The Gods of Greek and Roman Mythology - Zeus (Jupiter)

Role in the Mythos: God of the Sky 


  • King of the Gods
  • Cloud-Gatherer
  • Rain Bearer

Notable Relations: 

  • Parents: Cronus and Rhea
  • Spouse: Hera
  • Divine Children: Artemis, Athena, Apollo, Ares, Hermes, Muses, Moirai
  • Famous Children: Hercules, Helen of Troy, Persephone, Perseus


  • Thunderbolt
  • Eagle
  • Bull
  • Oak trees (often rustling oak leaves)
  • Thunder


  • Grand, majestic
  • More powerful than all the gods combined
  • Not omniscient or omnipotent (does not control Fate)
  • Values honor and oaths
  • Promiscuous and unfaithful—often disguises himself to seduce beautiful mortal women

Myths to Know:

Origin Story

When Cronus, the original king of the gods, hears a prophecy that he will be overthrown by one of his children, he devours all the children he has sired—Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. When Rhea gives birth to Cronus’s sixth child, Zeus, she hides him away from Cronus. Zeus, Rhea, and Gaia (earth goddess) devise a plan, and when Zeus grows old enough, he rescues his siblings and overthrows Cronus. In some versions of the story, he forces Cronus to vomit out his siblings; in others, he cuts them out of Cronus’s belly. Zeus then liberates the giants and the cyclopes from the pit of Tartarus, and they reward him and his brothers with gifts: lighting for Zeus; a trident for Poseidon; and the helmet of darkness (invisibility) for Hades. 

War with the Titans

Gaia, Titan of the earth, is angry at Zeus’s imprisonment of the Titans in Tartarus. She inspires the giants to rise up against Zeus and Olympus, but Zeus fights back with the lightning bolts they have made for him. She sends Typhoeus, the fiercest giant in the land, to fight Zeus; he tears Zeus’s limbs from his body and leaves him helpless. The clever god Pan steals Zeus’s strength back from the giant, and when Zeus is restored, he defeats Typhoeus and ends the giants’ rebellion. 

The Many Loves of Zeus

Throughout the stories of Zeus, he seduces many women and has children with them. Scholars speculate that the stories of Zeus’s many affairs were a tricky ruse to convince the people conquered by the Greeks that their own gods were actually Zeus. When the Greeks invaded a new town that had its own deity, they could say that the extant deity was Zeus in disguise and that this deity’s wife was just a woman Zeus was trying to seduce. 

The following table is a summary of Zeus’s many “romances” and his wife’s angry responses to them: 

Person seduced

Zeus’s “Seduction” Technique

Hera’s Revenge

Happy ending?

Child born

Alcmene: wife of Amphitryon

Zeus appears to her disguised as her husband while he is away at war.

Hera tries to prevent her from giving birth. She sends Lucina (goddess of childbirth) to stop the birth, and Alcmene spends 7 days in labor.


Hera continues to plague her son but not Alcmene, who eventually dies of old age and is turned into stone.


Callisto: attendant to Artemis; sworn to chastity

Zeus disguises himself as Artemis and convinces her to sleep with him, an act that gets her kicked out of Artemis’s following.

Hera turns her into a bear so that Artemis will hunt her.

Sort of.

Zeus turns Callisto into a constellation before Artemis can shoot her. She becomes Ursa Major.

Child never born

Danae: woman locked in a tower because a prophecy says her child will kill its grandfather

Zeus appears to her as a shower of gold and impregnates her.

Danae’s father got to the punishment first.

Well, she lives…

Her father puts Danae and her son in a chest and sends them down the river.

They’re rescued by kind people who have an licentious brother that won’t take no for an answer.


Europa: virgin Phoenician

princess, the daughter of King Agenor of Sidon

Zeus appears to her as a white bull and convinces her to jump on his back. He then kidnaps her.

Hera sat this one out.


Europa gets to rule over Crete, and Zeus gives her three priceless gifts.

King Minos

Ganymede: beautiful youth who tended sheep

Zeus disguises himself as an eagle and carries Ganymede to Olympus. He turns the boy into a cupbearer for the gods.

Hera loudly threatens the youth to show her anger over his existence.

Sort of.

Zeus turns him into a constellation (Aquarius) to protect him from Hera.

Io: priestess of Hera; accepts Zeus’s advances only after her father throws her out

Zeus covers the world in clouds to hide his tryst from Hera. When Hera finds out, he transforms Io into a white cow and gives her as a gift to Hera.

Hera asks Argos, the 100-eyed monster to guard Io. When Hermes helps her escape, Hera sends gadflies to sting her for all eternity.

Eventually, yes.

After wandering the earth incessantly for years, Io runs into Zeus in Egypt, and he makes her mortal again.


Lamia: Queen of Libya

Unclear; she just becomes Zeus’s favorite mistress.

Hera curses her so that she can never close her eyes and then kills (in some versions, kidnaps) all of Lamia’s children.


Tortured by the sight of her children dying, Lamia becomes insane. She begins stealing and devouring children, which turns her into a monster.


winged goddess of retribution

When Nemesis turns herself into a goose to avoid Zeus, he turns himself into a swan and rapes her.

Hera seems to have not noticed this one.


Nemesis gives birth to an egg that is given to Leda until it hatches, giving birth to the most beautiful woman the world has ever seen—a face that consequently causes the Trojan war and the fall of Troy.

Helen of Troy

Semele: a priestess of Zeus

Zeus sees her swimming naked in a river to wash away the blood of a cow she sacrificed. He begins visiting her secretly.

Hera disguises herself as an old hag and befriends Semele, who tells the hag her lover is Zeus. Hera convinces Semele to demand that Zeus show her his true form.


Semele bursts into flames and goes to Hades. (Mortals can’t look at gods.)