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Zeus of Otricoli
"Zeus of Otricoli"
General information
Part ofGreek mythology
AbodeMount Olympus
Major cult centresOlympia
SymbolsThunderbolt, scepter, throne, oak tree, bull, eagle
FestivalsThe Olympic Games, Diasia, Hetairidia, Lykaia
ParentsKronos and Rhea
SiblingsPoseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, Hestia
ConsortHera. Renowned for his various love affairs.
ChildrenArtemis, Apollo, Athena, Hebe, Persephone, Dionysus, Hermes, Heracles, Moirae, Aegipan, Perseus, various others
Linguistic information
Name in other languagesAncient Greek: Ζεύς; Modern Greek: Δίας
TransliterationZeús, Días
IPA pronunciation/'zjuːs/ or /zuːs/
Meaning of name"sky", "shining"
Equivalents in other languagesJupiter (Roman mythology), Tinia (Etruscan mythology)
I will sing of Zeus, chiefest among the gods and greatest, all-seeing, the lord of all, the fulfiller who whispers words of wisdom to Themis as she sits leaning towards him. Be gracious, all-seeing Son of Kronos, most excellent and great!
Homeric Hymn to Zeus[1]

In Greek mythology, Zeus was the king of the Olympian gods and the god of the sky, weather, lightning, thunder, air, law, order, justice, honour, 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 erotic escapades, which often resulted in the birth of many divine and mortal offspring including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Persephone, Hermes, Dionysus, Heracles, Perseus and the Muses. 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.


Case Inflections
Nominative Ζεύς Zeús
Accusative Δία Día
Dative Διί Dií
Genitive Διός Diós
Vocative Ζεῦ Zeû

Zeus is a somewhat unusual noun in Greek, having both the stems Zēn- and Di-. [2] Despite being referred to as the "Thunderer" on many occasions, Zeus is etymologically related to the Proto-Indo-European god *Dyeus, probably meaning "day" or "shine".[2][3][4] Zeus is etymologically cognate with the Sanskrit द्यु dyú, Latin Iovis, Old English Tīw, Hittite 𒅆𒍑 sius and Old Church Slavonic дивъ divŭ.[5] Zeus is the only Olympian with such a transparent Proto-Indo-European etymology.


Zeus was widely worshiped throughout Greece and had multiple shrines and sanctuaries, mostly situated on hill-tops or mountain peaks. He was also worshiped at small household shrines. The major center of his worship was located at Olympia, where all the Greeks gathered to pay honor and homage to the god. [6] The Greek month of Maimakterion (January), the fifth month of Athens, was named after Zeus Maimektes (Zeus the Boisterous).[7]

At LacedemoniaEdit

  • Sparta: The Spartan marketplace was home to sanctuaries of both Zeus Agoraios (of the Marketplace) and Zeus Xenios (Hospitable). [8] Also at Sparta were the altars of Zeus Tropaios (He who turns to flight), Zeus Amboulios (Counsellor), Zeus Euenemos (of Fair Wind), Zeus Kosmetes (Orderer) and Zeus Olympius.[8]

At ElisEdit

  • Olympia: The largest and most famous of Zeus' cult centers, Olympia, was located in Elis. Olympia was the site of the quadrennial Olympic Games, part of the larger festival held to honor the god. [6][8] Located close to the offices of the Olympic Games was Zeus' sacred grove Altis, which contained altars to both Zeus and Hera. [8][9] Olympia was also home to the Temple of Zeus, which in turn contained the Statue of Olympic Zeus, a 42 feet tall seated figure made by Greek sculptor Phidias in 435 b.c.e.[10] The Statue was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. [11] Also at Olympia was the altar of Olympic Zeus, in front of both the Pelopion and the temple of Hera. [8]

In mythologyEdit


Zeus was the sixth child of Kronos and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. His siblings—Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades—had all been swallowed by Kronos the moment they were born to avert Ouranos' prophecy that Kronos' son would usurp him.[12][13]

Before his birth, Rhea sought Gaia and together, they devised a plan to save the infant Zeus from the fate of his siblings. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in either the Dictaean Cave in Crete, [12][14] or Lycaemian Cave in Arcadia. [13] In any case, Rhea then gave Kronos a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which Kronos promptly swallowed. [12]


Zeus' infancy was depicted in two ways. Hesiod has him being raised by Gaia in a cave underneath "the secret places of the holy earth" on Mount Aegeum. [12] By contrast, several others have him raised by a goat or nymph named Amalthea on Mount Ida, [14] while a company of three, five or nine soldiers named the Kouretes danced, shouted and clashed their shields so Kronos could not hear the baby's cry. [13][14][15] Other names like the nymphs Ida, Cynosura and Adrasteia also feature in this version. They are frequently depicted as being turned into constellations as a reward for their services.[14][16][17][18] Amalthea's sister, Melissa, was said to have fed the baby Zeus honey. [13]

Rise to kingshipEdit

After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Kronos to disgorge the stone and then his siblings in reverse order of swallowing. [12] The stone was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus, to be a sign, the Omphalos (the belly button), to mortal men. [8][12][13][17][19] Some versions state that Zeus was aided by Metis, the Titane of wisdom, who gave Kronos a draught to force him to disgorge the babies. [14]

After freeing his siblings, Zeus then proceeded to descend to the pit of Tartarus and rescue the captured Cyclopes, Gigantes and Hekatonkheires. In the process, he killed their guard, Kampe. As a reward for this, the Cyclopes presented him with the thunderbolt, previously hidden by Gaia; and the Cyclopes and Hekatonkheires pledged allegiance to Zeus in the upcoming Titanomachy.

Zeus then proceeded to wage a ten-year-long war against the Titans. Allied with him were the Titans Themis, Prometheus and Metis; Oceanus, Helios and Selene (among various others) remained neutral in this war. Eventually, the Olympians won, the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus with the Hekatonkheires as their guards, and Mount Orthrys (the Titan base) was toppled. Atlas, one of the more prominent fighters on the Titan side, was made to bear up the sky as punishment.

The gods chose Mount Olympus as their new base, electing Zeus as king. The three brothers then proceeded to draw lots and divide the kingdom among them; Zeus thus attained dominion over sky and air, Poseidon over sea and ocean, and Hades over the Underworld. The earth remained neutral, and no one was to stake hold over it.

In modern cultureEdit



In Greek art, Zeus is portrayed as a burly regal man, seated on a throne with the thunderbolt and an eagle.


  1. H. G. Evelyn-White, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1914.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Zeus, "American Heritage Dictionary". Retrieved 2014-23-11.
  3. Zeus, "Behind the Name". Retrieved 2014-23-11.
  4. R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 499.
  5. Zeus and Jupiter's inital consonant, "Linguistic Stack Exchange". Retrived 2014-23-11.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pliny the Elder, Natural History, translated by H. Rackham.
  7. Suda, 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia, sub voce Maimakterion.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Pausanias, Description of Greece.
  9. Altis, Retrieved 2014-28-11.
  10. Phidias, Retrieved 2014-28-11.
  11. Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Hesiod, Theogony. Translated by H. G. Evelyn White.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Callimachus of Cyrene, Hymns and Epigrams. Translated by A. W. and G. R. Mair.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca. Translated by Sir J. G. Frazer.
  15. Thaletas, Fragment 10 (from Scholiast on Pindar). Translated by Campbell, Volume Greek Lyric II.
  16. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica. Translated by R. C. Seaton.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Diodorus Siculus, Library of History. Translated by C. H. Oldfather.
  18. Hyginus, Astronomica. Translated by Mary Grant.
  19. Aeschylus, Eumenides. Translated by H. W. Smyth.