Monday, February 24, 2014

Mythology Monday: Zeus!

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There is one reason I do not hate Zeus, and that is George O’Connor. His Olympians graphic novels are
probably the best thing that ever happened to me in terms of Greek Mythology. I’m kind of holding out on buying them because the series isn’t done yet and I would be so excited to have a box set when it’s all said and done.

So… I’m waiting for that one.

I met Zeus in Kate McMullen’s Myth-o-mania series. The overweight god was not only irrational, but very annoying. First impressions stick. I worked through other mythology books, continuing with the mindset that Zeus was the most wormlike creature anyone could ever have the misfortune to meet. He sucked.

By some chance I came across Mr. O’Connor’s Zeus, and I was hooked. I peered into a legacy which I had refused to see in any other light and saw something new.

Now, there’s an interesting thing about the Greek gods: they’re flawed. Sometimes they do good things, and sometimes they do terrible things—just like real people. When it came to Zeus, I refused to see anything but flaw, after flaw, after flaw.

For the first time, I read about Zeus and found he was not the villain I had always boxed him to be… He was a good guy, too. Zeus’s character in my books depended on the author, I realized, not on the actual identity of Zeus. Now I saw the King of the Gods through George O’Connor’s eyes. It changed me, as Mr. O’Connor’s books invariably do. I’ve valued Zeus’s character ever since.

So, let’s talk about him.


Zeus was the only of Cronus and Rhea’s children who was not swallowed at birth. Somehow the Titaness Rhea fooled her husband into believing that a great big rock was their baby, which he swallowed instead.

(I will stop for a moment to just ask the question: How on earth could Cronus possibly let this happen? I have seen babies; they are not like rocks. I know that the idea is that Cronus was too eager to get rid of the baby to stop and look at his son, but all the same, what if Rhea had been slipping him a mortal child? Wouldn’t he have wanted to double check, just to make sure? Considering all the things that happen in Greek Mythology, it very well might have been some other Titan’s baby. I do not know what Cronus was thinking. Of all the crazy stories in Greek mythology, I’m pretty sure this is the most ludicrous event I’ve ever heard of.)

Nymphs and delightful fairy goats raised Zeus until he reached an age when he could combat his father. With Rhea’s help, he cooked up a mustard-wine relish which caused Cronus to vomit Zeus’s five older brothers and sisters. Together Zeus and his siblings teamed up and fought a war against the Titans, won, and then divided the earth amongst themselves. The three sons of Cronus drew lots to see who would get what. Zeus won the skies, Poseidon the seas, and Hades the underworld—they’d share the Earth.

You could fill a book with all the things that Zeus did next. In fact, they have. Suffice it to say that he had something close to 114 children, and significantly more mistresses. However, he did marry his sister Hera and make her his queen, fathered several more of the Olympians, and did many godly actions. Wars, decrees, adventures, advice… All that good stuff.

(Read a book to learn more, seriously. Zeus seriously got around, and in more ways than one.)

Zeus is not only the King of the Gods, but the lord of the skies and god of justice and humans. His main symbol is the eagle, but he is also recognized by his lightning bolts, made for him by the Cyclopes.

Flickr Credit: Marcus Crafter
What I Like About Him

I used to hate Zeus because he was characterized to me as complete and utter scum. Now that I’ve learned a little more, I appreciate his sense of justice. He was in charge, and being in charge means making tough decisions and punishing both men and gods for their deeds. It’s hard to put justice above your own will, but that’s something Zeus has done many times throughout the stories.

(Then again, there is also the debate as to whether Zeus’s version of his will and justice were separate, but that is another debate entirely.)

On top of that, Zeus kept an eye out. He was an active person, he participated in wars and occasionally walked among men. He stayed on top of his kingdom and didn’t let it rule him, even when the other gods mutinied. I respect that.

Zeus was good at giving honor where honor was due, avoiding crises and making compromises. In other words, he was a good leader, and that made all the difference.

What I Dislike About Him

Zeus’s personal life gets a little more convoluted. Faithfulness was not his strong suit, which is perhaps one of the reasons he was most frustrating—if he had just kept it in his pants then half of the problems in Greek mythology might never have been.

But then what on earth would we read about?

It’s a difficult topic to touch on. Regardless, his marriage with Hera was tough, and that turbulence shook the world miles around.

Zeus is a tricky character as well, and on occasion did cheat the rules and make things hard for men and mortals out of selfish cause. He wasn’t the kindest or the wisest of gods, nor did he always make the right decisions.

I think I mostly hated him because he cheated in poker in Myth-o-mania, and that shredded my patience with him. Zeus, regardless of the story, has always been a bit too flexible and unpredictable for my taste.

Despite all of Zeus’s shortcomings, he’s always been an integral character, and perhaps an idea I’ve mistreated many times over the years. He’s never going to be my favorite god, but I know I can appreciate his role now and forever—Greek Mythology wouldn’t be the same without him.

What do you think of Zeus? Yea? Nay? Share in the comments!

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