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ZEUS

clip_image002WHO IS ZEUS?

Zeus (in Greek: nominative: Ζεύς Zeús /zdeús/, genitive: Διός Diós; Modern Greek /’zefs/) in Greek mythology is the king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky and thunder. His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward, with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.

Zeus was the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he was married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort was Dione: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. He is known for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.

Zeus was equivalent to the Roman god Jupiter and associated in the syncretic classical imagination with various other deities, such as the Egyptian, Ammon and the Etruscan, Tinia. He (along with Dionysus) absorbed the role of the chief Phrygian god Sabazios in the syncretic deity known in Rome as Sabazius. In Hindu mythology his counterpart was Indra with ever common weapon as thunderbolt.


Cult of Zeus

a. Panhellenic cults of Zeus

The major center where all Greeks converged to pay honor to their chief god was Olympia. Their quadrennial festival featured the famous Games. There was also an altar to Zeus made not of stone, but of ash, from the accumulated remains of many centuries’ worth of animals sacrificed there.

Outside of the major inter-polis sanctuaries, there were no modes of worshipping Zeus precisely shared across the Greek world. Most of the titles listed below, for instance, could be found at any number of Greek temples from Asia Minor to Sicily. Certain modes of ritual were held in common as well: sacrificing a white animal over a raised altar, for instance.

b. Role and epithets

Zeus played a dominant role, presiding over the Greek Olympian pantheon. He fathered many of the heroes and was featured in many of their local cults. Though the Homeric "cloud collector" was the god of the sky and thunder like his Near-Eastern counterparts, he was also the supreme cultural artifact; in some senses, he was the embodiment of Greek religious beliefs and the archetypal Greek deity.
Aside from local epithets that simply designated the Zeus to doing something random at some particular place, the epithets or titles applied to Zeus emphasized different aspects of his wide-ranging authority:

· Zeus Olympios emphasized Zeus’s kingship over both the gods in addition to his specific presence at the Panhellenic festival at Olympia.

· A related title was Zeus Panhellenios (‘Zeus of all the Hellenes’), to whom Aeacus’ famous temple on Aegina was dedicated.

· As Zeus Xenios, Zeus was the patron of hospitality and guests, ready to avenge any wrong done to a stranger.

· As Zeus Horkios, he was the keeper of oaths. Exposed liars were made to dedicate a statue to Zeus, often at the sanctuary of Olympia.

· As Zeus Agoraeus, Zeus watched over business at the agora and punished dishonest traders.

· As Zeus Aegiduchos or Aegiochos he was the bearer of the Aegis with which he strikes terror into the impious and his enemies. Others derive this epithet from αίξ ("goat") and οχή and take it as an allusion to the legend of Zeus’ suckling at the breast of Amalthea.

· As Zeus Meilichios, "Easy-to-be-entreated", he subsumed an archaic chthonic daimon propitiated in Athens, Meilichios.

· As Zeus Tallaios, or "Solar Zeus", he was worshiped in Crete.

 

Zeus in myth

a. Birth

Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and 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— an oracle that Zeus was to hear and avert. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought 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.

b. Infancy

Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. According to varying versions of the story:

1. He was then raised by Gaia.

2. He was raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes— soldiers, or smaller gods— danced, shouted and clashed their spears against their shields so that Cronus would not hear the baby’s cry. (See cornucopia.)

3. 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.

4. He was raised by a nymph named Cynosura. In gratitude, Zeus placed her among the stars.

5. He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat‘s-milk and honey.

6. He was raised by a shepherd family under the promise that their sheep would be saved from wolves.

c. Zeus becomes king of the gods

After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge first the stone (which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, the Omphalos) then his siblings in reverse order of swallowing. 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, killing their guard, Campe. As a token of their appreciation, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt, or 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, in the combat called the Titanomachy. The defeated Titans were then cast into a shadowy underworld region known as Tartarus. Atlas, one of the titans that fought against Zeus, was punished by having to hold up the sky.

After the battle with the Titans, Zeus shared the world with his elder brothers, Poseidon and Hades, by drawing lots: Zeus got the sky and air, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the world of the dead (the underworld). The ancient Earth, Gaia, could not be claimed; she was left to all three, each according to their capabilities, which explains why Poseidon was the "earth-shaker" (the god of earthquakes) and Hades claimed the humans that died.

Gaia resented the way Zeus had treated 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 vanquished Typhon and trapped him under a mountain, but left Echidna and her children alive.

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