Zeus (mythology)

Zeus statue
   In Greek mythology, Zeus was the chief of the gods. He was the son of Cronus, who ruled before him, and Rhea. Cronus was in the habit of swallowing his children as soon as they were born. Rhea decided to save Zeus. So she gave the father a stone wrapped in cloth to swallow, and concealed the infant in a cave in Mount Ida, where he was tended by nymphs. The goat Amalthea supplied him with milk and bees gath­ered honey for him. When Zeus was grown he gave his father a draught which caused him to disgorge the children whom he had swallowed. Then the brothers and sisters united to depose their father, calling the Titans to their aid. Zeus, Poseidon, and Pluto divided the dominion by lot. Posei­don obtained the sea; Pluto, the lower world; and Zeus, the heaven or upper air. The earth itself was supposed to be shared in common, although mankind regarded Zeus as more powerful than his brothers. Metis, a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, was the first wife of Zeus, who swallowed her because it had been prophesied that she should bear a son who should rule the world. Zeus then married Themis, but he preferred Hera and took her for his third wife. Hera is regarded usually as the queen of heaven, sharing the throne with Zeus. The children of Zeus and Hera are Hebe, Ares, and Hephaestus.

   Zeus was regarded as the founder of law and order. He avenged wrongs, punished the sinner, and rewarded the virtuous. Nevertheless, he is himself guilty of all sorts of intrigues. He was crafty and al­most malicious at times. The original con­ception of the god doubtless gave him the characteristics of wisdom, justice, and benev­olence; but gradually the faults of man­kind were ascribed to him. In art Zeus is represented as of majestic appearance. The scepter, the thunderbolt, and the eagle are his symbols. Zeus is identified with the Jupiter of the Romans, but the Roman con­ception was superior in many respects.