Zeus (Ancient Greek: Ζεύς) was the Greek deity of the sky, weather, lightning, thunder, air, law, order, justice, honour, hospitality, governance, moral conduct, oaths, honesty and integrity. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.
Zeus is the youngest child of Kronos and Rhea, and is married to Hera. He is known for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.
His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter.He also argues with Poseidon talking about who Rhea liked best.
The name Zeus means "living". It is derived from an earlier Indo-European god, Dyeus ph2tēr, meaning "sky father".
Kronos sired several children by Rhea - Hestia, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera and Hades, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Ouranos that he was destined to be overcome by his own son as he had overthrown his own father—an oracle that Rhea was to hear and avert.
When Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him, so that Kronos would get his retribution for his acts against Ouranos and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Kronos a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed.
Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. Then, according to different versions of the story:
- He was then raised by Gaia in her womb.
- He was raised by the goat Amaltheia, while a company of Kouretes— soldiers, or smaller gods— danced, shouted and clashed their spears against their shields so that Kronos would not hear the baby's cry.
- He was raised by a nymph named Adamantheia. Since Kronos ruled over the sky, sea, and earth, she hung him from a tree, suspended between the domains, so that he would be invisible to his father.
- He was raised by a nymph named Cynosura. In gratitude, Zeus placed her among the stars.
- He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat's-milk and honey.
- He was raised by a shepherd family under the promise that their sheep would be saved from wolves.
The king of the Olympians
After reaching manhood, he learnt of his father through Gaia, who told him to seek the Titaness Metis' advice to save his brethren. Metis prepared an emetic, and gave it to Zeus to be mixed into Kronos' drink. With Gaia's help, he attained the position of cupbearer in Kronos' palace, and mixed the emtic into his wine. Kronos choked, and disgorged first the stone, then Zeus' sblings in reverse order of swallowing.
Zeus released Kronos' brethren, the Cyclopes and the Hekatonkheires from their dungeon in Tartarus, killing their gaurd Kampê in the process. As a token of their appreciation, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt, or lightning, which had previously been hidden by Gaia. Together, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, the Cyclopes and the Hekatonkheires overthrew the Titans, in the combat called the Titanomachy. The defeated Titans were then cast into a shadowy underworld region known as Tartarus. Atlas, one of the titans that fought against Zeus, was punished by having to hold up the sky after discussing with Hades and Poseidon.
After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers, Poseidon and Hades, by drawing lots: Zeus got the sky and air, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the world of the dead (the underworld). The ancient Earth, Gaia, could not be claimed; she was left to all three, each according to their capabilities, which explains why Poseidon was the "earth-shaker" (the god of earthquakes) and Hades claimed the humans that died.
Gaia resented the way Zeus had treated the Titans, because they were her children. Soon after taking the throne as king of the gods, Zeus had to fight some of Gaia's other children, the monsters Typhon and Echidna. He vanquished Typhon and trapped him under Mount Etna, but left Echidna and her children alive as a test for mortal heroes.
Zeus & Metis
After the wars, Zeus married the Titaness of prudence, Metis, the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. Metis was exceptionally wise, and had helped Zeus come up with many strategies and plans in the war to help Zeus. One day, however, after geting a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi that his child by Metis would be more powerful than him, Zeus decided to kill Metis. Using the fact that Metis could shape-shift, Zeus asked her to turn into a fly, and then swallowed her.
The birth of Athena
A few months later Zeus felt a continuous headache. Even after repeated medicine, when it did not cure, Prometheus the Titan of forethought asked Hephaestus to open Zeus head with an axe. As soon as it was opened, Metis' daughter, Athena, sprung from the head.
Zeus and Hera
Zeus was brother and consort of Hera. By Hera, Zeus sired Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus, though some accounts say that Hera produced these offspring alone. Some also include Eileithyia and Eris as their daughters. The conquests of Zeus among nymphs and the mythic mortal progenitors of Hellenic dynasties are famous. Olympian mythography even credits him with unions with Leto, Demeter, Dione and Maia. Among mortals were Semele, Io, Europa and Leda and with the young Ganymede.
Initially, Hera was resistant of Zeus, but Zeus turned into a cuckoo, flew to her window, pretending to be in distress. Hera took the cuckoo into her arms and cuddled the bird. Zeus turned back into himself and Hera found herself cuddling with Zeus. Hera then agreed to become his wife and the two married.
Many myths render Hera as jealous of his amorous conquests and a consistent enemy of Zeus' mistresses and their children by him. For a time, a nymph named Echo had the job of distracting Hera from his affairs by talking incessantly, and when Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to repeat the words of others.
Roles and Ephithets
Zeus played a dominant role, presiding over the Greek Olympian pantheon. He fathered many of the heroes and was featured in many of their local cults. Though the Homeric "cloud collector" was the god of the sky and thunder like his Near-Eastern counterparts, he was also the supreme cultural artifact; in some senses, he was the embodiment of Greek religious beliefs and the archetypal Greek deity.
Aside from local epithets that simply designated the deity to doing something random at some particular place, the epithets or titles applied to Zeus emphasized different aspects of his wide-ranging authority:
- Zeus Olympios emphasized Zeus's kingship over both the gods in addition to his specific presence at the Panhellenic festival at Olympia.
- Zeus Panhellenios ("Zeus of all the Hellenes"), to whom Aeacus' famous temple on Aegina was dedicated.
- Zeus Xenios, Philoxenon or Hospites: Zeus was the patron of hospitality 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. Others derive this epithet from αἴξ ("goat") and οχή and take it as an allusion to the legend of Zeus' suckling at the breast of Amalthea.
Additional names and epithets for Zeus are also:
- Zeus Meilichios ("easy-to-be-entreated"): Zeus subsumed an archaic chthonic daimon propitiated in Athens, Meilichios.
- Zeus Tallaios ("solar Zeus"): the Zeus that was worshiped in Crete.
- Zeus Labrandos: he was worshiped at Caria. His sacred site was Labranda and he was depicted holding a double-edged axe (labrys-labyrinth). He is connected with the Hurrian god of sky and storm Teshub.
- Zeus Naos and Bouleus: forms of Zeus worshipped at Dodona, the earliest oracle. His priests, the Selloi, are sometimes thought to have given their name to the Hellenes.
- Kasios: the Zeus of Mount Kasios in Syria
- Ithomatas: the Zeus of Mount Ithomi in Messenia
- Astrapios ("lightninger")
- Brontios ("thunderer")
Miscellany on Zeus
- Zeus turned Pandareus to stone for stealing the golden dog which had guarded him as an infant in the holy Dictaeon Cave of Crete.
- Zeus killed Salmoneus with a thunderbolt for attempting to impersonate him, riding around in a bronze chariot and loudly imitating thunder.
- Zeus turned Periphas into an eagle after his death, as a reward for being righteous and just.
- At the marriage of Zeus and Hera, a nymph named Chelone refused to attend. Zeus transformed her into a tortoise (chelone in Greek).
- Zeus, with Hera, turned King Haemus and Queen Rhodope into mountains (the Balkan mountains, or Stara Planina, and Rhodope mountains, respectively) for their vanity.
- Zeus condemned Tantalus to eternal torture in Tartarus for trying to trick the gods into eating the flesh of his butchered son Pelops.
- Zeus condemned Ixion to be tied to a fiery wheel for eternity as punishment for attempting to violate Hera.
- Zeus sank the Telkhines beneath the sea.
- Zeus blinded the seer Phineas and sent the Harpies to plague him as punishment for revealing the secrets of the gods.
- Zeus rewarded Tiresias with a life three times the norm as reward for ruling in his favour when he and Hera contested which of the sexes gained the most pleasure from the act of love.
- Zeus punished Hera by having her hung upside down from the sky when she attempted to drown Heracles in a storm.
- Of all the children Zeus spawned, Heracles was often described as his favorite. Indeed, Heracles was often called by various gods and people as "the favorite son of Zeus", Zeus and Heracles were very close and in one story, where a tribe of earth-born Giants threatened Olympus and the Oracle at Delphi decreed that only the combined efforts of a lone god and mortal could stop the creature, Zeus chose Heracles to fight by his side. They proceeded to defeat the monsters.
- Athena has at times been called his favorite daughter and adviser.
- His sacred bird was the Golden Eagle, which he kept by his side at all times. Like him, the eagle was a symbol of strength, courage, and justice.
- His favourite tree was the oak, symbol of strength. Olive trees were also sacred to him.
- Zelus, Nike, Cratos and Bia were Zeus' retinue.
- Zeus condemned Prometheus to having his liver eaten by a giant eagle for giving the Flames of Olympus to the mortals.
- When Hera gave birth to Hephaestus, Zeus threw him off the top of Mount Olympus because of his repulsive appearance.
In modern culture
Depictions of Zeus as a bull, the form he took when raping Europa, are found on the Greek 2-euro coin and on the United Kingdom identity card for visa holders. Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, has criticised this for its apparent celebration of rape. Zeus has been portrayed by various actors:
- Axel Ringvall in Jupiter på jorden, the first known film adaptation to feature Zeus.
- Niall MacGinnis in Jason and the Argonauts and Angus MacFadyen in the 2000 remake
- Laurence Olivier in the original Clash of the Titans, and Liam Neeson in the 2010 remake, along with the 2012 sequel Wrath of the Titans.
- Anthony Quinn in the 1990s TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
- Rip Torn in the Disney animated feature Hercules
- Sean Bean in the 2010 movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
Zeus is usually shown as a muscular man crowned with a laurel wreath, usually with an eagle in the background. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward, with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.