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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65 Comments

  • Greek mythology is an interesting collection of Greek religion and culture. I never took a class in high school about Greek mythology; however, my first semester in college I learned more about Greek gods and the philosophy behind important philosophers in Greece. This article is overall informative and descriptive that helps readers understand more about Zeus.

  • Everyone loves Greek mythology and its hard to not know who Zeus is. It’s nice to read a story about Zeus thats just about his beginnings and how he became who he is. Usually you hear about him further in his life when he is already one of the most famous and respected Gods in Greek mythology.

  • I have always enjoyed reading the Greek myths. They are very interesting and entertaining to read. I have heard of Cronus eating all of his children, but I do not recall Zeus being spared of this in the version I was told. I had also not heard of the reference to the cornucopia in Zeus’ story before. This was a very cool article to read. Greek myths are always a really fun thing to learn about.

  • I have always been interested in Greek mythology but never knew how Zeus came to power and became the god of gods. Although Zeus did some not so honorable things as a god, his upbringing surely is honorable. The article was short and sweet, and easy to read. However, I felt that the ending was a little lackluster and did not feel like a true conclusion.

  • I love learning about Greek Mythology! I became interested when I was in junior high and I still read it today. One thing that did strike me was how Zeus was raised. I did not know that he was raised by nymphs or how the cornucopia was created, but I guess it was probably because I read a different story of it. Overall, I love your article.

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