Zeus Krónios (descendant of Cronus), or simply Zeus or Zdeus (Greek Ζεύς) or Dias (Greek Δίας) ("divine king") is the leader of the gods and god of the sky and thunder in Greek mythology.
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Zeus is the continuation of Dyeus, the supreme god in Indo-European religion, also continued as Vedic Dyaus Pitar (cf. Jupiter), and as Tyr (Ziu, Tiw, Tiwaz) in Germanic and Norse mythology. Tyr was however supplanted by Odin as the supreme god among the Germanic peoples and the Germanic tribes did not identify Zeus/Jupiter with either Tyr or Odin, but with Thor.
Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, 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. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Uranus and 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.
Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. According to varying versions of the story:
- He was then raised by Gaia.
- He was raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes, soldiers, or smaller gods danced, shouted and clapped their hands to make noise so that Cronus would not hear the baby's cry. (See cornucopia.)
- He was raised by a nymph named Adamanthea. Since Cronus ruled over the Earth, the heavens and the sea, she hid him by dangling him on a rope from a tree so he was suspended between earth, sea and sky and thus, invisible to his father.
- He was raised by a nymph named Cynosura. In gratitude, Zeus placed her among the stars after her death.
- He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat-milk
Zeus becomes king of the gods
After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgourge the other children in reverse order of swallowing: first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, then the rest. 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; he killed their guard, Campe. As gratitude, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt and 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.
After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers, Poseidon and Hades by drawing lots: Zeus got the land, Poseidon the sea and Hades the world of the shadows (the dead). (See also: Penthus)
Gaia was upset that Zeus had killed the Titans, because they were her children. Soon after taking the throne as king of the gods, Zeus had to fight some of Gaia's other children, the monsters Typhon and Echidna. He killed Typhon, but left Echidna and their children alive as challenges for future heroes.
The Joys of Married Life
Zeus was brother and husband of Hera. Their children were Hephaistos, Eileithyia, Hebe and Ares. Zeus is famous for his many extramarital affairs with various goddesses — notably Demeter, Latona, Dione and Maia — and mortal women — notably Semele, Io, Europa and Leda (for more details, see "Seductions" below), as well as many nymphs. His wife, Hera, was very jealous and consistently tried to harm Zeus' mistresses and their children by him. For a time, a nymph named Echo had the job of distracting Hera from his affairs by incessantly talking. When Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to only speak the words of others (hence our modern word "echo").
A less squeamish age called these the "Rapes" of Zeus, for these were not love affairs but mythic events that in case after case record the localized cult of a water or wood nymph that has been supplanted by the conquering Olympian patrilineal order, effecting a cultural, social and religious revolution, or at the least a radical reform of ancient beliefs and reinterpreted readings for long-established cult practices.
It is notable that none of these liaisons involve any of the Olympian goddesses. Zeus may father upon the nymph the eponymous progenitor of a race of kings which may survive into heroic times or archaic history. In many cases "jealous" Hera, the goddess who represents conservative religious traditions, wreaks vengeance on the faithless "turncoat" who succumbs to the new order (see Io, etc.). Whenever the seduced female is human, the inquisitive reader soon finds that her mother was a nymph or demi-goddess.