Mythology Mondays: Zeus

Every Monday, I highlight a different Greek myth that has woven its way into the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. If you pay close attention to the details, you will see where some of the elements and history of the series originated.

I sat down to write this post and the word that keeps going through my head is philandering.

When I was younger, I thought of a guy like this:

Zeus from Disney's Hercules.
Zeus from Disney’s Hercules.

I knew Zeus had a lot of children, and not all of them with his wife, Hera, but I did not understand the true depth of his wandering ways until I read a few articles and books which referenced his seduction/rape of Leda in the form of a swan. As an aside, The Swan Thieves by Kostova is a wonderful book. If you want to see some great depictions of this aspect of the Zeus myth do a Google image search for Leda and the swan. Be warned though, many of the results, while beautiful art, are NSFW.

Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy by Peter Paul Rubens, after a lost painting by Michelangelo
Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy by Peter Paul Rubens, after a lost painting by Michelangelo

By some counts, Zeus had relations with as many as 70 women and that makes for a whole slew of immortal and half-mortal children. I suppose if he looked like this:

Luke Evans as Zeus in the Immortals
Luke Evans as Zeus in the Immortals

I would consider his advances. Zeus was well known for seducing women in other forms. He seduced Leda as a swan, Europa as a bull, Kallisto as Artemis (both females), Antiope as a satyr, and Danae as a golden shower (insert crude joke here). I am not making this up. It seems Zeus was willing to stoop to any level to trick or coerce women into having sex with him. Why couldn’t he just buy them a drink or a villa or something?

In between chasing women, Zeus was busy inspiring culture across the civilized world. He was the giver of prophecy, controlled the weather, was the god of law and justice, and he kept a tight rule on the other immortals who lived on Mount Olympus. He was respected by other gods and mortal supplicants and was often referred to as ”Father.”

For every story of good, there is a another example of his despotism. Zeus is credited with killing his father and saving his siblings, but also with starting and controlling the Trojan War. He took revenge on mortals and gods alike who he felt did not give him his due or who went against his wishes. Zeus held onto power by being ruthless. In his defense, he was the ruler of other gods whose reputations were also less than stunning and he had to one up them to keep them in line.

In the Turning Creek universe, Zeus leans towards the despot version of the myth. He was a tyrant who abused his followers to such an extent that they rebelled. In the mythology of Turning Creek, the original four harpies led a revolt against the father of all gods and destroyed Mount Olympus. His true destruction is uncertain and he is remembered with a mix of fear and hate. All the Remnants lost something in the war and the harpies lost one of their own. James Lloyd, one of the main characters in Lightning in the Dark is a Zeus history buff which causes some issues with Petra, who has a healthy wariness and hatred for Zeus.