Zeus the God of All Gods

The stories of Greek mythology are entirely fascinating and thought provoking. Nevertheless, these myths have become so popularized because of the teachings found within the strengths and battles of each Greek figure. The chronicled lives of Greek gods and goddesses is a compilation of oral stories that have been passed from generation to generation.1 Although these didactic stories are all intriguing, one compelling one is the upbringing of Zeus, God of the Sky and the King of the Gods. Zeus’s admiration and notorious reputation in Olympus was not an easily achieved title. He endured various struggles throughout young adulthood within himself, his family, and those who sought for control.2 Despite great obstacles, Zeus fulfilled a destiny that would lead him to reign over Olympus.

Colossal Head of Zeus made from Roman Marble | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Son of Cronus and Rhea, Zeus was the last-born child of six siblings. His father, Cronus, managed to seize domination of the skies from his own father, Ouranos, and was cautious that his actions would repeat itself with his own children. To prevent a detestable takeover before his death, Cronus consumed his children Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. Luckily, Rhea, Cronus’s wife, spared Zeus by giving her partner a stone wrapped in a blanket.3 Assisted by Titans, Uranus and Gaea, Rhea managed to send her son to Mount Dikte, on a Greek island in Crete, so that he would be far away from his father’s tyrannical greed. Zeus was nurtured by Nymphs, or divine spirits, and was fed by Amaltheia, a goat nurse, that acquired milk for him through one of her cracked horns.4 His unknowing escape resulted in Zeus’s ignorance regarding his powers and potential ability to be the God of all Gods.

Zeus at Getty Villa Museum in Roman, Italy | Courtesy of Wikipedia

As his coming of age grew closer, Zeus’s powers became increasingly dominant, and could not go unnoticed. Since Zeus was unaware of his true beginnings, and was raised by Amaltheia, he held great adoration toward her. On one occasion, Amaltheia got trapped on a tree branch, and in her attempt to become untangled, her horn broke off. She proceeded to fill the horn with fruits and handed it over to Zeus as a keepsake of protection. To show her his appreciation, he transformed Amaltheia’s horn into a cornucopia. Symbolically, this is the “horn of plenty,” and has all the food and drink that the owner desires.5 Having the cornucopia in his possession, Zeus’s powers increased, and fruits were never scarce, becoming richer than they were before. Gaea noticed Zeus’s extraordinary powers, and she entrusted to him his fate to overthrow his father for his total rule.

Zeus, the god of the sky, lighting, thunder, and justice stature discovered in Smyrna | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Upon learning of his origins, Zeus returned to gain control of Olympus from Cronus. Initially, Zeus got his father to eat a special herb, which caused him to eject Zeus’s siblings from his stomach.6 Ungovernable Titans wanted to battle for jurisdiction over all Olympian gods, and a decade-long battle emerged, which came to be known as Titanomachy. The Titans were siblings of Cronus, and Zeus gained assistance from a cyclops. The cyclops provided Zeus with his signature lightning bolt, and Zeus’s brothers, Poseidon and Hades, managed to take supreme authority from Cronus.7 Much of Zeus’s struggles came to him when he realized that he possessed his supernatural powers. Fortunately, he instinctively chose to do what was morally right, while being able to implement his powers on others.

Ultimately, Zeus and his brothers chose to rule over distinct parts of the cosmos. Zeus secured the heavens, Poseidon ruled the seas, and Hades became lord of the underworld.8 The limitations that Cronus once wished to deprive Zeus of were no longer an obstacle. According to Homer, Zeus reigned at the top of Mount Olympus, where he observed the affairs of men.9 Zeus also married his sister, Hera, and embodied the divine dimension of the code of ethics that ancient Greeks aspired to live by. Artistically, Zeus is characterized as a bearded and honorable man. When the topic of Greek gods and mythology arises, it is typical for one to envision Zeus and his lightning bolt.

  1. Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2017, s.v. “Zeus(Deity),” by Trudy Mercadal.
  2. Elaine Margery, Greek Mythology: Ancient Myths of the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes-Zeus, Hercules and the Olympians (n.p., 2016), 30.
  3. Russel Robert, Zeus (Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2008), 10.
  4. Robin Waterfield, The Greek Myths (London: Quercus, 2013), 6.
  5. Karoly Kerenyi, The God’s of the Greeks (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006), 3.
  6. Elaine Margery, Greek Mythology: Ancient Myths of the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes-Zeus, Hercules and the Olympians (n.p., 2016), 23.
  7.  Russel Robert, Zeus (Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2008), 33.
  8.  Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2017, s.v. “Zeus(Deity),” by Trudy Mercadal.
  9. Russel Robert, Zeus (Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2008), 15.

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This Post Has 75 Comments

  1. This article was very interesting, especially since I haven’t seen too many articles that focused on Greek mythology. I knew a little about Zeus’s story before reading this, but I had forgotten that he was raised by a goat and nymphs, which seems a little strange. I also didn’t know that he had some many siblings, some of which are very famous in Free mythology, such as Poseidon, Demeter, and Hades.

  2. Greek mythology is always so complicatedly fascinating. Zeus’s upbringing is a story I never heard or read til now and it’s extremely entertaining. I never knew Zeus was raised without knowing his true potential before now I assumed he immediately defeated his father and gained his rule over the gods. It’s new and entertaining to learn of his raising from Amaltheia and the origin of his lightning bolt from a cyclops. Though I knew about his father eating his children, then later with the help of titans spit them out; it never ceases to joy me reading such stories. This article did just that, tell an enticing story.

  3. This article gives excellent historical backgrounds to the origins of the mythical Gods that heavily impacted the ancient civilization of Greece, Especially Zeus. It was intriguing to hear how the Gods of Olympus came to power, and how the gods of the ancient Greeks shared similar tendencies to the mortal man. We think of the divine to be more sophisticated- above the flaws that human beings possess. However, in this article we can associate jealousy, greed, and deceit, with immortal entities.

  4. I love how Greek mythology is so old yet it never dies. All the stories of the gods and goddesses are so interesting and to learn of their powers and what they had dominion over through stories is so fun. what I found most interesting about this article was how it mentioned the upbringing of Cronus and zeus. Its funny how their stories are similar in the way that they both had to defeat their own fathers (father like son ). The one part I had never read about or heard about was how zeus was raised by Amaltheia, the goat that nursed him.

    1. D'Hannah Duran

      Greek mythology has always been something that has interested me, to see how Zeus affected the ancient civilizations beliefs. To read about how Zeus was raised along with his upbringing around Cronus, then even have some tie in with Homer is amazing. Even the momentary mention of Hades and Poseidon was great showing how these were the main three gods each having their own realm to reign over.

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