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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55 Comments

  • I always liked reading about Greek mythology because each story was connected is some way. Zeus’s story has been told in so many different ways with Zeus being characterized always as the strong god who took over his father. He was a noble god who didn’t abuse his power and used it for the greater good. I do like the fact that this article was detailed in Zeus’s childhood and how he grew up.

  • I have heard many interpretations of the story of Zeus and although I had never heard of this one there were some parts that are similar to others. It is interesting how Zeus was spared by his mother because his father decided to consume all his children. I wish the article would have gone more in detail on how Zeus beat Cronus. Greek mythology is always a little weird like how Cronus was able to eject Zeus’s siblings. This was definitely a well written and interesting article.

  • I always loved Greek mythology because of how entertaining the stories are and how connected they are to each other. Reading this article was refreshing since I was able to check what I had already known in comparison to what is written. A piece of mythology that I had forgotten was Zeus’ upbringing but reading it here allowed me to regain that memory.

  • I really enjoyed this mythology piece on Zeus. It taught me a lot about mythology I never knew about Zeus as well as other smaller concepts I didn’t know about. For example, I never knew that the idea of the “cornucopia” actually had origins in Greek tales. Zeus also ironically has a similar beginning like his own son Hercules. It was interesting to see the correlation between those two tales and learning more about this iconic figure in Greek mythology.

  • When I was younger, I loved Greek mythology. I was usually more interested in the goddesses, so I had never heard the story of the upbringing of Zeus. It’s pretty interesting to hear all that the gods were supposedly capable of and it always makes me wonder where these stories originated. One thing I wish the article had touched on was how the siblings became the gods of what they were, like how Hades became the god of the underworld. Overall, it was a good read and very interesting.

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