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Though Zeus (Jupiter or Jove) is the closest figure in
mythology to an omnipotent ruler, he is far from all-powerful. He
also lacks the perfection we might expect in a divine ruler. However,
this imperfection is only a detriment if we view Zeus as a moral
authority, which, according to his stories, he is not. Hamilton
portrays Zeus as both an agent and victim of fate. As ruler of the
gods, Zeus is destined to overthrow his father, Cronus, who himself
became lord of the universe after overthrowing his own father, Heaven.
Cronus’s inability to prevent his overthrow is the first example
we see of the inevitability of fate—a recurring theme in mythological
stories. Even Zeus himself is fated to be overthrown by one who
is yet unborn.
Zeus attempts to learn the identity of his future overthrower from
Prometheus but continues his daily habit of revelry, sometimes at
the expense of innocent mortals and other gods. Always conscious
of what he sees as an insurmountable difference between gods and
humans, he has no pity for mortals. It is perhaps this essential
lack of sympathy that enables Zeus to toy with humans heartlessly,
raping and ruining the lives of many women, who seem to exist only
for his pleasure. Yet this behavior only represents one side of
Zeus’s character; the other, more evolved side is his role as the divine
upholder of justice for both gods and humans.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Mythology!