The Caprices of Olympus' First Couple

The Caprices of Olympus' First Couple

The gods of ancient Greece are relatively well-known to us, at least the most powerful ones like Athena, Poseidon, or Zeus. We commonly encounter them not only on television screens but also in books and, last but not least, in computer games.

Greek gods, according to legend, possessed incredible power, but on the other hand, they were very human. They had their desires and emotions, which often guided them. This wasn't always beneficial. Many people suffered because of their whims. 

Zeus and His Adventures

Zeus, the king of the gods, was known in the legends as a womanizer. Being a god, he managed to bed numerous ancient beauties.

However, he did not use the power of his majesty as much as his ability to intrigue and change his form. He even appeared as a white swan for a while.

He became a swan to be closer to Leda, the wife of Spartan King Tyndareus. As a result, he managed to establish a love affair with Leda. From this union, identical twins were born – the daughter Helen (later known as the Trojan) and the boy Polydeuces.

Another legend tells of the abduction of the Phoenician princess Europa, whom Zeus approached as a bull. Europa was so enchanted by the animal that she decided to ride on it.

At that moment, Zeus/the bull started to run away with the poor princess. He stopped only in Crete, where he changed back into his human form and so charmed the princess that she bore him three sons.

At first glance, it seems that the adventures of the ruler of Olympus were essentially harmless bedroom escapades, usually ending happily. Perhaps it would have been so if Zeus didn't have a wife.

Vengeful Hera

Hera was both the sister and wife of the god Zeus. And just like any proper wife, Hera was jealous. Her jealousy was understandably not unfounded.

Everyone on Olympus knew about the king of gods' adventures. Since Hera couldn't oppose her husband directly, she decided to take revenge on his mistresses and illegitimate children.

One of the most famous victims of the queen of gods' wrath was Semele, daughter of the Theban ruler. She was expecting a child with Zeus.

According to the legend, Hera transformed into a maid and persuaded Semele to ask Zeus to reveal himself in his true form. Zeus granted Semele's wish, but in doing so, he also killed her. His true form was that of thunder and lightning.

Zeus at least managed to save his unborn child, whom Semele was expecting. He took it from her body and sewed it to his thigh, where he let it grow.

Hera dealt even worse with another rival in love, Lamia. She killed her children and turned her into a horrific monster. She also cursed her to never close her eyes. Zeus mitigated this punishment by allowing Lamia to remove her eyes at will.

Whims Over Justice

Greek gods were seldom just. They usually followed only their needs, which naturally had consequences in the realm of mortals. But it wasn't just the first couple of Olympus who were carried away by their whims. Zeus' and Hera's colleagues also had more than enough on their conscience. But more on that another time.