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Zeus the Adulterer

Zeus Engages in Serial Adultery


Zeus and Danae, by Titian, 1554

Zeus and Danae, by Titian, 1554

Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Jupiter et Thétis, 1811, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Jupiter et Thétis, 1811, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Europa carried off by Jupiter in the form of a white bull.

Europa and Jupiter, by Nöel-Nicolas Coypel. 1726-1727. Europa carried off by Jupiter in the form of a white bull.

Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Zeus the Adulterer

Adultery, they say, takes two guilty parties, but sometimes, especially when the male is a world leader, it would take superhuman will power, strength, or both to sidestep his advances. And when he's Zeus, the King of the Gods, it may not even be possible.

Zeus had other relationships besides his (last) marriage, to his sister Hera. Some were with immortals, including Leto, and Metis. Many more were with human women. Perhaps compliant access was in his mind when Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora, the first woman -- given in marriage to Epimetheus after being built by Hephaestus and dressed and instructed by Athena, "daughter" of Metis and Zeus. When Zeus discovered his first wife Metis was pregnant and that a child of hers might threaten his own supremacy, Zeus swallowed Metis. (Later the unborn baby had to be cut from the head of Zeus to emerge as the fully-armed maiden goddess Athena.) So, relations with Zeus were fraught with dangers which weren't all the fault of his rightfully jealous second wife Hera. However, to be fair, Hera was responsible for a good share of the suffering including the famous labors of Hercules and elsewhere, as you'll see in The Seduction of Io.

What were the consequences for the adulterer?

About what you'd expect. Zeus even enjoyed the support and connivance of his fellow male deities, Hermes and Asopus, the river god father of his victim Aegina.

Did Zeus repent and change his ways?

Hardly. Among his many conquests were Alcmene, Callisto, Danae, Leda, Europa, and Semele.

"Homère est nouveau, ce matin, et rien n'est peut-être
aussi vieux que le journal d'aujourd'hui."
Homer is new this morning and nothing, perhaps, is so old as today's newspaper."
- Charles Péguy (1878-1914)

Introduction to Greek Mythology

Myth in Daily Life | What Is Myth? | Myths vs. Legends | Gods in the Heroic Age - Bible vs. Biblos | Creation Stories | Uranos' Revenge | Titanomachy | Olympian Gods and Goddesses | Five Ages of Man | Philemon and Baucis | Prometheus | Trojan War | Bulfinch Mythology | Myths and Legends | Golden Fleece and the Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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"If horses or oxen or lions had hands and could produce works of art, they too would represent the gods after their own fashion (fr. 15)."

"Men make gods in their own image; those of the Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of the Thracians have blue eyes and red hair (fr 16)."
Xenophanes (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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