“Zeus” by Andreas Guskos.

ZEUS (Greek Dzeús)

in Greek mythology the highest god, father of men and gods (patḗr andrõn te theõn te [1,2]).
He was the son of ➚ Cronus and ➚ Rhea, brother of ➚ Poseidon, ➚ Hades (1), ➚ Hestia, ➚ Demeter and ➚ Hera [3]. Mother saved the infant from devoured by Cronus by giving him a stone to swallow instead of the child. After that she hid Zeus in a Cretan cave inside the Dikti Mountains. She left her son under the care of ➚ Amaltea and ➚ Korybantes [4]. Already as the adolescent, Zeus stood up against his father and gave him an emetic. This way he released his siblings [5], as well as the stone, which he then placed in Delphi as a center of the Earth [6-8] (the stone was sometimes regarded as omphalós, i.e. “omphalos” of Zeus).

Allied with his brothers, ➚ Cyclopes and ➚ Hecatoncheires, Zeus started the war against Cronus and the ➚ Titans. After ten years of struggle he managed to cast his enemies into ➚ Tartarus [9,10]. The victors shared power: Zeus ruled the Heavens (and appointed his seat at ➚ Olympus), Poseidon the Sea and Hades the Underworld, while the Earth they governed together [11]. According to another version, the choice of Poseidon’s and Hades’ domains resulted from them being thrown by Cronus into sea and Tartarus respectively [12]. Zeus had to defend the established order against➚ Gigantes and ➚ Typhon, however there were the unwilling ones even in his own surrounding (compare with [13]). What is more, he was in danger of begetting a son more powerful than himself (see METIS, THETIS).

According to his initially uncertain superior power, Zeus retained certain chthonic features:
– jury over the souls of the dead [14] (compare with his agnomens Chthónios and Katachthónios “Infernal” [15-17]),
– hostility to humans (see PROMETHEUS; compare with the flood of ➚ Deucalion),
– dominance over the gods based on physical strength (compare with [18-21]).

Chthonism of Zeus gradually blurred, giving way to the patron traits (compare with agnomens: S­ōtḗr “Savior”, Basileús “King”, Patrṓos “Fatherly”, Amboúlios and Boulaĩos “Counsellor”, Polieús “City Protector”, Polioũchos “Mainstay of the City”, Aphésios “Releaser”, Eleuthérios “Deliverer”, Ksénios “Protector of Guests”, Ktḗsios “Protector of Property”, Chárm­ōn “Giver of Joy”, Meilíchios “Kindly One” etc.

At the same time he remained the ➚ Thunderer, i.e. warrior (compare with [22]) and the giver of victories (compare with [23]), but also of rain (compare with [24-26], see agnomens: Ómbrios, Hyétios and Ikmaĩos “Rain Bringer” and the phrase Dzeús hýei “Zeus rains”.

Zeus was married with Metis, ➚ Themis and ➚ Hera (some versions state that he had a total of eight wives). From these relationships he had the following children: ➚ Athena, ➚ Hephaestus, ➚ Horae, ➚ Moirae, ➚ Ares, ➚ Eileithyia and ➚ Hebe.
With multiple lovers he begot:
– other gods (➚ Apollo and ➚ Artemis, ➚ Aphrodite, ➚ Persephone, ➚ Hermes, ➚ Dionysus, ➚ Muses and ➚ Charites),
– great heroes and warriors (➚ Heracles, ➚ Dioscuri-1, ➚ Perseus, ➚ Arcas),
– sages (➚ Minos, ➚ Radamanthus, ➚ Aeacus and others).

In Orphic tradition Zeus was considered the “beginning and end of everything” [27]. In Delphi he was worshipped in the form of a stone, In Crete – the bull and the double axe (where also his grave was displayed [28], see OLYMPOS-1), the oak in Dodona. The most famous epiphanies of the god were related to the idea of warriorship (thunder, eagle) and fertility (bull, golden rain, cloud, swan, snake and ➚ satyr).

Theonym Dzeús (appearing also as Dís, Dzḗn, Dzán, Dzás, Dzḗs, Deús, Dán) originates from Indo-European *deiwos “bright/daytime sky; god”.


[1] H o m., Il., I, 544; [2] O d., I, 28; [3] H e s., Theog., 453 ff.; [4] A p d., I, 1, 5ff.; [5] A p d., I, 2, 1; [6] H e s., Theog., 497 ff.; [7] P a u s., X, 16, 3; [8] S t r a b., IX, 3, 6; [9] H e s., Theog., 647 ff.; [10] A p d., I, 2, 1; [11] H o m., Il., XV, 187 ff.; [12] H y g., Fab., 139; [13] H o m., Il., I, 396 ff.; [14] A e s c h y l., Suppl., 231; [15] H o m., Il., IX, 457; [16] H e s., Op., 465; [17] P a u s., II, 24, 4; [18] H o m., Il., I, 580 f.; [19] H o m., Il., VIII, 10 ff.; [20] H o m., VX, 16, ff.; [21] H o m., XV, 164; [22] H d t., V, 119; [23] S o p h o c l., Antig., 143; [24] P a u s., I, 24, 3; [25] A p. R h o d., II, 522; [26] C l e m. A l e x., Strom., VI, 29, 4; [27] Orph. h., VX, 7; [28] L u c., De sacr., 10; [29]

R. G a n s z y n i e c, Zeus Keraunos, “Eos” 33, 3, 1930-1931; A. B. C o o k, Zeus. A Study in Ancient Religion, I-III Cambridge 1914-1940; H. D i e l s, Zeus, “Archiv für Religionswissenschaft” 22, 1923-1924; G. C a l h o u n, Zeus the Father in Homer, “Transaction of the American Association of Philology” 66, 1935; G. W. E l d e r k i n, The Marriage of Zeus and Hera and Its Symbols, “American Journal of Archaeology” 41, 1937; M. P. N i l s s o n, Vater Zeus, “Archiv für Religionswissenschaft” 35, 1-2, 1938; H. L l o y d – J o n e s, Zeus in Aeschylus, “Journal of Hellenic Studies” 76, 1956; W. P o e t s c h e r, Zeus Naios und Dione in Dodona, “Mnemosyne” 19, 1966; H.  L l o y d – J o n e s, The Justice of Zeus, Berkeley 1971; E. S i m o n, Der frühe Zeus, (in group work:) Acta of the 2-nd International Colloquium on Aegean Prehistory, 1972.