Zeus was the Greek god of sky and thunder, and moody king of all the Greek gods on Mount Olympus. Yes, he was powerful. But he never got over the fact that his father Cronus had sought to hold onto power by trying to kill him along with his brothers and sisters when he was young. So Zeus was constantly on alert against any other who might try to threaten his position.
As the brother or father of almost all the other gods, Zeus was intimately connected with all the affairs on Olympus. Most of the Greek myths came back to Zeus in one way or another. He gave or withheld permission for gods or mortals to act. And his actions promoted jealousies, anger, desires or rivalries among the major players in many encounters.
His identifying symbol was the lightning bolt, held in one hand as if to strike down any who might disobey him. This emphasized his personal role on Olympus as the Greek god of sky and thunder. It also reflected his stormy and mercurial personality.
Zeus was married to his sister Hera, whom he loved to some degree. Yet he also yearned for the excitement and pleasure of having to pursue sex with other women. So he became famous for his countless torrid love affairs with goddesses, demi-gods and women among the mortals. Callisto was a virgin nymph and follower of the god Artemis when Zeus desired her. He changed into the form of Artemis and their love affair made Callisto pregnant. Hera, the wife of Zeus, was angered and changed Callisto into a bear. When her son grew up and unwittingly tried to kill the bear (his mother) Zeus stepped in and made them into constellations among the stars. Callisto became Ursa Major and her son became Ursa Minor.
Another of his love affairs was with Alcmene, a beautiful daughter of the king of Mycenae. When her husband was away at war, Zeus took on her husband’s form and came to her. They satisfied every desire together. Her real husband came home the next day, learned what had happened and forgave her. They had sex to renew their vows, and Alcmene became pregnant with two children — one by her husband and one by Zeus. Her son by Zeus grew up to be the mighty Heracles.
The intriguing experiences of Zeus are presented to us through a vast number of small myths. And when all those myths are brought together, something surprising happens. We see the course of his existence tracked quite closely to actual events in the history of the Greek people. In the dawn of time, Greek-speaking people “came down from the north” and lived in the vicinity of Mount Olympus. Then they moved further south across the land that would became known as Greece. In time a rich Minoan culture was born on the island of Crete, much as Zeus was born there. That rich culture came to the mainland and flourished among the Mycenaean Greeks. Zeus also came to the mainland and established himself and his fellow gods on Mount Olympus. Their adventures moved forward from there.
The fascinating stories of Greek mythology fill volumes of ancient lore. And the king of the gods was prominent among them all.
Zeus – Greek God of Sky and Thunder
The content of this website is drawn from the research of historian Sanford Holst