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Zeus was the chief-god in the ancient Greek mythology. He was believed to be the one who liberated his brothers and sisters out of the stomach of his father, and was married with Hera. His domain was the sky, thunder and lightning. He was also called 'Father of humans and gods' and his sexual relationships with human women enabled many attributions of ancestry.

His early years

Zeus' father, the Titan Cronus (or Kronos), was told by an oracle one of his children would defeat him, like he had done with his father Uranos. Cronus, who was scared decided to swallow his children right after they where born. And so he did. But Rhea - his wife - didn't like that very much. So when Zeus - the youngest son - was born, she decided to give Cronus a stone in a blanket, and he ate the stone instead of his son. She brought her son to the isle of Crete, where he was educated by the nymph Amalthea on mount Ida. Once grown up, he became his father's cupbearer and gave him an emetic to get the other children out of his stomach. The titanic struggle followed, during which the Cyclops gave Zeus the thunderbolt which only he could wield. Afterwards, Zeus married his sister Hera and because he liberated his brothers and sisters, he was named chief-god.


(PD) Photo: Sanne Smit
Statue of Zeus at Olympia, recreated for the Hermitage Museum

Olympia in the south of Greece was the main focus for the worship of Zeus. While Mount Olympus was the home of the Greek gods, Olympia was linked specifically with Zeus (it was a effectively a second home) and so held special significance. There was ritual activity there from early in the first millennium B.C. In the fifth century B.C. a temple to Zeus was built at Olympia and it houses a monumental statue of the god. The Statue of Zeus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and in time visitors came to Olympia as much to admire the temple and statue as to worship the king of the gods.[1]

The other place notably sacred to Zeus was the oracular oak-grove at Dodona. Here the priests and priestesses interpreted the sounds from brass cauldrons hanging from the branches. The oak was particularly associated with Zeus.


  1. Price, Martin J. (1988). "The Statue of Zeus at Olympia", in Peter A. Clayton and Martin J. Price (eds.) The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Routledge. pp 60–62.