The Origins of Zeus

ZeusPhoto: Heather Whipps

We stand on the land where Zeus the father of Gods was raised until the Dethronement of Cronos and the War of the Titans. Shadows, beasts, and epic battles of slaughter and romance among the ancients originated in this island of Greece which many historians believe was the home of Zeus until he could rise against the tyrant Titan King. The story is told in this article about mythical creatures that protected the infant inside a mysterious cave that archaeologists found in Mount Psiloritis.

Cave of ZeusPhoto: Kostas Fotinakis

Dark, dangerous and amazingly deep, the cave is filled with strange stones and stalagmites. In this cold, wet place, archaeologists cannot deny what has been found: ancient bronze items used for rituals and evidences of ancient Minoan life related to Zeus. And this is just the entrance to this horrific cavern. What might be lurking in its deepest cores is yet unknown. What might have happened to Zeus to be raised in such a place?

The birth of Zeus

Cronos, the youngest and the most terrifying of all Titans, castrated his own father Uranus and become ruler of the worlds. In his kingship Cronos decided to visit the oracle of Delphi, who had the power to predict future events, to see what the course of events of his life would be. The oracle gave him the most terrible prediction: “The best of the kings will be brought down by the sceptre of his own offspring”. Cronos, having to face the same punishment he brought to his own father, decided to devour his sons and daughters. If fate had taken this course, the immortal gods would have been imprisoned inside him for as long as he was alive.

Rhea, the wife of Cronos, couldn’t withstand the loss of her children with Cronos so she decided to trick him by replacing the newborn Zeus with a stone. When she offered it to Cronos he devoured the stone mercilessly, thinking it was his son. Yet instead of being eaten, Zeus was safely taken to the Cretan cave, Ideon Antron.

Saturn (Kronos) devours his SonPhoto: Peter Paul Rubens

The guardians of infant Zeus

Ritual clashing of spears and shields, rhythmic stamping of feet – a strange dance was occurring in Crete every time the baby god felt lonely. The penetrating sounds were coming from the Kouretes, the sworn protectors of the island against Cronos. These were kind demons like the Idaean Dactyls, known also as the “awaken guardians”. They conducted mystic Minoan rituals and worshipped the divine weapon of Labrys or Pelekis, a double-bitted axe with tremendous powers, a holy artifact and a Minoan religious symbol. By performing dances they managed to draw out the cries of the infant from the ears of the Titan lord, keeping him safe. Rhea had chosen wisely the protectors of the divine child.

The newborn Zeus was safely fed from the wild goat nurse Amalthea, a creature with extraordinary powers, sometimes with the help of nymphs and satyrs. It is said that one of her horns once broke when Zeus was playing. The broken peace could bring tremendous fertility to whatever it touched and it was used by Zeus and kings later on as mentioned in several myths.

Zeus fed by AmaltheaPhoto: Jacob Joardens

When Amalthea got old and died, Zeus mourned her deeply and dedicated a constellation to honour her (the Capra constellation). From her powerful hide he crafted the most important artifact, an impenetrable shield, “The Aegis” or “Aegean Shield”, which he used in the War against the mighty Titans.