Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zeus is a Jerk (and other observations)

Before you say anything, no, this is not a book I'm writing about. However, I need to get a few things off my chest. Allow me to explain.

When I was younger, I loved the Greek gods. They were like superheroes. Role models. They were both the most beautiful beings known to man AND were incredibly smart. Their stories were fascinating and numerous, too. I had read the D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, the Percy Jackson series, and George O'Connor's books (which I have written about here), Edith Hamilton Mythology, you name it. Then, as I aged (when I say 'aged' I mean over the course of three years), my perspective on the Greek gods changed. 

I started questioning the motives of the gods. Was it really the right thing to torture someone by having them roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll all the way back down again just for tattling on you (Sisyphus)? Or have your liver eaten by vultures only to grow a new fresh one every day because you did something kind (gave fire to the mortals) even though he didn't consult you first (Prometheus)? Or torturing the son of your husband (even though it wasn't your son with your husband)? Was it the son's fault he was born (Hercules and Hera)? I could go on forever. And the more I thought about this, the more enraged I got. But for each story I thought about, I reached a similar conclusion for almost every single one: The gods are too proud to admit they were wrong. Or settle down for three seconds so they could hear the other person's side. I also discovered that more than three quarters of the time, my rage was aimed at Zeus. 

Let's talk about Zeus for a minute.

1) After he beat his dad and company and claimed he birthright (lightning bolts) and saved the world and all that, he decided that himself, Hades (had a helmet of invisibility), and Poseidon (dude with a trident) should be the three "main gods": the sky, the sea, and the Underworld. But instead of sitting down and weighing each others' weaknesses and strengths, he decides to DRAW LOTS. Excuse me? This isn't that kind of decision. The three main lords of the universe decided by three pieces of paper with the words sky, sea and Underworld picked out of a hat. Smart move there, Zeus.

2) Married Metis, goddess of counsel and advice. Then, he had a crush on Hera, and SWALLOWED Metis when he tricked her into turning into a fly so he could marry Hera, the goddess of marriage ironically enough, instead. Then, after then wedding, cheated on her with women including Io, who he turned into a cow when he heard his wife coming, Alcmene whose son, who she had with Zeus, turned out to be one of the greatest heroes of all time (Hercules). Poor, humiliated, Hera. AND had a baby with the god Demeter named Persephone and helped Hades kidnap her. Not to mention Leto, Europa, Callisto, and Dianae, to name a few. Does he understand the definition of marriage? I'm not exactly sure.

3) Damned Prometheus to a horrible torture for helping the mortals, who he hated for some reason at the time (see second paragraph). Then later, he "warmed up" to the mortals (it is not stated why or when he decided this) but STILL DIDN'T LET PROMETHEUS GO. Once again, too proud to admit that he was wrong, just like with Sisyphus who told on Zeus for cheating on his wife. 

I could probably go up to 10. For each god. But I won't, don't worry. I think you get the idea.

When reading this, you probably think I believe in the Greek gods. No, I don't. I guess I just wish they were written a little better. When I picture divinities, I don't picture people like Zeus. 

"First Date" comic courtesy of Hark! A Vagrant (super cool blog.) I thought this strip summed up my thoughts on Zeus pretty well.


  1. This is excellent. I also liked the greek gods when I was younger (I'm 21 now) but you've cast a fresh light on the whole thing..

  2. Brill, as always. Your critical thinking skills always amaze.

  3. cool!
    also I have une question ----
    how do you get your description in the about me part?

  4. i love hark a vagrant! such a good blog

  5. oh ella :). go to profile on blogger and click 'edit'.

  6. Yeah, I know, I reply a bit later (and I don't know you... And it's the first and probably the last time I'll see your blog, but wathever), but, I kinda like do things trois years after everybody. It add a little je ne sais quoi.

    But nevermind, what I want to say is :

    yes, greek gods act like jerks. Because they are.

    They are not perfection with a human body, they are human body that reach perfection.
    Thus, they have the flaw of the mortal, but, like, with superpower.

    When they do good things, no mortal can compete with the greatness of their action, and when they do bad things... Well, try to imagine the worst bully you ever encounter, with the combinated power of both superman and green lantern.
    And multiply it by this number 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    this number of time

    So, yes, they are jerk, because they're human.
    They are model in their way (Athena and her wisdom, Apollon and his art, Artemis and her freedom, etc), but it's not because you are awesome in a way that you can't be a little dickhead in another (pride... It's work on all of them).

    But there is role model in hellenistic myth, heroes. Simply, heroes.
    Look at Heracles (don't really know how you english write the greek way to namin Hercules, but don't call Hercule this way and Junon Hera... I mean, it's either Hercules and Junon, or Heracles and Hera, not Hercules and Hera, it just doesn't make any sense), he suffer the immortal wrath of Hera with so much dignity, even after she made him kill his own wife. And his second wife kills him because of Hera !
    Look at all these mighty heroes, and don't dare say they arn't model (I'll accept that the woman place isn't that better in greek myth, but even there heroes are generally way much better with them that ancient greek society was... Though it could not be consider as a thing to pick-up from their stories).

  7. Hades is pretty neat tho.
    Sure, he on Zeus's advice kidnapped Persephone. The guy had been cut off from actual social interaction for basically his entire immortal life!
    He didn't know any better. And he genuinely loved Persephone too, even granting her co-rulership, never cheating on her and compromising on how often she's with him. He's a far more just and fair monarch than his YOUNGER brother Zeus would ever be.