Zeus’ 5 Most Bizarre Conquests

In Ancient Greek mythology Zeus was king of the gods and, by and large, did a pretty good job of it. Referred to as father even by those gods he didn’t have a hand in conceiving, he overthrew his baby-eating father Cronus and shared the world with his elder brothers Poseidon (who got the world’s waters) and Hades (who was put in charge of the dead and thus the Underworld). However, for all his godliness he had one fatal flaw: women. This, perhaps understandably, pissed off his wife Hera no end, especially considering the irony of her presiding over marriage and the union of the marriage bed. But what were Zeus’s more unusual dalliances? He was a god, after all, and a few dirty weekends disguised as business trips weren’t exactly going to cut it.

Metis

Metis, the goddess of prudence, was said to be Zeus’s first love. However, she went to great lengths to avoid succumbing to his advances. A shapeshifter, she cycled through a number of forms with Zeus matching every one until she finally gave in. However, it was prophesied that Metis would bear a son capable of overthrowing Zeus, leading to him tricking her into turning herself into a fly and swallowing her. However, Metis was already pregnant, causing Zeus great pain as she hammered away inside his head making weapons and armour for her unborn daughter. Eventually Zeus asked Hephaestus to crack his head open, causing Athena to leap out fully grown and complete with armour and weapons (Zeus was fine, by the way).

Io

Perhaps not one of Zeus’s best choices due to the fact that she was a priestess of Hera, Io was one of several (named) nymphs to catch the eye of the king of the gods. Zeus transformed her into a beautiful white heifer in an attempt to hide her from Hera’s jealous gaze but she was not fooled. Demanding the heifer as a gift (and with both of them knowing that Zeus’s refusal would be indicative of his guilt), Hera took Io and placed her under the watchful eye of Argus Panoptes (or rather eyes as he had well over a hundred of them all over his body). Zeus ordered Hermes to kill the unfortunate Argus, who according to Ovid did so by disguising himself as a shepherd and charming all of his many eyes to sleep at once before doing the deed. Hera then forced Io to wander the earth by plaguing her with a stinging gadfly (arguably not the best of Greek holidays). Zeus eventually restored her to human form, Io ultimately going on to marry the Egyptian king Telegonus.

Callisto

Callisto was one of Artemis’s nymphs, and like all of the goddess’s followers took a vow of chastity. This, of course, didn’t stop Zeus, who assumed the form of Artemis herself in order to force himself on Callisto when she was separated from the goddess and her fellows. Some months later while she and the other nymphs were bathing together, Artemis realised that Callisto was pregnant. The goddess cast her out, delivering the coup degrace after she gave birth by transforming her into a bear. Sixteen years later, Callisto’s son encountered and almost killed his mother while hunting in the forest, leading to Zeus avoiding this unbearable (yeah, I went there) fate by placing them both in the sky as constellations (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor respectively).

Danaë

Daughter of King Acrisius and Queen Eurydice of Argos. Acrisius sought an heir, but upon consulting an oracle was told that if Danaë gave birth to a son he would kill him. In an effort to prevent the possibility of her ever conceiving, he locked her away in a bronze tower (essentially like some kind of ancient Greek Rapunzel). Such trifles meant nothing to Zeus, of course, who entered the tower as a shower of gold (no sniggering, please) and the rest, as they say, is ancient mythological history. Acrisius did not want to risk upsetting Zeus by attempting to kill one of his offspring and so cast Danaë and the newborn Perseus into the sea in a wooden chest. Poseidon allowed them to survive at Zeus’s behest, the pair washing ashore on the island of Seriphos where they were taken in by the fisherman Dictys. Despite Danaë spurning his advances, Dictys looked after both of them well and raised Perseus as his own.

Leda

Leda was the wife of the king of Sparta, but again this, of course, meant little to Zeus. Disguising himself as a swan, he artfully fell into her arms under the pretence of seeking protection from a hungry eagle. Following their theoretically unlikely union (which is probably best not thought about in too much detail) Leda laid two eggs, these hatching into Clytemnestra, Castor, Pollux and Helen of Troy (although in some versions of the story Helen’s mother is Nemesis, the resulting egg having simply been given to Leda to raise). Clearly not that fussed about hiding his exploits from Hera this time, Zeus created the Cygnus constellation in order to celebrate Helen’s birth (the divine equivalent of bragging to anyone who’d listen, perhaps?).

Ella, while pretty sure she’s not in any gods’ little black books, is pretty sure she could outrun Zeus if it came to it.

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