Skip to content

Zeus Notes Part 5

December 1, 2011

Previous (long winded but interesting) notes can be found here:  Part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.  Very LONG.

  • Zeus Olympios originally an Elean god who became chief of the honored Divinities when the Elean games (aka the Olympics) became the chief festival in Greece.  He still had a strong khthonic flavor but changed under “artistic influence”.
    • Delphi had ordered Iphitus and the Eleans to revive the Olympic games to placate Zeus when Greece was troubled with civil strife and pestilence.
    • Zeus Sosipolis has been identified with the Cretan Zeus who has a strong similarity to Olympian Zeus.  The resemblance is not found in artistic representation but mythological.
    • Called the inhabitant of the hill of Cronus and of the Idea Cave
    • The Curetes were the first to participate in the Olympian games says Pausanias.  Also says Clymenus instituted these games and built an altar to Hercules and the other Curetes; that Zeus Olympius was closely connected to Cronus and Rhea.
    • one theory is that the Olympian cult took over the cult of Zeus Kataibates (Descender).
    • traces of an oracle where the deity uttered his responses from below ground.  Pausanias mentions a story about an Earth-oracle in that spot.
    • only white popular would used for sacrifices, the wood Hercules brought up from Hades
    • Near the Athenian Olympieum was a cleft where water from the great flood disappeared, perhaps one of the entrances to the underworld.
  • Zeus Lycaeus of Arcadia said to be born on Mt. Lycaeus , the sacred place was called Kretea.
    • human sacrifice seems to have been a feature but may have been “a relic of a cannibal custom”.  Plat says that worshipers ate of a dish that contained one morsel of human flesh; whoever ate it must become a wolf.  “Lycaon put upon the altar of Zeus Lycaeus the offspring of a human being and sacrificed it and poured its blood as a libation upon the altar.  And they say that immediately after this sacrifice he became a wolf instead of a man.”  The wolf appears to be a symbol of flight and exile.
    • wild Arcadian deity, probably a wolf god, dwelt underground; the demesne of which was abatos (forbidden), those that entered were said to cast no shadow and would die within the year or where actually stoned to death
    • associated with Zeus Phyxios (refuge), Zeus Lykoreios, Zeus Ikesios (protector), Zeus Laphystios (voracious)
  • Many early inhabitants chiefly worshiped subterranean deities which many of the Olympian deities eventually absorbed.
    • At Amyclae in Laconia, Apollo seems to have taken over Hyacinthus
    • Apollo Carneus was probably a khthonic god absorbed by Apollo
    • At Herminone the chief feast day was the Chthonia
    • At Aegina, khthonic Hekate held chief place of honor
    • Early inhabitants worshiped khthonic Cronus
    • Poseidon retained many traces of khthonic character and may have been the chief diety in early times as claimed by Diodorus
  • Zeus Phyxios (of Refuge)
    • received offerings for expiation of murder, at the cessation of rain, at the end of a perilous journey
    • received a ram, the fleece of this victim seems to have possessed a peculiar sanctity as to form the object of the Argonautic expedition which connects him to Zeus Katharsios (purifiying) and Zeus Meilikhios.
    • the ability to expiate and punish for crimes of blood connects him with Zeus Lykaios and Zeus Laphystios (voracious)
  • Zeus Laphystios (Voracious)
    • eldest Athamantid of each generation was forbidden entry to the prytaneum.  If he did so, he was sacrificed.  If he fled but returned or was caught, he was then sacrificed.  Such sacrifices were done in anger for Cytissorus rescuing one whose death was to purify the land.  One theory is that this eventual evolved from forfeiture of life to a forfeiture of citizenship.  In propitiatory sacrifice, exile or servitude was sometimes accepted instead of victim’s death.
    • Some say that this Zeus received the sacrifice of the golden fleece instead of Zeus Phyxios…or they are the same deity.  This offering was to an agricultural deity to avert the evil of failing crops according to Apollodorus.
    • near this shrine is where Heracles emerged with Cerberus, which may suggest that this Zeus was originally a vicious, devouring earth-god.
  • Zeus Ikesios (Protector)
    • protector of supplicants and avenger of injury done to them
    • principal sacrifice (used by Media and Circe) consists of wetting the criminal’s hands with blood from the offspring of a sow held with its neck in a downward position towards the earth.
    • associated with Zeus Katharsios (purifying)
    • may have originally been a demon (daimon?) who revenged crime that was syncreticized with Zeus
    • received oaths with Zeus Katharsios (purifying) and Zeus Exakester (healer/appeaser)
    • this Zeus and the Furies received pelanoi (poridge), meiliktra (honey and milk) and nephalia (sober sacrifice) at the hearth
  • Zeus Patroos (God of one’s fathers)
    • protects the rights of the father like a Fury (who avenged the violation of blood relationship). Kthonic powers have especial charge of the sacred ties of family life…  “oversight of the mutual relations between the members of the family and the tribe, and the punishment of serous failure in the duty owed by the individual to either.”  Such duties are rather odd in the god of the sky.
    • would receive appeasement, like Zeus Milichios, for the shedding of tribal blood.
    • honored in a Halicarnassian inscription with Apollo of Telmessus (god of a dream oracle), the Moerae, Mother of the Gods, Agathodaemon (described as the soul of the departed) of Poseidonius and Gorgis.
    • foundation of the family is the marriage rite.  One who violated this rite was sacrificed to the khthonic gods.  The marriage rite and kthonic rites were very similar.  Khthonic deities were very interested in the whole point of marriage, children.  Many khthonic goddess also had the epithet Kourotrophos (Demeter, Ge, Hekate, Hes, Brimo (Persephone)).
  • The author states that the difference between an Olympic deity and a Khthonic deity is that the former are honored for sending men good things while the latter are appeased to keep them from sending disaster and punishment.  Plutarch states that the function of punishment is fury-like and demonic, not god-like nor Olympic and that the good belongs to Zeus Olympius and the apotropaic to Hades.  Author states, “The Greek is in his religion a homeopathist, and consequently it is the sender of the evil that is asked to avert it.”  Eusebius states that the Ouranioi are the gives of good, the Upokthonioi the averters of ill.  (me–yet many divinities are both Ouranic and Kthonic.  Seems to me the splitting of hairs.  Which again makes me wonder if Zeus and Hades are not the same divinity split up for convenience and THAT is one of his mysteries…which makes a whole lot of myths even MORE confusing.)
  • Theoi Apotropaioi (Gods that avert evil)
    • received sacrifices that “might not be tasted, either by the senders or the bearers”.
    • averted crime
    • avert ill omens
    • avert disease, being classed with Aesculapius
    • avert various ills such as civil sedition, unfortunate outcome of war, detection in stealing
    • probably done at night
    • received pelanos (porridge)
    • worshiped in connection with Hekate, Ge, Heroes, Aesculapius
  • Zeus Apatropaios (Averter of Evil) received preventive sacrifices; connected with Zeus Melikhios
    • connected with Zeus Prostropaioswho avenges those that met their death by treachery and violence
    • connected with Zeus Alexikakos
  • Zeus Mekaneus  (Inventor/Contrivor)
    • received oxen and holocausts of swine
    • seems to be a sort of Soter helping men in affliction and perplexity
    • connected with apparatus of war
  • Zeus Bouleus (of the Council)
    • some connection to the Eleusinian Mysteries as Eubuleus?
    • received swine “uper karpon”
    • good council may be dream oracles
    • possibly Pluto
  • Zeus Idaios – earth god similar to Zeus Tarsios
  • Zeus Ithometes
    • received human sacrifice from Aristomenes to secure a good omen
    • Pausanias says rams were offered to him
    • similar to Ikesios as a punisher of those that voilate supplicants’ rights
    • protector of buried treasure?
  • Zeus Apomuios (Driver away of flies) – some say the offering was to the flies, other say to a hero, Elean god or King of Flies named Myiagros later syncreticized with Zeus
  • Zeus Kragos – an old mountain deity associated with subterranean (aka volcanic) fire absorbed by Zeus
  • Zeus Moiragetes (leader of the Moerae) received lustrial offerings
  • Zeus Areios (of War)
    • received offerings to avert peril in chariot races or the evil chance of defeat
    • received a ram
    • syncretism with Ares
    • invoked in oaths
    • represented on coins with the cap of Pluto which resembles Ares helmet
  • Zeus Katharsios (purifying)
    • invoked by Circe during placation of Zeus Ikesios for Media and Jason
    • called upon to witness injury.
    • had an altar near the Unknown Gods, Victory and Zeus Kthonios
    • identified with Zeus Melikhios
    • receives nephalia (sober sacrifice)
  • Zeus Sukasios
    • named from the use of figs in lustrial and placatory sacrifice
    • identified with Katharsios and Melikhios
  • Zeus Epidotes (Bountiful)
    • identified with Katharsios
    • punishes homicides, aid in lustration and expiation, agricultural functions
    • worshiped as the giver of good things to man

“Zeus was originally no chthonic power, but a god of the bright sky, not worshipped, however, by the earliest inhabitants of central and southern Greece.  His cult spread by conquest among peoples that had worshipped principally divinities of darkness and earth, beings who must be placated. With sundry of these Zeus became identified, sometimes quite absorbing the old god and assuming some merely descriptive surname; but quite as often retaining as his own surname the perhaps euphemistic title of the deity superseded by him.  In this victory over the old cults his own functions became sadly changed”

My opinion is that if there were other gods or daimons there, then he defeated them and took over their cult more often than not for the betterment of the worshipers, otherwise he would not have been retained.  If he was identified with them, then there had to be something in Zeus’ make-up to make that a good plausible match.

But then I don’t believe Zeus was originally a sky god, but became one when he gained the throne.  I think Zeus is a complex god and that many scholars and modern Hellenics try to catagorize or simplify him needlessly.  I do not connect with Zeus in his sky aspects…he is too large and too impersonal.  I connect with him in his khthonic aspects where I thank him for the good in my life and ask him to remove or help me remove the bad in it too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2011 7:15 PM

    I neglected your articles for a while, but I’m now making up for it when I get the chance. The material you cite gets people back to the hugely complex religious reality of Zeus, Zeus as he was to his worshippers, not as he gets reworked by
    the philosophers’ abstractions. It’s stuff like this that brings the marble to life. Thanks so much.


    • December 4, 2011 7:43 PM

      This is why I tend to study epithets, not myths. Myths are stories to which we have lost context being of a different time and culture. Epithets show *more* of the reality of practice.


  2. July 18, 2014 8:42 AM




  1. On Leopard Print « 4 of Wands
  2. PBP: Zeus Katharsios « 4 of Wands

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: