Why is Zeus so powerful?

I’m currently reading “The Iliad” and I’m somewhat confused about the origins of the great power of Zeus.

Apparently, Cronos is Zeus and Poseidon’s father (and probably father of other gods too)

Zeus is more powerful than Poseidon because he’s the first-born, (good enough) but why would he be more powerful than Cronos himself? Is it because Cronos is in Hell? Why is Cronos in Hell? What is Hell, is it like Christians’ hell (underneath the ground with the fire and the suffering) or a different kind of hell? Is Cronos the equivalent of the Devil?

And another related question: Gods are immortals but if I remember correctly Hera (or maybe Ares) was wounded by Diomedes when she descended to earth (To help Trojans), does that mean that gods can die when they are on earth?

:eek: :eek:

Part of the lesson of Zeus’s overthrow of Kronos was that the old must make way for the new.

Just because a god can be injured doesn’t mean he or she can be killed.

I might recommend that it’s not necessarily very useful to analyse these things too deeply. Greek mythology wasn’t meant to depict history or an internally consistent universe with gods. Most of the details of the stories were inserted at the whim of the teller (or re-teller) and purely to serve the needs of the story.

And Zeus was the youngest of Chronos and Rhea’s children. Their other children are Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera. It was prophesized that a child of Chronos would overthrow him, just like Chronos murdered/overthrew his father. To get around this, Chronos decided that he would swallow each of his children as they were born. As you can imagine, Rhea didn’t like this plan too much. So when the youngest, Zeus was born, she smuggled him away and gave Chronos a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes to swallow instead.

Zeus was hidden away and grew up. Then he came back, and IIRC, gave Chronos a drink (mustard, maybe?) to cause him to vomit up Zeus’s 5 older siblings (plus the rock). Part of the reason he’s the most powerful of his siblings is because he was the one that rescued them,

Hades isn’t like the Christian version of hell. There is a god of the dead (also Hades), but he’s not like the devil–he’s just the master of that domain (he and his brothers threw lots to decide who ruled over the sea, sky, and underworld). It’s where everyone goes when they die. It’s devided into 3 parts. If you’re good/heroic, you go to the Elysian Fields, which some people think of as being like the Christain “heaven.” If you’re really wicked, you go to Tartarus, where there’s all sorts of lovely punishments, like rolling a stone up a hill but having it fall back just when you get to the top, standing in a stream of water you can never drink while being under the boughs of a fruit tree you can never reach, or perpetually having to carry water in jars that leak. I forget what the third part is called, but essentially you’re just dead and wander around a lot.

That’s all I’ll write–I’m sure some of our resident Classics experts will be along shortly to clarify things for you, and ream me for getting something wrong.

Cronus also lead a revolt against his father, Uranus, so what Zeus did to Cronus was nothing new. Cronus was said to have defeated Uranus with a scythe that his mother Gaea gave him. Like acsenray said, the idea is that old gives way to young. Interestingly, Cronus with his scythe is our image of Father Time. And of course, there is chronology.

Another way Zeus proved his strength was by defeating the Titans.

I am not certain why Cronus was in hell. Actually, he was probably in Hades, which was more of a neutral place than the modern idea of hell. Most of the spirits there were not made to suffer, they just forgot their past lives and became listless shadows. Maybe he was there to show the finality of Zeus defeating him.

The earliest Greeks really like Cronus. He is not associated with anything all that sinister (other than that scythe thing :slight_smile: ) and is not the Christian Devil. Some of the gods of the underworld would be closer to the Christian Devil, though I believe this idea formed over time.

Since gods like Cronus eventually went to Hades, the idea that gods could not die was not all that “set in stone.” The Greeks and Romans were creative with their stories and they changed over the years. More common though was for a jealous god tormenting another god over a long period of time.

The other side of this would be Sociology of Religion 101; religions reflect the structure of societies which inspire them. Most early religions were tribal in nature, with each tribe governed by a totem or spirit which represented the small community of people. Later, with the advent of agriculture and civilization, stratification occurred within societies and kings and noble and peasant classes developed. These civilizations adapted their religions to mirror this, with one high-god and his descendents both major and minor to rule the various particulars. A good example of this is the Greek mythological system, later adopted by the Romans. Many of these religious systems have old genesis stories about how their gods came into power, metepholically telling the story of how their society changed from its earlier origins.

Take the Mesopotamian creation myth for example; it tells how a slew of generations of gods brutally overthrew the original generation mother-earth goddess and her ribs became the mountains to the north and the fluid of here pierced eyes became the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and so on and so forth. Many religions and societies of Europe and Asia Minor way back when in the Paleolithic era were matriarchal based on an earth-mother worship.

The Judeo / Christian Genesis myth is related to this (Abraham did begin out of Ur after all) only in this monotheistic interpretation the different generations of gods and goddesses were transformed into the days of labor Yahweh took to create the world.

Sorry for the hijack.

FWIW, Saturn (the Roman equivalent of Chronos) is still up in the sky, moving slower than his son, Jupiter (Roman equivalent of Zeus), and not nearly as bright.

Who said the myths had to be logically consistent?

Thank you for responding to my question, but now 3 other questions arose about your answers:

What’s the correct spelling for Cronos??
Because in the book I’m reading it says Cronos, however all of you seem to have a personal way to write it(Kronos, Chronos, Cronus), which one is the most appropriate and why?

And, is there an original god, because from what I understand, did Uranus had a father too, and if so is there a ‘first’ one?

And did someone ever overthrow Zeus or did people stop to write greek mythology before that?

Thanks a lot for your answers!

I think that Uranua and Gaea were the first Gods—Sky and Earth.

I don`t recall the Greek gods ever being mentioned as having an ultimate fate. Presumably, they were immortal in a literal sense and would exist until the end of time. None of their children seemed powerful enough to ever challenge the Olympians.

You might enjoy reading a little Norse mythology. In their religion, all of the gods of Asgard (Odin, Loki, Thor and the rest) as well as humanity were doomed to be killed when the forces of evil rose for the final battle of Ragnarok. Then from the ashes a new world, new humans and new gods would arise. The best the Vikings hoped for was to have their spirits wait in Valhalla until they had a chance to fight in the hopeless last war. You can see why the afterlife the new religion Christanity seemed appealing.

I have no idea which spelling is most appropriate; it seems hard to tell what with the original being in a different alphabet and all. I’ve always seen Chronos, myself, but that’s hardly reliable.

Zeus was not conquered, like his father and grandfather, according to the myths. The Greeks however, were conquered…by the Romans.

New systems of beliefs later began to develop and replace the old gods. Christianity was one religion that replaced the myths.

Also, pay no attention to my speleeing…er spelling. :wink: In “Words from the Myths” by Isaac Asimov, it is stated that the word Cronus is pre-Greek in origin. It sounded like the Greek word for time, “Chronos” and the two words kind of merged.

Chronos comes with different spellings because English doesn’t have a sound comparable to the sound signified by the “ch.” The letter “chi” was pronounced like the last sound of Bach or loch – or the Klingon “qu’pla” (success).

The Greek word “chronos” (chi - rho - omicron - nu - omicron - sigma) meant “a duration of time.” We get such English words as “chronological” and “chronometer” from this word.