Many ancient myths contain stories of a flood, by which a divine entity wipes out humanity. The oldest known example comes from Sumerian mythology, whereas the most famous one appears in the Bible. Greek mythology is no different and contains a story of Zeus almost wiping out mankind with a divine flood created in collaboration with his brother, Poseidon.
The First Great Flood: The Silver Age
The difference between Greek mythology and others is that Zeus seems to have created multiple floods. The first flood deals with humans of the silver age, one of Hesiod’s 5 “ages” of humanity.
The humans of the silver age were created by Zeus to be far weaker than the Gods. he placed Pandora, with her box full of evils among the humans. After Pandora’s box was opened, the world was filled with sorrow, leaving humans with nothing but hope to keep them alive.
The titan Prometheus took pity upon these humans and taught them many sciences. He gifted them with fire in order to advance human civilizations.
The humans forsaken by Zeus were enamored with Prometheus. They began worshiping Zeus less and made some offerings to Prometheus. Unfortunately, Zeus saw this from above and unleashed a flood upon the silver humans, deciding to start afresh.
The Second Great Flood: The Bronze Age
Greek mythology’s second great flood took place at the end of the Bronze age. Bronze age humans were made by Zeus using the wood of ash trees. They were strong and tough, and unlike other humans, worshiped Zeus and the gods of Olympus rather than the Titans.
If Zeus created the Bronze age humans and they worshiped him, why did Zeus end up destroying them? Depending on who you ask, there are many answers to this question.
The first answer is a simple answer concerning the nature of the Bronze age men. Apparently, they were violent and uncivilized, unlike the humans of the silver age.
Bronze age humans were constantly at war, destroying each other’s nations and villages. They had little respect for nature and senselessly harmed the environment. According to some sources, they chattered through the night, keeping the gods up as well. Eventually, Zeus got fed up and decided to flush them off the face of the Earth.
But other sources point to a more specific reason. Apparently, the Bronze age was the heyday of a kingdom named Arcadia, ruled by a particularly unholy king named Lycaon. Zeus decided he wanted to observe this mortal king, and descended to Earth, disguised as a wanderer.
During this time, Zeus was unable to fully conceal his divinity and rumors began circulating throughout the kingdom. This led to king Lycaon inviting Zeus for a feast at his palace.
Lycaon’s goal was not to treat the traveler to a good meal, but rather to test if he was truly the king of gods. Lycaon served Zeus the meat of a human child, hoping that he would unknowingly consume it. Unfortunately for Lycaon and the rest of humanity, Zeus saw through the Arcadian king’s trick. He was disgusted at how dishonorable and disrespectful Lycaon was.
Zeus punished Lycaon by reducing him to ashes, but then decided, in typical Zeus fashion, that all of humanity should pay for Lycaon’s offense. This resulted in the second flood during humanity’s short history under the Olympians.