Zeus and why I like him
Okay, I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now. Since I first learned about Greek mythology, Zeus has always been one of my favorite gods. And I noticed that a lot of people don’t share this opinion. I mean, I totally understand where they’re coming from. There are legit reasons for not liking him. And I don’t intend to change anyone’s mind. But I still want to show that he’s not all bad and that there’s actually stuff you can like about him. I’m gonna divide this little essay into three sections: myth, religion and history.
Myth: I actually really love Zeus’s portrayal in the Iliad. The first time he shows up, the goddess Thetis approaches him and asks him for a favor he still owes her. And even though he knows he will get into a lot of trouble with Hera for this (which I admit, is pretty funny) he grants her wish. Throughout the whole story he stays neutral even though he likes the Trojans more and his own son Sarpedon is fighting for them. When Sarpedon is destined to die he thinks about defying fate and saving him from battle but even he has to bow to it. He is by no means perfect but he knows he has responsibilities as a king.
Religion: In ancient Greek religion Zeus played a big role in everyday life. In ancient Athens he was the protector of the house against intruders, known as Zeus Herkeios and Zeus Ktesios, the protector of wealth. He was also Zeus Xenios, the god of strangers, the protector of guests and hospitality.
History: One of my all time favorite books is Xenophon’s Anabasis. It’s set at the end of the 5th century BC and is told by the Athenian Xenophon who was a mercenary in the army of Cyrus who wanted to overthrow his brother Artaxerxes, the Persian king. The plan failed, Cyrus was killed in battle and Xenophon and the whole army were stuck in what is now Iraq. Before Xenophon went on this journey he had asked the oracle at Delphi to which god he’d have to pray to come back safely and the oracle had answered that he should pray to Zeus Basileos (Zeus the king). Xenophon did so and even though the situation seemed hopeless he did finally make it back to Greece alive.
I love this story because it gives you a unique view into how the ancient Greeks practiced their religion but it also shows how Xenophon trusted in Zeus and that he would secure his safe return. And against all odds he made it.
And one last thing: As most people know, Zeus is also the god of rain and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love the smell of the air after a nice summer rain!