Friday, March 30, 2007

Zeus, the King of the Greek Gods

IS there a connection between debauchery and being a king? The answer perhaps would never be known. It however gets more complicated when we talk about gods.
Both Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods and Indra, the king of Indian pantheon are famous for their lecherous character, their fondness for beautiful women and different stories their sexual escapades (Ahalya was molested by Indra who came in disguise of her husband; Zeus raped Leda turning into a swan)
Again, in mythology both are portrayed as protector or saviour. In Indian myths, Indra is sometimes called Purandar, the guardian of the city (Pur). He killed the demon Vritra with his weapon, thunderbolt (made of the sage Dadhisi’s bones). Zeus was the protector of the city of Athens.
Both of them command thunderbolt as their chosen weapon; they are gods of sky, cloud and rain, both preside over their respective heaven, Mount Olympus and Amravati (not to mention Indra’s apsaras such as Urvashi, Rambha, Menaka, and his elephant Airavat.) Zeus does have an elephant because the animal did not exist in ancient Greek and Greek gods flew, did not ride a Vahan (vehicle)
It would be difficult to find scientific reasoning for these curious similarities. Myths were based on human models, some ancient king who was lecherous, but very able and just (the moral and ethical code was obviously different then). Reference to sky and rain signify the agricultural origin of the myth, for early men, rain was the harbinger of spring, merriment and good harvest.
Zeus is not the creator of either the gods or men, he just rules over them (the same is the case with Indra. He was born of Aditi, who is the mother of all the gods and mortals).

Before Zeus, the Titans ruled over the universe. They were the 12 children of Uranus and Gaea, the Heaven and the Earth. Among them Hyperion is the father of the Sun, the moon and the dawn, Atlas carries the world on his shoulders and, Prometheus created the mortals.
Cronus, the powerful of them all, dethroned Uranus, married his sister, Rhea and ruled over the universe. It was then prophesied that his very act of usurping would be repeated by one of sons. Cronus, in fear, began to swallow all his children the moment they were born. When the sixth one, Zeus was born, Rhea offered Cronus a stone wrapped in clothes and sent Zeus to grow up in Crete. Zeus returned back to face Cronus, forced him to disgorge all his five swallowed siblings and waged a war again the Titans. Zeus was victorious in that Titanic war and sent Cronus along with his aids to live in Tartarus, the innermost part of hell (In Roman mythology Cronus is Saturn, god of agriculture, married to Ops, goddess of plenty.).
After Cronus was dethroned, the universe was divided into his three sons: Zeus became the king of the Olympus hills; Poseidon got the seas to rule and Hades, the underworld. Among the three daughters, Hestia was the goddess of heath, and Demeter the goddess of corn and harvest. Zeus married his sister Hera, the goddess of marriage (The Greek gods seem to follow the Egyptian custom of marrying their own sisters. The Egyptian Pharaohs followed the tradition in order to preserve their divine blood.). Through Zeus and Hera’s marriage was made in heaven it was not a happy one. To complement Zeus’s debauchery, Hera was a very jealous wife, who often persecuted Zeus's mistresses and children.
Hera had her reasons. Zeus had many lovers, among goddesses and among mortals, and his off springs were both Gods and Heroes. The line of Zeus’s offspring include, Apollo and Artemis, siblings born of Leto; Proserpine, the queen of the underworld born of his own sister Demeter; Heracles or Hercules, born of Alcmene and Helen of Troy, born of Leda.
Leda was the wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. Zeus saw her, and as was his tendency instantly fell in love with her. But he did not have any chance to get close to her. So one day he disguised himself as a swan, went to visit Leda in the garden and raped her. After the union, Leda laid two eggs from where hatched two pairs: Castor and Pollux, and Clytemnestra, and Helen of Troy. The pair of boys was immortals sons of Zeus who transformed them into the constellation Gemini, or the Twins. Clytemnestra and her sister Helen had to suffer mortal fate and played important roles in shaping the flow of Greek mythology.
Athena or Pallas Athene was Zeus’s favourite child. She was born full grown from Zeus mind. Zeus gave her his shield. She is generally identified as the goddess of war. Romans called her Minerva.
After the appearance of Homer’s epics Iliad and Odyssey, Greek Mythology plays down Zeus’s as a Casanova and emphasizes on his role as a protector. In the epic battle of Troy where every God worth his name had an opinion about what should be done about the war and who should win, Zeus remained a voice of reason, commanding authority and forbidding the divine powers not to intervene unnecessarily into human affairs.
In later Greek literature Zeus’s power is recognised unequivocal. He is the master of fate and human destiny. Aeschylus writes:
Now Zeus is lord; and he / Whose loyalty acclaims his victory / Shall by heart’s instinct find the universal key: / Zeus whose will has marked for man / The sole way where the wisdom lies; / Ordered one eternal plan: / Man must suffer to be wise.

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