Zeus, in ancient Greek religion, chief deity of the pantheon, a sky and weather god who was identical
with the Roman god Jupiter. His name clearly comes from that of the sky god Dyaus of the ancient Hindu
Rigveda. Zeus was regarded as the sender of thunder and lightning, rain, and winds, and his traditional
weapon was the thunderbolt. He was called the father (i.e., the ruler and protector) of both gods and men.
According to a Cretan myth that was later adopted by the Greeks, Cronus, king of the Titans, upon
learning that one of his children was fated to dethrone him, swallowed his children as soon as they
were born. But Rhea, his wife, saved the infant Zeus by substituting a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes
for Cronus to swallow and hiding Zeus in a cave on Crete. There he was nursed by the nymph (or female goat)
Amalthaea and guarded by the Curetes (young warriors), who clashed their weapons to disguise the baby’s cries.
After Zeus grew to manhood he led a revolt against the Titans and succeeded in dethroning Cronus, perhaps with
the assistance of his brothers Hades and Poseidon, with whom he then divided dominion over the world.
As ruler of heaven Zeus led the gods to victory against the Giants (offspring of Gaea and Tartarus) and successfully
crushed several revolts against him by his fellow gods. According to the Greek poet Homer, heaven was located on the
summit of Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece and the logical home for a weather god. The other members of the
pantheon resided there with Zeus and were subject to his will. From his exalted position atop Mount Olympus Zeus was
thought to omnisciently observe the affairs of men, seeing everything, governing all, and rewarding good conduct and
punishing evil. Besides dispensing justice—he had a strong connection with his daughter Dike (Justice)—Zeus was the
protector of cities, the home, property, strangers, guests, and supplicants.Zeus was well known for his amorousness—a source of
perpetual discord with his wife, Hera—and he had many love affairs with both mortal and immortal women. In order
to achieve his amorous designs, Zeus frequently assumed animal forms, such as that of a cuckoo when he ravished Hera,
a swan when he ravished Leda, or a bull when he carried off Europa. Notable among his offspring were the twins Apollo
and Artemis, by the Titaness to; Helen and the Dioscuri, by Leda of Sparta; Persephone, by the goddess Demeter; Athena,
born from his head after he had swallowed the Titaness Metis;
Hephaestus, Hebe, Ares, and Eileithyia, by his wife, Hera; Dionysus, by the goddess Semele; and many others.
Though regarded by Greek religionists everywhere as omnipotent and the head of the pantheon, Zeus’s very universality
tended to reduce his importance compared to that of powerful local divinities like Athena and Hera. Although statues
of Zeus Herkeios (Guardian of the House) and altars of Zeus Xenios (Hospitable) graced the forecourts of houses, and
though his mountaintop shrines were visited by pilgrims, Zeus did not have a temple at Athens until the late 6th century bc,
and even his temple at Olympia postdated that of Hera.
In art Zeus was represented as a bearded, dignified, and mature man of stalwart build; his most prominent symbols
were the thunderbolt and the eagle.