rZeus Beginning around 700 B. C. , stories by Homer and other Greek poets told of the lives of powerful gods who involved themselves in human affairs. Supreme among these gods was Zeus, but to the Romans he was known as Jupiter. Zeus was the supreme god and ruler of Olympus. He was known by many titles: Lord of the Sky, the Cloud- gatherer, the Rain-god, and Zeus the Thunderer. All of which are the most popular names dating back to ancient Greek history and mythology. Zeus was the child of the Titans, Cronus and Rhea, and was the youngest of all his siblings.
Cronus , Zeus’ father, had been warned that one of his children would overthrow him. Cronus knew the consequences, for he had overthrown his father, Uranus. To prevent this from happening Cronus swallowed his newborn children Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon, but according to legend his wife Rhea and her mother Gaia, wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes in the place of the infant Zeus. Cronus thinking it was the newborn baby swallowed the stone. Meanwhile Rhea and her baby were taken to Crete, and there, in a cave on Mount Dicte, the divine goat Amaltheia suckled and raised the infant Zeus.
When Zeus had grown into a young man he left the cave and returned to his fathers domain, and with the help of Gaia, tricked Cronus to vomit the five children he had previously swallowed. However, this led to war and Zeus led the revolt against his father and the dynasty of the Titans. In the end theTitans were defeated and banished to “Tartarus”, which was a region lower than the underworld. Once Zeus had control, he and his brothers divided the universe amongst themselves: Zeus gaining the heavens, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld.
Being the supreme ruler he upheld law, justice, and morals, and this made him the spiritual leader of both gods and men. Zeus has always been associated as being a weather god, as his main attribute is the thunderbolt for which he used to rule Olympus. Hera was Zeus’ wife and was very jealous of her husband’s many affairs. His wife Hera, bore him Ares, Hebe, Hephaestus, and Eileithyia, however Zeus had numerous other children with both goddesses and mortals. His affair with a woman named Leto led to the birth of the twins Apollo and Artemis.
Hera being the jealous wife she was, forced Leto to roam the earth in search of a place to give birth, for Hera had stopped her from gaining shelter on land or at sea. The only place she could go was to the isle of Delos in the middle of the Aegean Sea, for Delos was a floating island. This would be one of many of Hera’s revenges on her husband’s affairs. Zeus used many different disguises to seduce women. When he seduced the Spartan queen Leda, he transformed himself into a beautiful swan, and from the egg which Leda produced, two sets of twins were born.
They were Polydeuces and Castor and Clytemnestra and Helen of Troy. He also visited princess Danae as a shower of gold, and from this, the hero Perseus was born. He kidnapped the Phoenician princess Europa, disguised as a bull, then carried her on his back to the island of Crete where she had three sons. They were Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon. These were just some of his many children. Zeus had many Temples and festivals in his honor, the most famous was Olympia, the magnificent “Temple of Zeus”, which held the gold and ivory statue of the enthroned Zeus, which was sculpted by Phidias.
It was later to become one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. Also the Olympic Games and many other numerous festivals throughout Greece were held in his honor. In art, which was a big part of Greek culture, Zeus is usually shown as bearded, middle aged, but with a youthful figure. He seems very poweful and imposing. Artists always try to show the power of Zeus in their art, usually by giving him a pose as he is about to throw his bolt of lightening. To this day Zeus is still considered to be one of the most interesting parts of Greek mythology.
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