Zeus

Jupiter Smyrna Louvre

God of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, justice The Jupiter de Smyrne, discovered in Smyrna in 1680 Jupiter Smyrna Louvre

Zeus (Ancient Greek: Ζεύς, Zeús; Modern Greek: Δίας, Días) is the “Father of Gods and men” who rules the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father rules the family according to the ancient Greek religion. He is the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. Zeus is etymologically cognate with and, under Hellenic influence, became particularly closely identified with Roman Jupiter.

Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he is married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort is Dione: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. 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.

The god’s name in the nominative is Ζεύς Zeús /zdeús/. It is inflected as follows: vocative: Ζεῦ Zeû; accusative: Δία Día; genitive: Διός Diós; dative: Διί Dií. Diogenes Laertius quotes Pherecydes of Syros as spelling the name, Ζάς.

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Colossal seated Marnas from Gaza portrayed in the style of Zeus. Roman period Marnas was the chief divinity of Gaza (Istanbul Archaeology Museum).

Birth
“Cave of Zeus”, Mount Ida (Crete).

Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Uranus 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 Cronus would get his retribution for his acts against Uranus and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Cronus a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed.

Marble eagle with open wings, from the sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos, Archaeological Museum, Dion

Marble eagle from the sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos, Archaeological Museum of Dion.

King of the gods

After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge first the stone (which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, the Omphalos) then his siblings in reverse order of swallowing. In some versions, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the babies, or Zeus cut Cronus’ stomach open. Then Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes, from their dungeon in Tartarus, killing their guard, Campe.

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, along with the Gigantes, Hecatonchires and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other 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.

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Laurel-wreathed head of Zeus on a gold stater, Lampsacus, c 360-340 BC (Cabinet des Médailles).

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 (see also Penthus). Source Wikipedia.

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