From Odysseus to Aeneas, Greek Mythology is filled with heroic stories and epic tales of asskicking warriors, gods, and monsters doing all sorts of legendary, ridiculous shit. Every myth is filled with feats of unrivaled strength and determination, and the entire religion just oozes things that are badass ike a festering wound of awesomeness. However, among the towering acts of peerless greatness that dominate the entire mythological system, there is one figure that transcends these heroes and stands on a plane of righteous badassitude all by himself – the almighty Zeus, the powerful, petty, pimp-tastic Ruler of Mount Olympus.
It all started back in the days before the gods as we know them came to power. Zeus' dad was a dude named Cronus. Cronus was the king of the Titans and generally just an all-around bastard, but things really got out of hand in his household when one day he heard some random prophecy claiming that one of his own children would overthrow him and take over as the head honcho of all existence. So Cronus, being the afore-mentioned bastard that he was, came to the rational and logical conclusion that the best course of action to prevent his own violent overthrow was to eat his children as soon as they were born:
NOM NOM NOMZ
(True story: An old roommate of mine insisted on hanging a print of this painting in the dining room of our old apartment. When the rest of us objected, he argued that it was the perfect place for such a work of art because "it was a picture about eating". Needless to say, this resulted in quite a bit of awkwardness whenever one of us wanted to invite a new girlfriend over for dinner.)
Well, Mrs. Cronus eventually got sick of popping out babies just to have them horked down by some crazy baby-eating dipshit, so when she gave birth to baby Zeus she wrapped a rock in some baby clothes and fed that to Cronus instead. Apparently King Cronus was so hungry he didn't even give a crap, because he wolfed that shit down like it was a pan of my wife's delicious homemade spanakopita and didn't seem to notice the subtle textural and flavoral difference between a newborn infant and a large inanimate granite boulder. Zeus' mom then snuck her son off to the island of Crete, where he was raised to adulthood by a celestial goat in a cave full of mythical bees. It was... weird.
Cave life among the crazy goat-bees was apparently somewhat fruitful, however, because Zeus grew up with one thought on his mind – vengeance. Zeus trained himself rigorously, day after day, and when the time was right he ran out and punched his dad so hard in the balls that Cronus barfed up all of the kids he'd eaten. The kids all got together and revolted against the Titans, and under the able command of Zeus the Olympians kicked the Titans' asses off the face of Greece forever. Cronus and his defeated buddies were banished to a place called Tartarus, a horrible vortex of suck that was pretty much like the Ancient Greek equivalent of Satan's bunghole. Seriously, if Hell was the original Death Star, Tartarus was like that awful, sewage-filled trash compactor room with the evil swimming penis eyeball thing and the walls that closed in and smashed Wookies into bloody pulps for no reason at all.
Well, even though the Titans lost the war, some folks still had their backs, and there were a couple revolts against Zeus early on in his reign. For the most part he kicked faces and took names, but the Big Z got quite a test when the horrific monster known as Typhon showed up looking to avenge the fallen King Cronus. Typhon was pretty much the most insane of all the legendary Greek beasts – this towering hydra/dragon/lizard thing was like Tiamat on steroids mixed with the Tarrasque and the Great Wall of China – and one day this thing showed up and started eating cities and throwing giant boulders around in an effort to eradicate all life on the material plane. Needless to say, everybody was pretty worried about that whole situation. Well Zeus didn't give a shit about this roid-raging beast from some ungodly, narcotics-induced Final Fantasy summon spell. He nut-shotted Typhon with a couple dozen lightning bolts and then bodyslammed a mountain on top of him before shipping his ass off to Tartarus to enjoy an eternity of ball-sucking agony with his good buddy Cronus.
The landmark court case of Zeus v. Tartarus.
After all the threats to his rule were effectively face-smashed into the seventh circle of the next thing worse than Hell, Zeus took over as the head boss of everything ever. He sent his bro Poseidon to rule the ocean and his other brother Hades to oversee the underworld, while the Z-man climbed up to the top of Mount Olympus and spent his days enjoying scenic views and having topless nymphs hand-feed him Ambrosia and grapes and methamphetamines. He just hung out up there ordering around gods and mortals and smashing peoples' asses with lightning bolts whenever they pissed him off. As they say, it's good to be the king.
In addition to being the patron saint of lawgivers, Kings, and oracles, Zeus was also tasked with upholding the morality of the people as well. This is pretty ironic, because Zeus was a total man-whore who had more adulterous affairs than a Lifetime Original Movie marathon. I mean, you can't pick up a book on mythology without reading some story of how the King of the Gods was out there giving golden showers to bored housewives or seducing comely young maidens with his insanely good looks or generally just getting it on with a veritable army of chicks and dudes and anything else that moved. During his wild escapades across Greece this guy also fathered badass gods like Ares, Apollo, Dionysus, Hermes and Hephaestos, and produced heroes like Perseus, Hercules, Helen of Troy, Orion, and King Minos. Hell, even Alexander the Great claimed to be descended from this guy, and Zeus was such a divine pimpenstein that nobody really even questioned it. This guy was so virile that one time he was just sitting around thinking about something awesome and all of a sudden the ridiculously badass warrior-goddess Athena spontaneously busted right out of his head wearing her full battle armor.
The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
This thing was made of gold, silver, and marble and stood about forty feet high.
It eventually fell apart when it imploded from the insane gravitational pull generated by Zeus' general bitchin'-ness.
As the head of the Greek pantheon, Zeus was also the most widely-worshipped of the Gods, and was the focal point of many crazy religious cults. Of course, it was a good idea to worship this guy, because he was a totally petty bastard who wasn't above making your life miserable for no reason at all. Sure, he gave great rewards to good people – if you were virtuous and cool you could find yourself getting morphed into some sweet animals or receiving Time Extends on your lifespan or something – but if you were a dickhead you could expect some pretty harsh vengeance to be laid down upon your ass with the realness. Like one time a dude named Salmoneus wanted to show everyone his badass Zeus impression so he went out and started riding around in a bronze chariot yelling "BOOM!" really loud, pretending that he could shoot lightning or something, so Zeus fragged that dumbass straight to Hades with a bolt of electricity so huge it would have made Tesla jizz. Another time, a dude named Prometheus gave the secret of fire to humans so Zeus chained him up to a rock and had rabid, pissed-off eagles disembowel him every day from that point until forever. Yet another time, a rather ambitious fellow named Ixion tried to seduce Zeus' wife Hera (a badass goddess who, in my opinion, is probably the most compelling of all the Greek deities), so Zeus responded by strapping the guy to a wheel of fire and having him raked over a bed of hot coals, condemning that poor bastard to an eternity of agonizing, skin-melting pain. The King of the Gods obviously transcended that whole "eye for an eye" thing.
Of course, in the Roman tradition Zeus was known as Jupiter, a name that nowadays makes most people thing of the fifth planet from the Sun. Well, it's no coincidence that Jupiter is named what it is – it's definitely the most badass of the planets in the Solar System. Not only is this massive beast the system's biggest planet – 11 times the size of the Earth (and with over 16 times the number of moons) – it also sports an insane permanent storm that rocks the planet like a hurricane all day long. The Great Red Eye of Jupiter is the size of Earth and constantly maintains insane sustained winds of 225 miles per hour, which is roughly enough velocity to take Dorothy and Toto and blow them out of Kansas, past the Emerald City, and into a wormhole leading to the Delta Quadrant. Its gravity also kicks the ass of Earth gravity, and is so powerful that the entire planet generates a gravity well that sucks in asteroids and any other space shit stupid enough to get close to the planet's inescapable atmosphere. The crazy gravity is so awesome that it compresses Hydrogen into liquids and solids, which kicks ass.
The Mighty Zeus was the God of Lightning and the King of the Gods – kind of like Odin and Thor together with a toga and a year's supply of weapons-grade Viagra - and one of the craziest and most vengeful deities this side of the Old Testament. Generally appearing as a totally ripped old guy with a sweet, flowing white beard and a washboard stomach so over-the-top that it could only be described as a 24-pack of MetRx protein shakes, this guy not only appears in an obscene number of completely epic-looking sculptures and paintings and provides the namesake to the craziest planet in our corner of the universe, but he also served as the head honcho for two of the most badass classical civilizations on Earth – the Greeks and the Romans. He lived rough, partied hard, and didn't think twice about destroying anyone who stood in his way. As far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty sweet legacy.
Zeus chills while some babe falls all over him.
Apollodorus. The Library of Greek Mythology. Trans. Hard, Robin. Oxford Univ. Press, 1999.
Hesiod. Theogany and Works and Days. Trans. West, Martin L. Oxford Univ. Press, 1999.
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Lattimore, Richmond. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951.
Willis, Roy G. World Mythology. Macmillan, 1993.