The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

By Robin Hard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE

THE RISE OF ZEUS AND REVOLTS AGAINST HIS RULE

Our central concern in the present chapter will be the mythology of Zeus, the great king of the gods. As we have seen, he did not always occupy that position, but rose to power in the third generation by displacing his father Kronos, who had won power for himself and his fellow Titans by displacing his own father, Ouranos (Sky). The first part of the chapter will be devoted to an examination of the ‘succession myth’ (see p. 33) which tells of the family conflicts that provoked the fall of the previous ruling gods. Various side-issues will also be considered in this connection, including other aspects of the mythology of Kronos and his wife Rhea. After Zeus had established himself as the new ruler of the universe with the help of his brothers and sisters and other allies, the Olympian order remained to be completed. All the younger Olympian deities were fathered by Zeus himself (with the possible exception of Hephaistos if he was born to Hera alone, see p. 79); 1 and Zeus also fathered some lesser goddesses who represented aspects of the new order. Although Hera was commonly thought to have been his only wife, the Theogony formalizes his principal liaisons with other goddesses by classing them as a series of early marriages that preceded his final union with Hera; we will consider these liaisons and their issue in the order in which they are described in the Theogony, before concluding with a general survey of the origins of the Olympian gods. As a sovereign who had established his own power by revolting against the former ruling powers, Zeus had to quell various insurrections on his own account to prevent the cycle from being repeated. The main subject of the latter part of the chapter will be the three great revolts that were launched against Zeus and the Olympian order by the fearsome monster Typhon, by the earthborn race of Giants, and finally by two gigantic brothers, the Aloadai. We will conclude by examining the conflict of a rather different kind that arose between Zeus and a cousin of his, Prometheus, who provoked his anger by championing the interests of the human race.


THE GREEK SUCCESSION MYTH

In the standard version of the succession myth, as recounted by Hesiod, the Titans were the first-born children of the primordial couple Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky),

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