Tales of Zeus


ZeusZeus was known throughout the ancient world as the father of the gods and the high king of Mount Olympus. Zeus was credited with many titles.

In conjunction with being the sovereign ruler over the Greek pantheon, he also was known as the god of the sky, thunder, law, order and justice.

Mortals trembled at the sounds of an approaching thunderstorm, for they believed this to be a sure sign of the god's anger.

Zeus was known to readily strike down those who dared to provoke him by engaging the power of his mighty thunderbolts.

He is always portrayed as a robustly built man with long curly hair and a full beard which extended a good length down below his chin. He was fair and just in his decisions, although his rulings could sometimes be somewhat erratic and unpredictable.

When he was not being challenged or defamed, Zeus was known to be jovial and fun loving. According to Hesiod the god loved to laugh out loud and often filled the glorious halls of Mount Olympus with sounds of mirth and merriment.

Below please find a collection of stories which feature the many sides of Zeus' capricious personality. I hope that you find them enjoyable.


The Birth of Zeus

During the time when the titan Cronus reigned as king, it was prophesied to him that like his father Uranus, he too would meet his demise at the hands of one of his children. In order to prevent the prophecy from coming true, Cronus took to swallowing each child as soon as it was born.

Growing tired of this, his heartbroken wife Rhea decided to outsmart her husband. After giving birth to their youngest son Zeus, the distraught mother hid the baby safely away on the island of Crete.

Zeus and AmaltheaShe then placed a child-sized stone in a tightly wrapped blanket and gave it to Cronus to swallow. Baby Zeus was then secretly whisked away to Mount Ida and placed into the care of the goat nymph Amalthea.

In order to drown out his cries, Amalthea engaged the help of a tribe of crested dancers known as the Cretan Curetes.

These five brothers danced wildly about the cave's entrance, loudly stamping their feet and clashing together their heavy metal spears.

Because Cronus ruled supreme over the entire earth, sea and sky, the Curetes cleverly suspended Zeus' cradle between the three, making it impossible for the titan to detect his presence.

Zeus quickly grew to manhood, and when he was fit and strong the young god bid Amalthea farewell and set out to conquer his father. In order to help Zeus achieve his goal, his aunt Metis prepared a magical potion and gave it to Cronus to drink.

The concoction was so bitter tasting that the titan instantly vomited up all of the children that were being held inside of his stomach; Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia. The newly freed siblings all joined forces with their brother Zeus, and together put an end to Cronus' reign of tyranny.

It is said that after the death of Amalthea, Zeus honored her by placing her among the stars as the constellation Capra. According to some accounts he used her hide as a protective covering for his aegis.

There is another interesting story surrounding the goat nymph Amalthea. It seems that one day when Zeus was just a toddler, he accidently broke off one of his foster mother's horns.

The horn was gifted with the ability to provide blessings of never ending sustenance. Known to us today as the cornucopia, its familiar image is commonly used to illustrate feelings of fruitfulness and abundance.


The Loves of Zeus

Despite the fact that Zeus was betrothed to his twin sister Hera, he often found himself involved in numerous love affairs which encompassed the affections of both divine goddesses and mortal women.

In order to disguise his extramarital activities, the impassioned god frequently took to transforming himself and his lovers into various forms and shapes. But in spite of all of his precautions, Hera usually proved to be one step ahead of her husband.

In the end, Zeus usually managed to get away unscathed, leaving his female companions to contend with the wrath of his jealous wife. Below are just a few examples of his most famous liaisons.


The Tale of Europa

Rape of EuropaKing Agenor ruled over the Phoenician city of Tyre, where he lived happily with his lovely daughter Europa. One morning after waking from a bad dream, Europa roused her companions from their slumber and suggested they all join together and walk to a large meadow by the sea.

With baskets in hand, the girls enjoyed the soft touch of the morning breeze as they happily wandered through the blooms of hyacinths and wild roses.

When Zeus, who was quietly monitoring the girls' activities from his palace window caught sight of the graceful Europa, he immediately fell in love with her.

In order to avoid the watchful eye of his wife Hera, the god changed himself into a white bull before quickly making his descent to the earth.

As the maidens stood and watched him slowly stroll through the tall grass, they found themselves to be instantly captivated by his beauty. So calm and serene was his demeanor, that without hesitation they fearlessly ran over to greet the wondrous beast.

His scent was more fragrant than all the surrounding flowers combined and his movements delicately filled the air with soft melodic sounds. As Europa approached, the bull laid down at her feet as if to invite her to climb upon his back.

This she did, but before any of her friends could follow suit, the lustful god sprang up and quickly ran towards the sea. As he nimbly leapt high above the waves, Europa noticed that the water below had suddenly become full of magical sea gods and nereids.

Realising this could be no ordinary bull, the tearful maiden pleaded with the creature not to abandon her in some strange land. In an effort to calm Europa's fears, Zeus promptly restored his true likeness and promised to deliver her to the isle of Crete, where she could live in comfort and provide him with many sons.

The Four SeasonsAs the two arrived upon the shores of Crete, they were met by the four seasons, who gleefully sang songs of welcome and adorned Europa's long hair with flowers.

Zeus made sure the island was well protected by providing his new lover with a watchdog named Laelaps and the bronze giant Talos, whose job it was to patrol the shoreline.

Europa went on to bear Zeus three sons; Minos, Rhadymanthys and Sarpedon. For reasons unknown, the god later chose to relinquish his pledge to Europa and gave her away to King Asterius as his wife.

She then bore her new husband a daughter whom she named Crete after her new homeland. Because Asterius himself had no sons, he chose to adopt Europa's boys and raise them as his own.

Minos later became King of Crete and is best known for building the famous labyrinth that housed the half man, half bull creature known as the Minotaur. He also went on to be one of the three judges of the underworld, presiding over the fate of all those of Greek descent.


Leda and the Swan

Leda and the SwanAnother temptress that captured the heart of Zeus was Leda, the daughter of King Thestius of Aetolia. It came to be that Leda was given in marriage to a young man named Tyndareus, who after being forced from the throne of Sparta came to Aetolia to seek refuge.

Though Leda gave birth to many children, there were speculations as to just how many of them were actually fathered by her husband.

For it was common knowledge to everyone but Tyndareus that Leda had been carrying on a love affair with Zeus during the entire course of their marriage. The god would pay frequent visits to her, but not before disguising himself as a beautiful snow white swan.

Before long Leda realized that she was pregnant, and went on to give birth to four children in a most unusual way. She began by initially laying two eggs. From the first egg hatched Castor and Clytemnestra, two mortal children who had been sired by Tyndareus.

From the second egg came Helen and Polyduces, two children who were fathered by Zeus and considered to be half divine. Both Helen and Clytemnestra became famous for their roles in the saga of Trojan War, while Castor and Polydeuces went on to become well respected warriors known as the Discouri. They were later placed among the stars as the constellation Gemini.


The Tale of Ganymede

Zeus and GanymedeThe tale of Ganymede can be quite puzzling to say the least, as the true nature of Zeus' relationship with the youth is never clearly defined. Though later versions of the story take on a more erotic flavor, earlier accounts state that the attraction was based solely on the lad's divine elegance and charm.

Ganymede was the son of Tros, an early king of Troy and the naiad Callirrhoe. One day as the youth was tending his sheep on Mount Ida, he inadvertently attracted the attention of Zeus. The god was so enamored by the young man's beauty that he changed himself into an eagle and whisked the boy away to Mount Olympus.

Zeus then presented Ganymede with the gifts of immortality and eternal youth before appointing him to be his personal cupbearer.

According to some accounts Ganymede replaced Hebe as the god's official cupbearer after she was given in marriage to the hero Heracles. It is said that Ganymede was well loved amongst all of the Olympians except for one, Zeus' wife Hera.

The goddess saw the young man as nothing more than just another rival for her husband's affection. Zeus eventually placed Ganymede among the stars where he can still be found today gracing the evening sky as the constellation Aquarius.


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