Being both an art student and a literature nerd, I know a lot about Greek mythology. Like a lot a lot. Greek mythology plays a key role in having even a basic level of understanding of art history (primarily Western art history, but yeah, just roll with me here), with the rediscovery of classical antiquity that began during the Renaissance, the poetry of Ovid became a major influence on the imagination of poets, artists, you name it, and remained a fundamental influence on the diffusion and perception of Greek mythology through subsequent centuries of art and writing.
Basically what I'm saying here is that people constantly hark back to this sh*t, culturally it's the very foundation on which a large portion of art, writing, film, etc. is based. And yet, somehow people rarely discuss (outside of an academic setting) how ludicrously absurd Zeus and his penis act throughout the poetry of our dear Ovid. Zeus could just not keep it in his pants to save his life. I kid you not when I say that half this book is about Zeus having sex, realizing what he's done, back-peddling, and subsequently bringing general unnecessary, totally avoidable chaos to the Olympian world. I'm here to tell you about all the different ways he did that, starting at the very beginning, with his first romantic prospect:
So Metis was the first consort of Zeus, and she wasn’t actually a goddess at all. She was, in fact, a Titan, which were sort of like the prototypes of the gods. Titans were about equal in strength and hero/super-being status, but with a slightly differing back story. Anyways, she and Zeus slept together, and afterwards he was immediately super freaked out. Like, so much so that he panicked and turned her into a fly and swallowed her. And so begins his legacy as Zeus: Smoothest God Alive, this is also where Athena comes from, by the way. Metis made her some armor and after she was fully grown, she came straight out of Zeus’ head. Zeus was fine. But I have to wonder: was Metis still a fly when she was making said armor? And how does that work? Do the innards of Zeus sort of function like a TARDIS from Doctor Who, bigger on the inside?
Zeus promptly lost his mind after he slept with Thalia. Are you, perhaps, sensing a theme here? Probably because, at this time, he and Hera (who was also his sister, just as an FYI) were married. So at this point Zeus has just cheated on his wife/sister/wife, and he to hide his affair. Naturally, he decides, "hm, maybe I need to bury her". Literally. This was Zeus's foolproof solution to his own infidelity, he buries Thalia in the ground. She ends up having twins anyways. They just kind of sprout up out of the ground- talk about kids popping up like weeds. (Ba-dum TSSS.)
There’s not a ton of information out there on Phthia. She was not a god either, and actually she was just a mortal who lived in Aegion. However, for this lucky gal, Zeus thought the best route to her heart was via pigeon. And by that, I mean he seduced her while he was a pigeon. No, you did not misread that, and yes, we are still talking about the almighty and powerful ruler of the Olympian gods, Zeus. Just let it sink in. Have you ever found yourself unsure about a sexual prospect, and thought, "if only they were a pigeon"? Why did Zeus think a pigeon would be seductive? I’m not gonna judge you, but, man, at least some of these other animals make sense.
Now Semele was a priestess of Zeus’. One day Zeus was in the neighborhood when he happened to see her slaughter a bull, get absolutely drenched in blood, and then jump in the river to wash it all off. Obviously, his next thought was that he had to have sex with this woman. I’m with him on this one. Nothing gets me going like animal sacrifice and being covered in blood. If you think this is gross, I’ll direct you to how hot everyone thought Adam Levine was in the Animals music video. Anyways, Zeus flies above her like an eagle for awhile and eventually has his way with her too, resulting in the birth of Dionysus. Dionysus had to be cut out of Zeus's thigh later, after he burnt her up when he revealed his godliness. Long story.
Aegina was a princess that Zeus also had sex with in the guise of an eagle! What is up with all the eagle sex, Zeus? Zeus had to work a little harder with this one than the last time he chose the form of an eagle, though. Aegina’s father chased him across an ocean and wouldn’t leave until Zeus threw literal thunderbolts at him. I guess he figured he had so much success the last time he tried the whole eagle thing, that he figured it would bring him luck the next time? Or maybe he was trying to learn what these women wanted for once and thought being an eagle was it? Probably not though. Regardless, no dice, Zeus. Stop abducting princesses.
BUT OF COURSE, Zeus has a thing for abducting princesses and not, you know, actually talking to them. With Europa he took the form of a huge white bull to approach her. Europa freaked out a little, like, why is this bull so massive but also behaving like a lap dog (and you know what kind of lap dog I’m talking about). When she touched it, it went down on it’s forelegs and she got on its back. Here’s where I’m gonna stop you for a second and say, What the hell, Europa? In what universe is that a good idea? This is the age of heroes, dude, you don’t just have to worry about getting gored, you also have to worry about stuff like this happening! Anyway, of course he immediately gets up, swims across an ocean, and then rapes her. Really a great guy, Zeus. A total gentleman.
Back to the bird sex. Zeus disguises himself as a swan to woo Leda, and somehow manages to have sex with her on the same night as her marriage to her husband, Tyndareus. This is weird in and of itself, but wait there's more! Leda ends up laying eggs. Eggs! How does that even work? She has four egg kids in total, and no one is sure whose kids are the king's and whose kids are Zeus'. It’s just a mess, and they came out of eggs, I’m never going to be over that.
From the research I’ve been doing, Dia had sex with Zeus, who was disguised as a stallion, which, honestly raises a lot of questions. There's not a lot of details about this encounter. It just says he “ran around her in the form of a horse” as an attempt to seduce her, and then it skips around to note later that she did end up pregnant! I’m just not entirely sure how. I’m really hoping it was just from the running around thing. This is the gods we're talking about, it seems like it could work. I don’t want to think about the other options, really.
So, actually, Callisto was Dia’s sister! Keeping it in the family, girls. But speaking of keeping it in the family, Callisto actually served as a handmaiden to the daughter of Zeus, Artemis. This gave Zeus a brilliant idea, Zeus approached Callisto in the form of her goddess, aka his own daughter. You might at this point be able to see where this is going. He then raped her, because as we have seen, Zeus is seriously not a good person. But seriously- your own daughter? Come on my dude, do you have any boundaries?
And, of course, the infamous golden shower (not that kind, although I would not put it past him). Danae was in a subterranean dungeon, locked away by her own father, and Zeus desired her so much that he just kind of drips into her dungeon one day. As a shower of gold. Now this is one that I am interested in the mechanics of, and the best description I found was that he just “streamed…down into her womb”. Which like. What? Had he ever thought of even freeing this woman? Or maybe turning himself back into a human guise after he got into the dungeon so he could have actual sex with her? How did this happen?
Of course, you could be knocked up by an ant. Welcome, Eurymedousa, winner of the weirdest conception. My favorite part about this is that, although there’s not a ton of information, Wikipedia deigns to include the line, “may also have been transformed into an ant”. What I love so much about that is that it includes the possibility that she might not have been, and furthermore that I guess they never bothered to check. Try and figure that one out. Before I leave you, however, I just want to inform you that Eurymedousa and Zeus’ son was named Myrmidon, which translates directly to Ant-Man. Because of course it does.