The Sky King
Sky, Order, Law, Justice
Eagle, Oak, Bull, Thunderbolt
"That Zeus is king in heaven is a saying common to all men"
Pausanias, Spartan general
Son of Cronus, grandson of Uranus, Zeus is King of the Gods as were his father and grandfather before him. Just as Cronus usurped his crown from Uranus, Zeus took the crown from Cronus in the bitter fighting of the Titanomachy. When the Titans were beaten and Cronus imprisoned in Tartarus, Zeus divided the realms of his father between himself and his brothers by drawing lots. Zeus took dominion of the sky and the air, while Poseidon gained the sea and Hades the Underworld. Claiming the title King of the Gods for himself, Zeus founded his court on the summit of Mount Olympus.
Not long after the founding of the Olympian court Zeus' grandmother, Gaia, incited the Gigantomachy to overthrow him. Zeus defeated the giants and the victory made his position much stronger and his rule absolute. Yet Zeus is learning from the mistakes of his father and grandfather whose downfalls were prophesied and who were both overthrown by their children rebelling against tyranny. It is prophesied that Athena will surpass Zeus in power and Zeus made one panicky attempt to kill her before her birth. After she survived he took a more measured approach, befriending her and she is now among his most trusted counsellors.
Athena is just one of the many children Zeus has fathered to swell the ranks of Olympus. Zeus is fond of seducing mortal women and many of the ancient royal houses of Greece were founded by his offspring. This and many other unworthy acts enraged his wife Hera and led to his divorce.
Zeus despises hubris and there is no mercy in his punishment of those who dare challenge his rule, as Prometheus discovered. The Titanomachy had left humanity in ruins and Zeus was pondering whether to do away with them and start afresh. This appalled Prometheus, a distant relative of Zeus, and he resolved to help humanity with the gift of fire. The thief stole the secret of fire from Olympus and passed it on to mortals. Zeus was furious and summoned him for judgment, but Prometheus was unrepentant and Zeus let fly his fury. The thief was bound to a boulder and condemned to have his liver torn out by an eagle each dawn for eternity.
Zeus killed his nephew Bellerophon for hubris when he tried to ride to Olympus on Pegasus and take his place amongst the gods. The King of the Gods decided Bellerophon had not proven himself worthy and sent a gadfly to bite his winged horse, who reared and threw Bellerophon off.
Another victim of Zeus' judgement was King Salmoneus of Elis. The king declared he must be worshipped as if he were Zeus himself and had a great chariot built. Salmoneus rode it through the city, trailing drums to imitate thunder and throwing torches to mimic the lightning. This weird spectacle angered Zeus and a bolt of lightning struck the king, melting him into his chariot. When Salmoneus came to the Underworld Zeus intervened in the judgment and doomed him to eternal torment in Tartarus.
As King of the Gods and the leader of the rebellion that ended their rule, Zeus is the Titans' target. Zeus knows he must keep the Titans imprisoned or scattered in exile because united they threaten his rule. He must never show weakness or let his grip on power slip for the mortals might be drawn to worship Cronus and the Titans instead. Zeus and his champions must protect the law and order that define his rule over the chaos of the Titans.
After the wars of the early days of Zeus' reign, the external threats were replaced by the internal fighting amongst the Olympians. A major source of this was Aphrodite causing mortals and gods to mate, creating the demigods. Zeus banned the mating of mortals and gods and withdrew the Olympian court from the mortal world. That was centuries ago, but now the Titans are stirring and foreigners are threatening Greece, so Zeus needs a new generation of heroes. Unwilling to create more demigods, he has decreed that heroes will be chosen from mortals. Those which Zeus picks are commanded to protect Greek society from internal strife, crime and disorder by enforcing Zeus' law and from external threats by leading Greek armies and fleets.
Zeus appears as a middle-aged man with thick hair and a full beard, a sign of gravitas that mortal rulers like to emulate. He wears sandals and full court robes edged with gold befitting his role as king and has a crown of laurels on his brow. In his right hand he carries a bundle of thunderbolts and in his left an oak staff.
The King of Gods displays a carefree attitude, sometimes even being whimsical when bored. He is quick to decide issues and faster to let loose his wrath. This has made him appear unpredictable, yet his quick decisions are still well thought out. He carefully maintains enough gravitas for his word to be trusted and obeyed.
Feared and respected, Zeus is worshipped across Greece. His temples and shrines occupy prominent places and are found at the centre of most Greek cities. He is invoked to watch over the proceedings of government, the making of new laws and in trials. Kings and oligarchs call on him to give themselves credibility and it is a common belief that to defy a ruler is to defy Zeus himself.
At his temples the ritual sacrifice is of a white animal over a raised altar, followed by the cremation of the remains. His largest temple complex is at Olympia where a huge statue to him has been formed from the ash of the countless animals sacrificed in his name. Olympia is also the home of the Olympic games held there every four years in his honour. These games are an important part of Zeus' strategy of encouraging unity amongst Greeks.
Zeus grew up on the island of Crete, in hiding from Cronus who wished to kill him. The people of Crete worship Zeus in the form of the boy and focus on stories of his time on the island.
A stranger cult is Zeus Lycaeus who worship the god as a wolf and believe that he grants special blessing for a chosen few. The cult is on the summit of Mount Lycaeon. Its founder was a madman named Lycaon, who built a shrine, offered human sacrifices and pleaded to be granted part of Zeus' power. When this failed Lycaon sacrificed his own son. Zeus was appalled by this vile act in his name and cursed Lycaon, turning him into a wolf as punishment. His followers mistook this as a blessing and continue making sacrifices, believing that when the stars are aligned Zeus will change them into wolves for seven years.
Zeus has two major oracles who he uses to communicate his will. The first is at Dodona in Epirus, in a temple surrounding a sacred oak tree. Divination is performed by barefoot priests listening for his words in the rustle of the leaves and branches. His other oracle is at Siwa in the western desert of Egypt in a temple of Amun, an Egyptian god the locals identified with Zeus. He now speaks there with Amun's voice, who hopes to save his own dying pantheon. The temple is decorated with a ram motif, the old symbol of Amun, and is attended by a mixture of Egyptian and Greek priests.