Fast Facts on: Zeus

Lord of Mount Olympus

Temple of Olympian Zeus / Olympieion
••• rogersg/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Zeus is one of the most complicated Greek gods - here's a quick look at some of the basic facts about him.

Zeus's Appearance: Usually represented as an older, vigorous bearded man. But representations of Zeus as a powerful younger man also exist.

Symbol or Attribute: Thunderbolt. The Eagle.

Zeus' Strengths: Highly powerful, brave, cunning, strong, charming, persuasive.

Weaknesses: Gets in trouble over love affairs, can be moody.

Birthplace: Most commonly believed to be born in a cave on Mount Ida on the island of Crete, where he took ashore Europa at the beach of Matala.

Zeus's Spouse: Hera is the wife of Zeus in most stories; Dione, mother of Aphrodite, i the mate of Zeus at Dodona. Here is a picture of Zeus at Dodona. On Crete, Europa is often considered to be the wife of Zeus.

Children: Lots and lots of them. Hercules is one famous child. Ares, Artemis, and Apollo are just a few of the many others.

Some Major Temple Sites for Zeus:Dodona in northwestern Greece, the temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens. And of course, Mount Olympus was sacred to him and he had numerous temples and shrines around the mountain. The Archaeological Site of Dion preserves the remains of a temple of his.

Basic Story: Zeus is King of the Gods of Mount Olympus, seen here from space. He often fights with his wife Hera, and drops down to earth in a variety of disguises to seduce maidens who catch his fancy.

Zeus gained his power by fighting his own father, who had been consuming all the children born to his mother, Rhea. She concealed the birth of Zeus and gave Kronus a swaddled stone to swallow instead. Zeus was raised in secret on Crete, and when old enough and strong enough, defeated his father, forced him to vomit up his swallowed brother and sisters, and surrender to Zeus's power.

This should have come as no surprise to Kronus; he had done almost the same with his own father, Uranus.


Interesting Fact about Zeus: Some experts believe that not all the names of Zeus really refer to Zeus, but instead refer to similar gods popular in local areas of Greece. Zeus Kretagenes is the Zeus born on Crete, and he was said to die and be reborn each year. This inspired the ancient Greeks to label all Cretans as liars, as they insisted that Zeus was utterly immortal and could not die, even to be reborn.

Zeus had another, more serious side. Some stories have him wandering the earth in disguise, looking for those who are just and deserving, and granting them rewards. But this more ethical, "holy" side of Zeus is usually forgotten in the modern retellings of his stories. One tale has him in disguise, meeting an elderly couple who love each other so much and offer him such hospitality that he offers to give them whatever they desire; they ask to be allowed to die at the same time so neither has to go on alone. So when their time came, Zeus allowed them to die together and he turned them into two olive trees growing entwined together, so that they would never have to be parted.

More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses:

Olympian Gods and Goddesses - Greek Gods and Goddesses at Home

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