Chapter Six - Myths of the Olympians: Zeus & Hera

Chapter Six
Myths of the Immortals :
Zeus and Hera
Zeus and Hera
Cronus’ myth contradictory:
a tyrant or wise ruler of the Golden Age
Six children of Cronus and Rhea are the
first Olympians:
Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia,
 (Aphrodite born of his severed genitals in one
version of her birth)
Zeus and Hera
All except Hades lived on Olympus;
therefore, Hades is not considered an
Olympian because he lives in the
 There will be a total of 12, 13, or 14
 Zeus is the great father/king of this court of
gods and goddesses
Zeus and Hera
1. Zeus
Storms/ father
of gods & men
6. Apollo
2. Hera
7. Artemis
Hunt and wild
3. Hestia
watches the
fire/ Hearth
8. Hephaestus
Forge/ inspires
4. Demeter
fertility to earth
9. Athena
women’s skills
Zeus’ brother
10. Ares
5. Poseidon
Sea/ Zeus’
11. Hermes
Trade (commerce)
deception, lies
12. Aphrodite
Sexual attraction
Uranus’ severed
genitals and seafoam
 Daughter of Zeus
and DioneOceanid/Titaness
Olympian gods/goddesses
“The Olympian gods were a projection onto a
cosmic canvas of the concerns and activities of
the Greeks themselves, and the organization of
the Greek family and tensions between the
sexes are reflected in the family of the gods”
By examining the tensions and structure of the
families of the Olympian gods, we can draw
conclusions about Greek society and their
Zeus – king of the gods, god of the sky, thunder
and lightening
Zeus, Lord of the Sky
Zeus means shine, sky, or father sky
 Lived in the mountains (Olympus, Mt. Ida
near Troy) and brought storms (his
 Zeus’ weapon is also thunderbolt
 By far the most powerful of the gods
Zeus, Lord of the Sky
Symbol of his power is the aegis-goat skin
and this symbolizes the storm cloud of the
weather god
 Animals are the bull for power and fertility
and the eagle which is lord of the sky
 Guardian of justice (the way)
 Protector of xenia
 But was not more powerful than fate
Zeus’ responsibilities
1. Handed down the laws that governed the behavior of
mortals and immortals
2. Enforced oaths sworn by mortals and immortals and
made sure they obeyed
3. Pronounced certain oracles
4. Imposed order on the universe; placed planets and
stars in the sky
5. Commanded the weather
Custom-the way things are done
 Act against custom and you act against
Formal institution of friendship in which hosts are
kind to strangers and strangers honor their host
and repay the kindness
This enabled Greeks to safely travel to distant
Received into household when gust and given a
Must reciprocate when host travels
A violation is to kill guest or steal from guest
A violation is guest to kill, rob, or seduce host’s
Artists and Zeus’ Affairs
Gave artists the opportunities to depict
nudes and erotic themes without giving
Zeus and Danae
Zeus and Danae
Danae was the daughter of Acrisius. An oracle warned
Acrisius that Danae's son would someday kill him, so
Acrisius shut Danae in a bronze room, away from all male
company. However, Zeus conceived a passion for Danae,
and came to her through the roof, in the form of a shower
of gold that poured down into her lap; as a result she had
a son, Perseus. When Acrisius discovered Perseus, he
locked both mother and son in a chest, and set it adrift on
the sea. The chest came ashore at Seriphus, where
Danae and Perseus were welcomed. Later, King
Polydectes of Seriphus fell in love with Danae and tried to
force himself on her; he was eventually killed by Perseus.
Zeus and Leda
Zeus and Leda
Leda was the daughter of Thestius and the
wife of Tyndareus. She has been known
as the Queen of Sparta. Leda was
seduced by Zeus when he came to her in
the form of a swan. Leda gave birth to an
egg. From it hatched the Dioscuri, the
twins Castor and Pollux. With Zeus she
also had Helen and with Tyndareus she
had Clytemnestra.
Zeus and Ganymede
Zeus, Lord of the Sky
Zeus and Ganymede
Zeus takes on many aspects of a Greek
aristocrat, such as pederasty
Zeus and Ganymede
Ganymede is the young, beautiful boy that became one
of Zeus' lovers. One source of the myth says that Zeus
fell in love with Ganymede when he spotted him herding
his flock on Mount Ida. Zeus then came down in the form
of an eagle or sent an eagle to carry Ganymede to
Mount Olympus where Ganymede became cupbearer to
the gods. According to other accounts, Eos kidnapped
Ganymede, to be her lover, at the same time she
kidnapped Tithonus. Zeus then robbed Eos of
Ganymede, in return granting Eos the wish that Tithonus
be immortal. Unthinkingly, Eos forgot to ask that Tithonus
remain youthful. Everyday, the faithful Eos watched over
Tithonus, until one day she locked him in a room and left
him to get old by himself.
Zeus and Europa
Zeus and Europa
The legend of Europa and Zeus begins when the ruler of the
Olympian gods glimpses the young woman one day. At first sight of
Europa, Zeus is instantly overcome by her beauty and grace. Not
being one to ignore his desires, the god immediately comes up with
a plan - he assumes the form of a glorious white bull and swims to
the shore on which Europa and her female companions are playing
(it should be noted that in some versions of the story, rather than
disguising himself, Zeus sends a real white bull to lure the girl). The
bull is so sleek and handsome, not to mention gentle, that the
maidens all take turns stroking and petting the pretty creature.
In time, Europa feels comfortable enough with the bull to climb upon
his back for a little ride. However, as soon as she is safely seated,
the bull moves toward the sea, carrying the object of his affection
with him. They together cross the water. Their strange but
compelling journey leads them eventually to the island of Crete.
Zeus and Io
Zeus and Io
Io was an Argive princess and the daughter of Inachus, an ancient
hero or river god of Argos. She also had the misfortune to be
subjected to the lust of Zeus. Zeus, in an attempt to avoid the rage
and jealousy of Hera, his wife, transformed Io into a handsome white
heifer. Hera, who knew Zeus was up to no good, asked for the heifer
as a present. Zeus could not refuse. Hera deposited Io in the safe
keeping of Argus, the watchman with a hundred eyes. She was
eventually rescued by Hermes, though Hera still dogged her by
sending a gadfly to sting her wherever she went. This tale she
eventually ended up telling to Prometheus, while he was bound to
his rock. Prometheus, though he couldn't provide direct comfort, told
her that, though her future would be fraught with hardship and toil,
she would, upon reaching Egypt and the Nile, be restored by Zeus
and bore him a son, Epaphus. Furthermore, and perhaps more
importantly, she is the progenitor, thought removed by many
generations, of Hercules, greatest of heroes, to whom Prometheus
himself would owe his freedom.
The metaphor for the conquests is that sex is the
way the world is made. Earth/plants is female
while rain is male.
Hellenistic commentators found 115 conquests
of Zeus.
Zeus was Helen of Troy’s father.
Hera seduces Zeus with Aphrodite’s belt, so he
will not pay attention to the Trojan War. Flowers
grow around them and after Zeus falls asleep,
Hera leaves and assists the Greeks. Zeus is
enraged by his scheming wife.
Zeus, Lord of the Sky
Metis “cleverness” – Athena from his head after
swallowing Metis
Themis “established law”–
strength and judgment
Horae (Eirenê-peace, Eunomiê-good rule, Dikêjustice)
Moerae (fates) (Clotho-spinner, Lachesis-measure,
Atropos-cuts off)
Mnemosyne “memory”– 9 Muses who inspire
poets and musicians
Dione “shinning one” -- Aphrodite
Eurynome-3 graces embody feminine
 Demeter- Persephone
 Leto- Apollo and Artemis
Some of Zeus’ Conquests
B. Metis
1. Gaia prophesied that a second child of Metis would
overthrow him.
2. He went ahead and swallowed Metis before she
gave birth to Athena in order to avoid her giving
birth to a son later in life.
3. Eventually, Zeus had a very painful headache and
had Hephaestus crack his skull open with an ax.
4. Athena was born from his head fully grown and
dressed in full armor.
Zeus and Metis
1. Together, they had the three Horae (Seasons) and the
three Moirai (Fates) – sometimes known as children of
Erebus and Nyx.
2. With the birth of these six daughters, Zeus completed
the job of creation by finally bringing order to chaos.
1. They had the three Graces.
2. These three daughters gave beauty, splendor and grace
to the universe.
1. Iacchus
2. Persephone (summarize story of Persephone)
The Horae
The Three
Hades abducts
Mnemosyne – Nine Muses
1. Clio – history
2. Euterpe – music and lyric poetry
3. Thalia – comedy
4. Melpomene – tragedy
5. Terpsichore – dance
6. Erato – love poetry and marriage
7. Polyhymnia – sacred song and oratory
8. Urania – astronomy
9. Calliope – epic poetry
Leto – Zeus and Leto produced the twins Apollo
and Artemis
1. Ares
2. Hebe – a perpetual youthful beauty
3. Eileithyia – a goddess of childbirth
Hera, Queen of Heaven
Ruler, Lady, Hero
Hera and Trojan War
Paris picked Aphrodite as the most
beautiful of the goddesses between Hera,
Athena, and Aphrodite.
 Oldest temple
 Hera hated adultery because it was a
threat to marriage, inheritance of property,
and rank.
Hera, Queen of Heaven
Marriage, sexuality, fertility
 Her children with Zeus
Eileithyia-childbirth, Hebe-youth, Ares-war
and most hated
Mother of Hephaestus
 Hephaestus-cripple and thrown from
Hera, Queen of Heaven
Some of the most magnificent temples are
to her (a Heraeum)
 Argos (Argives)
 Persecuted Zeus’s paramours and
sometimes their offspring
Heracles “glory of Hera”
Join a temporary rebellion with Poseidon
and Athena
Trouble in paradise?
1. The gods tried to challenge Zeus’ rule just once.
2. Hera, Poseidon, Apollo, and all the other gods and
goddesses except Hestia rose up against him.
3. While he was asleep, they tied him down so that he
could not get free.
4. Thetis summoned Briareus to set him free.
5. Zeus then punished Hera by hanging her from the sky
by her wrists with anvils on her legs and would not set her
free until she promised to never lead a rebellion again.
Zeus and Hera at Home on
A tempestuous marriage
 The scene between Thetis and Zeus from
the Iliad shows Zeus threatened Hera with
violence for her jealousy
 Hephaestus, and their children intervenes
to stop the fight
 Hephaestus guides Hera to silence and
Banquet roles
 Apollo- music, plays lyre and entertains
with the muses
Disagreeable wife is threatened with
violence to keep her in her place.
Gods are human-shaped and humanlike,
an inheritance perhaps from
Mesopotamian traditions
 They eat and drink (special divine
substances to be sure).
 Have humanistic needs, traits, qualities,
and behaviors
They laugh, get angry and jealous, and
can even be wounded.
 Anthropomorphism makes interesting
narrative and great myths
 Differences-immortal, inchor, do not
excrete/ mortal, blood, excrete
Ares is wounded by the spear of
Diomedes in belly.
 Zeus orders him healed by Apollo
Gods can not avoid or interfere with