Zeus was the first of the gods and a very imposing figure. Often referred to as the “Father of Gods and men”, he is a sky god who controls lightning (often using it as a weapon) and thunder. Zeus is king of Mount Olympus, the home of Greek gods, where he rules the world and imposes his will onto gods and mortals alike.
Zeus was the last child of the titans Cronus and Rhea, and avoided being swallowed by his father (who had been told one of his children would overthrow him) when Rhea sought help from Uranus and Gaea. Cronus had previously swallowed Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon.
Along with Hades and Poseidon, Zeus shared the rule of the world and became king of Olympus as the children of Cronus were filled with admiration for their noble brother and sided with him against their unjust father – even following Zeus into The Battle of the Titans.
Zeus mated with many goddesses and mortals (including Aegina, Alcmena, Calliope, Cassiopea, Demeter, Dione, Europa, Io, Leda, Leto, Mnemosyne, Niobe, Persephone and Semele) but was married to his sister Hera – goddess of marriage and monogamy.
Roles and responsibilities of Zeus
As the king of the gods and sitting atop the golden throne on Mount Olympus, Zeus was revered by all. Mortal kings would boast that they were descendants of Zeus. With this supreme power came a number of roles and responsibilities. Hesiod described Zeus as a god who “brought peace in place of violence” and referred to him as the “lord of justice“.
Though he is most well known as god of the sky and thunder, Zeus was the supreme cultural embodiment of Greek religious beliefs. He had many epithets (titles) that emphasized different aspects of complete and wide ranging authority.
- Zeus Olympios emphasized Zeus’s kingship over the gods.
- Zeus Xenios, Philoxenon or Hospites: Zeus was the patron of hospitality (xenia) and guests, ready to avenge any wrong done to a stranger.
- Zeus Horkios: Zeus he was the keeper of oaths. Exposed liars were made to dedicate a statue to Zeus, often at the sanctuary of Olympia.
- Zeus Agoraeus: Zeus watched over business at the agora and punished dishonest traders.
- Zeus Aegiduchos or Aegiochos: Zeus was the bearer of the Aegis with which he strikes terror into the impious and his enemies.
- Zeus Tallaios (“solar Zeus”): the Zeus that was worshiped in Crete.
- Zeus Geōrgos (“earth worker”, “farmer”), the god of crops and harvest, in Athens.
- Astrapios (“lightninger”)
- Brontios (“thunderer”)
Appearance and personality of Zeus
According to “Work and Days” by Hesiod (line 59), Zeus was a carefree god who loved to laugh out loud. He was regarded as wise, fair, just, merciful, and prudent. He was also unpredictable – nobody was able to guess the decisions he would make.
He was also easily angered which could be very destructive. He has previously hurled lightning bolts and caused violent storms that wreaked havoc on earth.
Zeus fell in love easily and had many affairs with various women, however he would severely punish anybody who attempted to escort/fall in love with his wife Hera – like the giant Porphyrion who took a lightning bolt from the engraged god for lusting after his wife (albeit with a little help from the love god Eros).
He is often described as a strong, imposing man with a regal body and long, often curly, hair. He usually had a short beard or scruff and carried his trusty thunderbolt at all times.
How Many Wives Did Zeus Have?
How Did Zeus Become the Leader of the Gods?
Cronus, managed to overthrow his father, Uranus.
But Uranus made a prediction that Cronus would be overthrown by one of his children. Because Cronus was afraid of losing the kingdom, he made the same mistakes his father did and turned into a terrible, angry king and did lots of horrible things to stay in power. He ate his children, just to keep them from overthrowing him. But Rhea, his wife, managed to fool Cronus by feeding him a large stone and kept one of his children safe. This child was named Zeus. Rhea hid him away in a cave on the island of Crete so he would be safe.
Once Zeus grew up, he went to his father’s mountain and served him as a cupbearer. His father did not know that Zeus was his son. A Titan goddess named Metis helped Zeus fool his father into drinking a mixture of mustard in his wine. This caused Cronus to feel sick, and he threw up all of his children that he had eaten, one by one including the stone. Once Cronus had expelled all of Zeus’ brothers and sisters, Zeus talked them into rebelling against Cronus, their father.
This is what started the Titanomachy, or the Titan’s War. Zeus and his brothers and sisters rebelled against their father, Cronus. Zeus set the CYCLOPES and the Hecatonchires free from their underground prison and convinced them to join the fight against Cronus too.
Cronus had been the one who locked up his siblings, so they agreed to join Zeus. The Hecatonchires used rocks as weapons, and the Cyclopes made Zeus’ thunderbolts. Together they also made POSEIDON‘s trident and HADES‘ helm of darkness.
The only Titians to fight with Zeus were THEMIS and PROMETHEUS. This war lasted ten years. ATLAS was a major leader on the side of the Titans and Cronus. After the war was over, Zeus imprisoned all of the Titans in Tartarus, except for Themis and Prometheus who fought for him.
These Titans were imprisoned in the earth the same way that Cronus, HECATONCHIRES and the Cyclopes once were. Hecatonchires guarded the Titans in their prison. Because Atlas was such an important fighter for the opposition, Zeus gave him the special punishment of holding up the world.
After the Titans’ War Zeus and his brothers, Hades and Poseidon decided to divide the universe into three parts. They drew straws to see who would rule over which part. Zeus drew the longest straw, so he was given the title of king of the sky. This also meant that he was the head of mortals and all the gods, too. Poseidon got the middle straw, so he became king of the sea. Hades drew the shortest straw, so he became the ruler of the Underworld.
Facts about Zeus
- Zeus became the ruler of heaven and earth after a revolt against his father, Kronos. In his position as king of the gods, Zeus had to play mediator when other the immortals were mad at each other.
- He is the father of Athena, who is said to have sprung from his head. She was his favorite child, with whom he shared the thunderbolt and aegis.
- Hades and Poseidon were his brothers.
- His wife Hera was also his sister.
- Zeus was not a faithful husband; he was known for having many affairs with mortal women.
- Zeus fathered Hercules, the famous Greek hero, by deception. He disguised himself as Amphitryon, Alcmene’s husband, in order to have sexual relations with her.
- Zeus fathered Perseus by impregnating Danaë. When he did so, he appeared to her in the form of a golden shower.
- The name Zeus means “bright” or “sky.”
- His weapon of choice was the thunderbolt, made for him by the mythical creatures, the Cyclops.
- Zeus, more recently known for causing thunder and lightning, was once a rain-god. He was always associated with the weather in some form.
- The Zeus described in Homer was not an extension of nature; instead, he had a standard of right and wrong that made him more relatable to mankind.
- Before monarchies were rendered obsolete, Zeus protected the king and his family.
- Hesiod calls Zeus the “the lord of justice.” Perhaps because of this, he was reluctant to join a side in the Trojan War. He preferred the Trojans, but he wanted to stay neutral because Hera preferred the Greeks. She was insufferable when he opposed her openly.
- Metis, the goddess of prudence, was Zeus’s first love.
- Ares, Hephaestus, Hebe and Eileithyia are the children of Zeus and Hera.
- His union with Leto brought forth the twins Apollo and Artemis.
- When he seduced the Spartan queen Leda, Zeus transformed himself into a beautiful swan, and two sets of twins were born.
- When Zeus had an affair with Mnemosyne, he coupled with her for nine nights. This scenario produced nine daughters, who became known as the Muses.
- Zeus punished men by giving them women.
- Zeus’s servants were named Force and Violence.
|Zeus' Family Tree|
|Hera||Ares, Eileithyia, Hebe, Hephaestus||Danae||Perseus|
|Maia||Hermes||Electra||Dardanus, Harmonia, Iasius|
|Metis||Athena||Europa||Minos, Rhadamanthys, Sarpedon|
|Themes||Horae (Seasons), Moirae (Fates)||Laodamia||Sarpedon|
|Leda||Polydeuces (Pollux), Helen|
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