A bust of Zeus
|Title(s)|| God of the Sky|
King of the Gods
|Parents||Cronus and Rhea|
|Sibling(s)||Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Hera, Demeter|
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In Greek mythology, Zeus was the king of the twelve Olympian deities and the god of the sky, weather, lightning, thunder, air, law and order, justice, honor, hospitality, governance, moral conduct, oaths, honesty and integrity. Zeus is etymologically cognate with and under Hellenic influence was frequently equated with the Roman Jupiter. He is also equated with the Etruscan Tinia.
Zeus is the youngest child of Kronos and Rhea, and, in most accounts, is married to Hera. He is renowned for his plethora of extramarital affairs, which often resulted in the birth of many divine and mortal offspring including Athena by Metis, Apollo and Artemis by Leto, Heracles by Alcmene, Hermes by Maia and Persephone by Demeter. By Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe, Hephaestus, Enyo and Eileithyia.
Zeus' symbols are the thunderbolt, scepter, oak tree, eagle and bull. He is frequently depicted as a regal man with a sturdy figure and a dark beard, in one of two poses: striding forward, with a thunderbolt in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.
Birth and Infancy
The then-current Titan of the sky, Cronus, and the Titaness Rhea gave birth to six children: Hestia, Hades, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera, and Zeus. Cronus heard a prophecy that one of his children will overthrow him. To prevent this, he swallowed five of his children. Zeus was not swallowed due to him not being born yet. Rhea devised a plan with Gaia to protect and save Zeus. She gave birth to him in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete and handed Cronus a decoy, which was a stone wrapped in clothe, which Cronus swallowed. In varying versions, Zeus is raised by Gaia, a goat named Amalthea, a nymph named Adamanthea, a nymph named Cynosura, Melissa, or by a shepherd family.
Once reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge the stone and his siblings. In some versions, Zeus uses an emetic to accomplish this while in others he cuts Cronus' stomach open. He then releases Cronus' brothers (the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes) from their prison in Tartarus and killing their guard, Campe, in the process.In return for freeing them, the Cyclopes give Zeus thunder. Zeus, his siblings, and Cronus' brothers overthrew Cronus and the other Titans in a ten year series of battles called Titanomachy. The defeated Titans were then cast into Tartarus, where Cronus had imprisoned his siblings. Atlas, one of the titans that fought against Zeus, was punished by having to hold up the sky.
After the battle, Zeus shared the world with Hades and Poseidon and drew lots to see who got what kingdom. Zeus took the heavens ,sky and air, Hades was sent to the Underworld, and Poseidon claimed the sea. The Earth was left for all the gods.
Like most of the major gods, Zeus was given epithets to reflect patronage in a certain area or field.
- Zeus Olympios - Zeus of Olympus
- Zeus Panhellenios - Zeus of all the Greeks
- Zeus Xenios - Zeus of Hospitality, describing his protection of guests and hosts
- Zeus Horkios - Zeus, Keeper of Oaths
- Zeus Agoraeus - Zeus of the Agora (marketplace)
- Zeus Aegiduchos - Zeus, Bearer of the Aegis
- Zeus Georgos - Zeus the Farmer
- Zeus Keraunos - Zeus the Thunderer
- Zeus Astrapios - Zeus of the Lightning
- Zeus Ktesios - Zeus of the House
- Zeus Ombrios - Zeus of the Rain
- Zeus Boulaios - Zeus of the Council
- Zeus Basileus - Zeus the King
- Zeus Meilikhios - Zeus the Merciful
Notable Mortal Offspring
- Perseus (m. Andromeda)
- Dardanos (m. Batea)
In Popular Culture
- In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Zeus, called "Lord Terminus", has recently died, and infighting over his throne fully occupies Olympus, and his commands with regards to the children are a determining factor in their lives.
- In the Batman comics, a former teacher named Maximilian "Maxie" Zeus believes himself to be a reincarnation of Zeus.
- Zeus appears in the ongoing comic series God is Dead, published by Avatar Press.
- In the 1997 Disney film Hercules, Zeus is voiced by Rip Torn. Zeus and Hera give birth to Hercules at the beginning of the film. The jealous Hades has Pain and Panic kidnap Hercules but fail in their attempt to kill him. Sixteen years later, Hercules questions where he truly belongs. His foster parents reveal how they found him with a medallion bearing the symbol of the gods, so Hercules travels to the Temple of Zeus, where the almighty god's statue comes to life and reveals his past and true lineage. He tells Hercules that the only way he can return to Mount Olympus is to become a true hero.
- Zeus appears in the 1981 action-adventure film Clash of the Titans.
- In the 2010 remake of the 1981 Clash of the Titans, Zeus is portrayed by Liam Neeson. The prologue of the film states Zeus convinced Hades to create a beast to defeat the Titans, the Kraken. When the Titans were overthrown, Zeus remained as king of the heavens, and Hades, tricked by Zeus was left to rule the underworld in darkness and misery. When humans began rebelling against the gods, Zeus wanted to give them a lesson, and so, impersonating king Acrisius, he impregnated Acrisius' wife (Danae). Many years later, Hades visits Olympus and offers Zeus help in teaching humans their real place in the world. Zeus wanted to teach the humans a lesson, but not at the cost of a son, and so Zeus gave a Pegasus and the Lightning Sword to Perseus, to aid him on his quest to slay Medusa. But this time it was Zeus who was tricked by Hades, as with Zeus command, Hades released the Kraken. The presence of the Kraken weakened the gods but Perseus managed to defeat it. Zeus was in debt with Perseus and to repay him the fact Perseus saved the gods, before leaving in as a bolt of lightining Zeus brought Io back to life.
- Liam Neeson returns as Zeus in the 2012 film Wrath of the Titans.
- In the 1992 animated series Batman: The Animated Series, Maximilian Zeus is a shipping tycoon who believed himself to be a reincarnation of Zeus. He is based off of the comic book character of the same name.
- In the 1998 Disney TV series Hercules: The Animated Series, Zeus is voiced by Corey Burton.
- In the House of Mouse episode, "Unplugged Club", his lightning bolt is used to recharge the club with red and black electric cables thanks to Mickey Mouse who calls him "Big Z".
- In the 2004 animated series The Batman, Maximilian Zeus appears once again as a Greek mythology obsessed multimillionaire. He runs Zeus Industries. Maxie uses a high-tech suit of armor that more closely resembles Roman than Greek. He is based off of the comic book character of the same name.
- Zeus appears various times in the Xena/Hercules franchise.
- In the Hercules telemovies, Zeus is portrayed by Anthony Quinn.
- Peter Vere-Jones portrays Zeus in the episode "Judgement Day" from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
- John Bach portrayed Zeus in the episode "Valley of the Shadow" on the tv-series Young Hercules.
- Charles Keating played Zeus on the final episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
- Roy Dotrice portrayed Zeus at the end of season four of Hercules: The Legenday Journeys.
- Peter Rowley voiced Zeus in Hercules and Xena - The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus.
- Zeus appears in The Battle of Olympus. In the game the hero Orpheus gains Zeus favor, thanks to that, Zeus also convinces the other gods to imbue Orpheus with powers.
- Zeus appears in the Kid Icarus video game series.
- In the 1989 NES game Batman: The Video Game, the villain Maxie Zeus appears as minor enemy, aiding The Joker. Maxie Zeus is a Greek mythology obsessed criminal who believes himself to be Zeus. He is based off of the comic book character of the same name.
- Zeus appears in Sony Computer Entertainment's God of War series of video games, voiced by Paul Eiding in God of War, Corey Burton in God of War II and God of War III, Fred Tatasciore in Ghost of Sparta:
- First appearing in God of War, Zeus initially aids Kratos.
- Revealed in Ghost of Sparta to have ordered the imprisonment of Kratos' brother Deimos, thinking (incorrectly) that the sibling would be responsible for the demise of Olympus. Many years later, Zeus aids Kratos against Ares, who kills the God of War and takes his place. Zeus, however, is infected by fear and eventually tricks Kratos into draining his godly powers into the Blade of Olympus, stating it is necessary so as to deal with a new threat (actually created by Zeus). Kratos, stripped of his power, is mortally wounded while human, and killed by Zeus. With the help of the Titan Gaia, Kratos uses the power of the Sisters of Fate to return to the moment Zeus betrayed him and after extensive combat defeats the King of Gods. Zeus is saved by Athena, who sacrifices herself to preserve Olympus. Before dying, Athena reveals that Kratos is in fact Zeus' son, and that he fears a perpetuation of the son-killing-father cycle (as he himself imprisoned his father Cronos). This is confirmed when Kratos discovers that Zeus was infected with fear when Kratos opened Pandora's Box and used its power to kill Ares. After an enlightening encounter with Pandora, Kratos finally kills Zeus.
In Video games
| Preceded by:|
(Contested with Ophion)
| King of the Greek Gods|
| Succeeded by|
|Classical Olympians||Aphrodite • Apollo • Ares • Artemis • Athena • Demeter • Dionysus • Hephaestus • Hera • Hermes • Poseidon • Zeus|
|Other deities||Asclepius • Eros • Hades • Hebe • Heracles • Hestia • Pan • Persephone|