|The Father of Gods and Men|
|Life Before Zeus|
|Kronos and Rheia|
|The Birth of Zeus|
|The Fight with Kronos|
|Briareos, Kottos and Gyes|
|The War with the Titans|
|The Fight with Typhoeus|
|The Olympian Gods|
|The Wives of Zeus|
|The Immortal Consorts of Zeus|
|The Mortal Consorts of Zeus|
|The Children of Zeus|
|The Creation of Men and Women|
|The Trojan War|
|Encounters With Zeus|
|The Signs of Zeus|
|The Names of Zeus|
|Zeus in The Iliad [reference]|
|Zeus in The Odyssey [reference]|
|Other Text References|
|Images of Zeus|
As the Father of gods and men, Zeus is a very difficult god to understand. Although Gaia [Mother Earth] is the actual progenitor of the Immortals, Zeus was proclaimed to be the Father of the gods after he led his brothers and sisters, along with other disenfranchised Immortals, against the Titans in a long and bitter war. Zeus became the literal Father of men when he created men and gave them homes on the face of the earth. As a punishment for the men he had created, Zeus created the first women.
Zeus was born when the earth and the heavens were almost complete. The Immortals who preceded Zeus were in existence when the earth was still in chaos and there were no human inhabitants. The primal gods and goddesses formed the foundations for a habitable environment on the surface of the earth but their creation was populated only by what we would consider to be lower life forms and monsters.
Gaia and Ouranos [Heavens] began the cycle of life which eventually gave rise to a race of formidable Immortals know as the Titans who in turn mated with one another to create Zeus and the other more benevolent gods and goddesses.
Zeus is a son of Titans. The Titans are twelve children born to of Ouranos and Gaia. They were the first Immortals to assume the guise of human beings but they were not humane or in any way human-like. Their reign as the dominate force on earth was one of impropriety and deplorable excesses. Ouranos saw the outrageous behavior of his children and gave them the name Titans, which means Strainers or Stretchers. Ouranos foresaw that they would eventually pay a heavy price for their indulgences because they strained and stretched the bounds of propriety and abused their seemingly limitless powers. Not all of their deeds are recorded but it is clear that the most outrageous of the Titan gods was the youngest, Kronos (Cronos).
Ouranos was the first child of Gaia and she assumed that he would be her companion and subordinate … she was wrong. Ouranos became more and more demanding until Gaia finally had no choice but to enlist the assistance of her Titan children to subdue Ouranos. Kronos was the only one to step forward and confront Ouranos … he attacked his father, mutilated his manhood and took away his authority. Eventually Kronos became as domineering as his father had been but his tyranny was not destined to last. Gaia and Ouranos told Kronos of a prophecy in which one of his sons would defeat him and become the new master of heaven and earth.
Kronos did not understand that the prophecy that Gaia and Ouranos had given him was not something he could avoid … it was his destiny and there was nothing he could do to change it. From his home on the peaks of Mount Olympos (Olympus), Kronos inflicted his will on his brothers and sisters as well as the other children of Gaia and Ouranos … he thought his sovereignty would be eternal. He married his sister Rheia (Rhea) and they began to have children. In a vain attempt to thwart his destiny, Kronos swallowed each of his children as soon as they were born.
After the birth and consumption of five children, Rheia began to plot against Kronos. When the sixth child was born, Rheia presented a stone to Kronos in place of the baby … in his arrogance and haste, Kronos swallowed the stone without suspecting the ruse.
Rheia presenting the stone to Kronos.
Rheia named the infant Zeus and took him to the island of Crete where she gave him to the semi-divine Kouretes (Curetes) of Mount Ida so that he could be reared in secret. The Kouretes entrusted Zeus to the Nymphs of Mount Ida who placed him in a cave and saw to his nurture.
Kronos had no idea that Zeus had escaped his notice because the Kouretes concealed Zeus's hiding place with carefully orchestrated and clamorous demonstrations to drown out any noise the infant made as he cried and made a ruckus. As the years went by, the swallowed children inside Kronos began to mature but could not escape from their father's entrails. Zeus also matured and became a powerful young god dedicated to freeing his siblings and punishing his father for his outrageous behavior.
When Zeus reached maturity, he ambushed Kronos while the aged god was out hunting. Zeus kicked Kronos in the stomach so hard that he vomited up the stone and the five children he had swallowed. In this way Demeter, Hades, Histia (Hestia), Hera and Poseidon were born. Zeus took the stone that Kronos vomited up and placed it at the foot of Mount Parnassos (Parnassus) near the city of Delphi and proclaimed that the stone would be a portent and marvel for the mortals of the earth for all time. The stone was called the Omphalos [Navel] and its location became known as the Navel of the Earth.
Briareos, Kottos (Cottus) and Gyes played an important part in the lives of Zeus, his father Kronos and his grandfather Ouranos. The formidable brothers were three of the most terrible creatures ever born to Gaia and Ouranos … they have fifty heads and fifty arms sprouting from their massive shoulders.
When Briareos, Kottos and Gyes were ready to leave the womb of Gaia, Ouranos would not let them be born … as they attempted to come out, Ouranos pushed them back inside. This was one of the reasons Gaia asked her Titan children to attack Ouranos and mitigate his aggressive behavior. This was also the reason Kronos accepted the gruesome task of mutilating his father.
With Ouranos neutralized, Kronos assumed that he would become the lord of Heaven and Earth. In an attempt to please Gaia, Kronos freed Briareos, Kottos and Gyes. The three brothers were not only awesomely strange and frightening, they were also very handsome. When Kronos saw them, he feared that they might overpower him or that Gaia would make them her favorites and thus take the authority he had assumed after Ouranos had been dethroned. As time passed, Kronos became as overbearing as Ouranos had been. He forced Briareos, Kottos and Gyes back underground before they became too strong for him to master.
When Zeus defeated Kronos, he took mercy on Gaia and freed Briareos, Kottos and Gyes. He fed then ambrosia and nectar until they regained their vitality. Zeus did not fear the three monstrous boys because he had no doubts about his own strength and authority. Briareos, Kottos and Gyes posed no threat to Zeus because they knew that he was their savior … they vowed to serve and protect him in any way they could.
Life on Mount Olympos was not always as polite and well ordered as we might wish to believe. During a fierce argument, Hera, Poseidon and Athene (Athena) attacked Zeus and put him in shackles. This was a dangerous situation for Zeus because they were without doubt, three of the most powerful Immortals on Mount Olympos. Zeus could have easily subdued each of them separately but their combined strength was too much for him. Fortunately, the Nereid Thetis saw what was happening and summoned Briareos to help Zeus. When Briareos arrived on Mount Olympos, he did not threaten the three hostile Immortals … he simply sat beside Zeus … Hera, Poseidon and Athene retreated without another word.
Even thought Kronos had been defeated by Zeus and forced off Mount Olympos, he was not going to surrender his authority without a fight … he summoned the other Titans to help him overcome Zeus and the new Olympians.
When Zeus realized that the Titans were going to fight, he summoned the ancient Immortals to an assembly. Zeus promised them that they would retain their powers and domains if they would fight with him against the Titans … he also told them that they would regain the spheres of influence that Kronos had taken from them. The Oath River Styx was the first to vow her support for Zeus … she also induced her children to join in the war against the Titans. Many of the other ancient Immortals were likewise persuaded and allied themselves with Zeus.
With the battlelines clearly drawn, Zeus and his loyal Immortals confronted the Titans … the long and destructive war began. The war lasted for ten years and was finally decided when Briareos, Kottos and Gyes entered the fray … they bombarded the Titans with boulders and buried them. Zeus put the Titans into Tartaros [the Pit] and made Briareos, Kottos and Gyes their guardians. It might seem odd that Zeus would put the three monstrous brothers back underground but they willingly accepted their assignment as guards of the Titans because of their respect for Zeus and not because he compelled them to do so.
Typhoeus is the youngest child of Gaia and Tartaros (Tartarus). Typhoeus was born after the War of the Titans and posed a new and perhaps more dangerous threat to Zeus's authority.
Tartaros is the sunless abyss beneath the surface of the earth. Tartaros lives as far beneath the earth as the heavens are above it. Tartaros has a loathsome and dank abode and his presence is clouded with mist and gloom that makes the other Immortals abhor him.
When Tartaros mated with Gaia, the result was the dreaded creature named Typhoeus. Typhoeus was a gigantic reptilian with one hundred snake-heads sprouting from his shoulders. Each snake-head had eyes that glittered with fire and each of the snake-heads could create sounds that were subtle or horrible … his voices could span the range from an echoing whistle to the bellowing of bulls.
Typhoeus appeared to be strong and willful enough to force the Olympians into submission if he was allowed to go unchecked … for that reason, Zeus attacked the beast with unchecked fury. The confrontation with Typhoeus was one of the most difficult situations Zeus had ever encountered.
Mount Olympos was shaken with the tread of Zeus's immortal feet as he prepared for the inevitable fight. Zeus gave warning to Typhoeus with a clap of thunder so loud that the earth reverberated and the heavens and sea shuttered. Typhoeus was not deterred … the two powerful gods began to fight. The thunder and lightning of Zeus combined with the blazing stormwinds of Typhoeus to scorch the ground and sky … the sea boiled and towering waves pounded the shorelines. The sound and fury of the confrontation was so loud, the House of Hades was shaken and the Titans could hear the commotion from their prison deep underground.
Finally, Zeus leapt from Mount Olympos and struck Typhoeus with a fire so intense that his snake-heads were set ablaze. Typhoeus was crushed under Zeus's blows and a flaming wind gushed from his crippled body to burn a large portion of the earth. Zeus seized Typhoeus and cast him into the limitless confines of his father, Tartaros.
To this day, we are still effected by Typhoeus. All ill-favored winds issue from him … raging gales on the sea scatter shipping and drown sailors … on land, the winds of Typhoeus bring ruin in the form of tornados and dust storms.
Zeus and his siblings were not the first Immortals to occupy Mount Olympos. Immortals have lived on Mount Olympos since the dawn of time.
The first Immortals to occupy Mount Olympos were Eurynome, a daughter of Okeanos [Ocean], and her consort Ophion. The length of time Eurynome and Ophion resided on Mount Olympos is not known but they were finally forced off the mountain by Kronos and Rheia. The arrival of the overbearing Titans on Mount Olympos forced Eurynome and Ophion to abandon the mountain and seek sanctuary in the sea.
After Zeus defeated the Titans and forced them into the Underworld, he took control of Mount Olympos with his brothers and sisters: Hera, Hades, Histia, Demeter and Poseidon … they thus became the third generation of Olympian Immortals.
The number of Olympian gods and goddesses grew from six to twelve as the new Olympians began to have children. Athene, Aphrodite, Apollon, Artemis, Hephaistos and Ares were included as Olympians. Sometimes, other gods such as Hermes and Dionysos are substituted for the original twelve Olympians but the number always remains constant at twelve. Many reasons have been offered for the significance of the number twelve but the reason there are twelve Olympians seems to relate to the twelve houses/signs of the zodiac which also accounts for the twelve months of the year.
When Herakles became an Immortal, Zeus wanted him to join the Olympians. Herakles was humbled and stated that he would not deprive one of the other Olympians of their honors by taking their place on Mount Olympos. It is interesting to speculate as to which Olympian would have lost their seat on Mount Olympos had Herakles accepted Zeus's offer.
Zeus had three wives … the first being Metis, then Themis and the last being Hera.
Zeus took Metis as his first wife. She was one of the three thousand daughters of Okeanos [Ocean] and Tethys, collectively known as Okeanids.
In a situation reminiscent of his father, Zeus was told by Gaia and Ouranos that children born to Metis would be a threat to his authority … Zeus didn't wait for Metis to give birth so he could swallow the child as Kronos had done … he swallowed Metis.
In the vastness of Zeus's immortal being, Metis gave birth to the goddess Athene. She gave her daughter weapons and clothed her in armor … Athene burst from Zeus's head, fully armed and armored to become the goddess of Wisdom and Craft.
After Metis had been swallowed, Zeus married the Titan Themis … Zeus was Themis's nephew. Themis was very skilled with her hands and crafted the aegis [shield] that became the hallmark of Zeus but when Athene was born, Themis gave the aegis to the young goddess as a token of friendship and to complement the warlike armor Athene was wearing when she burst from Zeus's head.
When Themis saw Athene's strength and intelligence, she knew how potentially dangerous the young goddess would be if any of the Olympian gods mated with her. Themis warned Zeus that if a son was born to Athene with one of the Olympians as the father, her child would possess a weapon mightier than Zeus's thunderbolt or Poseidon's trident. It's not clear as to whether Athene willingly took an oath of chastity or if Aphrodite was commanded not to use her spells of love on her … regardless, Athene has had no husbands, no consorts and no children.
Themis and Zeus had two sets of daughters known as the Horae and the Fates.
The Horae [Hours] are Eunomia [Harmony], Dike [Justice] and Eirene [Peace]. The Horae assist the Olympians by organizing the Seasons and adding balance to Nature. They guard Mount Olympos with a dark veil and open and close the gates of the sky for the Immortals as they travel to and from their earthly domains.
The Fates are Klotho (Clotho), Lachesis and Atropos. Klotho spins the thread of life, Lachesis determines the length of the thread and Atropos cuts the thread when the proper time has come for death.
Themis was also instrumental in helping Zeus plan the Trojan War.
As the last wife of Zeus, Hera assumed the role of queen of the Immortals. She was feared and respected because her temper was short and her wrath was relentless.
Zeus was not a faithful husband … Hera was constantly at odds with him because of is philandering but that did not stop him from pursuing his amorous adventures. Hera's most notable resistance to Zeus's extramarital children was against Herakles … she delayed his birth and then put snakes in his crib after he was born … it wasn't until after Herakles died and was resurrected as an Immortal that she finally accepted him as a noble hero worthy of her respect.
Hera's conduct towards Zeus's lover Io [the Heifer-Maiden] was despicable … her anger towards Zeus was vented on the helpless Io … by all accounts, Hera never forgave Io for Zeus's infidelity.
With Zeus, Hera was the mother of Hebe [Youth], Ares [War] and Eileithyia [Childbirth].
Zeus had many lovers and consorts … some were Immortals and some were mortal women. Since mortal women did not exist until the Age of Heroes, the relationships he initiated with the mortal women were while he was married to his sister/wife Hera. Usually, Zeus did not hide his infidelities from Hera but that did not make Hera like the unfaithfulness. Regarding Zeus's liaisons with other Immortal women, Hera seemed to be more forgiving.
Eurynome is an Okeanid, i.e. she is one of the three thousand daughters of Okeanos [Ocean] and Tethys.
Eurynome and Zeus are the parents of the three Graces: Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Thalia … their names reflect their attributes: Aglaia [Splendor], Euphrosyne [Festivity], and Thalia [Rejoicing].
Eurynome and her consort Ophion were the first to occupy Mount Olympos but returned to the sea after they were forced off the mountain by the Titans, Kronos and Rheia.
It would seem that Eurynome is much older than Zeus because of the fact that she was the first inhabitant of Mount Olympos and also because she helped care for Zeus's and Hera's son Hephaistos when he was thrown from Mount Olympos.
Mnemosyne is one of the Titans. She is of the generation preceding that of Zeus and is in fact Zeus's aunt. Her name means Memory but that turns out to be an ironic name because as the mother of the Muses, she gave us the ability to forget our ills with the pleasures of the creative arts that her daughters inspire.
Zeus came to Mnemosyne at her home in Pieria where she reigned over the hills of Eleuther. For nine nights Zeus was with Mnemosyne and the result of that union was nine perfect daughters … the Muses.
The Muses are:
After the War of the Titans, Mnemosyne was assigned to the Underworld with the rest of the Titans.
Leto is the beautiful daughter of the Titans, Koios (Coeus) and Phoibe (Phoebe), and therefore Zeus's cousin. From the beginning, Leto was the most kind and gentle of the Immortals … her kindness was not reserved for the Immortals, she was considerate to the mere mortals as well. Leto proudly bore Zeus two children: Apollon and Artemis.
After Leto convinced the goddess Delos to allow Apollon to be born on her island, Hera distracted her daughter Eileithyia [Childbirth] so that Leto had to stay in labor for nine days and nights. Eileithyia was finally summoned to the island of Delos and Apollon was born fully conscious and able to speak. After seeing how fair and noble Apollon was, Hera softened her stance and did not interfere with the birth of Artemis on the island of Ortygia, in the bay of Syracuse, Sicily.
With the consent of Zeus, Apollon established the Oracle of Delphi where he would make the will of Zeus known to all worthy supplicants. The shrine became one of the most important and enduring institutions of the ancient world. Delphi was chosen as Apollon's shrine for a very important reason … the stone [Omphalos] that Kronos swallowed and then vomited up when he was attacked by Zeus had been placed at Delphi because Zeus had sent two eagles flying in opposite directions to circle the earth … after their 'round-the-world flight, the birds met at Delphi thus establishing the correct spot for the Omphalos and Apollon's shrine.
Artemis assumed the role of goddess of the Hunt … her domain was the care and supervision of all the wild animals of the earth.
After Apollon and Artemis, Leto no other children.
Like Hera, Demeter was Zeus's sister. She was one of the original Olympians and chose be become the goddess of the Harvest. She became the consort of Zeus and the mother of Persephone.
Persephone was a lovely young woman who, without her mother's consent, became the wife of Hades, lord of the Dead. Hades was attracted to his niece Persephone and asked Zeus for his permission to "take" her … by this he meant that he intended to kidnap Persephone without the permission of the young woman or her mother.
The abduction of Persephone left Demeter angered and confused. In her sadness and distracted state of mind, she caused famine and hardship for the mortals of the earth, and great concern for the Immortals. At first Demeter did not know what had happened to Persephone but as the other gods and goddesses told her what they knew and suspected, her wrath and sadness plunged the earth into a period of infertility … crops would not grow … there was no food for the humans or the wild and domesticated beasts. Demeter was not really angry with her brother Hades for abducting Persephone but she was inconsolably heartbroken when she learned Zeus had approved such a cruel fate for their daughter.
Using almost every Immortal as his emissary, Zeus finally persuaded Demeter to mitigate her punishment of the earth. She agreed to allow the crops to grow when Persephone was with her but the earth would be wracked by cold when Persephone was with Hades in the land of the Dead.
Maia was one of the seven Nymph daughters of Atlas known as the Pleiades. Atlas was of the same generation as Zeus so Maia would have been Zeus's niece. As the consort of Zeus, Maia was the mother of the mischievous messenger god, Hermes.
Zeus came to Maia in the darkness of night so that Hera would not know of his amorous intentions towards the lovely Nymph. Maia lived in a secluded cave on Mount Kyllene (Cyllene) in Arkadia (Arcadia). Hermes was born at dawn of the tenth month after Zeus's union with Maia.
While Hermes was still an infant, he tried and failed to outwit Apollon. Apollon was a young adult when Hermes was born but the two gods formed a friendship which made Zeus very proud to have two sons who liked each other so much.
Maia warned Hermes not to try his tricks on Apollon or Zeus but Hermes was a scoundrel from the start … he stole Apollon's cattle and then lied to Zeus about it. Zeus did not begrudge Hermes his little pranks but warned him sternly about his place in the divine hierarchy.
After the birth of Hermes, the hunter Orion relentlessly pursued Maia and her sisters until they were changed into pigeons by Zeus and eventually put into the night sky as the constellation of the Pleiades.
We are told very little about Zeus's relationship with the goddess of the Moon, Selene. She was the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia which would make her Zeus's cousin. She is the sister of Helios [Sun] and Eos [Dawn].
Selene and Zeus had a daughter named Pandeia (Pandia) which means All-Luminous.
Zeus's cousin Atlas had seven Nymph daughters known as the Pleiades … Zeus had children with two of them. With Maia, Zeus conceived Hermes … with Electra (Electra) he had two sons, Dardanos (Dardanus) and Iasion. When Iasion was a young man he lusted after the goddess Demeter and was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt for his impudence. Dardanos fled his island home on Samothrake (Samothrace) and settled on the mainland westward of the island. Three generations later, the area Dardanos settled, accompanied by the land he inherited from his wife's father, became the site of the city of Troy.
The hunter Orion relentlessly pursued Elektra and her sisters until they were changed into pigeons by Zeus and eventually put into the night sky as the constellation of the Pleiades.
Nemesis is the goddess of Divine Retribution. She is the daughter of Nyx [Night] and without her there is no escape from worldly evil. In a surviving portion of The Kypria, Nemesis is said to be the daughter of Zeus and that she went to extraordinary lengths to avoid his amorous advances.
Nemesis took the form of a fish as she sped through the sea and then assumed the form of other creatures when she emerged onto the land. Her flight was in vain … Zeus caught her and she was added to the list of his Immortal conquests. The union of Zeus and Nemesis was said to have produced the infamous Helen but that is generally contradicted by other more authoritative texts.
On the island of Rhodes, Zeus encountered a Nymph named Himalia. She and Zeus had three sons named Spartaeus, Kronios (Cronius), and Kytos (Cytus). When torrential rains flooded the island, the lower areas were turned into stagnant pools of water and many of the inhabitants fled to the highlands. Spartaeus, Kronios, and Kytos survived the flood and became the rulers of Rhodes.
Niobe was the first mortal consort of Zeus and as we shall see, distantly related to Zeus's last mortal consort, Alkmene (Alcmene).
Little has been retained about Niobe and some of what we know is contradictory. An ancient writer named Akusilaos (Acusilaus) said that Pelasgus was the son of Zeus and Niobe, however Hesiod said that he was not. We do know that Niobe was the daughter of a man named Phoroneus and that she lived sixteen generations before Alkmene and was her ancestor.
It appears that Zeus began to consort with mortal women with the ancestors of Alkmene and ceased with her. He was unwilling to have the better followed by the worse … Alkmene's son Herakles was so noble that any children after him would have been a disappointment.
The seduction and banishment of Io is one of the saddest encounters Zeus had with a mortal woman. Io was a young woman living in Argos with her father when she began to have vivid dreams that suggested she leave the safety of her home and go into the fields where Zeus could 'see' her.
Io's father was afraid of the implications of the dream and ordered Io from his house. Zeus came to Io and seduced her but the infidelity did not escape the notice of Hera. When Hera confronted Zeus about his relationship with Io, Zeus simply lied … he denied any contact with the young woman. This act of dishonesty on Zeus's part made it acceptable for all men and gods to lie about their romantic encounters.
Hera sent an ever-vigilant watchman to guard Io and also set a gadfly to goad her away from her home. As Io fled in tears from her father's house, she began to change … horns popped out on her head and as she ran, she completely transformed into a black and white heifer … Io became the Heifer-Maiden.
Io traveled as far as Egypt where Zeus lifted the curse of being the Heifer-Maiden and transformed her back into a woman. The descendants of Io became the Egyptians.
Thyone was the daughter of King Kadmos (Cadmus) and Queen Harmonia of Thebes. As the consort of Zeus, Thyone was the mother of Dionysos [a.k.a. Bacchus, god of Wine].
When Thyone became pregnant with Zeus's child, Hera couldn't control her jealous rage and plotted a fiendish revenge on the unsuspecting young woman. In the guise of one of Thyone's friends, Hera suggested that Thyone demand that Zeus come to her in the same form he assumed when he was with his wife. Thyone innocently asked Zeus if he would show her his divine splendor. Zeus agreed to Thyone's wishes and appeared to her clothed in thunder and lightning. Thyone was consumed by Zeus's glory.
As Thyone's body began to burn, Hermes rescued her unborn son and Zeus lifted her out of the flames and granted her immortality … she was no longer Thyone … she was now Semele.
Hermes gave the rescued babe to a woman named Makris (Macris), daughter of Aristaios, on the island of Euboea (Euboia). Makris soothed the child but when Hera perceived the trick, she drove Makris from her home. Zeus took the infant and sewed him into his thigh so that it might have his protection. In due time, the child was re-born on Mount Nysos (Nysa) and named Dionysos, which literally means God of Nysos, i.e. Dio = God and Nysos = Mount Nysos.
Thyone's son was destined to become one of the most revered Immortals on Mount Olympos. The rites of Dionysos were incorporated into the rituals of all the Immortals and his impetuous mortal followers were welcomed for their free spirited abandon but they were also feared because of their unbridled lascivious behavior.
The magnificent culture that made the island of Crete the precursor to the civilization of the mainland Greeks was founded by the children of Europa and Zeus. Europa was living in Tyre on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea when Zeus saw her and fell in love. He changed himself into a bull whose breath was saffron-scented and enticing Europa in this way, let her mount upon his back and carried her across the sea to Crete where he mingled with her. He then entrusted her to King Asterion of the Cretans and departed. Europa bore three of Zeus's children, Minos, Sarpedon, and Rhadamanthys.
Zeus granted nobility to his sons. Rhadamanthys became the judge of the laws that Zeus imparted to him. After he died, Rhadamanthys became a judge in the Underworld. Sarpedon went to Lykia (Lycia) where he ruled for three generations of mortal men and, according to some sources, was finally killed in the Trojan War. Minos became the king of Crete after King Asterion died and was responsible for building the palaces of Knossos (Cnossos). Minos's grandson Idomeneus commanded the warriors from Crete in the Trojan War.
Zeus placed one of the men he had created during the Age of Bronze to patrol the island to guard Europa and her descendants. His name was Talos. He marched around Crete times a day denying entry to anyone he considered a threat to the island. He was finally killed by the sorceress Medeia (Medea) when she accompanied Jason and the Argonauts to Crete after they had acquired the Golden Fleece. Talos attacked the Argo by throwing giant boulders at the ship and would have prevented the Argonauts from landing on Crete if Medeia had not called down Death-Spirits to confuse him … in a daze, Talos fell and his life force left him when he pierced his bronze skin on a sharp outcropping of stone.
After the Great Deluge, Deukalion (Deucalion) and Pyrrha were the only surviving humans. One of their daughters was named Pandora … she became a consort of Zeus and had a noble son named Graekos (Graecus). The Greeks are called Hellens because of Deukalion's son Hellen … they are also called Greeks as descendants of Graekos.
Many of Zeus's encounters with mortal women had bizarre overtones but his seduction of Danae was uniquely strange … he did not come to her in the guise of a living creature such as a bull or a swan, he appeared to her as a shower of gold.
Danae was the daughter of King Akrisios (Acrisius) of Argos. He was a very selfish and cruel man who acted as if the prophecies of the Immortals could be avoided or delayed. Akrisios was told by an oracle that Danae would have a son who would kill him and take his throne … to thwart the oracle, Akrisios had Danae locked in a bronze vault so she could not be seduced. Zeus came to Danae inside the vault as a shower of gold and their son Perseus was a result of Zeus's divine touch.
Akrisios did not understand how Danae had become pregnant but after the birth of her son, he set mother and child adrift in a coffin-like box thinking that they would die at sea. The box washed ashore on the island of Seriphos and was found by a man named Diktys (Dictys) who happened to be the brother of King Polydektes (Polydectes) of Seriphos.
Danae and Perseus made their home on Seriphos and King Polydektes fell in love with Danae but she did not return his affection. As Perseus grew older he became an imposing young man and King Polydektes thought that if he could get rid of Perseus he would be able to seduce Danae. Polydektes sent Perseus on what he thought would be a suicidal mission … to bring him the head of the Gorgon, Medusa.
The Gorgons were three sisters who could turn anyone who dared to look into their eyes to stone. Medusa was the only one of the three who was mortal and it was Perseus's goal to kill her. As the son of Zeus, Perseus had divine assistance in his quest and returned to Seriphos with the severed head of Medusa.
While Perseus was away, Polydektes became more aggressive and violent towards Danae but she still refused his advances. When Perseus returned he used the magical powers of Medusa's head to turn Polydektes to stone.
King Akrisios, Danae's father, was eventually killed by Perseus but the ultimate fate of Danae is unrecorded.
As the queen of Sparta, Leda was held in great respect by all Greeks. Her husband was a noble and patient man named Tyndareus. Zeus fell in love with Leda and seduced her by assuming the guise of a swan. Leda must have been aware that the swan was one of the Immortals but we can not be sure if she knew it was Zeus.
It is commonly believed that Leda had three children by Zeus: Helen, Kastor (Castor) and Polydeukes (Polydeuces). Later authors believed the Polydeukes might not have been a son of Zeus but since Kastor and Polydeukes were always referred to as the Dioskuri (Dioscuri) [sons of God], we can be more than reasonably sure that Polydeukes was Zeus's son..
Tyndareus was a wise and religious man … he accepted the fact that his wife had been seduced by a god and raised the semi-divine children as if they were his own. Tyndareus and Leda had two daughters … their names were Timandra and Klytemnestra (Clytemnestra).
Leda did what she could to make her family happy … her sons became worshiped as gods but the names of her daughters became synonymous with betrayal. All three of her daughters disgraced their husbands and Leto finally took her own life to avoid their shame.
Aegina (Aigina) was the wife of a man named Endies when Zeus noticed her and fell in love. As the consort of Zeus, Aegina was the mother of Aiakos (Aeacus). With Endies, Aegina was the mother of Peleus and Telamon but Aiakos banished Peleus and Telamon because they murdered their half-brother, Phokos (Phocos).
The people who were ruled by Aiakos became known as the Myrmidons because, after a plague had decimated the island of Aegina, Zeus repopulated it by turning ants into men and women. Myrmidon is a variation on the word for Ant.
After his death Aiakos became one of the three judges of the Underworld along with two other sons of Zeus, Minos and Rhadamanthys.
Antiope was a consort of Zeus and the mother of Amphion and Zethos (Zethus).
In The Odyssey, Antiope is said to be the daughter of the river Asopos (Asopus) and the sister of Sinope. In The Argonautika she is said to be the daughter of Nykteus (Nycteus). The poet Euripides seems to agree with the version in The Argonautika because it made it easier for the tragic plot to have some bloodshed and revenge.
Odysseus encountered Antiope's 'shade' at the entrance to the Underworld. She explained how Zeus had seduced her and engendered the twins, Amphion and Zethos. The two brothers are credited as the builders of the foundations and bulwarks of the city of Thebes.
In The Argonautika, it is clear that Antiope's father Nykteus and her uncle Lykus (Lycus) were both rulers of the city of Thebes and both died as a direct result of Zeus's relationship with Antiope.
Kallisto (Callisto) was the daughter of Lykaon (Lycaon) and lived in Arkadia (Arcadia) where she occupied herself with the wild beasts of the mountains in the company of the goddess Artemis. Kallisto was seduced by Zeus and became pregnant. When Artemis saw Kallisto bathing, she was enraged to see that her companion was pregnant and changed Kallisto into a bear. Even though Kallisto had the form of a bear, when her son Arkas (Arcas) was born, he was fully human. Mother and son were eventually captured by some goatherds and returned to her father, Lykaon. Kallisto violated the law by going into the precinct of Zeus and was hunted down by Arkas and other Arkadians (Arcadians). Zeus saw her plight and placed her in the heavens as the constellation the Great Bear.
The fate of Arkas was more unpleasant than that of his mother. We are initially told that Arkas participated in the hunt for his mother in the precinct of Zeus but then we are told that after Kallisto and Arkas returned to her father's home, Lykaon pretended not to know that Artemis had transformed Kallisto into a bear. While he was entertaining Zeus at his home, Lykaon chopped up Arkas and served him to Zeus as a meal. Zeus placed Arkas in the heavens as the star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes where he was thereafter known as the Bear Warden and protector of his mother.
Zeus and Karme (Carme) are closely related in that she is the daughter of Eubulus who was the son of Demeter, which would make Zeus Karme's granduncle. Zeus and Karme had a daughter named Diktynna (Dictynna) who is also known as Britomartis. Diktynna invented the nets [δικτυον] that are used in hunting, whence she has been called Diktynna. She passed her time in the company of Artemis, this being the reason why some men think Diktynna and Artemis one and the same. The Cretans have instituted sacrifices and built temples in honor of Diktynna.
Zeus and Taygete had a very important son and named him Lakedaemon (Lacedaemon).
Lakedaemon is credited with founding the district of Lakonia (Laconia). He named the principal city of the kingdom after his wife Sparta and the nearby mountain was named after his mother, Taygete.
In The Iliad, Zeus is said to have mated with the wife of Ixion but her name is not given. From other ancient texts we are told the Ixion's wife was Dia so it seems likely that she is the woman referred to in The Iliad. Regardless, Zeus and Ixion's wife were the parents of the hero, Peirithoos (Peirithous).
Peirithoos had many noble accomplishments to his name but finally seemed to lose his senses when he tried to seduce the bride of Hades, Persephone. When Hades realized what was being planed, he turned his dog Kerberos (Cerberus) loose on Peirithoos. In this way, a man of renown and responsibility, died the death of a scoundrel.
Sinope was the daughter of the river Asopos (Asopus) and the sister of Zeus's lover, Antiope. Sinope was a clever maiden who attracted the amorous attention of Zeus but in the end, his pursuit of Sinope was frustrated by his own cleverness.
In order to get Sinope's affection, Zeus promised that he would give her anything she wanted. She said that she desired to remain a virgin all of her life … Zeus was honor bound to keep his promise. When Apollon sought Sinope as a lover, he too was forced to honor the promise made by Zeus.
Little is known about Euryodia other than that she was a consort of Zeus and the mother of Arkeisios (Arceisius). Arkeisios was the father of Laertes and thus the grandfather of Odysseus.
Little is known about the life of Thyia other than the fact that she and Zeus were the parents of Macedon and Magnes. Macedon is the more renowned of the two men because he established the country of Macedonia in northern Greece.
Nymphe lived on the island of Samothrake (Samothrace) and was a consort of Zeus. There is a bit confusion as to whether Nymphe and Zeus had a son named Saon because some writers say that Saon was the son of Hermes and a woman named Rhene. Regardless, Saon was born on the island of Samothrake and was the first man to organize the scattered inhabitants into cohesive groups that were then ruled by his five sons. Saon named the island after himself and established a code of laws for the islanders.
Of all the mortal consorts of Zeus, Alkmene seems to be the most important. She was the mother of Herakles and the last mortal woman with whom Zeus had a relationship.
When Zeus seduced Danae, Leda and Europa, he disguised himself as a shower of gold, a swan and a bull respectively. They were certainly aware that they were being embraced by an Immortal and surrendered themselves willingly to the encounter. However, when Zeus came to Alkmene, he chose a disguise that was intended to mask his true nature. Zeus obviously wanted to impregnate Alkmene without revealing his divinity. Zeus impersonated Alkmene's husband Amphitryon … the guise worked on Alkmene but Hera was not fooled.
On the night Zeus came to Alkmene as Amphitryon, she was unaware whose child she had conceived. Later that same night, the real Amphitryon arrived and consummated his marriage resulting in the conception of a male child named Iphikles (Iphicles). It is unclear as to when Alkmene realized that one of her sons was mortal and the other a son of Zeus.
Hera took it upon herself to make the life of Herakles as difficult as possible. Hera approached Zeus and made him promise that the next son born in the bloodline of Perseus would become the king of Argos. Zeus readily agreed because he had no doubt that Herakles would receive that honor. Hera delayed her daughter Eileithyia (Eilithyia), the goddess of Childbirth, from attending Alkmene so that Herakles's cousin Eurystheus could be born first. As the eldest, Eurystheus had the authority to demand that Herakles perform the famous Twelve Labors that were strenuous and humiliating.
The first mortal woman with whom Zeus had an affair was Niobe and the last was Alkmene … Niobe was an ancestor of Alkmene from sixteen generations previous. As to why Zeus would chose to begin and end his relations with mortal women in the same bloodline is a matter for speculation but we can assume that Herakles was the last demigod conceived by Zeus because Herakles was so perfect in every way that Zeus did not want have his best child followed by inferior children.
The Father of Gods and Men
Zeus has many, many children … some of them are from goddesses and others are from mortal women. The following list is by no means complete but does include his most famous offspring.
Athene is the goddess of wisdom … daughter of Metis. Athene was born in a most unusual way … Zeus swallowed Metis, and Athene was born inside his body … she burst forth from his head fully grown and clad in armor. She became one of Zeus's favorite children as well as the companion of Zeus's sister/wife Hera.
Apollon and Artemis are the children of Leto. Apollon became Zeus's instrument for delivering oracles … Artemis became the virgin goddess of the Hunt. Apollon and Artemis were both proficient with the bow and became respected and feared for their painless arrows.
Hermes is the son of Maia … Zeus came to Maia secretly so that Hera would not interfere with his philandering. Hermes was a bit of a rogue from the very beginning but Zeus considered him a delightful child. Hermes invented the lyre and as he grew older and more serious, he became the messenger of the Immortals and the guide for souls bound for the House of Hades.
Perseus was the son of Danae … he was destined to slay the Gorgon Medusa.
King Akrisios (Acrisius) of Argos, Danae's father, was told by an oracle that Danae would have a son who would kill him. To thwart the oracle, Akrisios had Danae locked in a bronze vault so she could not be seduced or wed … Zeus came to her as a shower of gold and Perseus was a result of Zeus's touch.
Sarpedon was the son of Laodameia … during the Trojan War, Sarpedon was an ally of the Trojans and was killed by Patroklos (Patroclus). After his death, Zeus had sympathy for Sarpedon and sent Apollon to cleanse his body so that Hypnos [Sleep] and Thanatos [Death] could return Sarpedon's body to his home in Lykia (Lycia).
Kastor (Castor) and Polydeukes (Polydeuces) are commonly called the Dioskuri (Dioscuri), i.e. the sons of God. They are the sons of Leda and the brothers of Helen. Kastor and Polydeukes had several adventures that distinguished them as fearless fighters and honorable young men. They rescued Helen when she was kidnapped as a young girl … they were part of the Quest for the Golden Fleece. After death, Kastor and Polydeukes were placed in the heavens as the constellation Gemini, i.e. The Twins.
Eileithyia (Eilithyia) is the goddess of Childbirth … she is the daughter of Hera … she is the sister of Ares [god of War] and Hebe [goddess of Youth]. Eileithyia was present at the birth of two of Zeus's favorite children, Apollon and Herakles.
Hebe is the goddess of Youth. She is the daughter of Hera, and the sister of Ares [god of War] and Eileithyia [goddess of Childbirth]. After Herakles was granted immortality, Hebe became his wife … she and Herakles have a son named Alexiares.
The Muses are the nine daughters of Mnemosyne [Memory]. Zeus came to Mnemosyne on nine consecutive nights and the nine daughters were the result of those nine unions.
All nine girls are of one mind … they are free spirited and have their hearts set upon song … they sing of the laws of the Immortals and the goodly ways of a life.
Helen of Argos … Helen of Sparta … Helen of Troy … no matter what you might wish to call her, Helen was the most beautiful woman in the ancient world. When Helen went to Troy with Prince Alexandros [Paris] the Greeks assembled an army and the Trojan War began. Helen was said to have "the face that launched a thousand ships."
Helen was the daughter of Leda and the wife of King Menelaos (Menelaus) of Sparta … her brothers were Kastor and Polydeukes. Helen had only had one child, a daughter named Hermione.
Herakles (Heracles) was the son of Alkmene (Alcmene) … his life was one of heroic deeds and horrible suffering. The descendants of Herakles ruled Greece and Asia Minor for five hundred years after his immortalization. After his mortal life was over, Herakles was granted immortality and married his half-sister Hebe, goddess of Youth.
Persephone is the daughter of Demeter [goddess of the Harvest]. Zeus arranged for Persephone to marry Hades [lord of the Dead] even though Hades was Persephone's uncle … this very complicated relationship was made even more complex when Hades kidnapped Persephone instead of asking Demeter's permission to marry her daughter. Much to Demeter's chagrin, Persephone became the Queen of the Dead.
Aiakos (Aeacus) was the son Aegina (Aigina) and the husband of Endies … most notably Aiakos was the father of Peleus and Telamon and thus the grandfather of Achilles and Aias [Ajax].
The Hours [Horae] are the three daughters of Themis … Eunomia [Harmony], Dike [Justice] and Eirene [Peace]. Just as their names imply, the Hours give harmony, justice and peace to all who honor and respect them … there is however the potential for divine wrath for those who ignore their authority. As the daughters of Zeus, the Hours hold considerable influence over the way their father rewards and punishes his subject mortals.
Magnes was the son of Thyia, the daughter of Deukalion (Deucalion). Magnes had two sons, Diktys (Dictys) and Polydektes (Polydectes). Magnes's brother Macedon founded the district known as Macedonia.
Lakedaemon (Lacedaemon) was the son of Taygete … he was the founder of the area known as Lakonia (Laconia) which included the city of Sparta.
Iasion and Dardanos were the sons of Electra, daughter of Atlas. Dardanos, became the legendary patriarch of the Trojans, but Zeus killed Iasion with a thunderbolt because of his impudence.
Dionysos is also known as Bacchus, god of Wine … he was the son of Princess Thyone of Thebes, daughter of King Kadmos (Cadmus) and Queen Harmonia. When Zeus mated with Thyone he revealed himself in his awesome splendor … the poor woman was consumed in fire but Zeus rescued her from the flames and made her immortal … her immortal name is Semele. Dionysos was also saved from the flames by being sewn into Zeus's thigh.
The Litai (Litae) are the personification of Prayers. If a person does not call upon the Litai in times of need, they report to Zeus and recommend that he send Ate [Blindness/Ruin] to hurt and punish the unbeliever.
Pandeia (Pandia) is the daughter of Selene [Moon] … her name can be rendered as All-Luminous.
Arkeisios was the son of Euryodia … he was the father of Laertes and thus the grandfather of Odysseus.
The primal Immortals had no use for mortal men and women … their concerns were of a more universal nature … they were preoccupied with the completion of the earth and populating the sky with stars and planets. The only creatures on the primitive earth were non-sentient animals and monsters such as the Orb-Eyed Cyclopes and the three gigantic boys who came to be known as Briareos, Kottos (Cottus) and Gyes with fifty heads and fifty arms. The next generation of Immortals was not as fearsome looking as their predecessors but were monsters none the less … they were the Titans.
As a son of Titans, Zeus brought to fruition the creation of human beings … the process of seeding the earth with mortal human-like creatures began during the reign of the Titans. All that can be deduced about the time frames of the first three ages of mortal men is the they existed sometime before 40,000 BCE.
The Golden Age of mortals was the first attempt by the Immortals at creating "men." This was the initial step on the road to realizing a fully developed human being. The "men" of the Golden Age were probably human-looking but it is easy to tell from their description that they were more like the Immortals than anything else. As the name implies, the Golden Age was wonderful. The mortals of this age were created during the time of Kronos … that was when the Titans lived on Mount Olympos as the second generation of Olympian gods.
The Golden Age mortals lived like gods without sorrow, toil or grief … they were ageless with a tireless pursuit of merriment and feasting beyond the reach of all evils. The earth willingly and ceaselessly provided abundant fruit and flocks so that they could live in peace and at their ease. When they died, it was as if sleep overcame them and they became Pure Spirits … after death, they were granted the royal right to roam the earth clothed in mist to serve as the guardians of mortal men … they keep watch over judgments and cruel deeds as well as being the givers of wealth.
After the passing of the Golden Age mortals, the Titans created a new race of mortals and dubbed their existence the Silver Age. It was during the Silver Age that the idea of "female" mortals was experimented with but never fully implemented.
The Silver Age was less noble by far than the Golden Age because the Silver generation had neither the body nor the spirit of their predecessors. The children of the Silver Age mortals stayed at their mother's side for a hundred years … they were simpletons who played childishly in their own homes. When they were fully grown and had reached their prime, their lives became very short and sorrowful. Their brief adult lives were marked by foolishness and punctuated by their wrongdoings towards one another. The most shameful aspect of the Silver Age mortals was that they refused to serve the Immortals or offer sacrifices at their altars … this led directly to their eradication.
While the Silver Age was still in progress, Zeus and his followers waged a bitter but successful war against the Titans. At the conclusion of the war, the Titans were expelled from Mount Olympos and Zeus assumed the Throne of Eternity. Kronos and the other Titans were forcibly removed to Tartaros (Tartarus), i.e. The Pit.
Zeus was not pleased with the conduct of the Silver Age mortals and put them away. They are called Blessed Spirits of the Underworld and although they are considered to be second-order, they are still worthy of honor.
The Bronze Age mortals were the first race of men to be created by Zeus. These "men" were, like their predecessors, man-like but certainly not human beings as we would define the species. There is an element of confusion as to the origins of the third mortal race. They are said to have sprung from the ash tree but that explanation seems to explain nothing. Even when we consider the fact that the Immortals are not bound by natural law, a race of men engendered by ash trees seems difficult to imagine. Other interpretations of the origins of this race are: 1) a race sprung from oaks and stones and ash trees, 2) a race sprung from the Meliae [Nymphs of the Ash Tree], or 3) a violent race of unknown origin identified by their ashen spears.
Regardless of semantics, the mortal men of the Age of Bronze were terrible and strong. They thrived on the violent and lamentable works of Ares. They ate no bread and had hearts as hard as adamant. They used no iron … their armor, implements and houses were made of bronze.
The mortal men of the Age of Bronze were destroyed by their own penchant for violence and were seized by Thanatos [Death] and taken to the House of Hades. The last known man of the Age of Bronze was encountered and killed when Jason and the Argonauts were returning from their successful Quest for the Golden Fleece.
After Zeus had taken Europa to the island of Crete to raise their children, he placed a bronze man on the island to protect her … his name was Talos. He would pace around the island three times a day to ward off invaders and protect Europa and her descendants. When the Argonauts were trying to make landfall on Crete, Talos appeared on the shore and challenged them. Talos threw giant boulders at the Argo and scared the wits out of the battle-hardened Argonauts. Princess Medeia (Medea) was the only one on the ship capable of defeating Talos because she had been a priestess of one of Zeus's favorites … the goddess Hekate (Hecate). Using chants and spells, Medeia called up Death-Spirits and the Hounds of Hades to suck the life force from Talos … he stumbled in a daze and tore the fabric of his flesh … his life-force was drained from his otherwise impervious body. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, all that happened near the end of the Age of Heroes.
The Age of Heroes was the fourth age of mortal men. This was the age when Zeus finally created men and women like you and I. At first, there were only men but due to a conflict between Zeus and his cousin Prometheus, the first woman was created. She was not created to be a comfort or compliment to the men of the earth … instead, she was brought forth as a punishment.
The men of the Age of Heroes were alone and suffering on the face of the earth. Zeus seemed to be aloof to their misery but knowing all things, he allowed the suffering to continue until events could take their destined course.
The Rebel-God Prometheus played a critical role in the creation of the first woman and thus complete Zeus's designs for the Age of Heroes. As children of Titans, Zeus and Prometheus were of the same generation. Prometheus fought alongside Zeus against their Titan parents but he still did not agree with all that Zeus did. On one occasion, Prometheus tried to fool Zeus with a false sacrifice. Prometheus disregarded the ancient custom of offering the most choice portions of the sacrificial animal to the Immortal being honored by the sacrifice. In a vain attempt to deceive Zeus, Prometheus wrapped fat and bone in such a way that they appeared to be a traditional sacrifice. Zeus recognized the deception and with infinite patience accepted the sacrifice. He went on to say that from that time on, all sacrifices would be presented in the same manner.
Prometheus misinterpreted Zeus's forbearance and thought that further disrespect would be treated with the same good natured indulgence. Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the men on the earth. It is difficult to know whether Prometheus was trying to test Zeus's authority or if he was simply trying to help the pitiable mortals of the earth … regardless, Zeus lashed out at Prometheus with a severe punishment.
Zeus instructed Hephaistos to chain Prometheus to the Caucasus Mountains where he was to remain for thirteen generations of mortal men. To further the punishment, Zeus sent one of his eagles to eat at Prometheus's liver … the eagle would rip out the immortal flesh every day but it would grow back every night so the divine bird could begin the torment again on the following day.
The revenge Zeus directed towards Prometheus was not limited to having the Rebel-God shackled to the mountain. Zeus proclaimed that in exchange for the fire that had been so cunningly stolen, he would send an evil thing to the men of the earth that they would welcome even though it would ensure their own destruction.
Zeus envisioned this evil thing for the men of the earth as a woman … she was destined to be called Pandora which might mean "Giver of All" or "All Endowed."
Zeus instructed Hephaistos to mix earth with water and give the concoction a human voice and strength … this new woman was to be fashioned with a sweet, lovely maiden-shape and a face like an immortal goddess. Athene was instructed to teach Pandora needlework and the loom … Aphrodite was instructed to shed grace upon Pandora's head as well as cruel longing and cares that would weary her limbs. Zeus instructed his son Hermes to give Pandora a shameless mind with a deceitful nature.
Athene clothed Pandora … the Graces and Peitho [Persuasion] put necklaces of gold about her neck and the Hours crowned her head with flowers … the evil "gift" was complete. Zeus sent Hermes to Prometheus's brother Epimetheus … Pandora was presented to Epimetheus as a divine gift. Epimetheus had been warned by Prometheus never to accept gifts from the Olympians, especially Zeus, but when Epimetheus saw Pandora he was rendered helpless … he could not resist the divinely created woman … he accepted her willingly. When Epimetheus embraced Pandora, evil and despair entered the world … mistrust and disease spread over the wide earth. After Pandora was emptied of her curse, only Hope remained … unreasonable, groundless Hope that transformed the curse of life into a blessing.
As time passed, the population of the earth increased … we might assume that Pandora was created approximately 40,000 BCE which is the time generally ascribed to the appearance modern humans by anthropologists. From that remote time until several generations before the Trojan War, the humans mated only with humans and the Immortals mated only with other Immortals. All that changed when the gods, male and female, began to mate with the humans and have children.
This new hybrid race was known as demigods. The Age of Heroes had begun.
The Age of Heroes was dominated by the semi-divine progeny of the Immortals … these beautiful and outlandish children became kings, queens and warriors who were willing and able to rule and conquer any mortals who happened to fall under their sway. The reign of the demigods became such a burden to the Immortals that a drastic and bloody solution had to be initiated … the Trojan War was the answer.
The Trojan War was not simply a dispute over the kidnapping of Helen of Argos … the war was started by Zeus for a very specific reason. The Age of Heroes was drawing to an end and Zeus, like many of the other Immortals, wanted to be rid of the children they had sired with mortals. When Zeus saw the quality and superiority of demigods like Herakles, Helen and Achilles, he knew that future generations of demigods would be inferior. The Trojan War was considered to be an expedient way to kill a good number of the inferior demigods. With the deaths of the demigods, the Age of Heroes would be over and the Age of Iron could begin.
Of all the contributing factors that led to the Trojan War, the most significant has been called The Judgment of Paris. Paris, a.k.a. Alexandros, was a Prince of Troy and because of Zeus, became embroiled in a dispute between three very formidable goddesses.
The Nereid Thetis shunned the romantic advances of Zeus so he punished her by making her marry a mortal man named Peleus. The goddess Hera wanted to honor Thetis because she was one of the few goddess who had evaded the love of Zeus … Hera arranged for all the notable Immortals to attend the wedding of Thetis and Peleus.
Eris, the goddess of Discord and Strife, made a special appearance at the wedding … she threw down a golden apple in the midst of the assembled goddesses with the inscription, "For the most beautiful one." Naturally, Hera, Athene and Aphrodite all assumed that the gift was for them … the three goddesses began to argue. It became obvious that the situation was not going to resolve itself because the goddesses were not going to agree to any sort of compromise. Zeus intervened.
Zeus sent for Prince Paris and insisted that he make the decision as to which of the goddesses deserved the golden apple. Paris could not have known that no matter which goddess he chose, the result would be the death of his family and the complete destruction of Troy. Aphrodite contrived a way to make Paris choose her as the most beautiful goddess … she promised Paris that he could marry the most desirable woman in the world … she was of course referring to Helen of Argos. There was no prize or reward that Hera or Athene could have offered which would have been more tempting to Paris because Helen was the daughter of Zeus.
Helen's mother Leda was the wife King Tyndareus of Sparta and although Tyndareus knew that he was not Helen's father, he raised her as his own. When Helen was old enough to marry, Tyndareus's household was besieged with anxious young men from every part of Greece. Tyndareus quickly realized that no matter which man he chose to be Helen's husband, she was so irresistible that she would always be in danger of being kidnapped. Tyndareus very wisely made all the suitors swear a solemn and scared oath that they would come to Helen's rescue if she was ever taken from her chosen husband. All the young heroes and princes who wooed Helen took the oath without realizing that they would soon be called upon to fight and die at Troy for Helen's sake.
Prince Menelaos (Menelaus) of Mycenae married Helen but Aphrodite soon arranged for Helen to leave Menelaos and flee to Troy with Paris … to add to Menelaos's disgrace, Helen also took her dowry. The former suitors of Helen were called upon to fulfill their oaths … an armada was assembled and over one thousand ships with over sixty thousand men sailed to Troy to rescue Helen.
With Hera, Athene, Poseidon on the side of the Achaeans (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.
After Aphrodite and Ares were wounded defending the Trojans, Zeus ordered all Immortals to stay out of the fighting. He went to Mount Ida and directed the combat so as to give glory to the beloved Trojan commander, Hector. There were many sons of the Immortals in the battle for Troy … Zeus let his son Sarpedon die on the battlefield … Aphrodite was wounded protecting her son Aineias (Aeneias) … Ares's son Askalaphos was killed, but Achilles, the son of the goddess Thetis, was to be the grand sacrifice.
At one point, the war was going so badly for the Achaeans that Hera could not contain her eagerness to help. Under false pretenses, she received glamour and love charms from Aphrodite and with the help of Hypnos [Sleep], seduced Zeus on the peaks on Mount Ida. When Zeus saw her coming to the mountaintop, he was so overwhelmed with desire that he praised her beauty and then went on to tell her that she was more beautiful than the wife of Ixion, who bore him Peirithoos; and sweet Danae who bore him Perseus; and Europa who bore him Minos and Rhadamanthys; or Semele who bore him Dionysos; or Alkmene who bore him Herakles; or Demeter who bore him Persephone; or glorious Leto, the mother of Apollon and Artemis … according to Zeus, Hera's beauty surpassed them all.
Just as Hera planned, while Zeus slept after the love making, Poseidon secretly entered the battle on the side of the Achaeans. 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 Olympos to fetch Iris and Apollon. Wind-Footed Iris was sent to warn Poseidon of his folly and command him to withdraw. Zeus sent Apollon to revive Prince Hector who had been severely wounded. Zeus then ordered Apollon to charge against the Achaean defenses and push them back to their beached ships … wielding the aegis [shield] of Zeus, Apollon drove the Achaeans back in terror.
After Zeus was satisfied that he was again fully in charge, he ordered all the Immortals to assemble on Mount Olympos. He told them to choose sides and enter the battle as they saw fit. The ten year war was nearly at an end.
During the course of the war, many of the demigods were killed … the most notable being Achilles and Sarpedon. A few demigods survived but they too were doomed. The most remarkable demigod to survive the Trojan War was Aphrodite's son, Aineias … remarkable because he was a Trojan ally and was not killed when the walls of Troy were toppled. As the Greeks were killing the Trojan men, they found Aineias carrying his elderly father Anchises to safety. The Greeks were moved by Aineias's devotion to his father and spared his life … they told him that he could also take all the personal possessions he could carry and leave the city unharmed. Aineias again impressed the Greeks when he took only religious items and no treasure. Aineias fled to Italy where he died and his descendants are purported to have founded the Roman Empire.
The Trojan War was the final glory of the demigods … the Age of Heroes was over and although divine blood, albeit diluted, still ran in the veins of many mortals, Zeus and the other Immortals allowed the mortal race to find its own path to its eventual doom in the Age of Iron.
The Age of Iron began shortly after the end of the Trojan War circa 1240 BCE.
We are still in the Age of Iron and must resign ourselves to the fact that there is absolutely nothing we can do to alter our fate … it is the will of Zeus. We are doomed to never rest from our daily toils or from dying by night. The Immortals will lay sore troubles on us but there will be good mingled with the evil we must endure. Zeus will finally destroy our mortal race when children are born with gray hair.
There will be unmistakable signs that the Age of Iron is nearing it doom. Parents and children will cease to agree with one another … guests and hosts will no longer be bound by oaths … brother will work against brother and friends will stop acting as friends. Men will dishonor their parents with harsh words and refuse to repay the debt of their nurture … the stronger will enslave the weak … good and just people will be scorned and the evil-doers will be praised for their violent ways.
The ills of the Age of Iron will finally manifest in false oaths … envy, with course speech and scowling delight, will infect all men and women … Aidos [Shame] and Nemesis [Divine Retribution] will flee the earth and leave us to wallow in our bitter sorrows with no protection against an all consuming evil.
There are few examples of disrespect for the Immortals to match that of Tantalos (Tantalus). Tantalos was a son of Zeus who received great honors from the Immortals but his complete lack of restraint earned him a special punishment in the House of Hades. Tantalos either tried to steal the food of the Immortals or he killed his son Pelops and served the flesh to the Olympians.
Another version of his punishment is given in the fragmentary remains of The Returns where he was permitted to live with the Immortals and allowed to ask for anything he desired. His pleasures were so self-indulgent that Zeus surrounded him with earthly pleasures and placed a giant stone over his head to prevent him from enjoying them. He was placed in a pool of water from which he could never drink and under a fruit tree from which he could never eat.
Ixion was a king of Thessaly who became the object of divine forgiveness and punishment.
Ixion arranged to have his father-in-law fall into a pit of burning coals rather than give over the dowry for his daughter, Dia. Zeus forgave Ixion for this outrageous act but the ungrateful Ixion tried to seduce the goddess Hera.
Zeus formed a counterfeit Hera from a cloud and named her Nephele. Ixion did not perceive the deception and showered his affections on Nephele thinking that he had seduced the real Hera. Ixion and Nephele had a son named Kentauros who became the progenitor of the Centaurs when he mated with the Magnesian mares. The Centaurs are a race of creatures with the body of a horse and the torso of a human. Zeus then condemned Ixion to spend eternity on a revolving wheel in the House of Hades.
The above image shows the defiant Ixion being attacked by snakes and fastened to the revolving wheel in the House of Hades. The woman being carried away might be Dia.
There is a curious story about the birth of Orion that involves Zeus.
Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes visited a man named Hyrieus at the city of Thebes. As part of the guest/host ceremony, a bull was prepared for sacrifice. The hide was removed and the bull was cut into portions for the sacrifice. After the sacrifice was complete, Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes urinated on the bull hide and buried it. From that hide, Orion was born.
Orion became known as The Hunter … he was a Giant who relentlessly hunted wild beasts until he earned a reputation for shameless self-indulgence and recklessness … his exploits eventually resulted in his death but Zeus, at the pleading of the goddesses Leto and Artemis, gave him immortality as one of the most recognizable constellations in the heavens.
Keyx (Ceyx) and his wife Alkyone (Alcyone) trivialized Zeus's dignity and suffered a cruel fate. Keyx was the son of Eophorus, the morning star … Alkyone was the daughter of Aeolus (Aiolos), the eponymous founder of the Aeolian nation.
Their noble heritage could not protect the presumptuous couple when Keyx began calling Alkyone Hera and she jokingly called him Zeus … Zeus saw this arrogance from atop Mount Olympos and in a fit of anger, turned them both into birds.
As is the custom of the Immortals, Zeus and Hermes were wandering the countryside disguised as mortals to observe and test the devotion of their subjects. When they came upon the humble abode of Baukis (Baucis) and her husband Philemon, the two gods were welcomed with sincere friendliness.
Zeus noted the kindness of Baukis and Philemon and kept an eye on them from Mount Olympos. When a flood threatened to wash away their home and kill Baukis and Philemon, they were transformed into trees to spare their lives and reward them for their hospitality.
One of the most distinctive signs of Zeus is his shield … the aegis. Zeus's first wife Themis made the aegis for him but presented it to the war-like goddess Athene when she was born fully attired in war-gear.
The aegis had the severed head of the snake-headed Medusa as the dominate image … Medusa's head was surrounded by scenes of warfare and carnage. The intended effect was to strike fear and panic into any foe.
The term Aegis has a double meaning in relation to Zeus. It is of course the shield of Zeus but it also signifies the goat [αιγς] which suckled him when he was an infant on Mount Ida.
It should be no surprise that the most majestic of trees would be the symbol of Zeus.
The most sacred oracular shrine for Zeus was located at Dodona in Epirus. The site of the shrine was established by Zeus because he loved Dodona and appointed it to be his oracle. Two Egyptian priestesses of Ammon [an Egyptian name for Zeus] turned themselves into doves to escape slavery … one flew to Libya and the other to Dodona. The dove-priestess of Dodona settled in the hollow of an oak tree and began giving prophecy with a human voice to those who brought appropriate gifts. Another form of oak-prophecy at Dodona was conducted by the priests known as Selloi (Selli) … they interpreted the rustling of oak leaves to know the will of Zeus.
The Quest for the Golden Fleece involved the protection of Zeus by the incorporation of oak wood in the ship the Argonauts used. Knowing that the Argonauts were facing an arduous journey, the goddess Athene cut an oak from Mount Pelion and gave it to the shipwright Argos (Argus), who used the sacred wood for the keel of the ship.
The Argonauts also encountered a man named Paraebios (Paraebius) who was punished because his father had chopped down an oak tree. When Paraebios's father was preparing to chop down the tree, the tree's Hamadryad Nymph, who shared the life of the tree, begged him to spare her tree. Paraebios's father chopped the oak tree down and the Nymph punished him and his son, Paraebios. The curse was finally lifted when Paraebios built an altar and prayed to have the sins of his father forgiven.
In a bit of double-symbolism, Athene and Apollon transformed themselves into vultures and perched in an oak tree to watch the fighting during the Trojan War. They became vultures to imply their blood-lust and they sat in an oak tree to demonstrate their authority as children of Zeus.
The eagle is Zeus's bird … it's noble … it's majestic … it can be deadly. Used as a symbol or a messenger, the eagle does the will of Zeus.
The eagle can be found in several accounts where Zeus made his will known by sending the noble bird as his representative. The following examples illustrate that point:
When Prometheus had to be punished for defying Zeus, an eagle was sent to torment the Rebel-God. Zeus had Prometheus chained to the Caucasus Mountains and then sent an eagle to tear at Prometheus's liver … each day the eagle would eat away Prometheus's liver and each night it would grow back. This went on for thirteen generations of mortal men. Finally, Herakles, as the son of Zeus, was permitted to kill the eagle and free Prometheus from his bonds.
A less gruesome example of an eagle serving Zeus was when Zeus saw an attractive young man named Ganymede (Ganymedes) and decided to take him to Mount Olympos to serve as a cupbearer. Ganymede was a son of King Tros of Troy who was the great-grandson of Zeus. Zeus sent an eagle to snatch Ganymede from his home and transport him to Mount Olympos where Zeus made him immortal.
Aias [Ajax] was the son of King Telamon and Queen Eriboea of the island of Salamis. The Trojan War spawned many heroes but second only to Achilles, Aias was the most feared man in the Achaean army.
Before Aias was born, Herakles was a guest of Telamon and prayed aloud that Telamon would have a manly son. Zeus heard the prayer and sent an omen in the form of an eagle to signify his blessing. Telamon realized the importance of the omen and named his son Aias, which is a variation on the Greek word for eagle, i.e. aetos.
There were several eagle-signs from Zeus while Penelope and Telemachos (Telemachus) were anxiously waiting for Odysseus to return from the Trojan War.
Telemachos called an assembly of the men of Ithaka (Ithaca) to tell them that he was going to travel to Pylos and Sparta to seek word of his long overdue father. Above the heads of the assembled men, two eagles began to fight. A seer in the crowd correctly pronounced that the eagles were a sign from Zeus indicating that Odysseus would return to Ithaka and kill the suitors who had invaded Odysseus's palace, trying to force Penelope to declare Odysseus dead and agree to marry one of them.
Telemachos went to Sparta to ask if King Menelaos (Menelaus) or Helen had any news of Odysseus's whereabouts. They were unable to help Telemachos in any direct way but as Telemachos was leaving, he and Helen observed an eagle attack a goose. Helen knew that it was an omen from her father Zeus that was intended for Telemachos. She told him that it was a prophecy indicating that Odysseus would eventually return to his home and family. The prophecy was correct.
Zeus announces his presence with claps of thunder and smites his enemies with the thunderbolt. There are three Cyclopes who give Zeus thunder and make the thunderbolts for him. The Cyclopes are children of Gaia, and named Brontes, and Steropes and Arges. The thunder and lightning are carried to Zeus on Mount Olympos by the flying horse, Pegasos (Pegasus).
The following examples are a sampling of the unfortunate individuals who were struck by Zeus's thunderbolts.
Eetion was one of the sons of Zeus and Elektra. He became enchanted with the goddess Demeter and suffered the wrath of Zeus for his disrespect. Zeus laid him low with a flaming thunderbolt.
Asklepios (Asclepius) was the son of Apollon and Koronis (Coronis). As the son of a god, Asklepios had insights and talents regarding medicine that were novel as well as effective.
Asklepios became too enamored of his seemingly miraculous abilities and finally committed an act of selfishness that angered Zeus and resulted in Asklepios's death. Instead of using his god-given abilities with gracious humility, Asklepios accepted gold as payment for restoring a dead man to life. Zeus struck down Asklepios and the man he had resurrected with a flash of lightning, thus ending the life of the greatest healer of the ancient Greek world.
Phaethon was the reckless son of Helios [Sun] and Klymene (Clymene). He took his father's sun-chariot and flew too close to the earth. The damage to the earth and its inhabitants was catastrophic. Zeus struck Phaethon with a thunderbolt and the youth fell into the river Eridanos (Eridanus).
When the Argonauts were navigating a lake in Libya, the god Triton rose from the waters and offered a magical clod of dirt to an Argonaut named Euphemos (Euphemus). Triton told Euphemos that if the clod of dirt was thrown into the sea an island would emerge and become the home of his descendents. Euphemos was unsure if he should trust Triton and as if to belay all doubts, a clap of thunder came from the clear sky to let Euphemos know that Zeus was watching and approved Triton's gift.
Several nights later, Euphemos had a divinely inspired dream about the clod of earth Triton had given him. Before the Argonauts returned to Greece, Euphemos threw the dirt-clod into the sea as Triton had instructed … the island of Kalliste (Calliste) emerged from the depths. Kalliste was renamed Thera after Theras, a descendant of Euphemos … the island is now called Santorini.
Alkmaeon (Alcmaeon) was one of the Epigoni, i.e. After-Born … he led one of the armies that captured the city of Thebes ten years after his father had failed. Alkmaeon was killed in the battle by a thunderbolt from Zeus … he was fated to die and Zeus showed Alkmaeon mercy by killing him before he was struck in the back by a spear from one of the Theban defenders.
Iasion and Dardanos were the sons of Electra, daughter of Atlas. Dardanos, became the legendary patriarch of the Trojans and was blessed by Zeus … Iasion was not so lucky.
When Iasion was a young man he lusted after the goddess Demeter … Iasion mated with Demeter in a thrice-turned field and conceived the child Plutus, who became a symbol of abundance, i.e. rich harvests and fertile ground. Iasion was killed with a thunderbolt by Zeus for his impudence.
The adventurer/historian Xenophon witnessed an unusual event involving the dispensation of justice by Zeus. Xenophon was with a group of Greek mercenaries fighting for a Persian named Cyrus the Younger who was trying to take the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II. When Xenophons's army came to Mespila they tried to capture the city … they stormed the walls with no success … Xenophon did not know that Mespila was actually the ancient city of Nineveh.
Xenophon was a very pious man … he prayed regularly and offered sacrifices to Zeus and the other Immortals according to need. To end the protracted siege of Mespila, Zeus intervened and terrified inhabitants with thunder, thus the city was taken.
Zeus is not always mentioned by name in the ancient texts … a variety of epithets and surnames were used to denote him. One of the most important surnames of Zeus was Zeus Xenios, which identifies him as the Protector of Strangers. By calling on Zeus Xenios, travelers and adventurers could obtain safe passage through otherwise dangerous lands because all god fearing people accepted the possibility that strangers might very well be Immortals posing as humans to test their faith and hospitality.
|God||Father Zeus||The Olympian|
|Zeus on High||Son of Kronos||Lord of Hera|
|Zeus the King||Zeus of the Thunderbolt||Father of Gods and Men|
|Zeus of the Aegis||Aegis-Bearer||Aegis-Bearing Zeus|
|Zeus the Cloud Gatherer||Zeus of the Wide Brows||The Stormy One|
|Zeus the Deliverer||Zeus the Savior||Zeus the Perfecter|
|The Sky Dweller||Ammon||Zeus Xenios|