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Zeus’s Literary Journey Through Mythology Essay

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Updated: May 22nd, 2021

Consideration of Hesiod’s poems is advisable to start with “Theogony” because it contains the cosmogony regarding pre-philosophy, which develops within the myth and destroys its rational understanding of the world. The poem tells the story of three generations born of Earth and Heaven (Uranides), sons and daughters of Kronos (Olympian gods and the main among them – Zeus), and also about people and giants. The beginning and the end of the stories are the chants of Zeus who took power over the world by force.

It seems that the truth taught by Hesiod is not in the description of the sequence of generations of gods, but the chanting of Zeus. The author also glorifies the laws “that govern everything,” the ruling of “the blessed gods of Olympus,” Hesiod, Theogony, p. 35 in GHM. He is interested in the steady state of the world and the dominant position of Zeus, according to which the author glorifies his qualities at the beginning and the end.

Although the main bloodline of the gods covers the birth of three generations, Zeus is at the center of the narrative. He releases “his brothers and sisters Uranides,” they give him the “thunder and smoky thunderbolt and lightning,” Hesiod, Theogony, p. 41 in GHM. The result of this act is the rule of Zeus: “he rules over mortals and immortals.” The episode about the sons of Japetos is placed in the center of the story as the conquest of the supreme power of Zeus over the people and gods. Here comes the inclusion of anthropogony in Theogony: the appearance of a human in the historical arena.

Prometheus, taking the side of people, tries to deceive Zeus. The deception lies in the unequal section of the carcass of a bull intended for sacrifice to the gods. Zeus sees the trick: the best part of the corpse was wrapped in skin and stomach, and the worst (bone) covered in “gleaming” fat, Hesiod, Theogony, p. 42 in GHM. Prometheus tries to help people avoid submission to the gods, and above all Zeus. Zeus is depicted in this episode as a cruel, ruthless god.

He sees deception and taunts Prometheus. His behavior is dominated by emotions, especially anger. Submission of people to Zeus turns into one of the central scenes of the struggle of Zeus and the Olympian gods for “power and honor.” While Prometheus was forgiven in the end, the author argues the idea of the impossibility of deception of Zeus and the inevitability of his anger.

In this context, Hesiod tells about the appearance of humanity: Gods create one half of the human race. A woman, “a beautiful evil thing to pay for the good one,” was created on misfortune to people, Hesiod, Theogony, p. 43 in GHM. Zeus represents a brutal cult, before which men should lie in fear and awe. The attempt to deceive Zeus led to the greatest evil in the life of mortals — the creation of women. The creation of a human is included in the context of honoring Zeus as the most powerful god, as well as the idea of the secondary nature of women in the society of that time. Here Zeus appears to be a vengeful arbiter, who does not tolerate deception.

The mighty warrior of the first narratives, the supreme ruler of the second, and vengeful, capricious dictator in the third case, Zeus has many hypostases, and the second part of his behavior is more appealing. The recurring motif of the parent’s crime against children with Zeus’ claim as “king and master” is interrupted. Cosmogony clearly describes Zeus’ order, the cosmic balance, and the harmony of the world.

In Hesiod’s Theogony, the same world is taken in two dimensions: mythological and cosmogonic. Both dimensions contain the corresponding images of Zeus: the powerful and furious god, in the first case, and the wise guardian of the world in the second place. Man is present in the world in both dimensions. Hesiod, although he speaks of the need for sacrifices to the gods, proclaims the idea of natural and social order, law and justice.

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