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Fast Facts on Zeus

King of the Greek gods and goddesses


Columns at the Temple of Zeus, Athens

The imposing columns of the Temple of Zeus, Athens, Greece.

deTraci Regula, courtesy ACFP
Zeus is one of the key gods to know in the Greek pantheon. Here is a quick introduction to the King of the Gods.

Zeus's Appearance: Usually represented as an older, vigorous bearded man. But representations of Zeus as a powerful young man also exist.

Zeus' Symbols or Attributes: Thunderbolt.

Zeus's Strengths: Highly powerful, strong, charming, persuasive.

Zeus's Weaknesses: Gets in trouble over love affairs, can be moody. But in ancient ties he was considered to generally be a benevolent and good god, something often missing from modern representations.

Major Temple Sites of Zeus to Visit: Dodona in northwestern Greece; the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, which is the easiest of his temples to visit; the peak of Mount Olympus. There is also a temple of Zeus Hypsistos (the "Most High" or "Highest") in the archaeological site of Dion at the foothills of Mount Olympus.

Zeus's Birthplace: Zeus is most commonly believed to have been born in a cave on Mount Ida on the island of Crete where he took ashore Europa at the beach of Matala. The Cave of Psychro or Diktaean Cave above the Lassithi Plain is also said to be his birthplace. His mother is Rhea and his father is Kronos; things got off to a rocky start as Kronos, fearful of being usurped, kept eating Rhea's children. Finally, she got wise after giving birth to Zeus and subsituted a swaddled rock for her husband's snack. Zeus conquered his father and freed his siblings, who were still living in Kronos' stomach.

Zeus's Tomb: Unlike mainland Greeks, the Cretans believed that Zeus died and was resurrected annually. His "tomb" was said to be on Mount Juchtas or Yuktas just outside of Heraklion, where from the west the mountain looks like a giant man lying on his back. A Minoan peak sanctuary crowns the mountain and can be visited, though these days it has to share space with cell phone towers.

Zeus's Spouse: Hera in most stories; his kidnapped bride Europa, at least among the Cretans; Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis; Dione, mother of Aphrodite, at Dodona. Here is a picture of Zeus: at Dodona

Children: Lots and lots of them. Hercules is one famous child. Dionysos is another, and so is Athena

Basic Story: Zeus is King of the Gods of Mount Olympus, fights with his beautiful wife Hera, and drops down to earth in a variety of disguises to seduce maidens who catch his fancy. On a more serious side, he is a creator god who is sometiems considered to be too friendly to humankind by his peers.

Interesting Fact: Some experts believe that not all the names of Zeus really refer to Zeus, but instead refer to similar gods popular in local areas of Greece. Zeus Kretagenes is the Zeus born on Crete. Another early name of Zeus was Za or Zan; the words Zeus, Theos, and Dios are also all related.

The "Clash of the Titans" movie associates Zeus with The Kraken - but the non-Greek Kraken is not part of the traditional mythology of Zeus.

More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses:

The 12 Olympians - Gods and Goddesses - Greek Gods and Goddesses - Temple Sites - The Titans - Aphrodite - Apollo - Ares - Artemis - Atalanta - Athena - Centaurs - Cyclopes - Demeter- Dionysos - Eros - Gaia - Hades - Helios - Hephaestus - Hera - Hercules - Hermes - Kronos - Medusa - Nike - Pan- Pandora - Pegasus - Persephone - Rhea - Selene - Zeus.

Find books on Greek Mythology: Top Picks on Books on Greek Mythology

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