Greek mythology is a wonderful thing, isn't it? I mean, we see architecture inspired by it, we read epic poetry describing it, and we see it depicted on vases and in paintings. It's been an inspiration for some movies such as "Clash of the Titans" (both the original and the remake), "Wrath of the Titans," and "Percy Jackson." Greek myth has some major ups and downs, most of it revolving around Zeus and his various dalliances with a lot of pretty ladies. He's been the brunt of many people's jokes, and here's why: He doesn't know how to pick up girls. He also doesn't understand common etiquette. Here are some of his most entertaining schemes:
1. He's married to his sister, Hera.
Now, this isn't necessarily Zeus having trouble with girls. It's just him showing his odd side. Incest wasn't exactly scorned back in ancient Greece; the Titans Cronus and Rhea (brother and sister) got married, and she bore many of the "modern" Olympians, including Zeus and Hera. The idea of birthing many children to your sibling didn't bother the Greeks very much back in the day.
All the power to them! They had some great adventures.
2. He turned into a swan and raped Leda.
This story is a little more unnerving because at least the marriage between siblings could seem consensual (most of the myth is biased anyhow, because of the Greeks' misogyny toward women and toward those of lower classes, so this is all taken with a grain of salt). Regardless, the myth describes Zeus as either "seducing" or "raping" Leda in a fit of passion. She then hatched two children, Helen, and Polydeuces. Helen was then the cause of the war between the Greeks and Trojans many years later. So thanks for that one, Zeus. Thanks a lot.
3. He turned into a golden shower and impregnated Danae.
I'm sorry, what? This shouldn't be something that's happening in any story. Nothing can stop Zeus. Not even Danae's father, who locked her in a cell because of a disturbing prophecy. She was to have a male son who would kill her father, King Acrisius. Zeus decided that the king wouldn't have any say in this, and turned himself into a golden shower and got her pregnant. She then bore Perseus, who is one of the coolest Greek heroes that's ever been depicted in any way, ever. He (Perseus) kills Medusa, by the way. It's one of the most famous stories that's been told, and there are sculptures depicting it.
How cool is that? But not what Zeus did. That's definitely not cool.
4. He turns into a bull for Europa.
What is with this guy and turning into animals? If Zeus was a real person, I'm sure many classicists would have a ton of questions for him. This myth involves him abducting Europa and swimming to Crete to then make love to her. She was one of the less important dalliances with him, it seems, because she wasn't really punished by Hera and didn't yield any notable children to him.
5. He turns Io into a cow.
This story is one of the most frustrating when considering Zeus and his various lovers. He pursued Io against her will, and when Hera got jealous and tried to punish the woman, Zeus turned her into a heifer. Hera didn't believe this crap and decided she'd take Io (in cow form) as her pet. Zeus let Hera have Io because he was done with her. Io then is guarded by a hundred-eyed watchman but is set free. She's then plagued by a fly at Hera's command for some time later. Moral of the story? Zeus is a crappy guy.
6. His affair with Callisto has some unbearable consequences.
One of the most interesting Zeus-rapist stories of all time involves the virgin Callisto. She swore her virginity to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and the two were extremely close. Zeus decided that wouldn't do, because what's the fun in leaving a beautiful woman alone in Greek myth? He decided he'd disguise himself as the goddess Artemis and persuade Callisto to enter a forest, where he reveals his true identity and then rapes her. She becomes pregnant, and Artemis scorns her by turning her into a bear. Her son, later in life, accidentally shoots his bear mama while on a hunt. Wow.
7. He pretends to be Alcmene's husband.
This is a pretty notable myth because Alcmene was the mother of Hercules, or Herakles as the Greeks wrote him. Hercules has a notably horrible life, as did his mother after Zeus was done with her. Her husband was away at war, and all Zeus had to do was pretend to be him after having presumably gotten back from said war. He made their passionate night together run into three days' length. After she was impregnated with Hercules, Alcmene's husband didn't have any relations with her ever again, and Hera was a prevalent nuisance for the rest of their lives. That's great, is it not? Not.
8. He turned his first wife into a fly, and ate her.
This is a pretty messed up tale that not many individuals know about. Before marrying Hera, Zeus was married to Metis, one of the Titans. Zeus heard a troubling prophecy that Metis would bear a son, who would overthrow Zeus just as he had overthrown his father Cronus. Zeus promptly convinced Metis to turn herself into a fly, and he ate her. However, Metis was already pregnant with Athena, who was born out of Zeus' skull after he requested Hephaestus to crack his skull open out of pain. Athena jumped on out of his skull and turned into a total bad-ass after that. Poor Metis.
9. He impregnated his sister Demeter and then betrayed her.
The story of Zeus and Demeter is less known, whether or not he raped her or she agreed to the affair is unknown. Their daughter, Persephone, is one of the most famous women in Greek mythology. She is commonly known for her abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld. He tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds while she was there, which causes Demeter to let the crops die in a fit of despair. That's why we have winter, by the way. Zeus betrayed Demeter by promising Persephone to Hades, without cluing Demeter into this little plan. Demeter wandered for days and suffered from then on, and Persephone was brutally kidnapped and held hostage. Ten points for Zeus! What a stand-up guy.
Above is the artwork showing Persephone being kidnapped by Hades. Great stuff, right?
Obviously, every character in Greek mythology is pretty flawed or significantly screwed up. Zeus sets an unprecedented standard, though. He just does things because, hey, why not? He's the king of the gods, and will forever be remembered as such. Even though he made a habit of doing some pretty weird things. Or just being a horrible person in general. Whichever tickled his fancy in the moment.