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The early life and characteristics of zeus

As a definitive fertility power, Zeus is connected to the natural world. His authority, however, is extended to every aspect of human life. The early Greeks perceived him as the sky-god and the god of celestial phenomena. Subsequently, he evolved into the regulator of moral order and the god who possesses all the qualities and the perfection of Being par excellence, who in wisdom and justice governs the world and determines the fate of people.

The cult of Zeus was introduced to the Aegean and Asia Minor in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC from the first settlers of Hellenic origin. The root di v - of the name of the god is common in every IndoEuropean tribe. As a sky-god, Zeus maintained until the end of Antiquity his close connection to the celestial phenomena.

As the father of men and Gods he had roots older than the settling of the Greek tribes in the Eastern Mediterranean. After his encounter with the pre-existing Aegean and Eastern religion, Zeus had to be assimiliated within the pantheon of the pre-Hellenic population and the other Mediterranean people.

  1. During the Trojan war, Zeus, at the request of Thetis, favoured the Trojans, until Agamemnon made good the wrong he had done to Achilles.
  2. Crete is called the island or nurse of the great Zeus, and his worship there appears to have been very ancient.
  3. From then Cronus was marginalized and until the end of Antiquity he remained the protector of the oppressed in the Greek and Roman world. The ancient Greeks believed the belly rather than the brain was the seat of thought and emotion, and so by subsuming her he effectively implanted wise counsel in his mind.
  4. Zeus now obtained the dominion of the world, and chose Metis for his wife.
  5. Outside of the major inter- polis sanctuaries, there were no modes of worshipping Zeus precisely shared across the Greek world.

Thus, he was identified with other pre-Hellenic deities or borrowed their cult. A result of this contact was also the creation of a very wide mythological circle of Zeus with elements of various origins, mainly Minoan and Eastern. It is a much more ancient composition, based on the model of the theogonical myths of the Eastern Mediterranean people —mainly the Hittites and the Babylonians- concerning the establishment and succession of the royal generations of heaven.

  • Zeus standing and throwing the thunder and Zeus sitting or enthroned;
  • Olympus he was also in charge of changing the seasons and making the sun come and go, both of which were very important to the other gods, goddesses and Greeks.

Under the influence of these myths Zeus was accordingly incorporated into the Aegean pantheon and became Cronides, namely son of the pre-Hellenic divine couple, Cronus and Rhea. From then Cronus was marginalized and until the end of Antiquity he remained the protector of the oppressed in the Greek and Roman world. Birth Zeus, son of Cronus and Rhea, belongs to the younger generation of gods.

The primordial couple of Uranus and Gaia, creators of life, had preceded him in the domination of the world. Cronus, the youngest of their children, the Titans, dethroned his father and took his position as world ruler. To ascertain his power and following a certain prophecy, Cronus swallowed his first five children as soon as they were born. Rhea, to save her last child, Zeus, asked for the help of Uranus and Gaia.

Following their advice, she secretly gave birth to Zeus at Lyktos of Crete. According to another common tradition the god was born in a cave located on the early life and characteristics of zeus mountain Dikte or Ide of Crete. Titanomachy To dethrone his father, Zeus asked Metis for advice; she gave Cronus a medicine which made him vomit all his children. Then a harsh struggle between Zeus and the Titans commenced.

  • Kratos and Bia functioned as muscular enforcers and were tasked with jobs such as the apprehension and imprisonment of the Titan Prometheus;
  • Lord of the Sky, the Cloud- gatherer, the Rain-god and Zeus the Thunderer, all of which show which force of nature was considered to be the most important in Ancient World - rain;
  • During the Trojan war, Zeus, at the request of Thetis, favoured the Trojans, until Agamemnon made good the wrong he had done to Achilles;
  • His usual attributes were a lightning bolt, a royal sceptre and an eagle.

After a war which lasted ten years, during which Zeus and the other gods fought from Olympus, while the Titans fought from Othrys, the Olympians prevailed. Cronus and the other The early life and characteristics of zeus were thrown into the Tartarus.

According to another tradition, the Titans drove Cronus away from his throne, whereas one-year-old Zeus assisted his father with the thunder given to him by the Cyclopes. Cronus, after his victory, attempted to exterminate his son. Zeus dethroned his father and imprisoned him into Tartarus. Gigantomachy The wrath of Gaia against the new gods of Olympus resulted in the birth of the Giants, who started a relentless war against Zeus, hurling rocks and flaming oaks onto the sky.

After the elimination of the Giants by the Olympians, angry Gaia coupled with Tartarus and gave birth to the monstrous Typhon or Typhoeus. After successive battles, Zeus killed Typhon with his thunder. Worship The study of the epigraphic material concerning the worship of Zeus in Asia Minor showed that although there is some cultural and cultic association of the god with various older local deities of the East, his Greek roots there are nevertheless strong.

The initiative for the identification of Greek Zeus with the corresponding local deities in the eastern Mediterranean was their similar cult and iconographic elements.

In general we can conclude that the quality of the sky-god, the god who controls the weather or the supreme god prevails. A first overview reveals, however, differences between people, tribes and regions. A tendency to emphasize his quality as a tribal god is evident in MysiaLydia and mainly Caria Zeus Pratomysius, Lydius, Cariuswhere the Carian type of Zeus LabraundusPanamarus or Chrysaoreus bearing a double axe is characteristic.

Zeus Boussourigius from Galatia is Celtic, whereas the thunder is particularly associated with Zeus Olbius at the region of Olbe-Diocaesarea in Ciliciawhich was governed by priests-princes. Another example of the close connection of the placename and the epithet of god is Zeus Olybreus from Anazarvos of Cilicia.

  • It became easy to deduce the past-Hellenic Zeus was formed by absorbing many local "great gods;
  • After this Zeus, by his second wife Themis;
  • These included Alcmene, who bore him Hercules, and a daughter Semele with whom Zeus fathered Dionysus;
  • When he was older he was constantly fighting wars and helping and protecting the others, along with doing many other great things though greatly did his job consist of leisurely activities;
  • The mighty deity was thought to be god of the sky and master of the celestial fire, a side of Zeus' personality that the Homeric verses amply portrayed.

On the contrary, the epithet Zeus Keraunius from Kestros also in Cilicia refers to the attribute of the god. From his assimilation with the Thracian-Phrygian fertility god Savazius, the cult of Zeus Savazius was officially established during the 2nd c. BC by the rulers of Pergamon and Syria. Zeus was also connected with the Hittite-Hurritic god of fertility at Doliche of Commagene; the latter was initially assimilated with the Semitic god Baal and then with the Persian Ahura Mazda, thus becoming a god of the universe.

The religion of the kings of Commagene finally leads to the identification of Zeus Horomazes with the Persian Ahura Mazda, whereas finds from Doliche, showing the god standing on a bull with a thunder and a double axe, typologically allude to the Hittite weather gods. His worship, which bloomed especially during the 2nd and 3rd c. AD, was diffused in Rome and other centres by the Roman army. Juppiter Dolichenusas he was finally named, as a sun god and guarantor of military success, was pictured on a bull holding a thunder and a double axe.

The symbol of this god was the double axe, also a sacred symbol of the Minoan religion.


During the Hellenistic era mainly, Zeus became the god par excellence of the Greek world and a symbol of the idea of the divine in every possible form. Thus, he was identified with Mediterranean deities. Already from the 5th c. Among all aforementioned references, we can easily distinguish those in which the god is determined by his particularly Greek character Vrondon, Keraunios and those where the god is nominated by the local invocation which he maintains or by his foreign name Savasios, Ahura Mazda.

The case where through an invocation aspecial form of cult is determined in a specific place is also important Dolichenus, Labrandos, Panamaros. This invocation is also an eloquent example of the possibility of a creative change in the interpretation of a foreign name.

A relevant example constitute the the early life and characteristics of zeus Labrandos and Panamaros. The relation of the mountains Panamaros and Panamara is similar.

Mainly coins, inscriptions on altars and sanctuaries as well as literary sources allow us to determine the cults and related festivals to honour Zeus in Asia Minor. Initially Zeus was worshipped as a sky-god. His authority on weather elements, such as the lightning, the thunder and the roar is stated by surnames like Etherios Soter or Aithrios given to him by the ancient poets and the worship, as seen for example in Miletus and Priene. At Didyma the creator of rain was Zeus Omvrios and Yetios.

Traces of cults of utmost antiquity of such a god are preserved on mountaintops, since from there people thought they could approach more closely the divine dwelling. In Magnesia on MeanderSmyrna and Halicarnassus the worship of Zeus is attested in sanctuaries located on summits and is connected with the epithet Acraeuswhereas in Didyma and Cyzicus Zeus was worshipped as Hypsistos Supreme.

A series of toponymic epithets, mainly refering to Mt. Olympus, are directly connected with the cult of Zeus in certain sanctuaries which were located on mountain tops Zeus Olympios in EphesusClazomenaiMiletusPrieneSmyrna. This attribute is manifest also in the cult of Zeus Katachthonios, who is the god who dwells into the earth, in Termessos.

Already since the time of Homer and Hesiod Zeus is called Chthonios, i. This is so because, as a regulator of the weather elements, Zeus directly controls the circle of vegetation according to his will.

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Zeus thus becomes a god of the fertility of the land. From this attribute originate the epithets Georgos, Karpodotes and Epikarpios, as attested at Zela of the Pontus. Thus Zeus is closely related to the goddess of agriculture, Demeter. In agricultural rituals these two deities usually receive a common worship.

This fertilizing activity of the god is represented in mythology by the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. Furthermore, the numerous love unions of the god with nymphs and mortal women alike symbolize his fertilizing influence. As a Chthonios god in the form of a snake Zeus Ktesios is present in Ephesus, originally as a daemon who protected the household. A related figure is Zeus Meilichios who was worshipped in Ephesus and Pergamon, a euphemistic invocation of a deity of chthonic character who also assumes the form of a snake.

Since early Antiquity, Zeus was connected to social life. He is responsible for the moral supervision of people and determines the moral obligations which regulate the relations among them, as well as their relations to the gods.

In Kaunos of Caria Zeus as Xenios protects the foreigners xenoiwho have no legal rights but are nevertheless considered sacred.

As a protector of the family Zeus belongs to the household gods and bears cult names such as: In Halicarnassus and Kaunos his is worshipped as Patroos, for the protection of blood relatives. In Anazarvus of Cilicia he is known as Gamelios, since he and Hera are honoured there as protectors of marriage and conjugal life. Zeus was worshipped also as the tprotector of the city and the government.

As Zeus Polieus he is the divine lord of the city-state and is often worshipped along with Athena Polias. In Erythrae of Ionia the relation of Zeus with the city is expressed by the surname Agoraios.

Finally, in Miletus, Priene, Smyrna and Pergamon, Zeus as Soter and Eleftherios protects the existence and the freedom of the city either as saviour or as liberator. Iconography The earliest surviving representations of Zeus come from vase painting, whereas for the earliest sculptural renderings of the god we are informed by philological and epigraphic sources.

Already in Early Archaic vases the god presents iconographic characteristics which will prevail for long, whereas the frequency of his representations becomes higher. Zeus is presented as a mature bearded man holding the thunder, symbol of his omnipotence in heavenly and earthly events.

There are two main iconographic types of Zeus, presented either as cult scenes or as mythological events: Zeus standing and throwing the thunder and Zeus sitting or enthroned. The model for the first type is considered to be a statue by the Argeian sculptor Ageladas in the early 5th c.

BC for the sanctuary of Zeus Ithomatas in Messene.

Ancient Greece

This work is known only by bronze statuettes, coins and representations on pottery. The lack of built sanctuaries of Zeus during the Iron and Dark Age leads to the hypothesis that Zeus was worshipped initially in open-air sanctuaries. The more suitable iconographic type for a cult statue in these traditional sanctuaries was that of a naked man standing or fighting with a thunder. It is very possible that, before the celebrated gold and ivory statue of Zeus in Olympia, there was another cult statue of Zeus standing and holding a thunder.

This type must be the one repeated on the coins of the Early Hellenistic period from Bithynia, where Doidalsas ' Zeus Stratius is recognized. The supernatural head of the early 4th c. BC from Mylasa, now in Boston, most probably belongs to a statue of standing Zeus of the Carian type. The iconographic type of Zeus standing and fighting with a thunder is also present in the figure of the god from the Gigantomachy of the east side of the Pergamon altar of the 2nd c.