Zeus is probably the most well known of the Greek gods. He was the king of the Olympians and the ruler of the universe. He features in countless Greek myths and is often getting up to all manner of mischief and chaos. That being said, he isn’t without weaknesses and he has had a number of rivals who he has good reason to fear.
Zeus is afraid of a number of gods for a variety of different reasons. He is afraid of Cronus, Atlas, the gigantes giants and Typhon because of their strength in battle. He fears Prometheus because of his intelligence and his ability to outwit opponents. He fears Nyx, Themis and the fates because of their ability to control fate and destiny. And he fears his wife because Zeus was always having affairs and Hera could get very jealous and vengeful.
The circumstances of each of these fears vary dramatically. It is worthwhile then looking into each of these rivals and opponents.
The Many Fears of Zeus
- Cronus – Cronus was the father of Zeus and before Zeus ruled the universe, it was Cronus who was in charge. Cronus was something of tyrant ruler was so paranoid his children would overthrow him that after each one was born he would eat them. By the time Zeus’s mother Rhea was pregnant with Zeus, she had had enough. She gave birth in secret and tricked Cronus into eating a large boulder instead of Zeus. Zeus was raised in secret and only returned when he was an adult. He fought Cronus and with the help of his sibling was able to defeat the mad titan god. Zeus alone couldn’t beat Zeus and so Zeus was always worried that his father might try to avenge the loss of his crown. Therefore Zeus had Cronus imprisoned in Tartarus, which was the ancient Greek equivalent of a maximum security prison.
- Atlas – Atlas was a super powered Titan god. In the great Titanomachy battle between the gods and the titans, Atlas was one of the more formidable and powerful opponents. He led many of the more successful skirmishes between the titans and the gods. Understandably, Zeus, after defeating the titans didn’t want to just throw Atlas in prison. Instead he gave him a very particular task. Atlas was to be sent to the west and was made to hold up the sky for eternity. There he spent his days until he came across the Greek hero Perseus who used the head of Medusa to turn him into stone. This is the origin story for the Atlas mountains.
- Gaia – Gaia was a primordial god and one of the first to come into existence. In terms of the Greek gods family tree she was the grandmother of Zeus. She was always concerned with order in the universe and when Zeus was in power she felt that he didn’t do a good job in this regard. Zeus was always having affairs and causing chaos on earth. He also imprisoned many of the children of Gaia in Tartarus. This angered her greatly and so she conspired on a few occasions to overthrow Zeus. First by releasing the giants to attack Mt. Olympus and then later by sending the great monster Typhon.
- The Giants – In Greek mythology the giants came in many shapes and sizes. There were Cyclopes, the Hecatoncheires and then the gigantes. These gigantes were released to attack Mt. Olympus by Gaia, their mother. Initially the gods could not defeat them because gods cannot kill giants. Zeus then enlisted the help of his son, and demigod Heracles in the battle. Because Heracles was half human he was able to kill the giants. The Greek gods would distract the giants and then Heracles would strike the fatal blow. After they were defeated many of the giants were buried under islands or mountains.
- Typhon – Gaia was very unhappy at the defeat of her gigantes children by Zeus. She decided that she wouldn’t give up the fight. Together with Tartarus, she gave birth to the monster Typhon. This monster was the most terrible to have walked the earth and was universally feared by all. The other Greek god fled at the sight of this monster, but Zeus stood his ground. Initially Typhon was able to get the better of Zeus despite all his powers. Zeus had his tendons on his arms and legs cut and was imprisoned in a cave. The messenger god Hermes managed to find him and was able to return the tendons to Zeus. Zeus again returned to battle Typhon, and this time he was victorious.
- Prometheus – Prometheus was a titan god who switched to the side of the Greek gods during the Titanomachy. As reward Prometheus was made into the close adviser of Zeus. One day Zeus tasked him with the creature of all life on earth, including that of humans. Upon making humans and putting them on the earth, Prometheus took the additional step of giving them the gift of fire. Zeus feared giving humans too much power and so he punished Prometheus by having him tied to a mountain for eternity and having his liver eaten by a eagle each day.
- The Fates – In almost all aspects of the universe the Olympian gods were the most powerful. The controlled the sky, the seas, the underworld and the earth. But in context they were still limited in their power. This was in the idea of fate. There were three sisters called Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos who controlled the fates of who lived. They would build a thread of life for everyone who lived. Clotho would spin the thread, Lachesis would check the length and Atropos would cut the thread if necessary. Zeus feared these three sisters as he had no power over them.
- Hera – Hera was both the sister and wife of Zeus. Together with Zeus she had a number of children, including Ares the god of war and Hephasteus the god of the forge. Unfortunately for Hera, Zeus was an incredibly disloyal husband. He was forever attempting to woo other gods and mortals. He fathered many other children, many of whom would be tormented by Hera for much of their lives. Zeus would often have to escape the jealous wrath of his wife as she discovered another of his affairs. Hera took particular interest in Heracles, who was one of the sons of Zeus. She tried to kill him on many occasions. One time she made him go crazy and he ended up killing his wife and children.
So, this is by no means all the fears of Zeus. But if you are interested to hear more about these rivals and opponents there is another good article here.
The Powers of Zeus
Zeus may have had many fears but he was quite the formidable god himself. There was a reason he was able to fight and defeat so many opponents. Here are just some of his major powers.
- Shape shifting and transformation – He would often wander the earth in a variety of human and animal forms
- Super strength
- Control of animals and people
- Control the environment and the weather – He could cause strong winds and terrible lightning storms
- Immortality – much like the other Greek gods he could live forever. In some of the accounts this is due to the gods eating ambrosia
- Lightning bolts – after releasing the cyclopes from their prison, they gifted Zeus lightning bolts which he could throw at enemies
Zeus was all powerful and was able to fight and defeat all his enemies. This didn’t mean he didn’t have any fears. Many of his battles were fought with the help of others and so on his own Zeus was still vulnerable.
I hope you enjoyed our article on the many fears of Zeus. Thanks for taking the time to read it.