Most of Greek mythology is a result of the fact that Zeus was a prolific womanizer. He transformed into a bull to seduce Europa and into a swan to attract Leda. He impregnated Danaë in the form of a golden rain, leading her to give birth to the hero Perseus. But these are all cases of Zeus having children with mortals. What about his relationships with immortal women, whose children would be far more powerful?
Table of Contents
Zeus’ first wife was Metis, daughter of the Titan Oceanus. Metis is known for helping Zeus avoid being swallowed by Cronus when he was born, and later helping him free the Olympians who had already been swallowed by the titan. Later Zeus married her, but received a prophecy that Metis’ son would overthrow him someday. As a result, Zeus turned Metis into a fly and swallowed her, but she was already pregnant with Athena at the time. This is the reason why Athena was born out of Zeus’ head.
After Metis, Zeus married the titan Themis, who would later become the goddess of divine law and justice. Themis is often shown with scales in one hand and a sword in the other. She too was involved in Zeus’ childhood and some sources say she raised Zeus along with the nymph Amalthea. Metis and Zeus’ children include the three seasons, the three fates and three deities who represent order (Eunomia), peace (Eirene) and justice (Dike).
The third wife of Zeus was Eurynome, another Oceanid (Daughter of Oceanus). Eurynome is best known in the mythological tradition for raising the god Hephaestus after he was thrown down from Olympus by Hera. with Zeus she gave birth to the three graces, Euphrosyne and Thalia. Eurynome’s daughter Aglaea, who is the embodiment of splendor, would later go on to marry Hephaestus.
Zeus’ 4th wife was his sister and fellow Olympian, Demeter. She is the goddess of the harvest, agriculture and fertility. Demeter gains significance within Greek mythology in the Homeric hymn to Demeter. This tells the story of how Hades kidnaps Demeter’s daughter, Persephone as his wife. Demeter casts a drought on the Earth out of sorrow and eventually Hades and Demeter reach a compromise where Persephone spends only one third of the year in the underworld, and during this time Demeter casts winter upon the world, not allowing any crops to grow.
The 5th wife of Zeus was Mnemosyne, a titan who is the personification of memory and remembrance. The Greeks believed that great kings and orators received the talent of public speaking from Mnemosyne. Zeus and Mnemosyne are the parents of the nine muses, who are goddesses who preside over literature, sciences and the arts.
After Mnemosyne, Zeus married Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Leto is known for being tormented by Zeus’ jealous seventh wife, Hera. Hera forbid Leto from giving birth to the twins on solid land, and even trapped the goddess of childbirth to torture Leto with labor pains for as long as possible.
Zeus had very few children with Hera, and her role in myths was less like that of a mother and more of a meddler. Hera and Zeus had 3 children: Ares, Hebe and Eileithyia. However, Hera involved herself in the lives of many of Zeus’ children with mortal women, with the most notable one being Heracles.
Leave A Comment