Zeus (Δίας in Greek, Ζευς in Ancient Greek) is the god of the sky, rain, thunder, wind, lightning, storms, heaven, justice, honour, law and order. He was the ruler of Olympus, and ruled over his siblings and children as a father ruled over his family. Zeus' roman counterpart was Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart was Tinia. His Hindu equivalent is Indra.
Zeus was the sixth child of Kronos and Rhea, the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he is married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort is Dione: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. He is known for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe, Hephaestus, Enyo, Eileithyia and Eris.
Even though Zeus was technically not father of all, he is still given the title of " Father of Gods and men"; this may be because, as Walter Burkert points out in his book, Greek Religion, "Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence." In Hesiod's Theogony Zeus assigns the various gods their various roles. In the Homeric Hymns he is referred to as the chieftain of the gods.
His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. He also possesses a shield called Aegis, which can also be called as his symbol. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward, with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.
Kronos sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon, but in fear of Gaia's curse that his own child would bring about his doom, swallowed them as soon as they were born. When Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him, so that Kronos would get his retribution for his acts against his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Kronos a rock wrapped in white cloth, which he promptly swallowed.
Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. According to varying versions of the story:
He was then raised by Gaia.
He was raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes— soldiers, or smaller gods— danced, shouted and clashed their spears against their shields so that Cronus would not hear the baby's cry.
He was raised by a nymph named Adamanthea. Since Kronos ruled over the Earth, the heavens and the sea, she hid him by dangling him on a rope from a tree so he was suspended between earth, sea and sky and thus, invisible to his father.
He was raised by a nymph named Cynosura. In gratitude, Zeus placed her among the stars.
He was raised by Melissa, who nursed him with goat's milk and honey.
He was raised by a shepherd family under the promise that their sheep would be saved from wolves.
After reaching manhood, Zeus managed to secure a place as Kronos' cupbearer in his palace, with some help from Gaia. One day, Zeus made Kronos disgorge his children and the stone in reverse order of swallowing. How he did it differs in most versions. One belief is that he cut open Kronos' stomach to do it; another is that Metis gave him (Zeus) a special mixture to mix in Kronos' cup. Yet another states he fed him a mixture of mustard and wine; the revolting taste of which forced Kronos to disgorge everything he swallowed. Then Zeus released Kronos' older relatives, the Gigantes, Hekatonkheires and the Cyclopes, killing their guard Kampê in the process.
As a token of appreciation, the Cyclopes gave Zeus the lightning bolt, which Gaia had previously hidden. Then, the Gigantes, Hekatonkheires and the Cyclopes with the Gods fought the Titans in what is known as the Titanomachy.
The Gods won, and banished most of the Titans to the abyss of Tartarus, the darkest part of the Underworld. Atlas, one of the Titans who had fought against the Gods, was cursed to hold up the sky forever, to prevent Gaia and her husband Ouranos from embracing each other.
After the war, Zeus shared the world with his brothers, Poseidon and Hades by drawing lots. Zeus got the sky and air, Poseidon the waters of the earth, and Hades the Underworld. The sacred earth mother, Gaia, could not be divided, and thus, was left to the three, to control to the best of their ability. This explains why Poseidon was the "Earthshaker" (bringer of earthquakes) and Hades claimed the dead.
Gaia resented the way Zeus had treated the Titans, for they were her children. thus, Zeus had to deal with a few more of Gaia's children, among them Typhon and his wife Echidna. Zeus was defeated by Typhon in their first fight, but in their second one, he trapped him under the volcano in Mount Etna. Zeus, left Echidna and her children live though.
After the wars, Zeus married the Titaness of prudence, Metis, the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. Metis was exceptionally wise, and had helped Zeus come up with many strategies and plans in the war to help Zeus. One day, however, after geting a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi that his child by Metis would be more powerful than him, Zeus decided to kill Metis. Using the fact that Metis could shape-shift, Zeus asked her to turn into a fly, and then swallowed her.
A few months later Zeus felt a continuous headache. Even after repeated medicine, when it did not cure, Prometheus the Titan of forethought asked Hephaestus to open Zeus head with an axe. As soon as it was opened, Metis' daughter, Athena, sprung from the head.
Zeus was brother and consort of Hera. By Hera, Zeus sired Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus, though some accounts say that Hera produced these offspring alone. Some also include Eileithyia and Eris as their daughters. The conquests of Zeus among nymphs and the mythic mortal progenitors of Hellenic dynasties are famous. Olympian mythography even credits him with unions with Leto, Demeter, Dione and Maia. Among mortals were Semele, Io, Europa and Leda (for more details, see below).
Many myths render Hera as jealous of his amorous conquests and a consistent enemy of Zeus' mistresses and their children by him. For a time, a nymph named Echo had the job of distracting Hera from his affairs by talking incessantly, and when Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to repeat the words of others.
Zeus played a dominant role, presiding over the Greek Olympian pantheon. He fathered many of the heroes and was featured in many of their local cults. Though the Homeric "cloud collector" was the god of the sky and thunder like his Near-Eastern counterparts, he was also the supreme cultural artifact; in some senses, he was the embodiment of Greek religious beliefs and the archetypal Greek deity.
Aside from local epithets that simply designated the deity to doing something random at some particular place, the epithets or titles applied to Zeus emphasized different aspects of his wide-ranging authority:
Zeus Olympios emphasized Zeus's kingship over both the gods in addition to his specific presence at the Panhellenic festival at Olympia.
Zeus Panhellenios ("Zeus of all the Hellenes"), to whom Aeacus' famous temple on Aegina was dedicated.
Zeus Xenios, Philoxenon or Hospites: Zeus was the patron of hospitality and guests, ready to avenge any wrong done to a stranger.
Zeus Horkios: Zeus he was the keeper of oaths. Exposed liars were made to dedicate a statue to Zeus, often at the sanctuary of Olympia.
Zeus Agoraeus: Zeus watched over business at the agora and punished dishonest traders.
Zeus Aegiduchos or Aegiochos: Zeus was the bearer of the Aegis with which he strikes terror into the impious and his enemies. Others derive this epithet from αἴξ ("goat") and οχή and take it as an allusion to the legend of Zeus' suckling at the breast of Amalthea.
Additional names and epithets for Zeus are also:
Zeus Meilichios ("easy-to-be-entreated"): Zeus subsumed an archaic chthonic daimon propitiated in Athens, Meilichios.
Zeus Tallaios ("solar Zeus"): the Zeus that was worshiped in Crete.
Zeus Labrandos: he was worshiped at Caria. His sacred site was Labranda and he was depicted holding a double-edged axe (labrys-labyrinth). He is connected with the Hurrian god of sky and storm Teshub.
Zeus Naos and Bouleus: forms of Zeus worshipped at Dodona, the earliest oracle. His priests, the Selloi, are sometimes thought to have given their name to the Hellenes.
Zeus is sometimes depicted as a middle-aged man with strong muscular arms. His facial hair can be a full beard and mustache to just stubble.
Zeus turned Pandareus to stone for stealing the golden dog which had guarded him as an infant in the holy Dictaeon Cave of Crete.
Zeus killed Salmoneus with a thunderbolt for attempting to impersonate him, riding around in a bronze chariot and loudly imitating thunder.
Zeus turned Periphas into an eagle after his death, as a reward for being righteous and just.
At the marriage of Zeus and Hera, a nymph named Chelone refused to attend. Zeus transformed her into a tortoise (chelone in Greek).
Zeus, with Hera, turned King Haemus and Queen Rhodope into mountains (the Balkan mountains, or Stara Planina, and Rhodope mountains, respectively) for their vanity.
Zeus condemned Tantalus to eternal torture in Tartarus for trying to trick the gods into eating the flesh of his butchered son Pelops.
Zeus condemned Ixion to be tied to a fiery wheel for eternity as punishment for attempting to violate Hera.
Zeus sank the Telkhines beneath the sea.
Zeus blinded the seer Phineas and sent the Harpies to plague him as punishment for revealing the secrets of the gods.
Zeus rewarded Tiresias with a life three times the norm as reward for ruling in his favour when he and Hera contested which of the sexes gained the most pleasure from the act of love.
Zeus punished Hera by having her hung upside down from the sky when she attempted to drown Heracles in a storm.
Of all the children Zeus spawned, Heracles was often described as his favorite. Indeed, Heracles was often called by various gods and people as "the favorite son of Zeus", Zeus and Heracles were very close and in one story, where a tribe of earth-born Giants threatened Olympus and the Oracle at Delphi decreed that only the combined efforts of a lone god and mortal could stop the creature, Zeus chose Heracles to fight by his side. They proceeded to defeat the monsters.
Athena has at times been called his favorite daughter and adviser.
His sacred bird was the Golden Eagle, which he kept by his side at all times. Like him, the eagle was a symbol of strength, courage, and justice.
His favourite tree was the oak, symbol of strength. Olive trees were also sacred to him.
Zelus, Nike, Cratos and Bia were Zeus' retinue.
Zeus condemned Prometheus to having his liver eaten by a giant eagle for giving the Flames of Olympus to the mortals.
When Hera gave birth to Hephaestus, Zeus threw him off the top of Mount Olympus because of his repulsive appearance.