Tag Archives: Zeus

The Closing Ceremony in the Ancient Olympics

On the last day the athletes and their trainers and friends, priests, Hellanodkai, seers, and priests  participated in a procession that opened a day filled with sacrifice and feasting.  Individuals would sacrifice animals giving thanks to the gods, particularly Zeus, for their successes. The fortunate winners, while not receiving monetary awards at the Olympic ceremonies, became wealthy on their return to their home cities where they might be rewarded with homes, monetary awards or lifetime pensions.

After the procession with 100 bulls, an official animal sacrifice which was the main ritual of the Greek religion would be offered at the altar to Zeus. His altar was built on the ashes of previous animals that had been sacrificed there. At one point the Great Altar  was 120 feet in circumference and 21 feet high.  Stone flights allowed access to the top of the temple where the sacrifice was made.      Rita Bay

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Mythic Heroes: Hercules

Hercules in Marble

Hercules (Greek-Heracles) was the demi-god son of Jupiter  (Greek – Zeus) and the most beautiful of all women, Alceme. Hercules attributes included a lion skin and a gnarled club that was his favorite weapon. Throughout his career as a hero, he killed many monsters and made the world safer for mankind.

Hercules & the Nemean Lion

Juno hated the children of Zeus that were not hers and often gave them trouble.  When Hercules was born, Juno slipped snakes into his cradle.  Hercules killed the snakes with his massive strength.  During his adult life, Juno sent Hercules into a blind rage in which he killed wife and children.  Hercules consulted the Oracle of Delphi (we’ll visit her in a few days) for expiation.  The Oracle sent him to Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae, who (with the spiteful assistance of Juno) assigned him a set of impossible tasks that became known as the Labors of Hercules which took 12 years.  His labors included killing the Nemean lion, destroying the Lernaean Hydra, capturing the Ceryneian Hind, trapping the Erymanthian boar, cleaning the Augean stables, destroying the Stymphalian birds, capturing the Cretan bull, rounding up the Mares of Diomedes, taking Hippolyte’s girdle, returning the cattle of Geryon, delivering the golden apples of the Hesperides,  and capturing the Cerberus from Tartarus.

Kevin Sorbo as Hercules

After Hercules was married the second time, he killed the centaur Nessus with a poisoned arrow for abducting his wife.  Before Nessus died, he gave Hercules’ wife Deianeira a vial of blood and told her that the blood was a love potion that would bring Hercules back to her when he strayed.  When she suspected he had been unfaithful, she sent him a cloak that had the blood spread in it.  When he donned the cloak, the blood burned like acid and destroyed his body.  Hercules died in horrific pain.  He was taken to Olympus and deified.  His wife committed suicide in despair.

Tomorrow,  The Heroes of the Trojan War   Rita Bay

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The Olympians: Hera & Her Sisters

Hera (Juno)

Mount Olympus
 

When Zeus overthrew his father Cronos, he rescued his brothers Poseidon and Hades and sisters Hera, Ceres, and Hestia. Together, they cast Cronos into Tartarus. Then, they all ruled the world from Mount Olympus.

With her marriage to Zeus, Hera (Juno) became queen of the gods. She was also the goddess of the sky and heavens, women, marriage and family. Her symbols included the peacock, pomegranate, crown, cuckoo, lion and cow.  She was usually depicted as a beautiful woman wearing a crown and holding a royal, lotus-tipped staff. She was accompanied by a royal lion, cuckoo or hawk. She was known for seeking revenge against her unfaithful husband Zeus’ girlfriends and their families. 

Hestia (Vesta)

Hestia (Roman Vesta) was the goddess of the hearth, architecture, and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family. She received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household.  She presided over the cooking of bread and the preparation of the family meal. Hestia was also the goddess of the sacrificial flame and received a share of every sacrifice to the gods. She never married, despite being pursued by Apollo and Poseidon.  Instead, Zeus allowed her to reside at his royal hearth. Hestia was depicted as a modestly veiled woman sometimes holding a flowered branch. A kettle was her attribute.  The community hearth of a city served as her official sanctuary. With the establishment of a new colony, flame from Hestia’s public hearth in the mother city would be carried to the new settlement.

Demeter (Ceres)

Demeter (Ceres) was the goddess of fertility, agriculture, nature, and the seasons. Her symbols included the poppy, wheat, torch, and pig. Demeter was depicted as a mature woman, often crowned and holding sheaves of wheat and a torch.  As an Earth Mother figure, she was honored for providing food for the people of Earth. 

When Hades kidnapped her daughter Demeter and carried her to his realm as his queen, she wandered the earth searching for her daughter and mourning her loss.  Seeing the destruction she was causing, Zeus decreed that Persephone return to her mother IF she had not eaten anything while in the Underworld.  Since she had consumed six of the twelve seeds of a pomegranate, she had to remain with Hades for six months of the year.  Demeter mourned her loss, which is how winter came to the earth.

Tomorrow, The Olympians, Gen #2      Rita Bay

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Zeus & His Brothers

Zeus

When Cronos was defeated, his sons Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades divided the world among themselves.  Zeus (Roman name – Jupiter) was the king of the gods and ruler of Mount Olympus.  He was the god of the sky, thunder, weather, thunder, law, order, and fate. His symbols included the thunderbolt, eagle, oak tree, scepter and scales. He was depicted as a regal, mature man with a sturdy figure and dark beard. His attributes included the royal scepter and the lightning bolt. His sacred animals are the eagle and the bull. He was married to Hera.

Poseidon

Poseidon (Neptune) became the god of the seas, rivers, floods, droughts and earthquakes. He was known as the “Earth Shaker” and was the creator of horses. His symbols included the horse, bull, dolphin and trident. He was depicted as a mature man of sturdy build with a dark beard, and holding a trident. The horse and the dolphin were sacred to him.

 

Hades

Since he dwelled in the underworld, Hades (Pluto), the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, was not considered one of the twelve Olympians. He was king of the Underworld and the god of the dead and the hidden wealth of the Earth. His symbols are the key of Hades, the Helm of Darkness, and the three-headed dog, Cerberus. The screech owl was sacred to His consort was Persephone, a daughter of Ceres, whom he kidnapped from the earth and was allowed to keep with him for six months each year. A difficult situation, especially since Persephone was the daughter of Mother Nature.  Everyone knows you don’t mess with Mother Nature.

Tomorrow, Hera and her sisters.    Rita Bay

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The Titans & the Greek Creation Myth

Oceanus

The Greeks developed a creation myth to explain the origin of their world and place their universe in comprehensible terms. Hesiod in his Theogony related how Chaos, a yawning nothingness, was alone at the beginning of the universe.  According to the  G-rated version, Gaia, the Earth, came out of the nothingness and was surrounded by Oceanus, the primeval river god.  They were followed by Erebus, Eros (Love), and the Abyss (Tartarus).  Gaia gave birth to Uranus (the Sky) and was the mother of the twelve Titans.

Gaia Presenting Stone to Cronos

Uranus, fearing that his children might depose him, refused to have more children.  Too late, as it turned out.  The Titan Cronos deposed his father Uranus and married Rhea.  Rhea had Cronos’ children but because he feared he would be deposed also, he swallowed them when they were born. Rhea gave him a wrapped-up stone to swallow when the youngest, Zeus, was born. 

Zeus Battles Cronos

The son, Zeus, returned and deposed his father, then drugged him which forced him to throw up the children that he had swallowed.  Zeus, supported by his siblings, waged war with his father.  Cronos lost and he and the other Titans were hurled into Tartarus, a kind of hell.  Zeus and his siblings reigned supreme from Olympus.

More about them tomorrow.  Rita Bay

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Creation Myths

Oceanus

A creation myth is a symbolic story of a culture, tradition or people that describes their earliest beginnings, how the world they know began and how they first came into existence in it. They are found in many cultures and are the most common form of myth. The creation myth conveys profound truths, although not necessarily in historical or literal.  The sacred accounts usually describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.

Creation myths have several common. They address deeply meaningful questions held by the society, revealing major components of their central worldview.  The stories which are often set in a dim and nonspecific past include a plot and characters who are either deities, human-like figures, or animals, who often speak and transform easily. 

Uranus & Gaia

In Greek mythology, for example, an amorphous Chaos that was the domain of the Eurynome (Goddess of All Things) which was surrounded by the river ruled by the god Oceanus.  Eurynome divided out her territory and created the first generation of major gods and goddesses and exotic creatures.  The second generation which included Zeus and his brothers and sisters overthrew their father, Cronus, and ruled the earth from Olympus.

Tomorrow,   Rita Bay

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