Welcome to Olympus
THE MYTH MAN'S
MYTH OF THE MONTH
March
ZEUS
KING OF THE OLYMPIANS
(Roman names: Jupiter, Jove)

by Nick Pontikis
(with apologies to grandpa Hesiod and uncle Homer)

PART ONE
Yes, part one. The dude's huge!
At least a two-part harmony, more if the Muse co-operates...

What can I say about my godfather Zeus, the greatest and most powerful of all the Olympians, that hasn't been written a million times before? To the ancient Greeks, he became the undisputed master of the universe, and as the god of light, he was the source of all heavenly manifestations. Gods and mortals alike trembled at his terrible wrath when he was younger, and worshipped his benevolent kindness as he grew older and wiser.

He caused rain, drought, good weather and bad weather. He commanded tempests and created storms. I remember as a little boy running my hand through his thick, white beard, and wondering why everyone was so in awe of this gentle and elderly soul. Not until much later did I discover my godfather wasn't always the most solid pillar on Olympus. As a matter of fact, when he was young, he was quite the rebel. Pull up a comfortable chair and let me tell you about the colorful fables and foibles of Zeus, the king of the Olympians.

(Now, Zeus wasn't really my godfather, he was my great-great uncle. 'Godfather' was just a nickname I laid on him when I was young, because everyone treated him like Numero Uno. One night I caught him watching The Godfather Part I on Olympus Vision, and I'll be darned if he wasn't doing his best Marlon Brando/Don Corleone impersonation! I've called him 'Godfather' ever since, it's our own little joke.)

I never saw Zeus without his scepter in his hand. It was the insignia of his authority, that and the darn huge eagle always perched at his feet! That bird scared me silly, even as I grew older. It never did anything, it just looked right through everyone with those majestic and piercing eyes, and once in a while it would stretch its enormous wings to their full span, shrinking the room. You just knew, though, that if you made one wrong move, or in any way threatened Zeus, in an instant the eagle would tear you to shreds and devour you just for fun!

The only times I saw the eagle fly were to retrieve Zeus' thrown thunderbolts. Sort of like playing catch with your dog, only with much higher stakes.

I often asked him if I could play with his favourite weapons, the thunderbolts, or at least just hold them, but my great-great-aunt Hera (Juno in Latin) made him keep them locked up in the study whenever we kids came to visit. I saw him use them a few times, however, and I'm here to tell you that he was deadly! Beware of Zeus' thunderbolts!

One summer night down at Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant, uncle Zeus had slipped away from his wife Hera to sow some wild oats, the old rascal, and near the end of the evening he was feeling no pain, having a jolly old time flirting with his handmaiden, the beautiful nymph Victoria. It was long past closing time, Orpheus and his lyre had hours ago bid us fond adieu, and to get rid of Zeus we told him that we had ran out of both nectar and ambrosia, his two favourite drinks. Last call was two hours ago, Big Guy. Go home to Hera.

Zeus wants another drink!

Zeus' gift to Thanasi's Olympus
The Arch of Zeus at
Thanasi's Olympus

Man, was Zeus upset at getting cut off! He unleashed one of his patented thunderbolts and opened up an arch between the Blue and the Red rooms, where there used to be a thick concrete wall. A fountain appeared on both sides, spouting nectar and ambrosia. To this day we keep it open as a reminder not to mess with mighty Zeus.

(Uncle Zeus felt badly the next morning after he sobered up, so he had Hermes deliver us a statue of Aphrodite and Poseidon that we placed in the new fountains he created. He was a real thoughtful person, albeit a terrible drunk. The arch looks real nice, by the way, everyone agrees it's a big improvement. Besides, it makes for a great conversation piece.)

The birth of Zeus was a real howl. My great-great-uncle was the sixth son of Cronus (Saturn in Latin) and Rhea (Ops in Latin). Remember Cronus? He was the surgeon wannabe who castrated his father Ouranos (Father Earth, Uranus in Latin) and seized control of the universe, way back when. That vile act no doubt made for some rather tortured dreams, and Cronus constantly worried that one of his offspring would in turn supplant him. Matters were made worse when an oracle warned him that indeed he was destined to be deposed by one of his children. Cronus' meter was ticking.

What's a paranoid god to do? Cronus didn't want to be dethroned by his kid, so he ate all the children that Rhea bore him immediately following their birth. A very disgusting habit, if you ask me.

One by one, each child met the same fate. No sooner were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon born, but they found themselves trapped within father Cronus. I've heard of paternal bonding after birth, but that's downright ridiculous!

Mama Rhea found this hard to swallow. 'If the big lug wants to make lunch of my babies, let him carry them in his belly for nine months, and let him feel the excruciating joy of childbirth!' she would mutter. 'Probably change his mind about what he puts in his mouth!'

So Rhea tricked Cronus with the birth of Zeus by replacing him with a stone wrapped in baby comforters. Cronus swallowed down the stone and thought himself safe.

Man, did that lead to some animated discussions down at Thanasi's Olympus, between uncle Homer and grandpa Hessiod...

"Ok, now you've gone too far, Hessiod! Who in Hades is gonna believe that Cronus ate a stone and thought it was Zeus he swallowed? How stupid can he be? This is the ruler of the universe you're talking about, man, and he doesn't know the difference between a stone and a baby? Give me a break!"

"Homer my boy, you must learn to relax. Have I ever told you about the Eastern religions? Repeat after me: Ommm...Waitress, some decaf Ambrosia for my young friend, regular for me. Listen up, I'm only going to say this once.

"This is mythology. None of it has to make any sense, as long as it's got violence, sex, beautiful nymphs, men built like gods, gods built like men, lots of scheming and intrigue and the odd lesson learned.

"The rest is up to your imagination. Go wild if you must, make up all kind of stories about the origin of natural phenomena, the public eats it up."

Grandpa Hessiod. How I loved him...he was cooler than the other side of the pillow. He was the first Greek to wonder how everything had happened, the cause of the world, the seas and the sky, gods and humans, and to try to come up with an explanation. I remember him reading me his classic book, The Theogony (Birth of the Gods), back when it was still in rough draft. That's how I learned to read. For centuries his account of the creation of the universe, and the generations of gods, has been a must-read for lovers of Greek mythology.

So Cronus swallowed Rhea's ruse, and the infant Zeus was sent to Gaia (Mother Earth). She took the baby to Lyctos on the island of Crete and hid him in Dicte's cave, where the ash nymph Adrasteia and her sister Ide were placed in charge of his care. They guarded the child in the cave and tried to prevent Cronus from discovering his existence.

The ash nymphs took great pains to safeguard the baby. They even hung Zeus in a cradle from a tree, so that he could be found neither in heaven nor on earth nor in the sea and, gathering youths, gave them brazen shields and spears and asked them to go around the tree clashing their shields and making noise lest the cries of little Zeus be heard.

(Someone should have told them that's what was making the baby cry in the first place! Dumb Greeks!)

These Curetes, as they were known, were assisted in his upbringing by the divine goat Amaltheia. The goat's name means 'tender'.

Zeus, Nymphs and Amalthea

I kid you not. The divine goat nymph he called Amy loved Zeus tender and suckled him on Crete, and when she died he used Amaltheia's skin to create the Aegis, the legendary shield of Athena. Out of gratitude Zeus also turned one of Amy's horns into the Cornucopia ("horn of plenty") which was always filled with whatever goodies its possessor wished. (An inebriated Zeus forgot it at Thanasi's one night, and we got to play with the Cornucopia...let's just say the cellars and storerooms got filled.)

Yet if you listened in on some late night debates down at Thanasi's Olympus, you'd learn that Amaltheia was also considered to be a nymph who nourished Zeus with honey and the milk of a goat. Other versions have the nymph Neda rearing Zeus. Face it, once he became king of the gods, just about everyone wanted to associate themselves with Zeus, and many women claimed to have nursed him.

One way or another...

You decide for yourself. As for me, I'm all for the divine goat version, I swear I've seen my godfather shed a tear when he speaks of his little goat Amy.

Using the hide of Amaltheia as his armour, Zeus set out to seize power. He went to Metis, who sent him on to Rhea so that Zeus could be made a cup-bearer to the unsuspecting Cronus. With Metis' help, Zeus laced one of Cronus' cups with a drug that made him regurgitate his swallowed children, the five brothers and sisters of Zeus.

Needless to say, being gods, the kids were unharmed, albeit a tad startled...after all, one moment you're trapped inside dad's belly, hoping he lays off the garlic tonight, and the next second you're asked to take part in the revolt of the Eons. Oh my. It's enough to make you throw up.

Zeus was a brilliant strategist. He first task was to free the Cyclopes ('Cies' to us, they were these gigantic, one-eyed towers of power) and the Hecatonchires (One Hundred Handed Ones, they were giants endowed with 100 hands and 50 heads. Nobody in Greece could pronounce their darn name, 'Hecatonchires', so we called them the 'E-Cats').

The Cies and E-Cats were held in Tartarus where Cronus had imprisoned them, and they were so grateful to be freed that they gave Zeus thunder and lightning as a reward for releasing them. To Poseidon they gave his lethal trident, and to Hades a helmet that rendered its wearer invisible.

(Why didn't they just use the thunder, lightning, trident and helmet to free themselves earlier? Good question. You ask them.)

Thus began the reign of Zeus. Now the Big Guy was armed. Together with his born-again siblings (sure hope they had a nice long bath first!), who assembled under Zeus' leadership, he found himself at the head of a real army.

The war against father Cronus lasted ten long years, but finally Hades snuck up unseen on dad, wearing his funky helmet of invisibility, his bro Poseidon held Cronus captive with his paralyzing trident, and my godfather Zeus struck him dead with a bolt of lightning. Talk about a 1-2-3 knock-out punch!

The death of Cronus was followed by an attack from Atlas and the Titans, but with the help of the Cyclopes and the handy E-Cats, Zeus' army prevailed and the enemy was sunk.

You should have seen the Cies and E-Cats in action with Zeus! While the Cyclopes 'kept an eye out' for attack from the rear, the E-Cats sat in ambush armed with boulders in each of their 100 hands. When the time was right, Zeus retreated, drawing the Titans into the E-Cats' ambush. They rained down thousands of rocks and boulders with such fury that the Titans thought the mountains were falling on them. They broke rank and ran away, not even bothering to slow down and change their underwear, giving Zeus and his motley crew victory.

Zeus 1, Titans 0

The Titans who had fought against him were exiled by my godfather to Tartarus. I heard that Tartarus was as morbid as the Underworld, but without plumbing. Nice place to stay out of. One time our teachers lost their collective minds and tried to take us there on a field trip, but only three parents signed the consent form...

The Titan's leader, Atlas, was singled out for special punishment by being assigned the task of holding the world on his shoulders. Ha, I can still hear uncle Homer shouting at grandpa Hesiod late at night down at Thanasi's Olympus...

"Hesiod, your presence here is depriving some village of its idiot! How in Hades is Atlas supposed to hold up the world on his shoulders? Where would he stand, you fool? Besides, how big can Atlas be, to actually support the entire earth? What's in that nectar you're drinking? Vicki, cut him off!"

"I knew you'd like that one Homer, my boy. My village was so small, we all had to take turns being the idiot. Atlas is holding up the sky, not the whole world. Besides, my Atlas is full scale - one inch equals one inch, so obviously he's as large as the earth, Homey..."

Oh how grandpa Hesiod liked teasing uncle Homer. They were the best of friends, but their artistic competitiveness urged them both to greater heights. And Hesiod never could resist pulling Homer's leg, especially after he beat him in that famous debating contest. He loved calling uncle Homer 'Homey', knew it drove him absolutely nuts. Never missed a chance to use it.

Ah, but with the defeat of the Titans, the fun was just beginning. Gaia (Mother Earth), now angry that her adorable little Titans had in turn been imprisoned, gave birth to one last offspring, a horrid creature named Typhoeus (Also known as Typhoon and Typhon. We called him Ty, he reminded us of a ball player who played on the Olympus Tigers). How ugly was Ty? Let's just say that when he was small, Gaia would tie a pork chop around his neck just so that Cerberus, the three-headed dog, would play with him...

Grandpa Hessiod had the most apt description of Ty: 'Typhon was the largest, most dangerous and most grotesque of all creatures. Nothing but coiled serpents from the thighs down, Typhon possessed the head of an ass and arms that stretched one hundred leagues in each direction, with serpents' heads where hands should be.'

(You just know that drove uncle Homey crazy!)

When the gods saw Typhoon and his wife Echidna (she was a real beaut herself, you should hear the goddesses shred her, up at Adonis' Mount Olympus hair salon) coming at them like a King Kong - Godzilla tag team, the Olympians did the only sensible thing. They changed themselves into animals and ran and hid by the Pyramids down in Egypt. Lots of hiding spots inside the Pyramids, some of them yet to be discovered by man...

Well! Now is that any way for bona fido...er...bona fide gods to behave? Heavens no! My great-aunt Athena, always the bravest of the warriors, was the only one to stand up to Typhoon. She so humiliated my godfather Zeus that he eventually regained his courage and a terrible battle raged, which left hardly a living creature on earth. Absolute carnage.

Zeus stunned Typhoon with a thunderbolt, then used Uranus' castrating sickle to wound the beast. As Typhoon tore up huge Mount Aetna to hurl, Zeus used the thunder and lightning given him by the Cyclopes. Unleashing one hundred well-aimed lightning bolts at the mountain, he fell back, pinning Typhoon underneath.

Typhoon was buried under Mount Aetna in Sicily and there he lies to this day, belching fire, lava and smoke through the top of the mountain.

His hideously disgusting mate, the lovely Echidna, was spared her life by Zeus and took up residence in a cave, lying in wait of unsuspecting travelers. I once asked Zeus what's up with that, and he told me that he let her and her children live as challenges to future heroes. Give them something to slay.

What a thoughtful gesture, Zeus! Letting Echidna and her offspring (The Nemean Lion, Cerberus, Ladon, Chimera, Sphinx and Hydra) live just so Heracles and the gang can get their Boy Scout badges!

Much later a final challenge to Zeus' rule was made by the Giants. These gigantic critters sprang up when the blood from the newly-euniched Uranus fell upon the earth (Gaia, Mother Earth). The Giants even tried to invade Mount Olympus, piling mountain upon mountain in an effort to reach the top. But the gods had grown strong and with the help of Heracles (Hercules), the Giants were subdued or killed. Zeus had them buried underneath volcanoes and to this day you can often hear them rumble and roar.

Did I mention that a couple of Titans refused to take part in the fight against Zeus? Besides Oceanus, the Titans Prometheus and Epimetheus (Pro and Epi we called them) wisely chose not to side with their fellow Titans against the Olympians, and for that they were spared imprisonment in Tartarus. Instead they were given the daunting task of creating man.

But being Greeks, they got it all backwards. Epimetheus went first and he gave all the good qualities to the animals of the earth - swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, wings; in short all the finer virtues, and those needed for survival, went to the creatures.

But resources are not endless...By the time Epi got to man, all the good qualities were gone and none were left for good ol' Homo Sapiens. What's a poor Titan to do? Epi turned to a true Pro for help. Prometheus took over the task of creation and sought a way to make man superior. To give him an advantage he decided that man should stand upright like the gods did and then, in a spark of brilliance, he gave them fire.

Opa! With his new found flame and stature, man did the upright thing and began to prosper, building homes, opening restaurants, cooking his meals, and keeping warm in the winter. Fire...What a concept! Well done, Pro. You the man!

Prometheus did little to disguise the fact that he much preferred man to the Olympians. After all, most of his family had been banished to Tartarus following their Titanic sinking in the battle versus my godfather. Pro was looking for a way to get back at Zeus, and soon an opportunity presented itself.

As his bounty from man, Zeus decreed that a portion of each animal they sacrificed be given to him. Hey, he's the godfather! Are you going to deny him his cut?

That's when brave Prometheus decided to hustle Zeus. He created two piles as his offering, one with plain old bones hidden inside some juicy fat, the other with the good edible parts concealed in the ugly hide, disguising them further by piling entrails on top. Gutsy move. He then asked Zeus to pick one pile, and that would be his future offering.

Door #1 or door #2, Big Guy?

Guess what? Yup, Zeus fell for Pro's slick move - He picked the bones and had to accept that as his share of all future sacrifices. Thereafter only fat and bones were burned to the gods upon their altars, men kept the good meat for themselves.

(In this particular sharing of the wealth, Man got the elevator, Zeus got the shaft, grandpa Hesiod liked to say...Proves his point that Zeus really developed no brains until Athena was born out of his forehead. Leave it to my great-aunt to smarten up the numero uno Wise Guy...)

And was Zeus ever humiliated! For months he was the butt of endless late night jokes down at Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant.

I recall the immortal Greek tragicomedist, Lettermanius of Sparta, cracking up the room with his Top Ten Reasons Zeus Picked Bones Over Meat. Of course, he always waited until Zeus split for the night, you don't want to mess with the godfather. (Zeus once told me that he knew Lettermanius poked fun at him after hours at Thanasi's, the moon goddess Selene had told him, but the dude was so darn funny, he didn't have the heart to strike him dead with a bolt...)

Lettermanius of Sparta's
TOP 10 REASONS
ZEUS PICKED PRO'S BONES OVER MEAT

10. Athena hadn't been born yet
9. He wasn't the sharpest spear in the armoury
8. Eeenieee, Meenieee, Minieee, Moeee...
7. Had spent the previous night hanging with Dionysus
6. He really said "hide", but the ref heard "bones"
5. He didn't have the stomach for intestines!
4. "The Oracle made me do it!"
3. "I thought it was two-out-of-three!"
2. If you can't trust your head Pro, whom can you trust?

And the #1 Reason Zeus Picked Pro's Bones Over Meat:

1. "Aphrodite had just strolled by in nothing but her golden girdle!"

Lettermanios of Sparta

Smarting at his slim pickings, and still trying to wipe the fat off his beard, my godfather did what he was famous for in his younger days - he flipped his lid!

Not one to put up with being swindled, Zeus took back the fire that Prometheus had given man, perhaps the single most devastating thing he could have done, short of sending a flood or something (that came a little bit later, I'm sure we'll get to it in Part II...)

Prometheus wasn't going to idly sit by and watch man shiver, even though Zeus had warned Pro to chill out and not get involved. As the seasons changed, and winter hit hard, he saw his beloved man starving and freezing to death.

Without fire, stone cold and unable to cook, man was on the verge of perishing. We all felt terrible, except for that macabre god, the one we called "The Undertaker", my great-great-uncle Hades, who had suddenly hit the jackpot. Should have seen his glee as he clicked his people counter in hell's waiting room!

Prometheus looked with sorrow upon his handiwork, and knew he was bound for destiny. He lit a torch from the sun and secretly brought it back again to man. It nearly blew out so many times during the stealthy trek down Olympus, and had it gone out in the wind, with it would have been extinguished forever all the hopes of mankind.

He finally made it, and handed the flame to Muhhamad Ali, who somehow managed to light the Olympic torch....er...sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Well, you just knew that Zeus would find out in no time that man once again had fire. We think that big-mouth Helios spilled the beans. Either that or he smelled the barbecue lamb chops down at Thanasi's. So Zeus set about getting revenge on both man and Prometheus. And did he ever! Dig this...

To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus, the incredibly skilled god of smiths, create a mortal of stunning beauty, a sweet and lovely thing to look upon. I once asked uncle Hephaestus for the recipe, and the joker said he used earth and water only. Yeah, right unc! Man, if I could only get my hands on those ingredients!

The gods bestowed on this mortal many gifts of wealth: Silvery rainment and a broidered veil, and bright garlands of blooming flowers and a crown of gold that radiated great beauty. Hermes endowed her with the gift of persuasion, Apollo gave her the gift of musical talent and Aphrodite made her yet more beautiful. She was perfect! Almost...

This creation of Hephaestus was Pandora, the first woman. She was so named because of what the gods had given her - Pandora means 'the gift of all'. When Pandora was complete, Zeus brought her out and wonder took hold of gods and men when they beheld her. My godfather then sent her to Epimetheus as a present.

Some punishment, you say. Hang on, this gets real good. You see, the gods had given Pandora a wonderful golden box, but had warned her never to open it. Under no circumstance was Pandora to look inside the box, they made this clear.

Wouldn't you know it? Those practical jokers had each placed something harmful inside the box, and they forbade her ever to open it, knowing that would drive Pandora mad.

Now wise Prometheus, knowing full well that Zeus was angry at him for sneaking fire back to man, had warned Epi not to accept any gifts from Zeus. Yeah right... One look at the gorgeous Pandora and Titan Epi was smitten... his knees buckled and he went down like the Titanic. Her beauty and charm were so great that he disregarded Pro's advice and allowed her to stay.

Besides, his biological clock was ticking double-time. So Epi said "I do!"

Can you say 'trouble in paradise'? Daily, Pandora's curiosity grew as to the contents of the forbidden box. Knowing that she wasn't allowed to open it tormented her. Finally succumbing to the relentless need to know, she opened the box just a little, to have a tiny, tiny peek...

The horror! Out flew countless plagues, misery, hate, jealousy, mischief and just about every sorrow and pestilence known to humankind. In terror Pandora slammed the lid down, but too late! Paradise lost!

Pandora was mortified at the evil which her curiosity had unleashed upon the earth. But hark! All is not lost! Trapped deep down in the bottom of the box was one more thing - Hope. It was the only good thing in the box given to Pandora by the gods, and remains to this day humankind's sole comfort in times of sorrow and misfortune.

Oh, but did my politically correct uncle Homer ever freak on grandpa Hessiod:

"Hessiod, you male chauvinist pig! Are you blaming the unleashing of plagues and sorrows on Woman?!? Buddy, I swear your wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead! You're gonna be crucified by the Feminists! And I'm gonna enjoy every bit of it! Ha!"

"Homey, Homey, Homey...Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while, Pandora was a suspect...Remember when my ex-wife took the kids, the chariot, both houses and, worst of all, the goats? I warned her then that I would get even. Pandora's a metaphor for my ex, and the witch knows it!

"Nobody takes my goats!"

Oh my...I rarely saw my grandpa Hesiod so animated...Messy divorces will do that to you I guess...

A greater punishment lay in store for Prometheus. When he was done exacting his revenge on men, Zeus turned his vengeful eye on the arch-sinner Pro. The ruler of the universe remembered how much he owed Prometheus for helping him conquer the other Titans, but how quickly he forgot his debt! In this case, it was a "What have you done for me lately?" sort of thing.

My godfather called on his servants, Force and Violence - Let me tell you about these oafs. They were a couple of big ugly thugs, no necks, real light in the smarts department, but strong as Hades and not overly conducive to polite conversation.

The tough guys forcefully seized my man Pro and violently delivered him high atop Mount Caucasus. There they chained Prometheus

To a high-piercing, headlong rock
In adamantine chains that none can break

and just to rub it in, they told him:

Forever shall the intolerable present grind you down.
And he who will release you is not born.
Such fruit you reap for your man-loving ways.
A god youself, you did not dread God's anger,
But gave the mortals honor not their due.
And therefore you must guard this joyless rock --
No rest, no sleep, no moment's respite.
Groans shall your speech be, lamentation your only words.

(Needless to say, Force and Violence weren't quite so loquacious.
The above are grandpa Hesiod's words.)

You'd think that was punishment enough, right? Noooo...High atop the mountain, the bound Prometheus was tormented every day by an eagle sent by Zeus, that would feast on his liver. To make matters worse, Pro's liver would grow back overnight, providing yet another smorgasbord for the bird the very next day.

Talk about an all-you-can-eat buffet! I hate when that happens!

So. Was our hero Prometheus bound for a life of eternal torment? Could Zeus really be that cruel? Would the eagle tire of a daily dose of fresh Titan liver? Inquiring Hellenes wanted to know. Greece was abuzz with Prometheus rumours, stories and innuendo.

'Pro's Prose', a compilation of his writings, overnight shot to #1 on the New Athenian Times Best Sellers list, and stayed there for eons. In the more learned sections of Greece, graffiti reading 'Quid Pro Quo!' defaced Zeus' temples.

Little Greeks everywhere refused to eat liver!

My godfather was quick to respond to the negative PR - after all, the revered Oracle of Gallup revealed that Zeus' popularity and approval rating among humans had dipped to an unheard-of 1% post Pro, compared to a comfortable 96% prior to his unpopular sentencing. (Margin of error was 4% either way, so I personally think the 1% approval was really much lower.)

To silence the venom of humans, Zeus gave Prometheus two ways out of this eternal torment. Since Pro was the only one who knew the name of the child that would dethrone him, Prometheus could spill the beans to Zeus and he would be set free. Right, as if Pro was about to snitch and have Zeus swallow someone else!

My godfather sent his messenger Hermes to ask Prometheus to disclose the secret. This is what our protagonist answered him:

Go and persuade the sea wave not to break.
You will persuade me no more easily.
There is no force which can compel my speech.
So let Zeus hurl his blazing bolts,
And with the white wings of the snow,
With thunder and with earthquake,
Confound the reeling world.
None of this will bend my will.

Was Pro the kind of guy you want on your side in an alley fight, or what! Our warrior wasn't going to cry 'uncle', damn the torpedoes!

Ok, then the stubborn mule could meet two conditions, Zeus told him via Hermes: First, that an Immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus. Second, that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him.

Sure, and then the Tooth Fairy would bring Prometheus a treat! Come on, Zeus, can you make it any harder on our protagonist? What Immortal would sacrifice his life for a Titan? And what mortal is strong enough to slay the eagle and break the adamantine chains?

Well, look under your pillows, boys and girls! Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him, and my nephew Heracles (also known as Hercules, we called him 'Herc' for short) killed the eagle and unbound Pro. I'm saving that story for when I tell you about the exploits of mighty Herc, my absolute favourite nephew.

Prometheus' name has stood through the centuries, from ancient Greek days to our own, as the great rebel against injustice and authority of power. He was brave enough to stand up to mighty Zeus and by so doing ensured the survival of humans.

I love when that happens...

Prometheus  does lunch

But let's get back to Zeus. The stone that Cronus expelled along with Zeus' siblings became the centerpiece of the Delphic Oracle, which was a form of ancient Dial-A-Psychic. (Their slogan was "For every seer there is a sucker.")

My friends and I once checked out the place, but it was a complete waste of good drachmas. The famous Oracle of Delphi turned out to be just a bunch of spaced-out freaks sitting lotus-like around a stone, inhaling noxious fumes, listening to the same Grateful Dead album over and over, convulsing and raving wildly, and in the name of 'divine inspiration' trying to tell you your business.

And the darn Oracles never had good news, it seems, always terrorizing gods and mortals alike with their morbid and dire predictions: 'Your firstborn will grow up and sleep with his mother, then mortified he will gouge out his eyes. You can prevent this by murdering your children as they're born. That'll be 100 drachmas, please.'

See what I mean? It's enough to give Oedipus a complex. Who needs it? I've often said that the Oracles of Delphi are priests and priestesses who will take your sundial, then tell you what time it is. For a price. Today we call them 'consultants'.

The main players in the conflict then drew lots to divide the spoils of victory: Zeus got the heavens; Poseidon the sea; and Hades the underworld (Hey! You forgot the earth!)

So Zeus established his supremacy among the Olympians, but initially his reign was a rocky one, full of conflict and sexual misadventures.

Zeus first sought to seduce Metis, who tried to discourage the union by continually changing form, trying to escape him. Some guys just can't take 'no' for an answer, and young Zeus was one of them. He pursued Metis mercilessly, altering his form right along with her. "See, baby, I can change for you!" we heard him yell, but she wasn't convinced. His reputation preceded him.

He finally caught up to the exhausted Metis, who briefly considered charging him with stalking. Zeus married and impregnated her, but when he found out from Mother Earth that any son Metis produced would dethrone him, Zeus swallowed his wife. Shortly thereafter, Athena sprung out of his head, fully armed and clothed, shouting a war cry heard in the heavens and earth. You can get the complete story of goddess Athena, and then some, by reading January's Myth of the Month.

Even though initially she gave him a major headache, my great-aunt Athena was Zeus' favourite child, and eventually he turned over to her his Aegis, the protective shield which used to be Amy. Athena accessorized it by adding Medusa's head to it. She was the only one permitted full use of Zeus' weapons, including his devestating thunderbolts. My grandpa Hesiod said that Zeus had no brains until Athena was born out of his head, making him instantly wise. My beloved aunt always had that kind of influence on people, she enriched your life and mind.

But before Zeus smartened up, he embarked on a journey of frenzied debauch that eventually turned his fellow Olympians against him. First he sought out his twin sister, Hera, came to her in a disguise and ravished her. They were married and spent a wedding night that was said to have lasted three hundred years.

Zeus, king of the gods

"Three hundred year long wedding night?! Hesiod, your name rhymes with idiot! I don't care how beautiful Hera was, there's not a male who can stand being alone with a woman in a room for three days, let alone three hundred years! Are you drunk? Have you no clue, sir? Victoria, no more Ambrosia for Hesiod, I'm afraid he's skunked. Please take away his chariot keys."

My uncle Homer always over-reacted to grandpa Hesiod's claims, much to the delight and amusement of Hesiod, who loved pulling his leg. I swear he came up with the most improbable ideas just to get a rise out of Homer, who always bit...

"Yes, Homey, three hundred year long wedding night. You got a problem with that? He was assisted throughout by the satyr Viagra, Greek god of Virility."

When his mother Rhea advised Zeus against marriage, to Hera or anyone else, Zeus ravished Rhea in the form of a snake. Then things got real ugly. Zeus embarked on a drunken and out of control rampage, wreaking havoc wherever he went, indiscriminately firing off thunderbolts at whim, and seducing anything wearing a toga. Talk about a rebel without a cause! Easy on the crack pipe, Zeus! Man, was he ever wired...


Mighty Zeus, King of the Olympians

Part Two

 

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