"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 Cronos, most excellent and great!" ("The Hymn to Zeus", attributed to Homer)
Zeus is a god of apparent paradox: sublimely regal yet ridiculously fickle, a giver of laws but a slave to his own passions, a being of incredible power who is desperate to possess that which he cannot have. As the leader of the Greek pantheon on Mount Olympus, Zeus was the god of kingship (and the associated elements of law, oaths, the state, and the protection of property) and the god of storms, controlling lightning, wind, and thunder.
In many ways, one of ancient Greece's most complex gods is also the most understandable, since he seems so human and because there is plenty of information about him that survived, including the original legends about his birth, his early deeds, and his many relationships with other gods, lovers, and humans. Furthermore scholars have been able to analyze the historical roots of Zeus as a concept, identifying what gods he is related to among other cultures, where the legends of Zeus originated, and what this information says about the ancient Greeks.
One of the reasons Zeus remains one of the most recognizable gods in history is because of the spread of his influence. Due to the conquests of Alexander the Great, Zeus was brought along with other elements of Hellenization to Egypt and the Near East. A few centuries later Rome all but adopted him as their own chief god, Jupiter.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors
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