Is Zeus still alive? How did Gods emerge? Are they imaginary beings or real entities?
Tracing the origin of religious beliefs, we can find it rooted in Nature Worship. Imagine a world where humans lived in close harmony with nature. Life revolved around natural phenomena such as rain, thunder, the sun and the moon.
Blessed with a conscious imagination, the earliest poets personified nature. We can find an echo of these beliefs in most ancient religious texts. The Puranas of India, the Holy Bible, and the Theogony of Hesiod all conform to the novel idea of Nature Worship.
Zeus as the God of Thunder
The thunder has always been a potent symbol of the power of nature. It is synonymous with the rage of God. Several references in the Bible point out to the destructive force of the Fire from Heaven. In ancient India, Indra was the God who was given the power of thunder.
Hellenic deities have distinct Indo-European origins. Indra and Zeus appear almost alike. Both are the top Gods of heaven, clever strategists, and wield the thunder. Both are known for their numerous erotic escapades.
However, Is Zeus still alive? We may have to look deeper into the origin of religious faith to answer this question. Was Zeus real? Is there any tangible historical evidence of a real king called Zeus? If you are to believe in his existence, you would also have to believe in Medusa, Ares, Persephone, Scylla, and Charybdis.
Believing this much is nothing short of a huge leap of faith. Christians may also believe that Jesus commanded the ocean to be silent and walked on water in that same strain. Faith can also make you believe in angel numbers and their implied meanings.
So, for the sake of faith, let us forego the disbelief and explore the life of Zeus as someone real.
Who saved Zeus at birth?
If Zeus is immortal, how could he have almost died at birth? Perhaps, at some point, he drank the nectar of immortality, Ambrosia. It is worthwhile to note the linguistic likeness of Ambrosia with Amrit, the potion of immortality in Indian mythology. Nevertheless, let’s see how Zeus almost died at birth.
Zeus is the youngest son of the Titan Cronus and Rhea. However, Cronus was under a curse that one of his children would one day overthrow him, just as he once castrated his father. Not someone to take any chances, Cronus killed his first five children as soon as they were born. He devoured them. Rhea, in a bid to save the youngest Zeus, handed her newborn child to the care of Earth Mother, Gaia.
Instead of Zeus, Rhea presented Cronus with a stone wrapped in the child’s clothes. Unaware of this, Cronus devoured the stone. Zeus drank on the milk of the she-goat Amalthea in his infancy. He was under the care of two nymphs, Ida and Adrasteia, as he grew up. Later on, Zeus fulfilled the prophecy by defeating and overthrowing Cronus after a fierce battle.
Enemies of Zeus
In the clash of immortals, nobody dies. However, the victorious Gods delivered a fate worse than death to the vanquished. They banished the defeated ones to Tartarus, the underworld of Greek mythology. Given the terrible enemies Zeus had to face, even he could have ended up in Tartarus.
Gaia, the Earth Goddess, did not take lightly to how Zeus defeated the Titans. She raised the Gigantes, a powerful race of warriors, to defeat Zeus. However, Zeus pursued a clever strategy. He caused Porphyrion, the King of Gigantes, to lust after Goddess Hera. When Porphyrion was thus caught unguarded, Zeus killed him with the help of the mortal Heracles.
Later on, the monstrous serpent Typhon challenged the reign of Zeus. Some legends state that Gaia gave birth to Typhon in the underworld to take revenge on Zeus. However, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo relates to a different birth story of Typhon. It says that Typhon is the son of Goddess Hera, who wanted to take revenge on Zeus. She was angry with Zeus for having given birth to Athena by himself.
She prayed to Gaia, Uranus, and the Titans to give her a son stronger than Zeus. Then, she conceived Typhon miraculously. However, Zeus was able to defeat Typhon with his thunder and trapped him in Tartarus.
In a later story, Hera and Athena joined forces to bind and imprison Zeus. They succeeded in binding him, but Zeus was freed by Briareus, a hundred-handed monster summoned by the Nereid, Thetis.
Zeus and Nyx
Zeus seems invincible until he faces Nyx. She is the Goddess of the Night, daughter of the primordial God Chaos. Nyx is the mother of Erebus (darkness), Thanatos (death), and Hypnos (sleep). Also, she married Erebus to give birth to Hemera (daytime) and Aether (brightness).
On her own, she mothered other personified deities such as Moros (doom), Keres (destruction), Momus (blame), Apate (deceit), and Oizys (pain). Other children of Nyx are the nymphs Hesperides, the Fates Moirai, Oneiroi (dreams), Nemesis (retribution), and Eris (strife). Geras (old age) and Philotes (friendship) are also born of Nyx.
By some accounts, Nyx is the mother of Hecate, the Goddess of witchcraft. It is interesting to observe that the relationship of Nyx with Hemera mirrors that of Ratri and Usha, ancient Indian goddesses of night and dawn.
Zeus feared the power of Nyx so much that he was afraid to enter her cave. Goddess Hera once asked Hypnos to put Zeus to sleep. However, this made Zeus angry, and he chased Hypnos until he appealed to Nyx. Zeus did not dare to touch Hypnos, let alone enter her cave.
Zeus in Popular Culture
Hesiod wrote Theogony, and we came to know about Zeus. Homer wrote Iliad and Odyssey, and we saw how the lives of Gods and mortals intermingle.
In the absence of any historical evidence of a king called Zeus, it is probably safe to say that he is an imaginary God. However, Zeus still lives on in the imagination of popular culture. Greek mythology has been a prevalent theme in works of literature, movies, television, video games, and music.
Popular actor Liam Neeson portrayed Zeus in the 2012 movie ‘The Wrath of the Titans.’ It was a sequel to ‘The Clash of the Titans,’ released in 2010. Zeus also appeared in the 2010 action fantasy flick ‘Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.’ Netflix premiered an original animated TV series, ‘The Blood of Zeus’ on 27th October, 2020.
Several Rock bands have songs on Zeus and his exploits. Blame Zeus is a Portuguese metal band with several studio albums to their credit. Steve Vai recently released a sizzling track called Zeus in Chains. The brutal death metal band ‘Sword of Apollo’ released a single called Zeus in 2017.
Several video games delve into the story of Zeus and other Greek deities. These include Olympia Rising, Titan Quest, God of War, and Hades.
Zeus and the Modern Social Context
What is the relevance of Zeus in the modern social context? This seems like a complex question as people usually relate the worship of ancient Gods as an ascension to the promised land.
However, Zeus is a very complex character. Zeus was once so angry with humans that he cursed them. He achieved this by creating Pandora, a beautiful evil woman whose descendants would carry on his legacy of evil. At her marriage with Epimetheus, Zeus gave Pandora a jar consisting of all the evil in the world.
When Pandora opened the jar, she unleashed the miseries on humankind. If the torments in today’s society are considered a creation of Zeus, he does remain very much alive! In a fairly recent development, a court in Athens ruled in 2006 that the worship of Greek Gods and Goddesses is a legal, religious pursuit.
Mythology and Reality
Believing in myths to be real can take the mind to strange places. However, ultimately the choice is yours whether to believe or not.
If you are seeking to plant your faith in something, it is perhaps for the best to have a solid grounding of faith in the goodness of God. It is wise to read mythological stories as parables with deep meanings. Even Jesus spoke in parables all the time!
In judging the story of Zeus, what comes forward is the identity of a violent, complex male character, maybe an insomniac. Also, the romantic adventures of Zeus portray him as an influential man. He has to fight death right from a cursed birth, and his reign is never peaceful.
He is a shrewd strategist who would do anything to remain in power and banish his enemies. A study into God can reveal deep insights into the mind of the powerful masculine figure, who is very much alive even today.
God is the creator of everything and everyone, after-all. If any of this peaks your interest, you will enjoy the philosophy of non-duality.
Conclusion: Is Zeus Still Alive?
In many ways, today’s world does not seem that much different from the Olympian times. If you can look beyond the mythical parts, the basic emotions remain the same. It’s the same tales of anger, revenge, jealousy, and love that gets played in the theater of life. Knowing and understanding him can be a major aspect of figuring out this relatability of our core emotions.
If you’re interested in understanding Greek mythology more, it’s best to understand its origins and beginnings like all things.