Zeus hardly requires any introduction. He is one of the most popular figures in Greek mythology. Zeus is known as the ‘Father of Gods’ or ‘Ruler of Gods’ or even the ‘Chieftain of Gods’. He lived on Mount Olympus and reigned over the heavens. The meaning of name Zeus roughly translates as ‘clear sky’. Apart from being the lord of heavens, he is the God of weather, especially lightening.
Personality of Zeus
Greek mythology has endowed Zeus with several peculiarities and qualities. He is always seen with a thunderbolt which he used to quell his enemies. He is also symbolized by the eagle and the bull. Zeus is often depicted as a middle-aged man with a full beard and mustache. The Hindu counterpart of Zeus is Indra; while the Roman counterpart of Zeus is Jupiter.
He is also quite well-known for his many affairs, with both Goddesses and mortal women, which inevitably produced offspring. This served to enrage his wife Hera, who would often create problems in these relationships. The Greek mythology is full of stories about Zeus.
Birth of Zeus
Zeus is the son of Cronus (also Kronos) and Rhea. Cronus had been told by prophesy that he would be overthrown by his son. So each time a child was born, Cronus would swallow it. However, when Zeus was to be born, Rhea decided that she would avert this. She gave birth to her son, and hid him in a basket under a tree. She then wrapped a stone in a cloth and gave it to Cronus, who immediately swallowed it.
There are many myths and different versions of the story of how Zeus grew up. One version states that he was raised by the nymph Adamanthea. She hid Zeus from Cronus by dangling him from a tree on a rope, because Cronus ruled the heavens, the earth and the sea. Another version states that he was raised by a family of shepherds and in return their sheep were spared by the wolves. Thirdly, it is also believed that Zeus was raised by Gaia herself.
War with the Titans
After Zeus grew up, he forced his father to spit out the swallowed children. Another myth also suggests that Zeus cut Cronus’ stomach open to bring his siblings back to life. Therefore, one by one, all the siblings of Zeus were back on the Earth. Thereafter was a war between the Titans and Olympians, which is known as the Titanomachy or the War of the Titans. The Olympians won the war in which Zeus overthrew his father and became the King of the Gods.
After the battle, brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades divided the territory by a draw of lots. Poseidon got the sea, Hades got the Underworld and Zeus got the sky and the heavens. The Earth or Gaia could not be divided, and so belonged to all the three of them.
Marriage and Children of Zeus
Zeus was married to his sister Hera; with whom he had offspring called Hephaestus, Hebe and Ares. However, Zeus was popular for his infidelity and promiscuity. The stories of Zeus’ many infidelities are an inseparable part of Greek mythology.
Some of the famous children Zeus had with other Goddesses are: Persephone by Demeter, Aphrodite by Dione, Apollo and Artemis by Leto, and Athena by Metis. With mortal women, the famous children of Zeus are: Heracles by Alcmene, Perseus by Danae, Minos by Europa, Thebe by Iodame, Argos by Niobe, and Dionysus by Semele.
There are several stories about each of these affairs, and these children. One of the most popular one is the story of Zeus and Leda. Zeus took the form of a swan and seduced Leda. The story is immortalized by the popular poem, ‘Leda And The Swan’ by W. B. Yeats. The famous Helen of Troy was the daughter of Leda, fathered by Zeus. According to the mythology, Zeus remained neutral in the Trojan war. When Greece was taken over by the Romans, Zeus was equated with their chief God, Jupiter.
Whatever his shortcoming, Zeus is one of the most notable personalities of the Greek mythology. The cults, oracle and several statues of Zeus in the world help prove the fascination people have about the Greek Father of Gods. Ciao!