God of sky and thunder, Zeus was born of the Titans Rhea and Cronus. Of all the notable things about him, however, Zeus is most famous for two things: his notoriously hot temper and his even more notorious sex drive.
Zeus starts his life fighting for survival, which makes his origin story gruesome and awesome at once. Gruesome because he narrowly escaped being eaten (yes, eaten) by his father like the rest of his siblings. See, Cronus heard a prophecy that his children would be greater than him. So, to stop that from happening, he popped ’em in his mouth like snacks.
As you might imagine, Rhea got pretty sick of this. She’d had five children, soon to be six, and nary a baby god to show for it. She finally wised up when she gave birth to Zeus and spirited him away to a cave on Mount Ida. In his stead, she presented a stone wrapped in swaddling blankets to her husband. True to form, he gobbled it down.
Fast forward to the awesome part. Zeus, who has grown incredibly strong and ridiculously smart, discovers he had siblings. Outraged, he and his first wife, Metis, hatch a plan to rescue them. Disguised as a cupbearer, Zeus poisons his father and he vomits up his children one by one. Even more awesome, by the time they are liberated from their intestinal confinement, they are fully grown and ready for revenge.
Grateful for their second birth, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon had no problem whatsoever acknowledging their youngest–who was now also their oldest–brother’s authority. They fought alongside him in the decade-long war against their father and his Titans.
Spoiler alert: Zeus & the Gang won.
As previously mentioned, Zeus not only had brawn, but he had brains. He knew he couldn’t rule the entire world on his own effectively, so he decided to share. And who better to put in power than his own loyal flesh and blood? Perhaps he was simply exhausted from all the fighting, or maybe he just wanted more time to… ahem… chase the ladies, but whatever the reason, he drew lots with his brothers and divvied up the world.
Poseidon got the sea, Hades the underworld and Zeus got the earth and sky. Of course, he still reserved the right to be ruler of all gods and men, but hey, they got some pretty sweet parting gifts out of the deal.
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Or should I say bull… swan… eagle… snake. Yeah, Zeus was known for his sexual escapades, especially the ones where he disguised himself as animals. We’ll start with the wives…
The legit baby mommas
First came Metis. When she warned him that their child may be a threat to him, Zeus went all Cronus on her swallowed her while she was pregnant. The child was eventually born, grown and armored, from Zeus’s forehead. It was none other than Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
After Metis came Themis, who bore the Fates. Zeus’s third wife was Eurynome, who brought the Graces into the world. Next up, his sister Demeter gave birth to Persephone. His fifth wife was Mnemosyne, who begot the Muses. After becoming his sixth wife, Leto gave birth to twins Apollo and Artemis.
Zeus’s seventh and final wife was his other sister, Hera. Knowing her sympathy for animals, he wooed her by transforming himself into a distressed bird. When she took him in her arms, Zeus turned back into himself and slept with her. Ashamed, because she had been a virgin, Hera agreed to marry him.
The unsuspecting lovers
Zeus had love affairs with so many nymphs and mortals that it’s impossible to name them all, or the gods, goddesses, and heroes that resulted. The only thing to say here is that the extramarital affairs made Hera extremely jealous. Like, beyond jealous and moving into downright vengeful territory, which led to her having some notorious tales of her own. So keep your eye out for Hera’s post coming up next!
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