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The Image of Zeus: Virtuous and Despicable Human Traits

Mythology has influenced the world up to the present time and remains meaningful for modern society as it is one of the most significant elements of culture. Contemporary arts, literature, and science continue using ancient myths, and people can find references to them in almost all the spheres of life. It is stated that one of the crucial functions of myths is “to justify an existing social system and account for traditional rites and customs” (Onion et al., 2020, para. 1). In Greek mythology, gods were often depicted as anthropomorphic, representing various human qualities such as power, wisdom, greed, anger, or hatred, which made them similar to ordinary people with their values and weaknesses. The deities of that time, especially Zeus as one of the most famous characters, exhibit both virtuous and despicable human traits, which can be seen through their relationships.

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The name of Zeus is widely known by people all over the world. In ancient Greece, he was the god of the sky and thunder, who became the king of other gods of Mount Olympus due to his intelligence and power. Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea, and his relationships with parents prove that gods are similar to ordinary people in many ways. Cronus ate his children as he was afraid of a prophecy “that stated his children would overthrow him like he overthrew his father” (“Even the Greeks had daddy issues”, para. 2). However, Rhea managed to save her youngest son Zeus, who later tricked his father and made him vomit his siblings. As a result, Zeus had no good relations with his parent and saw him only as a despot. Moreover, Zeus failed to learn from his parents’ fallacies and did the same deed with his children, which proves that gods make mistakes and often fail to learn from the previous experiences as well as ordinary people.

The relationships of Zeus with his seventh wife Hera are also important in demonstrating that ancient gods had many similar problems as people today. Hera was a Greek goddess of marriage and birth, and she became Zeus’s wife despite being his sister, which is inappropriate for the society of today. However, there were many marital problems, which are typical for the modern world as well. The god of skies was known for being infidel to his wife, had numerous mistresses and illegitimate children. Various myths told about Hera being jealous of her husband’s amorous adventures, and constantly fighting his lovers. Zeus was also a pioneer of “paiderastia, the practice of Greek men maintaining erotic relationships with adolescent boys on the side” as he chose the young Ganymede as his cupbearer on Mount Olympus (Ogles, 2020, para. 3). This way, Zeus had various sexual issues, which often brought him problems in his marriage and work, which reflects one of the weaknesses, common to many people on Earth.

Myths portrayed the gods as possessing not only powers and immortality but human traits such as lust, jealousy, and dishonesty. In Greek myths, Zeus is often shown as demonstrating all of these characteristics, portraying tendencies of acting as an ordinary man in many situations. One example is a story in which Hera learned about her husband’s betrayals and convinced Semele, with whom Zeus cheated on her, to ask the god to show her his true nature. Zeus agreed and did as asked, having burnt Semele alive. This myth is a bright example of the god acting out of his primitive instincts, showing a weakness, common to ordinary humans.

In conclusion, gods in the ancient world existed for serving the same purposes as today, for letting people believe in someone, and make prayers for health and safety. However, gods in Greek myths were often portrayed as possessing the same qualities as ordinary people, including common weaknesses such as lust, impatience, and dishonesty. Zeus, being one of the most widely known gods, represents numerous virtuous and despicable human traits, proving that gods have many qualities making them similar to ordinary people.

References

Even the Greeks had daddy issues (n.d.). Web.

Ogles, J. (2020). 20 Greek Gods who had same-sex relationships. Web.

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Onion, A., Sullivan M. & Mullen M. (2020). Greek mythology. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "The Image of Zeus: Virtuous and Despicable Human Traits." January 15, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/the-image-of-zeus-virtuous-and-despicable-human-traits/.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "The Image of Zeus: Virtuous and Despicable Human Traits." January 15, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/the-image-of-zeus-virtuous-and-despicable-human-traits/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) 'The Image of Zeus: Virtuous and Despicable Human Traits'. 15 January.

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