The Greek mythology provides prolific accounts of several supernatural beings. One of these beings is Zeus the overall ruler of Olympus. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was Cronus and Rhea’s son. In religious stature, Zeus held the same position as the Roman god Jupiter or the Hindu sky god Rigveda.
Zeus had a reputation as a carrier of thunderbolt and lightning. Zeus’ main weapon was the thunderbolt and he was commonly referred to as the father of men and gods (Lawson 65). Zeus had both divine and mortal offspring from his union with Hera and other females. This paper will offer insight into the details that surround Zeus’ mythology including his birth, roles, and offspring.
Zeus was fathered by Titan gods Cronus and Rhea. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was the youngest and only surviving offspring of Cronus. All his other siblings had been swallowed by Cronus who had been warned by an oracle that his offspring would dethrone him.
Cronus had gulped all his other offspring immediately after birth. Zeus’ mother Rhea arranged to save him after enlisting the help of Gaia. When Zeus was born, Rhea handed Cronus a rock that was disguised as a baby. Cronus immediately swallowed the Rock While Rhea hid Zeus in a cave.
There are several conflicting myths as to how Zeus was brought up. The most common story is that Zeus was raised by Gaia in the caves of Crete. Others claim that he was raised by a goat that was protected by an army of gods. Another myth claims that because Cronus was the ruler of earth, heaven, and sea, Zeus was raised while being suspended mid-air where Cronus could not see him. Zeus’ other siblings included “Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter and Hera” (Lawson 165).
After Zeus had grown up, he confronted Cronus and forced him to emit his siblings. Zeus’ brothers and sisters showed gratitude for his actions by helping him defeat Cronus and other Titans. In addition, Zeus was able to release Cronus’ brothers from imprisonment by slaying their guard. It was one of Cronus’ brothers Cyclopes who bestowed thunder and thunderbolt upon Zeus.
Eventually, Zeus was able to defeat Cronus and exile some of his supporters. Zeus punished one of his opposing Titans by having him hold up the sky. After his victory, Zeus shared the kingdom of the universe with his siblings Poseidon and Hades. When the three drew lots, Zeus attained the sky and air kingdom, Poseidon attained the water kingdom, and Hades won the kingdom of the dead.
The division of the kingdom explains why Poseidon was the ‘god of the earthquakes’ and Hades had the right of ownership over the dead. Gaia was the “mother of the Titans and she was resentful of how Zeus had treated some of them” (Lang 88). Zeus had to fight with the remaining Titans and he was able to vanquish one of them by the name Typhoon.
Zeus was married to Hera but he also engaged in several extra marital affairs. Both his marriage and his affairs resulted in numerous immortal and mortal offspring. His marriage resulted in the birth of Ares, Eileithyia, Hebe, and Hephaestus. His wife Hera was known for her jealousy and she objected to his numerous affairs.
His affairs with mortals and goddesses were achieved through either rape or witty seduction techniques. Zeus’ affair with Leto resulted in the birth of Artemis and Apollo. Hera was very jealous of this affair and she condemned Leto to roam the earth while searching for a place to give birth.
Eventually, Leto had to give birth in a floating island that was neither sea nor land. Zeus also engaged in various affairs with mortals such as his union with Leda. During his liaisons with mortals, Zeus would often adopt a disguise. For instance, in his union with princess Danae, he disguised himself as a gold shower (Larson 60). Some of Zeus’ offspring from his union with mortals include Helen of Troy, Perseus, and Castor.
There are several shrines that have been erected as a tribute Zeus. In addition, several festivals have been instituted in his honor. An example of a temple that was built in Zeus’ honor is the Temple of Zeus in Olympia. The “temple bears a magnificent ivory and gold statue of Zeus” (Lawson 26).
Most works of art depict Zeus as a youthful, middle-aged, and bearded man. He is usually depicted in a pose that shows him when he is about to throw a thunderbolt. The Olympic Games that are still held to date “were started in Zeus’ honor” (Larson 88). Several Greek museums feature several of Zeus’ artifacts including the Artemisium Zeus sculpture.
Zeus is known as the punisher of the liars and oath-breakers. Moreover, Zeus was known as the god who assembled the clouds and brought forth rain. Greek mythology presents Zeus as the “god of justice, the protector of the weak, and the punisher of the wicked” (Lang 88). Modern culture has incorporated Zeus into various aspects of everyday life including his depiction in Euro coins.
Lang, Andrew. Greek Divine Myth-Greek Gods in Myth and Religion, New York, NY: Pierides Press, 2010. Print.
Larson, Jennifer. “A Land Full of Gods: Nature Deities in Greek Religion.” A Companion to Greek Religion 23.1 (2010): 56-70. Print.
Lawson, John. Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study In Survivals, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.