Zeus Rising

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She was otherwise available to perform minor services for her fellow Olympians, for instance as a cupbearer; 80 and according to a tale from Euripides, she once rejuvenated Iolaos, a nephew of Herakles, to enable him to kill a hated enemy of his family see p. At Olympia in the province of Elis, Eileithuia was honoured in conjunction with a divine child called Sosipolis.

The origin of this cult was explained by the following legend. On a certain occasion long ago, as the Eleians were expecting a counter-attack from an invading army of Arcadians, a local woman approached the Eleian commanders with a baby, and told them that he was her own son and that a dream had ordered her to hand him over to fight for Elis.

Taking her at her word, the authorities laid him naked in front of the army; and when the Arcadians advanced, he changed into a snake, causing them such alarm that they turned and fled. After their victory, the Eleians raised a temple to the child at the spot where they thought that the snake had disappeared into the ground. Homer and subsequent authors sometimes refer to Eileithuiai in the plural. Although she is mentioned twice in the Theogony , first among the deities who are praised in the processional songs of the Muses which would imply that she was a goddess of some eminence , and then among the daughters of Okeanos, 83 it is nowhere suggested that she has any special connection with Zeus.

But Homer refers to her as the mother of Aphrodite, who is indubitably a daughter of Zeus in his poems, and he must therefore have known of the union between Zeus and Dione; she comforts and consoles Aphrodite in the Iliad when she arrives on Olympos after being wounded in battle by Diomedes see p. In classical times, she was a major goddess only at Dodona in Epirus, the site of an ancient oracle of Zeus, where she was honoured as the consort of Zeus Naios of the running water.

At this point, it may be useful to take stock of the origins of the main Olympian gods. If Aphrodite is left aside for the present, the major Olympians can be divided into three groups. Although Hades also belonged to this generation, he lived far away from Olympos in his underground realm. Four major gods were born as children of Zeus in the next generation, namely Athena , who was born from his head, and Apollo and Artemis , his twin children by Leto, and Ares , who was born to him as one of his children by Hera.

Hephaistos also belongs to this generation, whether he was a son of Zeus and Hera or a son of Hera alone. And finally, during the heroic era, Zeus fathered Dionysos and Hermes by two mortal women, Semele, daughter of Kadmos, and Maia, daughter of Atlas, respectively. As for Aphrodite , she was the first-born of the Olympians if she was born in the manner described above, as was commonly assumed; or she belonged to the second generation if she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione as in the Homeric account.

The genealogies of the Olympian gods are summarized in Table 1. From the classical period onwards, it was commonly believed that there were twelve principal gods, an idea that was derived from cultic rather than strictly mythological considerations. The cult of the Twelve Gods originated in Asia Minor during the archaic period and was firmly established on the Greek mainland by the fifth century bc; Pindar refers to the cult of the Twelve Gods at Olympia, where they were honoured at six altars, and Herodotus and Thucydides both mention an altar that was raised to them in the Athenian agora by the younger Peisistratos.

A variety of other gods were listed among the Twelve in connection with the cult of the Twelve Gods in other localities. Like their counterparts in the Near East, making due exception for Egypt, they were imagined as glorious beings who were human in their outward appearance and broadly comparable to human beings in their emotions and desires and their family and social life. They differed from mortals, however, in two respects above all, that their bodies were immortal and unageing though not immune to temporary harm , and that they enjoyed a form of bodily existence that imposed lesser restraints by far on their capacities than does our own.

They were born as a result of sexual activity and had to grow up even if they were sometimes wonderfully precocious, see for instance pp. The image of a god was not always fixed; Dionysos became more youthful as the tradition evolved, and a lesser god, Eros, even regressed into infancy. Although they needed food and drink to sustain their bodies, they were nourished by special divine food, nectar and ambrosia, which can be pictured as bearing some resemblance to honey and a honey-drink respectively; and a divine fluid, ichor, therefore ran through their veins rather than ordinary human blood, and they were immune to age and decay.

Nor could they die from wounds suffered in fights or battles, but they could suffer pain and benefit from the attention of a healer as does Ares on one occasion in the Iliad , and they could be rendered insensible. And more broadly, their powers, though finite and corporeal, were much less limited than those of mortals; they could go immense distances in very little time, transform themselves at will and alter the appearance of persons or objects, see things from very far off, hear in heaven prayers made on earth, or even help or harm without actually being present.


After winning power by revolting against Kronos, Zeus had to suppress a few revolts against his own rule. Since he was so much stronger than the other Olympian gods, threats would usually suffice to deter them from opposing his will, let alone from rebelling against his rule. In a striking passage in the Iliad , he boasts that if all the other gods and goddesses grasped one end of a golden cord and he the other, they would be unable to drag him down from Olympos, whereas he, if he set his mind to it, could haul them all up along with the earth and sea besides; and he could then tie the cord around a peak of Olympos, leaving everything dangling in midair.

Since the deities in question were ardent supporters of the Greek cause in the Trojan War, and often clash with Zeus on that account within the Iliad itself, it is certainly possible that there may have been an ancient tale in which they attempted to force their will on Zeus at some stage in the conflict.

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It was commonly agreed, however, that all the serious revolts against Zeus came from outside the Olympian circle, and were directed against the Olympian order as a whole. In the first place, Gaia brought forth beings of enormous size and power on two successive occasions, the monstrous Typhon and the race of the Giants, to make war against Zeus and the new ruling gods; and a further.

Bronze relief: shield band panel from Olympia. According to Hesiod who uses both forms of his name , Gaia bore him to Tartaros as the last of her primordial children, and he was such a formidable monster that he might well have succeeded in his revolt if Zeus had not been quick to respond to the threat. In all his dreadful heads there were voices that sent forth every kind of unspeakable sound, for at one time they uttered words that would be comprehensible to the gods, and at other times sounds like those of a bellowing bull, proud in its untamed fury, and sometimes like those of a lion, relentless in its valour, and sometimes like those of yelping puppies, a wonder to hear, and sometimes he would hiss like a snake until the high mountains echoed.

Although eloquent in its clumsy fashion, this earliest description of Typhon is neither complete nor precise. Since snakes are chthonic beings that emerge from crevices in earth, earth-born men or monsters are quite often imagined as being serpent-tailed as in the case of Kekrops, see p. He was of such monstrous size so the mythographer states that he rose higher than any mountain, and could reach out to the east and the west with his outstretched arms; and he had wings all over his body, and foul hair sprang from his head and cheeks, and fire flashed from his eyes.

In the early account by Hesiod, the issue is settled by single combat between Zeus and Typhon. Rising up against the monster in all his strength, Zeus thundered mightily as Typhon poured forth flame, until the earth, sea and sky began to boil, and the world to shake, causing even Hades to tremble in the subterranean land of the dead, and the Titans far below in Tartaros.

Zeus leapt down from Olympos after these initial exchanges, and struck at Typhon and lashed him and burned his many heads, forcing him down to the ground as a maimed and helpless wreck; and he then completed his victory by hurling him down to Tartaros. Hesiod does not explain why Gaia, who was otherwise well-disposed toward Zeus, should have wished to give birth to this threatening monster, nor does he state that she did so with hostile intent.

According to Apollodorus, Gaia brought forth the Giants first of all in anger at the fate of the Titans, and brought forth Typhon as a further danger to the gods after the Giants were defeated by them see further on p. In her anger, she struck the ground with her hand and prayed to Earth, Sky and the Titans that she should bear a child on her own that would be as much stronger than Zeus as Zeus was stronger than Kronos. She gave birth in due time to Typhon, a being who resembled neither the gods nor mortal men, and she entrusted him to the Delphian she-dragon to be reared.

The poet tells us very little about the subsequent life of the monster, merely observing twice that it was a danger to mortals. Hera buried them as instructed, in Cilicia in Asia Minor, and the monstrous Typhon was born from them; but she then had second thoughts and informed Zeus, who struck Typhon down with a thunderbolt.

Since Apollodorus provides a composite account that includes most of these new elements, it will be convenient to summarize his narrative before considering certain elements in further detail. When Typhon launched an attack against heaven itself, hurling flaming rocks and emitting fearsome hisses and screams, the gods were so terrified that they fled to Egypt, where they concealed themselves by transforming themselves into animals of various kinds.

After pursuing the wounded monster to Mt Kasion in Syria, he grappled with him face to face; but Typhon enveloped Zeus in his coils, wrested the sickle from him, and used it to cut the tendons from his hands and feet. Hermes and Aigipan Goat-Pan managed to steal tendons, however, and fitted them back into Zeus, who soon recovered his vigour and returned to the fray. Descending from heaven in a chariot, he hurled thunderbolts at Typhon and pursued him to Mt Nysa of uncertain location, see p.

When pursued onward to Haimon, a mountain-range in Thrace or now Bulgaria , he was still strong enough to hurl entire mountains at Zeus; but Zeus hurled them back at him by means of a thunderbolt, causing him to shed so much blood haima that the range below was known as Haimon from that time forth. He then fled overseas to Sicily, where Zeus completed his victory by burying him under Mt Etna. The ignominious tale of the flight and transformation of the gods was of earlier origin than one might suppose if Pindar did indeed recount it in one of his processional odes, as is reported.


Since the Greeks identified Typhon with Seth rather than the pursuer Horus and had no interest in the original significance of the transformations, the myth was naturally much altered when they adapted it for their own purposes, to provide a mythical explanation for the theriomorphic nature of the Egyptian gods. In the earliest version to have survived, as ascribed to Nicander, all the gods fled in a panic apart from Zeus, and they turned themselves into animals on their arrival in Egypt, Apollo into a hawk, Hermes into an ibis, Artemis into a cat, Hephaistos into an ox, and so forth.

If the animal in question has some connection with the respective Greek god in native myth or cult, so much the better, but that is not the essential point. Ovid neglects the point in his later version by saying that Apollo turned himself into a crow, the bird that was most closely associated with him in Greek myth. After fleeing to Egypt along with the other god, goat-footed Pan threw himself into the Nile, turning his hindquarters into those of a fish and his forequarters into those of a goat; and Zeus was so impressed by his ingenious disguise that he placed an image of the resulting goat-fish among the stars.

In a passing reference in the Iliad , Homer states that he lay in the land of the Arimoi ein Arimois , a phrase that was also interpreted as referring to some mountains called the Arima ; and Hesiod states correspondingly that Echidna, a monster who bore children to Typhon in his account see p. When the Storm-god was then restored to his original condition, he set out against the dragon for a second time and killed him.

Pindar and the Prometheus Bound already mention that he is buried under the volcano and causes its eruptions by breathing forth streams of fire. According to an alternative tradition first recorded by Pherecydes, Zeus buried Typhon under the island of Pythekousai i. Ischia, off Naples, which contains hot springs and a volcano which was still active in antiquity.

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The Giants were earth-born as their Greek name implies; according to the Theogony , they were conceived by Gaia in the very earliest times from drops of blood that fell to the ground from the severed genitals of Ouranos. It is not clear whether the poet meant to suggest that they sprang up from the ground fully armed like the Spartoi at Thebes, see p.

A detail of the Great Altar of Pergamon. Pergamon-Museum, Berlin. Homer alludes to Gigantes on three occasions in the Odyssey. The Laistrygonians, some adversaries of Odysseus in the remote seas who seem to have been very large and were certainly very violent see p. According to a tale ascribed to the Hellenistic poet Euphorion, Hera was raped by the Giant Eurymedon while she was still living at home with her parents, and bore Prometheus to him as a son. When Zeus came to learn of this after marrying her, he hurled Eurymedon down to Tartaros and ordered that Prometheus should be thrown into chains, using his theft of fire as a pretext.

The richness and consistency of the artistic record from the sixth and fifth centuries would otherwise be hard to explain; and the popularity of the story in this period is also indicated in a disapproving remark by Xenophanes born c.

Pindar mentions that he brought the Giants to the ground with his arrows, including their king, Porphyrion, as they were confronting the gods on the plain of Phlegrai; and the Hesiodic Catalogue reports likewise that he brought destruction to the Giants at Phlegrai as he was returning from his campaign against Troy. Phlegra or Phlegrai, the traditional home of the Giants, was usually identified with the westernmost peninsula, Pallene although the adjoining peninsula of Sithonia and some of the hinterland of the Chalkidike were sometimes also reckoned to be part of it.

Although the Giants seem to have confronted the gods on their home ground of Phlegrai in the original story, accounts were developed in which they took the battle to the enemy by trying to storm Olympos; and specific duels were said to have ranged further abroad, as we will see, to the southern Aegean and as far away as Sicily.

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Some Hellenistic and later accounts transfer the entire conflict to other regions, such as Arcadia or the Phlegraean Fiery plain in the neighbourhood of Mt Vesuvius in Italy. Apollodorus is the first author to provide a full surviving account of the progress of the conflict.

Greek God Zeus | Interesting Facts, Myths & Powers

If the individual motifs from his narrative are checked against the earliest artistic and literary record, it soon becomes evident that this is a composite version which was constructed mainly from early material but also contains a few stories or variants from the later tradition. An element that was certainly old is the involvement of Herakles.

The gods knew from an oracle that none of the Giants could be killed by them unless a mortal ally was present to finish them off; so Athena summoned the aid of the greatest of mortal heroes, Herakles, who was on the island of Cos at the time, having been driven there by storm-winds as he was sailing back from Troy see p. Now Gaia too was aware of this oracle, and tried to circumvent it by searching for a herb that would prevent her sons from being killed even by this mortal helper; but Zeus spoiled her plan by ordering Dawn and the Sun and Moon not to shine until he had plucked the herb himself.

From that moment, the fate of the Giants was sealed. The most dangerous of the Giants were Porphyrion who is already singled out by Pindar and Aristophanes , and Alkyoneus, who was immortal as long as he fought on his native soil. There was a tradition that claimed that Alkyoneus provoked the entire conflict by rustling the cattle of the sun-god Helios.

According to Pindar, Alkyoneus confronted Herakles at Phlegrai as the hero was returning from his Trojan campaign with Telamon and other allies. Herakles shot him down, though not before he had destroyed twelve chariots by hurling a huge rock at them. Pindar describes Alkyoneus as a herdsman who was as huge as a mountain without specifying that he was a Gigas.

Although this would surely have sufficed to kill the Giant in ordinary circumstances, Herakles in his role as special helper of the gods was obliged to finish him off with one of his arrows; and likewise in every succeeding case, gods would bring Giants to the ground in their various ways, leaving it for Herakles to deal the death-blow with his arrows.

Since Apollo was a consummate archer like Herakles, the two of them attacked the Giant Ephialtes in conjunction, Apollo shooting him in the left eye and Herakles in the right; Dionysos and Hekate used their cultic emblems, the thyrsos and flaming torches respectively, against two other Giants, Eurytos and Klytios; Hephaistos, the divine blacksmith, pelted Mimas with missiles of red-hot iron; Athena killed the fleeing Enkelados by hurling the island of Sicily on top of him, and flayed another Giant, Pallas, to use his skin as a shield; while pursuing the Giant Polybotes through the Aegean, Poseidon broke a corner off the island of Cos and hurled it down on him, so creating the little island of Nisyros not far to the south; Hades, who wore the cap of invisibility see p.

The Giants were pictured in different ways at different periods.

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