Zeus was the most important of the Olympian gods. He acquired this status by defeating Cronos, his father, who’d had absolute control before their confrontation. However, right from the start, Zeus had a particular destiny.
The myth of Zeus claims that Cronus, the god of creation, received a prophecy from his mother, Gaia. She predicted that one of his sons would end up depriving him of the throne. For this reason, Cronus swallowed every child he had with his wife, Rhea.
Distressed by the situation, Rea wanted to save the youngest of her children. Therefore, when it was time for her to give birth, she went to the Island of Crete and had her baby in secret. Then, she gave Cronos some stones wrapped in swaddling clothes. The god swallowed the package, not unsuspecting of the deception.
“I believe that if one always looked at the skies, one would end up with wings.”
The myth of Zeus: the origin
There are several versions of the childhood of the sky god. The most traditional indicates that he was nursed by a goat named Amalthea. Some young warriors, called Curetes, guarded him. They clashed their weapons when the child cried so that Cronos wouldn’t hear him.
Another of the most widespread versions of the myth of Zeus indicates that the god was raised by a nymph named Adamanthea. She knew that Cronus ruled the heavens, the earth, and the sea. So, to hide the little boy, she hung him from a tree with ropes. Thus, he was suspended between heaven, earth, and the sea and Cronos couldn’t see him.
When Zeus became an adult, he forced Cronus to regurgitate everything he’d swallowed. First, came the stone wrapped in swaddling clothes and then his brothers, in the reverse order from which they’d been swallowed. After this, he released the Hecatonchires, giants with 100 arms and 50 faces, who were brothers of Cronos and had been imprisoned in Tartarus.
The myth of Zeus also claims that he released the Cyclopes, giants with only one eye on their foreheads, who were confined in a dungeon in Tartarus. To free these beings, Zeus killed Campe, a monster that was half woman and half sea monster. She also had parts of other dangerous animals protruding from her body.
The new Olympus
To establish his rule, Zeus and his brothers, as well as the beings he’d freed, waged a colossal war against the Titans. This confrontation was known as Titanomachy. He won in the end and the defeated were imprisoned in Tartarus, the deepest place on Earth.
After the victory, Zeus and his older brothers, Poseidon and Hades, cast lots for world dominance. Zeus was given dominance of the sky and the air. Poseidon was given the oceans, and Hades was given the world of the dead or the underworld. Thus, the three, together, ruled the Earth.
Zeus’s first wife was Metis, a prudent and cunning Titaness. She’d helped the sky god give Cronos a potion that poisoned him, causing him to regurgitate his children. She prophesied that she’d give birth to a daughter who’d rule the world. Zeus then swallowed the child. Later, from his forehead was born Athena. However, she never overthrew her father.
An imposing god
The myth of Zeus claims that he married Hera, his sister. She didn’t want to marry him, but he turned himself into a wounded bird. When Hera cradled the bird on her chest, Zeus resumed his form and ravished her. She then agreed to marry him.
Zeus and Hera had four children: Ares the god of war; Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth; Hebe, the goddess of eternal youth; and Hephaestus, the god of fire. However, the sky god had countless other adventures with different goddesses and mortals. Indeed, with Themis, the goddess of justice, he had six daughters. He also had children with Demeter and Leto.
Zeus also had many other children with mortal women. Among them were Hercules, Dionysus, Castor and Pollux, and Helen of Troy. Zeus appears in almost every episode of Greek mythology. None of them makes any reference to his power being usurped by any other being.