Zeus of Ephesus

Zeus and Europa

Learn how much stronger am I than all the rest of you gods, If you really want to know and to prove it to other immortals, let drop a golden cord from the heavens, and seize the end, all you gods and goddesses! Pull it with all your might. Try as you will to drag me from heaven down to the earth– you cannot move me a bit! I am Zeus, the highest and the wisest. But suppose I really wanted to pull you up to the heavens: up you would come, and behind you would come both land and sea. The cord I would fasten securely to the highest peak of Olympus, leaving its burden to hang, twisting there in the wind. That is how far I surpass in power both gods and mortals!

Homer, Illiad 8.17-27

Some symbols for Zeus include the Oak Tree and the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt was his main symbol, representing the fact that he was the god of the sky, which included the weather and lightning. The oak tree was Zeus’ sacred tree, and therefore became a symbol of Zeus.

Zeus’ grandparents were the creators of Earth, Uranus, and Gaea. Uranus was actually the son of Gaea, but they were married to each other. Uranus was the first ruler, the first sky god. Gaea was the Earth Goddess. Their children were the twelve Titans. The leader of the Titans was named Cronus, who was Zeus’ father. Zeus’ mother was Rhea, who saved Zeus as a boy. Cronus used to swallow his children, so Rhea tricked him by replacing the baby Zeus with a rock, so Cronus ate the rock instead of Zeus. When Zeus was older, he saved his other brothers and sisters from Cronus’ stomach; Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, and Demeter. Eventually, Zeus got married to Hera. Other than these gods and goddesses, all others were children of Zeus and another goddess. (Aside from the Lesser Gods.) With Hera, Zeus had two children, Ares and Hephaestus. Both Zeus and Hera disliked Ares because he was violent, and he was also a coward. Zeus had two children with Leto, Artemis, and Apollo. They were twin sisters. Zeus also had a child with Dione, called Aphrodite. She was the goddess of love and beauty. Zeus and Maia had the god Hermes. Zeus’ last child, Athena, sprung from Zeus’ head and therefore had no mother. Athena was Zeus’ favorite child. Zeus was also father to a fair few of the Lesser Gods and Goddesses, including Persephone, Dionysus, Hebe, Eris, the Three Graces (three daughters known for singing and dancing for the gods), and the Muses (nine children who were known for their music). All other lesser gods were children to any of the gods, goddesses, and Titans listed above.

Zeus of Ephesus
Zeus of Ephesus

There are a number of other parallels and similarities between the ancient Greek god Zeus and the god Christians have traditionally believed in. Most are probably coincidental and due largely to the fact that religions, all having been created by human beings, will be similar just like human cultures will be similar. True believers, though, sometimes try to explain away the innumerable similarities and parallels as signs that non-Christians either had some inkling of the True God or that their beliefs were planted by Satan in order to eventually cause confusion and doubt about Christians.

Zeus is commonly portrayed as wielding lightning bolts and ruling the storms; the Christian god is derived from the ancient Hebrew god which appears to have originally been a local, tribal storm god. There are many stories in which Zeus impregnates a maiden, leading to a child who accomplishes great things; the Christian god is believed to have caused the pregnancy of a virgin who is portrayed as going on to achieve great things. Zeus is sometimes portrayed as having a very personal relationship with humanity, caring about what happens to them; the Christian god, of course, is often defined as being personally invested in the fate of human beings.

A Relief of Zeus
A Relief of Zeus

Other similarities are probably not coincidental, though, and may constitute evidence of a deeper relationship between ancient Greek religion and modern Christianity — either a relationship of direct influence or, more likely, of both being influenced by a common source. The story of Deucalion and Pyrrha is especially important in this regard. According to the Greeks, Zeus wanted to wipe out humanity for their sins, but rather than risk destroying the entire world with his thunderbolts he decided instead to flood the earth.

Zeus in Ephesus
Zeus in Ephesus

Only two people, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha managed to survive on a small boat because they were warned by Prometheus. Deucalion and Pyrrha were the best of humanity in terms of their respect for the gods and upholding traditional values, Zeus decided to spare them and use them to repopulate the planet. Their boat came to rest on Mount Parnassus and immediately after disembarking the pair gave thanks to the gods by making a sacrifice to them.

The similarities between this story and the story about the Jewish and Christian gods flooding the earth should be quite obvious. It is likely that both stories originally came from the even more ancient Sumerian myth of Ziusudra, a king who is warned that the gods will destroy humanity in a flood but he will survive if he creates a large boat. After the flood, Ziusudara makes sacrifices to the gods in thanks for sparing his life and, through him, sparing humanity.

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