pity on her because of what she
had been through and gave her human image back to her. Io gave birth to Epaphus who
governed all the areas around the Nile River and became the forefather of all those who founded
the great kingdoms in Asia, Africa and Argolis. Hera assigned the Curetes to exterminate
Epaphus. A furious Zeus withered them, although they had helped him when he was an infant. As
for Io, she was placed in the canopy of the heavens as a constellation.

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The relationship between Zeus and Danae, the princess of Argos, is also very well known. Her
father, Acrisius, had locked her up in a dungeon of his palace because he had received a
prophesy which said that her son would kill his grandfather. As Zeus had fallen for the princess,
he transformed himself into golden rain and soaked through the roof of her cell. From their
copulation, the hero Perseus was born. Danae kept this incident a secret for a long time.
However, at one stage her father heard the baby's cries and found out about everything. He then
asked who the father was. When Danae mentioned the name of Zeus, he did not believe her and
as a punishment locked her with the baby into an ark and cast it into the sea. At one point the
ark reached an area close to Seriphos. A fisherman, Dictys, who saw the ark and heard voices
coming from it, gathered and opened it. Danae and Perseus described their adventures and
Dictys took them to his home, where they lived for many years.

On many occasions Zeus desired women that were


married to mortals. One of them was Leda, wife of
Tyndareus. He transformed into an image of a
white swan in order to approach her. From their
intercourse, Leda bore the beautiful Helen, who
became the main cause of the Trojan War, and
also bore the twins Castor and Polydeuces. One
of them came from Zeus's sperm and was
immortal, while the other came from Tyndareus's
sperm and was a mortal. Therefore, when Castor
died, Polydeuces asked his father that he and his
beloved brother take turns at life, something which
happened.

The Great God was the father of one of the most


well known heroes of ancient time, Hercules. Zeus
feel in love with Alcmene, wife of Amphitrion, and
went into the Queen's bedroom where he made love with her. Nine months later the demi-god
Hercules was born. Zeus copulated with various Nymphs and mortals, and brought into the world
founders of many nations and cities. At Crete, during the early years of his life, it is said that he
made love with the local heroine, Crete, who named the island after herself, and bore a son,
Koras, the founder of a nation which lived during the ancient times in the Aegean Sea.

The myth about Zeus's love for Europe is much more extensive and well known. She was the
daughter of the King of Syria. One day while she was playing in the fields with her friends and
gathering flowers, the god saw and fell in love with her at first sight. In order to approach the girl,
he transformed into a tamed bull. The girl began to stroke the powerful bull and climbed on its
back. Immediately, Zeus (the bull) began to run with lightning seed. Europe cried but she
couldn't jump off the bull because she would be killed. The transformed god crossed the sea and
reached Crete. In the cave where he was born, Dictaen Cave, he made love to the princess. The
offspring from this encounter were Minos and Rhadamanthys, Cretan royal heroes. After a short
while Europe married a King of the island, Asterius, who adopted Zeus's children.

Moreover, the transformed god managed to seduce the Nymph Callisto. She was a companion of
Artemis and took a vow for eternal virginity. When the Olympian goddess realized what had
happened she sent her away. As Zeus felt sorry for her, he transformed her into a bear, but
Artemis killed her with an arrow. The all-powerful god, as he used to do with his loved ones, set
her image among the stars, that is the Great Bear. The child which she had conceived was
brought up by Maia. He was Arcas, who became the founder of the Arcadians.

At Argos it is said that Zeus's first mortal lover was Niobe, who gave birth to Argus, the
ancestor of the Argians. In addition to this, Iodama bore Thebes, the leader of the Thebans,

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Eurynome gave birth to Asopus, from whom the Boeotians descend, from Maera Locrus was
born, who gave his name to Locris, and Isonoi gave birth to Orchomenus, who was the
ancestor of the Orchomenians. Selene gave him a son called Nemea and Taygete a son called
Lacedaemon. The Nemeans and Lacedaemonians descend from these two men respectively.
Besides, Aegina gave birth to Aeacus and Sithnida bore Megarus (Megareans).

Finally, we must mention the abduction of a young man, Ganymedes. Zeus was charmed by the
appearance and build of the most beautiful mortal, so he transformed into an eagle, grabbed
him and brought him to Olympus. There he used him as a wine-attendant, a task that up until
then was performed by Hebe, and in general as a companion during feasts.

DIVINE PROPERTIES: Zeus, as we have said, was


the chief of all gods. He had the whole universe
under his supervision; he protected nature, but also
various aspects of the private, social and political life
of people. He was the leader of all gods and the most
powerful. An example of his almighty power is in an
extract of the Iliad, where he challenges the other
Olympians to pull him from the heavens to earth with a
golden rope. He assures them that they will not
succeed. However, if he pulls the rope towards the
heavens, then he will not only drag the gods but also
the earth and the sea and it will appear like a globe
which is hanging in the sky. For these reasons he was
considered to be the protector of all authority, whether
it was for a king, for aristocracy or for the people. In
the same way he protected every father, who was the
leader of the family. In addition, with the title of Xenios,
he was the protector of hospitality, for which the
Greeks are still famous to this day. He also protected
fugitives and suppliants (Zeus Icestus and Phyxius). He was the protector of the oath (Zeus
Orkios) and his rage and fury was terrifying when a god or mortal disobeyed him. During their
oaths, mortals would always call on Zeus first, while the gods took their oaths at the holy waters
of Styga. The violation of this oath had frightening consequences even for the immortal people.
For a whole year they would fall into a sleepiness and for the next nine they wouldn't participate in
the gatherings and feasts of the gods.

He had absolute power over nature and weather conditions. He was the one who sent
heavenly light and fine weather (Zeus Uranius and Aethrius). As well as this he caused wind,
rain, clouds, snow, hail, lightning and thunder, the gifts of the Cyclopes. He was very often
worshipped at mountain peaks where temples and altars were being built, because people
believed in this way they were closer to the god. Zeus made his wishes known through dreams
and prophesies. There were two famous oracles which were dedicated to him. One was the
oracle at Dodona in Epirus, and the other the was the oracle of Zeus Ammon in Libya.

The most significant symbol of Zeus was the thunderbolt, the most valuable weapon he
possessed. Next was the mace which had an eagle at one end and represented his authority.
There was also the aegis, the skin of Amaltheia which made him invincible. Zeus's holy tree was
the oak tree. On many occasions he is portrayed with two earthenware jars by his side which
symbolized the good and bad he served out to the people.