Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean, and Archaic Greek Mythology

Hesiod, the Greek Creation Myth, Wars Among the Gods

According to Hesiod, what did Zeus do with his new power after the war?

Zeus first assigned duties and areas of control to his brothers and sisters. Poseidon was assigned the Sea, for instance, and Hades the Underworld. The next stage of creation involved the production of the second generation of the Olympians and the elements that would provide order to the universe. Zeus mated with Metis (Wisdom), but Hesiod says that Zeus swallowed Metis (as his father would have swallowed him) to prevent the birth of a god who might displace him. Locked within Zeus, she is responsible for his wisdom and his knowledge of good and evil. According to Hesiod’s version of the story, Zeus then slept with Themis (Law), who gave birth to the elements of ordered society, such as Justice and Peace, as well as to the Fates. The king’s next mate was Eurynome, the daughter of the ancient Oceanus. The three beautiful Graces—Pageantry, Joy, and Festivity—were their daughters. After Zeus made love to his sister Demeter, she gave birth to the beautiful Persephone, who would be taken away by dark Hades as a wife. Still not satisfied, Zeus embraced the beautiful Mnemosyne (Memory) and thus produced the nine Muses, who were responsible for beauty in the arts. Leto was next, and her mating with Zeus produced two of the king’s greatest children, Apollo and Artemis. Finally Zeus took up with the woman who was to be his eternal consort, his sister Hera, who gave birth to Ares and several lesser children. On his own Zeus now gave birth from his head to Athene, whose pre-birth mother had been Metis, imprisoned in the king’s stomach. A jealous Hera repaid her husband for this arrogant act by producing the rough smith god Hephaistos miraculously without the seed of her husband. Zeus, in his drive to make a family, slept with Maia, the daughter of the Titan Atlas. Their child was the clever Hermes. With the mortal Semele he produced the mysterious Dionysos. With another mortal, Alkmene, he produced the great hero Herakles, and now the world was ready for the rich body of stories about the twelve Olympians (who were really as many as fourteen or even fifteen, depending on various interpretations). They consisted of the first generation (Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite) and the second generation (Athene, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hermes, Hephaistos, and Dionysos).

The family of gods and the elements of creation were now fully established by Hesiod, and in the Classical period that followed the Archaic period, what we think of as Greek Mythology would achieve full development.


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