Greek God of the Heavens

As King of Gods Zeus [also known as the Roman god Jupiter] could be considered the very face of Greek mythology. Zeus, Greek god of lightning, thunder, rain, the sky, the heavens, and the gods themselves, rightfully earned his top spot among the Olympic gods and goddesses by leading a successful revolution against the Titans.

The main Olympian gods had the same mother and father-the Titans Cronos and Rhea. The mother of Cronos was Gaia, mother Earth, who predicted that one of their children would overthrow the Titans in take control of the world. Fearing that his children would overthrow him Cronos deliberately ate his children one by one. Finally Rhea could take no more, and after the birth of her youngest son Zeus she tricked Cronos by wrapping a rock in a blanket and telling him it was his son. Of course Cronos ate the rock immediately and thought no more about it. Rhea hid Zeus from his father in a cave in Crete, where he was raised by the nymph Amalthaea.

When he was fully grown, Zeus led a revolt against the Titans and won; in the process freeing his brothers and sisters from their father's stomach. Though he was the youngest, Zeus was the clear leader among his siblings, who in many myths call him “father” rather than “brother”. To make things fair he and his brothers Hades and Poseidon drew lots to determine who would rule which parts of the universe. Winning first pick Zeus chose the sky and heavens as his domain. Poseidon chose the earth and sea, and with last choice Hades became god of the Underworld.

Unlike some of his contemporaries such as Apollo or Hermes, Zeus was never depicted as a young man.  In every context, Zeus is seen as and older man, signifying wisdom, maturity, and leadership.  He was often portrayed wielding his signature weapon, the thunderbolt, and was as well known for his great power in battle as he was for his philandering. In earlier art and myths, Zeus is often portrayed as a warrior God with lightning bolt in hand, while later art more often depicts Zeus seated at a throne with Nike, the goddess of victory, by his side.

While he was known for punishing those who did wrong (in his opinion), Zeus was known as a mostly fair and just god, who also gave many favors to those who worshiped him. Zeus regularly watched over the daily lives of both humans and the gods and was often called upon to settle arguments between them. Even as powerful as he was, Zeus had no command over the three Fates, who determined the life and death cycles of humans. He could not prevent a human from dying, but in rare circumstances he granted immortality to his most favored heroes.

Zeus had no enemies that could truly challenge his power with the exception of his nemesis Typhon, the god of monsters. When Typhon and his monstrous crew tried to take over Mount Olympus, it was the biggest battle that Zeus had faced since he freed his siblings from his father's stomach. While most of the other gods fled, Zeus held his ground and won the day, though things were never quite the same between the gods afterward.

Zeus's siblings include brothers Poseidon and Hades, and sisters Hestia, Demeter, and Hera (who later became his ever-jealous wife). Not surprisingly (considering his many affairs), several younger gods and goddesses claimed him as their father, the most famous being twins Apollo and Artemis (from Leto), Ares and Hephaestus (from Hera), Athena (from Metis), Hermes (from Maia), Dionysos (from Semele), and Persephone (from Demeter). The love goddess Aphrodite was considered his child in some myths, though most of her many birth myths contradict this claim.

Return from Zeus - Greek God of the Heavens to the List of Greek Gods and Goddesses.

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