1208: Zeus from Otricoli. 3C AD. Vatican Museum. Copy at Antikmuseet, Lund.
Zeus was allotted the dominion of the sky,
having waged war against Cronos and the TITANS (see also Titanomachy). This supreme god surpasses all others in spirit, wisdom, and justice, and prevails upon good men by persuasion, intimidating the evil by punishment. Zeus, some say, caused the Trojan War, so that
the load of death might empty the world. Zeus got
the thunderbolt, his ultimate weapon, from the CYCLOPES, and an eagle
brings back the thunderbolts which he has flung.
Birth and clandestine infancy
Both Gaia and Uranus foretold Cronos that he would be
dethroned by his own son. To avoid this sad fate,
he used to swallow his children at birth. This
bizarre behavior, however, enraged his wife Rhea 1, who being pregnant
with Zeus, went to Crete and gave him birth in a cave of Dicte. NYMPHS fed the child
on the milk of the goat Amalthea while the CURETES
in arms guarded the child in the cave, clashing
their spears on their shields, in order to prevent Cronos to hear his voice.
In the meantime, Rhea 1 wrapped a stone in clothes and gave it to Cronos to swallow, as if
it were the newborn child. This is how Cronos, the second ruler
of the universe, was deceived.
Amalthea and other nurses
Amalthea, some say, was one of ZEUS' NURSES. She
was a naiad, famous in the Cretan Mount Ida, who
nursed Zeus when the newborn god had to be
concealed and protected from his father Cronos, who, out of fear
for being dethroned by his own son (as it had been
predicted), devoured his offspring. Amalthea hung
Zeus in a cradle from a tree, so that he could be
found neither in heaven nor on earth nor in the
sea, and gathering youths, she gave them brazen
shields and spears, and ask them to go around the
tree making noise lest the cries of little Zeus be heard. These youths
are called CURETES by some whereas others called
them CORYBANTES. It has also been said that the nymph Amalthea owned a bull's horn which could supply food and drink in abundance. However, some affirm that Amalthea owned a wonderful she-goat who suckled the god, and that one day the goat broke one of her beautiful horns. The nymph Amalthea then picked it up, and wrapping it in fresh herbs, took it full of fruit to the lips of the newborn god. Because of this, on becoming ruler of heaven, Zeus transformed both his nurse and the horn of plenty into stars. Yet some assert that Zeus was given to the care of Adrastia 1 and Ide 3, daughters of King Melisseus 1 in Crete, who laid him in a cradle of gold, and since they had not milk for the child, they furnished him a goat, whose name was Amalthea. But others affirm that Amalthea was the nymph who owned the goat that nursed Zeus. The Messenians affirm that it was Neda, the
eldest of the NYMPHS, who
reared Zeus secretly; but many others are said to
have nursed Zeus as well.
Zeus becomes ruler of Heaven
When Zeus was grown up, he asked Metis 1 to help him against his father, and she gave Cronos a drug that forced
him to disgorge first the stone and then the
children whom he had swallowed. And with the aid of
his brothers and sisters, Zeus waged war against Cronos and the TITANS, and being victorious, Zeus became the ruler of Heaven (see also Titanomachy).
Metis 1 turned into many shapes to avoid Zeus' embraces, but she nevertheless became his first wife. Gaia had prophesied that after giving birth to the maiden who was in her womb, Metis 1 would bear a son who would be the lord of heaven. Fearing the prophecy, Zeus swallowed Metis 1. And when the time came for the birth to take place, Prometheus 1, or
else Hephaestus smote
the head of Zeus with an axe, and Athena, fully armed,
leapt up from the top of his head at the river
Conflict with Prometheus 1
Prometheus 1 gave
mankind fire, which, unknown to Zeus, he had hidden
in a stalk of fennel. But having learned about the
theft, Zeus had him nailed in Mount Caucasus, where
every day an eagle swooped on him and devoured the
lobes of his liver, which grew by night.
Impious Lycaon 2
It is told that Zeus, desirous of putting the
impiety of King Lycaon 2 of Arcadia and his sons to the test, came to them in the likeness of a day-laborer. Having slaughtered a male child, they mixed his bowels with the sacrifices, and set them before him. Zeus in disgust killed him and his sons. Because of their impiety, it is said, there occurred The Flood in the
age of Deucalion 1.
Zeus transformed Lycaon 2 into a wolf, or blasted him and his sons with
The Flood of Deucalion 1
When Zeus then decided to destroy the men of the Bronze Age, he poured heavy rain and flooded the world so that all men were destroyed, except a few (see The Flood).
Zeus also loved the nereid Thetis, but Themis
prophesied that her son would be mightier than his
father, and he withdrew. Zeus then bade his
grandson Peleus to marry
her, and in time Achilles was born, who
was indeed mightier than his father.
Ate thrown away
Ate, who is Delusion and Ruinous Conduct, was held responsible by Zeus for the blindness with which he took a solemn oath, and in his rage he seized her by her hair, and whirling her round his head cast her down to the world, swearing that she should never set foot in Olympus again. (This oath refers to the birth of Heracles 1; see
Alcmena below. For Ate see PERSONIFICATIONS.)
Zeus cast Hephaestus out of
heaven, because he came to the rescue of Hera once she had a fight
with her husband. Hephaestus fell on Lemnos, and for that
reason he is lamed of his legs.
exchange for beautiful horses
For the sake of Ganymedes' beauty,
Zeus caught him up on an eagle, and ever since he
is the cupbearer of the gods in heaven. In
compensation for the rape of Ganymedes, Zeus gave some fine mares to King Laomedon 1 of Troy.
Sun sets in the East by the will of Zeus
At the time when the brothers Atreus and Thyestes 1 disputed about the kingdom of Mycenae, Zeus sent Hermes to Atreus to make him stipulate with Thyestes 1 that Atreus should be king if the sun should go backwards; and when Thyestes 1, believing it impossible, agreed, the sun set in the east. Thus Atreus got the
Another miracle performed by Zeus
Callirrhoe 2 requested of Zeus that the sons she had by Alcmaeon 1 might be full-grown in order to avenge their father's murder, and they suddenly became grown-up (see also Robe & Necklace of Harmonia 1).
Zeus takes part in the birth of Orion
Hyrieus was childless and asked the gods Zeus, Hermes, and Poseidon, who came to
visit him, for children, and they urinated in the
hide of the sacrificed bull, buried it in the earth
and from it Orion was
Some say that this horned generation of CENTAURS
came to be because Zeus chased Aphrodite but could not catch her. In the pursuit the god dropped his seed on the ground, and these CYPRIAN CENTAURS grew out of the earth. (See also the regular CENTAURS)
Immortality in exchange for maidenhood
Juturna became a goddess of lakes and rivers in
return for the maidenhood Zeus ravished. But the
naiad Lara, also called Tacita, who could not hold
her tongue, reported to Hera that Zeus loved
Juturna. For this, Zeus wrenched from her the
indiscreet tongue, and told Hermes to take her to Hades as she was to
become an infernal nymph.
Because of an opinion one kind of vision turns
Tiresias was blinded
by Hera for saying that
women enjoy the pleasures of love ten times more
than men, but was given by Zeus the art of
soothsaying which he kept even in the Underworld.
Ixion was in love with Hera and attempted to rape
her, but Zeus then made the Cloud Resembling Hera (Nephele 1) to delude him (see CENTAURS). For this attempt Ixion is
punished in the Underworld (see also Immortals).
Love and sleep may distract the gods When once Hera, for the sake of helping the Achaeans in the Trojan War, wished to keep Zeus away from the battles, she received Aphrodite's magic belt from this goddess, and with its help and her own charms she was able to distract her husband. Later on, with the help of Hypnos (Sleep), whom she bribed, Zeus was conveniently put to sleep. Hypnos dared this deed in spite of his fears. For some time ago he had performed, also at Hera's request, a similar task; and Zeus, who then woke up in anger and sought him everywhere, would have hurled him from heaven into the deep, had not her mother Nyx (Night) saved him.
|Attacks against the rule of Zeus
Ares chained by the Aloads | il103flax: "So suffered Ares, when Otus and mighty Ephialtes, the sons of Aloeus, bound him in cruel bonds, and in a brazen jar he lay bound for thirteen months." (Hom.Il.5.385). John Flaxman (1755 – 1826).
The rule of Zeus was not beyond threat:
Ephialtes 2 and Otus 1, two giants called the ALOADS tried to unseat Zeus from his throne. The ALOADS grew every year a cubit in breadth and a fathom in height; and when they were nine years old, being nine cubits broad and nine fathoms high, they resolved to fight against the gods. They then set Ossa on Olympus, and having set Pelion on Ossa they threatened by means of these mountains to ascend up to heaven. They also declared that by filling up the sea with the mountains they would make it dry land, and the land they would make sea. Ephialtes 2 wooed Hera, and Otus 1 wooed Artemis; and they put Ares in bonds. But when
they wished to assault Artemis and she could
not resist their strength, Apollo sent a deer
between them. So driven mad by anger in trying to
kill it with javelins, they killed each other. But
others assert that Artemis caused their
death; that she changed herself into a deer and
leaped between them, and in their eagerness to hit
the quarry they threw their darts at each other. In the Underworld they are punished thus: they are bound by serpents
to a column, back to back. Between them is a
screech-owl, sitting on the column to which they
The Revolt of the GIANTS
Also the serpent-footed GIANTS, who had a
thousand hands and were matchless in size and
invincible in their might, tried to dethrone Zeus.
This happened because Gaia was vexed after the OLYMPIANS had defeated
the TITANS. She then gave
birth to GIANTS so that
they would attack heaven. As an oracle had said
that none of the GIANTS could perish at the hands of the gods, but that
with the help of a mortal they could be killed, the
gods summoned Heracles 1 to their aid, and the GIANTS were destroyed (see also Gigantomachy).
But then winged Typhon attacked heaven spouting fire from his mouth. This hybrid monster, whose eyes flashed with
fire, had human shape but from the thighs downward
he had huge coils of vipers, which when drawn out,
reached to his very head and emitted a loud
hissing. This came to be because when the OLYMPIANS had overcome
the GIANTS, Gaia, still more enraged,
had intercourse with Tartarus and gave birth to Typhon, who surpassed all her offspring in both size and strength. Typhon's size was such that he out-topped all the mountains and brushed the stars with his head, his hands reaching out, one to the west and the other to the east, and from them projected a hundred dragons' heads. Typhon, hurling kindled rocks, attacked heaven
with hissings and shouts, spouting a great jet of
fire from his mouth. So when the gods saw him
rushing at heaven, they made for Egypt in flight.
Being pursued they changed their forms into those
of animals. However, Zeus pelted Typhon at a
distance with thunderbolts, and at close quarters
struck him down with an adamantine sickle, and as
he fled pursued him closely as far as Mount Casius,
which overhangs Syria. But Typhon wrested the
sickle from him, severed the sinews of his hands
and feet, and lifting him on his shoulders carried
him through the sea to Cilicia, and deposited him
on arrival in the Corycian cave. Likewise, he put
away the sinews there also, hidden in a bearskin,
and he set to guard them the she-dragon Delphyne,
who was a half-bestial maiden. It was then that Hermes and Aegipan 1 stole the sinews and fitted them unobserved to Zeus. Having recovered his strength, Zeus pelted Typhon with thunderbolts and pursued him to the mountain called Nysa, where the MOERAE beguiled the
fugitive. They made him taste of the ephemeral
fruits in the persuasion that he would be
strengthened thereby. So being again pursued when
he started to flee through the Sicilian sea, Zeus
cast Mount Etna in Sicily upon him. That is a huge
mountain, from which down to this day they say that
blasts of fire issue from the thunderbolts that
Conspiracy in Olympus
A minor conspiracy once took place in Olympus
when Hera, Poseidon, and Athena plotted against
Zeus and planned to throw him into chains. It was
the nereid Thetis, Achilles' mother, who
then saved Zeus by calling to Olympus the
Hecatoncheire Briareus, who squatted by Zeus and
displaying his force frightened the other gods