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Greek Mythology > Immortals > Zeus
The son of Kronos (Cronos) and Rheia, Zeus (like his father before him) deposed his aged father from the Throne of Eternity. As Kronos was about to slay his father, Ouranos (the Heavens), he was warned that his own son would someday depose him. In fear and greed, Kronos swallowed his first children as they were born, but Rheia tricked Kronos and when the sixth child, Zeus, was born, she substituted a stone for the infant and Kronos swallowed it down, unknowing that his father’s prophecy was coming to fruition.
Zeus was hidden and raised in secret until he was old enough to fulfill his destiny. One day he ambushed Kronos while out hunting. Zeus kicked Kronos in the stomach so hard the aged god vomited up the stone and the five divine, undigested gods and goddesses: Demeter, Hades, Hestia, Hera and Poseidon. In gratitude, and bowing to destiny, Zeus was unanimously declared leader of the immortals.
Zeus made his domain the mountain tops and clouds, where he could survey and vitalize all creation. He married his elder sister, the eternally beautiful Hera. She was jealous and vengeful of her husbands affections and his many love affairs with goddesses and mortals gave her endless worry and caused much divine wrath to be visited on the mortals.
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In The Iliad, Zeus is mentioned on almost every page. He is referred to in many ways and by numerous names:
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Regardless of what started the Trojan War, Zeus had several goals to accomplish before the war could end. With Hera, Athene (Athena), Poseidon, Ares and Aphrodite on the side of the Akhaians (Achaians), i.e. the Greeks, there was never any doubt that Troy would fall and the Trojans would be murdered or enslaved. Otherwise, Zeus would face a rebellion on Mount Olympos (Olympus).
After Aphrodite and Ares were wounded at Troy, Zeus ordered all Immortals to stay out of the fighting. Zeus went to Mount Ida and directed the combat so as to give glory to his beloved Hektor (Hector). There were many sons of the Immortals in the battle for Troy. Zeus let his son Sarpedon die on the battlefield at the hands of another of his sons, Aias (Ajax). Aphrodite was wounded protecting her son Aineias. Ares’ son, Askalaphos, was killed, and, of course, Akhilleus (Achilles), son of the goddess Tethys, was to be the grand sacrifice.
At one point, the war was going so badly for the Akhaians that Hera could not contain her eagerness to help. Under false pretenses, she received glamour and love charms from Aphrodite. and, with their magic, seduced Zeus on the peaks on Mount Ida. When Zeus saw her coming, he was so overwhelmed by desire that he praised her beauty and then went on to tell her that she was more beautiful than (Iliad, book 14, line 315) the wife of Ixion who bore him Peirithoos, sweet Danae who bore him Perseus, Europa who bore him Minos and Rhadamanthys, Semele who bore him Dionysos, Alkmene (Alcmene) who bore him Herakles (Heracles), the queen Demeter, and glorious Leto, mother of Apollon and Artemis. According to Zeus, Hera’s beauty surpassed them all. While Zeus slept after the love making, Poseidon had secretly entered the battle on the side of the Akhaians.
Poseidon was bellowing and shrieking from the battlefield and the mighty sound awakened Zeus from his slumber. Zeus, realizing the deception of Hera and the boldness of Poseidon, sent Hera to Mount Olympus to fetch Iris and Apollon. Wind footed Iris was sent to warn Poseidon of his folly and, seeing the wisdom of it, he withdrew. Zeus sent Apollon to revive the wounded Hektor and, holding the aegis of Zeus, Apollon charged against the Akhaian defenses, pushing them back to their beached ships.
After Zeus was satisfied with giving his glory and punishment, he ordered all the Immortals to assemble on Mount Olympus. He told them to choose sides and enter the battle as they saw fit. The war was almost at an end, but The Odyssey was just beginning.
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Hesiod, in The Works and Days and Theogony, tells the story of the creation of women by Zeus (Works, line 50). One of the Titans, Prometheus, the son of Iapetos and Klymene (Clymene), had stolen fire from Zeus and given it to the shivering mortals on the earth. In his anger, Zeus had Prometheus bound to a rock and tortured by an eagle eating at his imperishable liver (Theogony, line 522), until Herakles, also doing the will of Zeus, killed the eagle and set Prometheus free. As an additional punishment for the effrontery of Prometheus, Zeus, with the help of other gods, created an evil thing in the form of a young woman, and thus called her Pandora, ‘giver of all’ or ‘All-endowed’. Hephaistos had designed her body from the earth and waters and gave her a voice, Athene gave her dexterity and skill, Aphrodite put a veil of enchantment around her head and Hermes put treachery in her petty mind. All this was done exactly as Zeus had instructed. When she was complete, Zeus unleashed Pandora on, what Hesiod called, ‘the fourth generation of mortal men’. She was given as a gift to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus. Prometheus had warned Epimetheus not to accept gifts from Zeus but Pandora was so beautiful and, literally, irresistible, Epimetheus could not refuse. When the gift was ‘opened’ all the woes and sorrow therein escaped into the wide world, only Hope remained inside. (Works and Days, line 96)
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The creation of men had five transformations. In Works, Hesiod recounts the ages of men: the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Age of Bronze, the Age of Heroes and finally, the time of Hesiod, the Age of Iron. (Works and Days, line 106)
The Golden Age of mortal people was, as you might expect, wonderful. They extended friendship to all mortals and respect to all Immortals. They lived without disease or hardship. When it came time for them to die, they laid down to sleep and awoke as a blessed spirit, roaming the earth and doing good deeds for all the righteous souls they meet.
The Silver Age was not as good as it may sound, in fact, it was quite inferior to the previous golden generation. This generation of mortals stayed as children for one hundred years and then, reaching their adulthood, were disdainful of their creator, Kronos, and incurred his wrath. They too, were destroyed. After death, they were transformed into blessed spirits. They are secondary and underground but still deserving of worship.
The Bronze Age mortals were made from the ash spear. They were men of warcraft and violence. They finally extinguished themselves and Hesiod does not say if they were turned into spirits.
The Age of Heroes, the fourth age, was the period prior to, and including, the Trojan War. It was the Age of Blood and Glory. Where the sons and daughters of the Immortals populated the earth alongside the mere mortals. These lesser creations of Zeus, mortal men, were the pawns of the Heroes and the toys of the Immortals. Zeus established a godly domain for the spirits for the deceased heroes at the end of the world. Zeus also released his father, Kronos, from Tartaros to join the heroes in their paradise.
The Age of Iron was the age of Hesiod (800 B.C.E.) and, I assume it’s also, the age we live in now. If that is true, by the will of Zeus, we are doomed to hardship and, finally, pitiless destruction. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, resistance is futile.
Zeus is most often confused with the Roman god, Jupiter.
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