Our planet’s weather is determined by a number of elements such as wind, precipitation, temperature, sunshine, visibility, cloud, pressure and humidity. Conditions that change from day to day, for instance today is the second week in Spring here in the southern hemisphere, though when I look outside the window, it is overcast and the temperature is mild. Tomorrow, the weather forecast is rain. We are fortunate to have advanced knowledge of what the weather will be like, not that it’s always accurate, but a fair idea of what to expect. So how did the ancient Greeks identify and explain the weather conditions in a world without technology we are fortunate to have today? They had something better, the King of the Gods—Zeus.
Zeus was not only the king of the gods but also of the sky and weather, law, order and fate. He wielded the lightning bolt and a sceptre and in many images an eagle was ever present. Zeus was the supreme deity, and in which all others followed his rulings. Of course there were arguments, after all they were a ‘family’ but ultimately, if Zeus ordered or said anything it was heeded. For instance, in Homer’s The Iliad, Zeus was instrumental in starting the war and though the other gods took sides, the outcome was already decided by him.
Zeus permits Hera and Athene to attack Ares and aid the Achaeans. Athene rallies Diomedes who then wounds the war god:
‘Diomedes son of Tydeus, my pride and joy, don’t be afraid of Ares or any other god. You have me to help you! Quick now—drive your horses straight at him…Directly the butcher Ares saw godlike Diomedes… when the two had come within range of each other, Ares lunged at Diomedes… [who] then attacked him with his bronze spear and Pallas Athene drove it home into the lower part of Ares’ belly.’
Zeus’ power was absolute due to freeing his siblings from their father’s stomach. He also conquered the Mother Goddess, Gaia, by fighting her children and vanquishing others. What then followed was the transformation from a female dominated religion to a paternal one. Homer and Hesiod were instrumental in confirming Zeus’ dominance as the most powerful and revered god in Ancient Greek culture.
Metis was Zeus’ first wife, a Titan goddess who counselled and helped him during the Titan War. When he learned she would have a son more powerful than himself, he swallowed her. Their daughter, Athene, was later born fully grown. He courted and married his sister Hera and they had three children: Hebe, Ares and Eileithyia. He was a very busy god, had many consorts and children, some immortal and other demi-gods, such as Herakles, Perseus, Minos. The list is long! A number of his children were also Olympian Gods: Persephone, Ares, Athene, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysos and Hermes. According Homer, Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione rather than the offspring from the castrated parts of Ouranos.
Zeus had many cult centres but the most famous was and still is, Olympia. How and why Olympia became the site for the god’s worship? There is a story Zeus hurled his lightning bolt and claimed Olympia as his sacred precinct. An altar was built where the lightning struck. It was also the location of the Phidias’ sculpture of Zeus, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
To read more about Zeus, King of the Gods and Man go to Theoi.com
This is the last article in the series of Olympian Gods and hope you enjoyed my interpretation of the Greek gods as much as I did writing about them.
As always, I look forward to your comments.