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ZEUS

KING OF THE OLYMPIANS


(Roman names: Jupiter, Jove)

by Nick Pontikis
(with apologies to grandpa Hesiod and uncle Homer)

PART ONE
Yes, part one. The dude's huge!
At least a two-part harmony, more if the Muse co-operates...

What can I say about my godfather Zeus, the


greatest and most powerful of all the Olympians,
that hasn't been written a million times before? To
the ancient Greeks, he became the undisputed
master of the universe, and as the god of light, he
was the source of all heavenly manifestations.
Gods and mortals alike trembled at his terrible
wrath when he was younger, and worshipped his
benevolent kindness as he grew older and wiser.
He caused rain, drought, good weather and bad
weather. He commanded tempests and created
storms. I remember as a little boy running my
hand through his thick, white beard, and
wondering why everyone was so in awe of this
gentle and elderly soul. Not until much later did I
discover my godfather wasn't always the most

solid pillar on Olympus. As a matter of fact, when


he was young, he was quite the rebel. Pull up a
comfortable chair and let me tell you about the
colorful fables and foibles of Zeus, the king of the
Olympians.
(Now, Zeus wasn't really my godfather, he was my
great-great uncle. 'Godfather' was just a nickname
I laid on him when I was young, because everyone
treated him like Numero Uno. One night I caught
him watching The Godfather Part I on Olympus
Vision, and I'll be darned if he wasn't doing his
best Marlon Brando/Don Corleone
impersonation! I've called him 'Godfather' ever
since, it's our own little joke.)
I never saw Zeus without his scepter in his hand. It
was the insignia of his authority, that and the darn
huge eagle always perched at his feet! That bird
scared me silly, even as I grew older. It never did
anything, it just looked right through everyone
with those majestic and piercing eyes, and once in
a while it would stretch its enormous wings to
their full span, shrinking the room. You just knew,
though, that if you made one wrong move, or in
any way threatened Zeus, in an instant the eagle
would tear you to shreds and devour you just for
fun!
The only times I saw the eagle fly were to retrieve
Zeus' thrown thunderbolts. Sort of like playing
catch with your dog, only with much higher
stakes.
I often asked him if I could play with his favourite
weapons, the thunderbolts, or at least just hold
them, but my great-great-aunt Hera (Juno in
Latin) made him keep them locked up in the study
whenever we kids came to visit. I saw him use
them a few times, however, and I'm here to tell
you that he was deadly! Beware of Zeus'
thunderbolts!
One summer night down at Thanasi's Olympus
Greek Restaurant, uncle Zeus had slipped away
from his wife Hera to sow some wild oats, the old
rascal, and near the end of the evening he was
feeling no pain, having a jolly old time flirting

with his handmaiden, the beautiful nymph


Victoria. It was long past closing time, Orpheus
and his lyre had hours ago bid us fond adieu, and
to get rid of Zeus we told him that we had ran out
of both nectar and ambrosia, his two favourite
drinks. Last call was two hours ago, Big Guy. Go
home to Hera.
Man, was Zeus upset at
getting cut off! He
unleashed one of his
patented thunderbolts
and opened up an arch
between the Blue and
the Red rooms, where
there used to be a thick
concrete wall. A
fountain appeared on
both sides, spouting
nectar and ambrosia. To
this day we keep it
open as a reminder not
to mess with mighty
Zeus.

The Arch of Zeus at


Thanasi's Olympus

(Uncle Zeus felt badly


the next morning after
he sobered up, so he
had Hermes deliver us
a statue of Aphrodite
and Poseidon that we
placed in the new
fountains he created.
He was a real
thoughtful person,
albeit a terrible drunk.
The arch looks real
nice, by the way,
everyone agrees it's a
big improvement.
Besides, it makes for a
great conversation
piece.)

The birth of Zeus was a real howl. My great-greatuncle was the sixth son of Cronus (Saturn in
Latin) and Rhea (Ops in Latin). Remember
Cronus? He was the surgeon wannabe who
castrated his father Ouranos (Father Earth,
Uranus in Latin) and seized control of the universe,
way back when. That vile act no doubt made for
some rather tortured dreams, and Cronus constantly
worried that one of his offspring would in turn
supplant him. Matters were made worse when an
oracle warned him that indeed he was destined to be
deposed by one of his children. Cronus' meter was
ticking.
What's a paranoid god to do? Cronus didn't want to
be dethroned by his kid, so he ate all the children
that Rhea bore him immediately following their
birth. A very disgusting habit, if you ask me.
One by one, each child met the same fate. No
sooner were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and
Poseidon born, but they found themselves trapped
within father Cronus. I've heard of paternal bonding
after birth, but that's downright ridiculous!
Mama Rhea found this hard to swallow. 'If the big
lug wants to make lunch of my babies, let him carry
them in his belly for nine months, and let him feel
the excruciating joy of childbirth!' she would
mutter. 'Probably change his mind about what he
puts in his mouth!'
So Rhea tricked Cronus with the birth of Zeus by
replacing him with a stone wrapped in baby
comforters. Cronus swallowed down the stone and
thought himself safe.

Man, did that lead to some animated discussions


down at Thanasi's Olympus, between uncle Homer
and grandpa Hesiod...
"Ok, now you've gone too far, Hesiod! Who in
Hades is gonna believe that Cronus ate a stone and
thought it was Zeus he swallowed? How stupid can
he be? This is the ruler of the universe you're
talking about, man, and he doesn't know the
difference between a stone and a baby? Give me a
break!"
"Homer my boy, you must learn to relax. Have I
ever told you about the Eastern religions? Repeat
after me: Ommm...Waitress, some decaf Ambrosia
for my young friend, regular for me. Listen up, I'm
only going to say this once.
"This is mythology. None of it has to make any
sense, as long as it's got violence, sex, beautiful
nymphs, men built like gods, gods built like men,
lots of scheming and intrigue and the odd lesson
learned.
"The rest is up to your imagination. Go wild if you
must, make up all kind of stories about the origin of
natural phenomena, the public eats it up."

Grandpa Hesiod. How I loved him...he was cooler


than the other side of the pillow. He was the first
Greek to wonder how everything had happened, the
cause of the world, the seas and the sky, gods and
humans, and to try to come up with an explanation.
I remember him reading me his classic book, The
Theogony (Birth of the Gods), back when it was
still in rough draft. That's how I learned to read. For
centuries his account of the creation of the universe,
and the generations of gods, has been a must-read
for lovers of Greek mythology.
So Cronus swallowed Rhea's ruse, and the infant
Zeus was sent to Gaia (Mother Earth). She took
the baby to Lyctos on the island of Crete and hid
him in Dicte's cave, where the ash nymph
Adrasteia and her sister Ide were placed in charge
of his care. They guarded the child in the cave and
tried to prevent Cronus from discovering his
existence.
The ash nymphs took great pains to safeguard the
baby. They even hung Zeus in a cradle from a tree,
so that he could be found neither in heaven nor on
earth nor in the sea and, gathering youths, gave
them brazen shields and spears and asked them to
go around the tree clashing their shields and making
noise lest the cries of little Zeus be heard.
(Someone should have told them that's what was
making the baby cry in the first place! Dumb
Greeks!)
These Curetes, as they were known, were assisted
in his upbringing by the divine goat Amaltheia.
The goat's name means 'tender'.

I kid you not. The divine goat nymph he called Amy


loved Zeus tender and suckled him on Crete, and when
she died he used Amaltheia's skin to create the Aegis,
the legendary shield of Athena. Out of gratitude Zeus
also turned one of Amy's horns into the Cornucopia
("horn of plenty") which was always filled with
whatever goodies its possessor wished. (An inebriated
Zeus forgot it at Thanasi's one night, and we got to play
with the Cornucopia...let's just say the cellars and
storerooms got filled.)
Yet if you listened in on some late night debates down at
Thanasi's Olympus, you'd learn that Amaltheia was also
considered to be a nymph who nourished Zeus with
honey and the milk of a goat. Other versions have the
nymph Neda rearing Zeus. Face it, once he became king
of the gods, just about everyone wanted to associate
themselves with Zeus, and many women claimed to
have nursed him.
One way or another...
You decide for yourself. As for me, I'm all for the divine
goat version, I swear I've seen my godfather shed a tear
when he speaks of his little goat Amy.
Using the hide of Amaltheia as his armour, Zeus set out
to seize power. He went to Metis, who sent him on to
Rhea so that Zeus could be made a cup-bearer to the
unsuspecting Cronus. With Metis' help, Zeus laced one
of Cronus' cups with a drug that made him regurgitate
his swallowed children, the five brothers and sisters of

Zeus.
Needless to say, being gods, the kids were unharmed,
albeit a tad startled...after all, one moment you're
trapped inside dad's belly, hoping he lays off the garlic
tonight, and the next second you're asked to take part in
the revolt of the Eons. Oh my. It's enough to make you
throw up.
Zeus was a brilliant strategist. He first task was to free
the Cyclopes ('Cies' to us, they were these gigantic, oneeyed towers of power) and the Hecatonchires (One
Hundred Handed Ones, they were giants endowed with
100 hands and 50 heads. Nobody in Greece could
pronounce their darn name, 'Hecatonchires', so we
called them the 'E-Cats').
The Cies and E-Cats were held in Tartarus where
Cronus had imprisoned them, and they were so grateful
to be freed that they gave Zeus thunder and lightning as
a reward for releasing them. To Poseidon they gave his
lethal trident, and to Hades a helmet that rendered its
wearer invisible.
(Why didn't they just use the thunder, lightning, trident
and helmet to free themselves earlier? Good question.
You ask them.)
Thus began the reign of Zeus. Now the Big Guy was
armed. Together with his born-again siblings (sure hope
they had a nice long bath first!), who assembled under
Zeus' leadership, he found himself at the head of a real
army.
The war against father Cronus lasted ten long years, but
finally Hades snuck up unseen on dad, wearing his
funky helmet of invisibility, his bro Poseidon held
Cronus captive with his paralyzing trident, and my
godfather Zeus struck him dead with a bolt of lightning.
Talk about a 1-2-3 knock-out punch!
The death of Cronus was followed by an attack from
Atlas and the Titans, but with the help of the Cyclopes
and the handy E-Cats, Zeus' army prevailed and the
enemy was sunk.
You should have seen the Cies and E-Cats in action with
Zeus! While the Cyclopes 'kept an eye out' for attack

from the rear, the E-Cats sat in ambush armed with


boulders in each of their 100 hands. When the time was
right, Zeus retreated, drawing the Titans into the E-Cats'
ambush. They rained down thousands of rocks and
boulders with such fury that the Titans thought the
mountains were falling on them. They broke rank and
ran away, not even bothering to slow down and change
their underwear, giving Zeus and his motley crew
victory.

The Titans who had fought against him were exiled by


my godfather to Tartarus. I heard that Tartarus was as
morbid as the Underworld, but without plumbing. Nice
place to stay out of. One time our teachers lost their
collective minds and tried to take us there on a field trip,
but only three parents signed the consent form...
The Titan's leader, Atlas, was singled out for special
punishment by being assigned the task of holding the
world on his shoulders. Ha, I can still hear uncle Homer
shouting at grandpa Hesiod late at night down at
Thanasi's Olympus...
"Hesiod, your presence here is depriving some village of
its idiot! How in Hades is Atlas supposed to hold up the
world on his shoulders? Where would he stand, you
fool? Besides, how big can Atlas be, to actually support
the entire earth? What's in that nectar you're drinking?
Vicki, cut him off!"
"I knew you'd like that one Homer, my boy. My village
was so small, we all had to take turns being the idiot.
Atlas is holding up the sky, not the whole world.
Besides, my Atlas is full scale - one inch equals one

inch, so obviously he's as large as the earth, Homey..."


Oh how grandpa Hesiod liked teasing uncle Homer.
They were the best of friends, but their artistic
competitiveness urged them both to greater heights. And
Hesiod never could resist pulling Homer's leg,
especially after he beat him in that famous debating
contest. He loved calling uncle Homer 'Homey', knew it
drove him absolutely nuts. Never missed a chance to use
it.

Ah, but with the defeat of the Titans, the fun was just
beginning. Gaia (Mother Earth), now angry that her
adorable little Titans had in turn been imprisoned, gave
birth to one last offspring, a horrid creature named
Typhoeus (Also known as Typhoon and Typhon. We
called him Ty, he reminded us of a ball player who
played on the Olympus Tigers). How ugly was Ty? Let's
just say that when he was small, Gaia would tie a pork
chop around his neck just so that Cerberus, the threeheaded dog, would play with him...
Grandpa Hesiod had the most apt description of Ty:
'Typhon was the largest, most dangerous and most
grotesque of all creatures. Nothing but coiled serpents
from the thighs down, Typhon possessed the head of an
ass and arms that stretched one hundred leagues in each
direction, with serpents' heads where hands should be.'

(You just know that drove uncle Homey crazy!)


When the gods saw Typhoon and his wife Echidna (she
was a real beaut herself, you should hear the goddesses
shred her, up at Adonis' Mount Olympus hair salon)
coming at them like a King Kong - Godzilla tag team,
the Olympians did the only sensible thing. They
changed themselves into animals and ran and hid by the
Pyramids down in Egypt. Lots of hiding spots inside the
Pyramids, some of them yet to be discovered by man...
Well! Now is that any way for bona fido...er...bona fide
gods to behave? Heavens no! My great-aunt Athena,
always the bravest of the warriors, was the only one to
stand up to Typhoon. She so humiliated my godfather
Zeus that he eventually regained his courage and a
terrible battle raged, which left hardly a living creature
on earth. Absolute carnage.
Zeus stunned Typhoon with a thunderbolt, then used
Uranus' castrating sickle to wound the beast. As
Typhoon tore up huge Mount Aetna to hurl, Zeus used
the thunder and lightning given him by the Cyclopes.
Unleashing one hundred well-aimed lightning bolts at
the mountain, he fell back, pinning Typhoon underneath.
Typhoon was buried under Mount Aetna in Sicily and
there he lies to this day, belching fire, lava and smoke
through the top of the mountain.
His hideously disgusting mate, the lovely Echidna, was
spared her life by Zeus and took up residence in a cave,
lying in wait of unsuspecting travellers. I once asked
Zeus what's up with that, and he told me that he let her
and her children live as challenges to future heroes.
Give them something to slay.
What a thoughtful gesture, Zeus! Letting Echidna and
her offspring (The Nemean Lion, Cerberus, Ladon,
Chimera, Sphinx and Hydra) live just so Heracles and
the gang can get their Boy Scout badges!
Much later a final challenge to Zeus' rule was made by
the Giants. These gigantic critters sprang up when the
blood from the newly-euniched Uranus fell upon the
earth (Gaia, Mother Earth). The Giants even tried to
invade Mount Olympus, piling mountain upon mountain
in an effort to reach the top. But the gods had grown

strong and with the help of Heracles (Hercules), the


Giants were subdued or killed. Zeus had them buried
underneath volcanoes and to this day you can often hear
them rumble and roar.
Did I mention that a couple of Titans refused to take part
in the fight against Zeus? Besides Oceanus, the Titans
Prometheus and Epimetheus (Pro and Epi we called
them) wisely chose not to side with their fellow Titans
against the Olympians, and for that they were spared
imprisonment in Tartarus. Instead they were given the
daunting task of creating man.
But being Greeks, they got it all backwards. Epimetheus
went first and he gave all the good qualities to the
animals of the earth - swiftness, cunning, strength, fur,
wings; in short all the finer virtues, and those needed for
survival, went to the creatures.
But resources are not endless...By the time Epi got to
man, all the good qualities were gone and none were left
for good ol' Homo Sapiens. What's a poor Titan to do?
Epi turned to a true Pro for help. Prometheus took over
the task of creation and sought a way to make man
superior. To give him an advantage he decided that man
should stand upright like the gods did and then, in a
spark of brilliance, he gave them fire.

Opa! With his new found flame and stature, man did the
upright thing and began to prosper, building homes,
opening restaurants, cooking his meals, and keeping
warm in the winter. Fire...What a concept! Well done,
Pro. You the man!
Prometheus did little to disguise the fact that he much
preferred man to the Olympians. After all, most of his
family had been banished to Tartarus following their
Titanic sinking in the battle versus my godfather. Pro
was looking for a way to get back at Zeus, and soon an
opportunity presented itself.
As his bounty from man, Zeus decreed that a portion of
each animal they sacrificed be given to him. Hey, he's
the godfather! Are you going to deny him his cut?
That's when brave Prometheus decided to hustle Zeus.
He created two piles as his offering, one with plain old
bones hidden inside some juicy fat, the other with the
good edible parts concealed in the ugly hide, disguising
them further by piling entrails on top. Gutsy move. He
then asked Zeus to pick one pile, and that would be his
future offering.
Door #1 or door #2, Big Guy?
Guess what? Yup, Zeus fell for Pro's slick move - He
picked the bones and had to accept that as his share of
all future sacrifices. Thereafter only fat and bones were
burned to the gods upon their altars, men kept the good
meat for themselves.
(In this particular sharing of the wealth, Man got the
elevator, Zeus got the shaft, grandpa Hesiod liked to
say...Proves his point that Zeus really developed no
brains until Athena was born out of his forehead. Leave
it to my great-aunt to smarten up the numero uno Wise
Guy...)
And was Zeus ever humiliated! For months he was the
butt of endless late night jokes down at Thanasi's
Olympus Greek Restaurant.
I recall the immortal Greek tragicomedist,
Lettermanius of Sparta, cracking up the room with his
Top Ten Reasons Zeus Picked Bones Over Meat. Of
course, he always waited until Zeus split for the night,

you don't want to mess with the godfather. (Zeus once


told me that he knew Lettermanius poked fun at him
after hours at Thanasi's, the moon goddess Selene had
told him, but the dude was so darn funny, he didn't have
the heart to strike him dead with a bolt...)

Lettermanius of Sparta's
TOP 10 REASONS
ZEUS PICKED PRO'S BONES OVER MEAT

10. Athena hadn't been born yet


9. He wasn't the sharpest spear in the armoury
8. Eeenieee, Meenieee, Minieee, Moeee...
7. Had spent the previous night hanging with
Dionysus
6. He really said "hide", but the ref heard "bones"
5. He didn't have the stomach for intestines!
4. "The Oracle made me do it!"
3. "I thought it was two-out-of-three!"
2. If you can't trust your head Pro, whom can you
trust?
And the #1 Reason Zeus Picked Pro's Bones Over
Meat:
1. "Aphrodite had just strolled by in nothing but her
golden girdle!"

Smarting at his slim pickings, and still trying to wipe the


fat off his beard, my godfather did what he was famous
for in his younger days - he flipped his lid!

Not one to put up with being swindled, Zeus took back


the fire that Prometheus had given man, perhaps the
single most devestating thing he could have done, short
of sending a flood or something (that came a little bit
later, I'm sure we'll get to it in Part II...)
Prometheus wasn't going to idly sit by and watch man
shiver, even though Zeus had warned Pro to chill out
and not get involved. As the seasons changed, and
winter hit hard, he saw his beloved man starving and
freezing to death.
Without fire, stone cold and unable to cook, man was on
the verge of perishing. We all felt terrible, except for
that macabre god, the one we called "The Undertaker",
my great-great-uncle Hades, who had suddenly hit the
jackpot. Should have seen his glee as he clicked his
people counter in hell's waiting room!
Prometheus looked with sorrow upon his handiwork,
and knew he was bound for destiny. He lit a torch from
the sun and secretly brought it back again to man. It
nearly blew out so many times during the stealthy trek
down Olympus, and had it gone out in the wind, with it
would have been extinguished forever all the hopes of
mankind.
He finally made it, and handed the flame to Muhhamad
Ali, who somehow managed to light the Olympic
torch....er...sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Well, you just knew that Zeus would find out in no time
that man once again had fire. We think that big-mouth
Helios spilled the beans. Either that or he smelled the
barbecue lamb chops down at Thanasi's. So Zeus set
about getting revenge on both man and Prometheus. And
did he ever! Dig this...
To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus, the incredibly
skilled god of smiths, create a mortal of stunning beauty,
a sweet and lovely thing to look upon. I once asked
uncle Hephaestus for the recipe, and the joker said he
used earth and water only. Yeah, right unc! Man, if I
could only get my hands on those ingredients!
The gods bestowed on this mortal many gifts of wealth:
Silvery rainment and a broidered veil, and bright
garlands of blooming flowers and a crown of gold that

radiated great beauty. Hermes endowed her with the gift


of persuasion, Apollo gave her the gift of musical talent
and Aphrodite made her yet more beautiful. She was
perfect! Almost...
This creation of Hephaestus was Pandora, the first
woman. She was so named because of what the gods
had given her - Pandora means 'the gift of all'. When
Pandora was complete, Zeus brought her out and
wonder took hold of gods and men when they beheld
her. My godfather then sent her to Epimetheus as a
present.
Some punishment, you say. Hang on, this gets real good.
You see, the gods had given Pandora a wonderful golden
box, but had warned her never to open it. Under no
circumstance was Pandora to look inside the box, they
made this clear.
Wouldn't you know it? Those practical jokers had each
placed something harmful inside the box, and they
forbade her ever to open it, knowing that would drive
Pandora mad.
Now wise Prometheus, knowing full well that Zeus was
angry at him for sneaking fire back to man, had warned
Epi not to accept any gifts from Zeus. Yeah right... One
look at the gorgeous Pandora and Titan Epi was
smitten... his knees buckled and he went down like the
Titanic. Her beauty and charm were so great that he
disregarded Pro's advice and allowed her to stay.
Besides, his biological clock was ticking double-time.
So Epi said "I do!"
Can you say 'trouble in paradise'? Daily, Pandora's
curiosity grew as to the contents of the forbidden box.
Knowing that she wasn't allowed to open it tormented
her. Finally succumbing to the relentless need to know,
she opened the box just a little, to have a tiny, tiny
peek...

The horror! Out flew countless plagues, misery, hate,


jealousy, mischief and just about every sorrow and
pestilence known to humankind. In terror Pandora
slammed the lid down, but too late! Paradise lost!
Pandora was mortified at the evil which her curiosity
had unleashed upon the earth. But hark! All is not lost!
Trapped deep down in the bottom of the box was one
more thing - Hope. It was the only good thing in the box
given to Pandora by the gods, and remains to this day
humankind's sole comfort in times of sorrow and
misfortune.
Oh, but did my politically correct uncle Homer ever
freak on grandpa Hesiod:
"Hesiod, you male chauvinist pig! Are you blaming the
unleashing of plagues and sorrows on Woman?!?
Buddy, I swear your wheel is spinning but the hamster is
dead! You're gonna be crucified by the Feminists! And
I'm gonna enjoy every bit of it! Ha!"
"Homey, Homey, Homey...Curiousity killed the cat, but
for a while, Pandora was a suspect...Remember when
my ex-wife took the kids, the chariot, both houses and,
worst of all, the goats? I warned her then that I would
get even. Pandora's a metaphor for my ex, and the witch

knows it!
"Nobody takes my goats!"
Oh my...I rarely saw my grandpa Hesiod so
animated...Messy divorces will do that to you I guess...
A greater punishment lay in store for Prometheus. When
he was done exacting his revenge on men, Zeus turned
his vengeful eye on the arch-sinner Pro. The ruler of the
universe remembered how much he owed Prometheus
for helping him conquer the other Titans, but how
quickly he forgot his debt! In this case, it was a "What
have you done for me lately?" sort of thing.
My godfather called on his servants, Force and
Violence - Let me tell you about these oafs. They were a
couple of big ugly thugs, no necks, real light in the
smarts department, but strong as Hades and not overly
conducive to polite conversation.
The tough guys forcefully seized my man Pro and
violently delivered him high atop Mount Caucasus.
There they chained Prometheus
To a high-piercing, headlong rock
In adamantine chains that none can break
and just to rub it in, they told him:
Forever shall the intolerable present grind you down.
And he who will release you is not born.
Such fruit you reap for your man-loving ways.
A god youself, you did not dread God's anger,
But gave the mortals honor not their due.
And therefore you must guard this joyless rock -No rest, no sleep, no moment's respite.
Groans shall your speech be, lamentation your only
words.
(Needless to say, Force and Violence weren't quite so
loquacious.
The above are grandpa Hesiod's words.)
You'd think that was punishment enough, right?
Noooo...High atop the mountain, the bound Prometheus
was tormented every day by an eagle sent by Zeus, that
would feast on his liver. To make matters worse, Pro's

liver would grow back overnight, providing yet another


smorgasbord for the bird the very next day.
Talk about an all-you-can-eat buffet! I hate when that
happens!

So. Was our hero Prometheus bound for a life of eternal


torment? Could Zeus really be that cruel? Would the
eagle tire of a daily dose of fresh Titan liver? Inquiring
Hellenes wanted to know. Greece was abuzz with
Prometheus rumours, stories and innuendo.
'Pro's Prose', a compilation of his writings, overnight
shot to #1 on the New Athenian Times Best Sellers list,
and stayed there for eons. In the more learned sections
of Greece, graffiti reading 'Quid Pro Quo!' defaced Zeus'
temples.
Little Greeks everywhere refused to eat liver!
My godfather was quick to respond to the negative PR after all, the revered Oracle of Gallup revealed that
Zeus' popularity and approval rating among humans had
dipped to an unheard-of 1% post Pro, compared to a
comfortable 96% prior to his unpopular sentencing.
(Margin of error was 4% either way, so I personally
think the 1% approval was really much lower.)
To silence the venom of humans, Zeus gave Prometheus
two ways out of this eternal torment. Since Pro was the
only one who knew the name of the child that would
dethrone him, Prometheus could spill the beans to Zeus

and he would be set free. Right, as if Pro was about to


snitch and have Zeus swallow someone else!
My godfather sent his messenger Hermes to ask
Prometheus to disclose the secret. This is what our
protagonist answered him:
Go and persuade the sea wave not to break.
You will persuade me no more easily.
There is no force which can compel my speech.
So let Zeus hurl his blazing bolts,
And with the white wings of the snow,
With thunder and with earthquake,
Confound the reeling world.
None of this will bend my will.
Was Pro the kind of guy you want on your side in an
alley fight, or what! Our warrior wasn't going to cry
'uncle', damn the torpedoes!
Ok, then the stubborn mule could meet two conditions,
Zeus told him via Hermes: First, that an Immortal must
volunteer to die for Prometheus. Second, that a mortal
must kill the eagle and unchain him.
Sure, and then the Tooth Fairy would bring Prometheus
a treat! Come on, Zeus, can you make it any harder on
our protagonist? What Immortal would sacrifice his life
for a Titan? And what mortal is strong enough to slay
the eagle and break the adamantine chains?
Well, look under your pillows, boys and girls!
Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him,
and my nephew Heracles (also known as Hercules, we
called him 'Herc' for short) killed the eagle and unbound
Pro. I'm saving that story for when I tell you about the
exploits of mighty Herc, my absolute favourite nephew.
Prometheus' name has stood through the centuries, from
ancient Greek days to our own, as the great rebel against
injustice and authority of power. He was brave enough
to stand up to mighty Zeus and by so doing ensured the
survival of humans.
I love when that happens...

But let's get back to Zeus. The stone that Cronus expelled
along with Zeus' siblings became the centerpiece of the
Delphic Oracle, which was a form of ancient Dial-APsychic. (Their slogan was "For every seer there is a
sucker.")
My friends and I once checked out the place, but it was a
complete waste of good drachmas. The famous Oracle of
Delphi turned out to be just a bunch of spaced-out freaks
sitting lotus-like around a stone, inhaling noxious fumes,
listening to the same Grateful Dead album over and over,
convulsing and raving wildly, and in the name of 'divine
inspiration' trying to tell you your business.
And the darn Oracles never had good news, it seems,
always terrorizing gods and mortals alike with their morbid
and dire predictions: 'Your firstborn will grow up and sleep
with his mother, then mortified he will gouge out his eyes.
You can prevent this by murdering your children as they're
born. That'll be 100 drachmas, please.'
See what I mean? It's enough to give Oedipus a complex.
Who needs it? I've often said that the Oracles of Delphi are
priests and priestesses who will take your sundial, then tell
you what time it is. For a price. Today we call them
'consultants'.
The main players in the conflict then drew lots to divide the
spoils of victory: Zeus got the heavens; Poseidon the sea;
and Hades the underworld (Hey! You forgot the earth!)
So Zeus established his supremacy among the Olympians,
but initially his reign was a rocky one, full of conflict and
sexual misadventures.
Zeus first sought to seduce Metis, who tried to discourage
the union by continually changing form, trying to escape

him. Some guys just can't take 'no' for an answer, and
young Zeus was one of them. He pursued Metis
mercilessly, altering his form right along with her. "See,
baby, I can change for you!" we heard him yell, but she
wasn't convinced. His reputation preceded him.
He finally caught up to the exhausted Metis, who briefly
considered charging him with stalking. Zeus married and
impregnated her, but when he found out from Mother Earth
that any son Metis produced would dethrone him, Zeus
swallowed his wife. Shortly thereafter, Athena sprung out
of his head, fully armed and clothed, shouting a war cry
heard in the heavens and earth. You can get the complete
story of goddess Athena, and then some, by reading
January's Myth of the Month.
Even though initially she gave him a major headache, my
great-aunt Athena was Zeus' favourite child, and eventually
he turned over to her his Aegis, the protective shield which
used to be Amy. Athena accessorized it by adding Medusa's
head to it. She was the only one permitted full use of Zeus'
weapons, including his devestating thunderbolts. My
grandpa Hesiod said that Zeus had no brains until Athena
was born out of his head, making him instantly wise. My
beloved aunt always had that kind of influence on people,
she enriched your life and mind.
But before Zeus smartened up, he embarked on a journey of
frenzied debauch that eventually turned his fellow
Olympians against him. First he sought out his twin sister,
Hera, came to her in a disguise and ravished her. They were
married and spent a wedding night that was said to have
lasted three hundred years.

"Three hundred year long wedding night?! Hesiod, your


name rhymes with idiot! I don't care how beautiful Hera
was, there's not a male who can stand being alone with a
woman in a room for three days, let alone three hundred
years! Are you drunk? Have you no clue, sir? Victoria, no
more Ambrosia for Hesiod, I'm afraid he's skunked. Please
take away his chariot keys."
My uncle Homer always over-reacted to grandpa Hesiod's
claims, much to the delight and amusement of Hesiod, who
loved pulling his leg. I swear he came up with the most
improbable ideas just to get a rise out of Homer, who
always bit...
"Yes, Homey, three hundred year long wedding night. You
got a problem with that? He was assisted throughout by the
satyr Viagra, Greek god of Virility."
When his mother Rhea advised Zeus against marriage, to
Hera or anyone else, Zeus ravished Rhea in the form of a
snake. Then things got real ugly. Zeus embarked on a
drunken and out of control rampage, wreaking havoc
wherever he went, indiscriminately firing off thunderbolts
at whim, and seducing anything wearing a toga. Talk about

a rebel without a cause! Easy on the crack pipe, Zeus! Man,


was he ever wired...

ZEUS II
KING OF THE OLYMPIANS
(Roman name: Jupiter, Jove)

by Nick Pontikis
(with apologies to grandpa Hesiod and uncle Homer)

PART TWO
Yes, part two. The dude's huge!
At least a two-part harmony, more if the Muse co-operates...
(PS: If you haven't read Part I yet, do so first,
or much of Part II will be Greek to you!)

HONK IF YOU'VE SLEPT WITH ZEUS!


(popular bumper sticker on ancient chariots)
My godfather Zeus was a pervert. There, I've said it, and may he strike me

dead with a thunderbolt if I'm lying! But there's no avoiding the fact that, when
he was young, the king of the Olympians "...lacked restraint in the
gratification of his various lusts," to put it mildly.
Why don't you send the little ones to bed, pour yourself a cup of Nectar, and
snuggle up for a bit, while I tell you about the amorous fables and foibles of
Zeus, the king of the Casanovas...I'll try to keep it clean, but I'm not promising
anything.
After overthrowing papa Cronus, kicking some Giant and Titan butt, and
splitting the spoils three ways with his siblings Hades and Poseidon (see Part
I), Zeus set himself up as the unchallenged Numero Uno. But too much power
corrupts, and there was nobody to restrain young Zeus. He embarked on a
journey of seduction and frenzy that thundered around the Universe...

ZEUS' LOVERS SWAP WAR STORIES DURING THEIR ANNUAL RE-UNION

Only Zeus, the father of heaven, could yield the thunderbolt, and it was the
threat of this awesome weapon that kept his quarrelsome and rebellious family
of Mount Olympus under control. When his mother Rhea, foreseeing what
trouble his lust would cause, forbade him to marry, Zeus threatened to violate
her. At once she turned into a menacing serpent. Undaunted, Zeus became a
male serpent, twined around his mom in a tight knot, and made good his threat.
Bummer. Hate when that happens...
Thus began his long series of adventures in love. With Themis he fathered the
Seasons and the Three Fates; sired the Charites (Graces) with Eurynome; and
he had the Muses with Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, with whom he
lay for nine nights (she never forgot that!) Even Persephone, the Queen of the
Underworld, was his child by the nymph Styx...or was she his daughter with

Demeter? He wasn't sure, it was so hard to keep track.


"Honk If You've Slept With Zeus!" indeed...

HERA

Deciding to keep things in the family, Zeus first sought to seduce his twin
sister Hera. Not being incestuously inclined, Hera rebuffed her brother's
advances, and his courting fell on deaf ears. So guess what my godfather did:
Playing the pathos card to the max, he transformed himself into a sad-looking
and bedraggled cuckoo, shivering from the cold rain. Hera took pity on the
poor bird and tenderly warmed him in her bosom.
Bingo! That's when Zeus resumed his true shape and ravished her, so that she
was shamed into marrying him. He's been driving her cuckoo ever since...
Their wedding day was the biggest bash ever and Hera's gifts included a tree
with golden apples from Mother Earth (Gaea), the same one later guarded by
the Hesperides in Hera's orchard on Mount Atlas. They spent their wedding
night on the island of Samos, and it lasted three hundred years. Afterwards,
Hera bathed in the spring of Canathus, near Argos, and thus renewed her
virginity. Knowing how much Zeusy liked virgins, she returned each year to
re-purify herself. Aphrodite enjoyed the idea so much that she annually
renewed her own virginity at Paphos.
(Someone should have opened a resort, and called it the "You Lose It, We Find

It Vestal Spa.")
With Hera, Zeus fathered Ares, Hephaestus and Hebe, although there are other
versions of their births, particularly Hephaestus, who was a parthenogenous
child. (That's just a fancy way of saying he had a virginal birth.) Uncle
Hephaestus didn't believe it when Hera broke the news of his birth to him, he
thought she just didn't like the sickly child, so he crafted and imprisoned her in
a funky mechanical chair with arms that folded and held the sitter, thus forcing
her to swear by the river Styx that she did not lie. You should have heard her
swear!
Hera and my godfather bickered constantly. Incensed by his infidelities, she
often humiliated him by her scheming ways. Though he would confide his
secrets to her, and sometimes accept her advice, he never fully trusted Hera,
and she knew that if offended beyond a certain point he would flog or even
hurl a thunderbolt at her.
So she resorted to ruthless intrigue and sometimes even borrowed my cousin
Aphro's golden girdle, to excite his passion and thus weaken his will. But that
didn't stop Zeus from shamelessly tramping around every chance he got...

A PASSION FOR MORTALS


No less than four great Olympian deities were born to him of mortal women.
First came Hermes, who was to assist Zeus on countless escapades. The lucky
mom was Maia, daughter of Atlas, who bore him in a cave in Arcadia.
Even though the mother of Zeus's son Dionysus was said to be either Demeter
or Io, some said it was Dione. Or Persephone, whom Zeus ravished in the form
of a serpent, or even Lethe. Poor Dionysus (we called him Danny) wasn't sure
to whom he should send a mother's day card each year, so to be safe, he sent
one to all of them!
Including Zeus! Yes, the widely accepted version of Danny's birth was that
Zeus, disguised as a mortal, had a secret love affair with Semele ('moon'),
daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes. Jealous Hera disguised herself as an old
neighbor and advised Semele, then already six months pregnant, to make her
mysterious lover a request: that he should reveal himself in his true nature and
form, proving he was no monster.
When Zeus refused her plea, she cut him off. Then, in anger, he appeared in all
his glory, flashing thunder and lightning, and instantly she was burned to a
crisp. Luckily, Hermes saved Dionysus, her six-month-old son, by sewing him
up inside the thigh of Zeus, like a fine wine to mature there for three more
months. In due time he was born, and Hermes helped deliver him. Thus Danny
is called 'twice-born', or 'the child of the double door'.

I'm here to tell you that it really upset my godfather when Dionysus called him
'mom.' Danny even got drunk one night and had 'MOM' tattooed on his arm,
underneath a picture of Zeus...

LETO
Crete to Athens, to the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf, to Athos in
Thrace, to Mount Pelion in Thessaly, to the Aegean island of Samos off the
western coast of Asia Minor, to the island of Peparethus north of Euboea, to
Mount Ida, to the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor, to the island of Imbros in
northern Aegean Sea, to Lemnos, to the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea
opposite the coast of Asia Minor, to the island of Chios off the coast of Ionia in
Asia Minor, to Mount Mimas opposite Chios, to the rock Corycius on the coast
of Asia Minor in Cilicia, to Clarus near Ephesus, to the promontory Mycale in
Ionia on the mainland opposite Samos, to Miletus in Caria, to Cos off the
southwestern coast of Asia Minor, to Cnidos, Naxos, Paros and many other
lands.
Whew!
A six-month Greek Island voyage on the Olympic Cruise Lines? No. These are
some of the places Leto visited while trying to find a spot to deliver her twins
Artemis and Apollo. Now that's hard labor! Listen to this story:
Leto was the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Not being content with
simply seducing her, kinky Zeus transformed himself and her into quails when
they coupled. He never explained that one to me, probably too embarrassed to
talk about it. Hey, don't we all have some youthful episodes we'd just as soon
forget?
Hera was not amused at Zeus's bird-brained tactic. In a foul mood, she sent the
serpent Python to pursue Leto all over the world, and decreed that she should
not be delivered of her twins in any place where the sun shone.
(Actually, she said to Leto to stick her and Zeus's twins "In a place where the
sun don't shine," but Leto misunderstood...)
So Zeus let the North Wind (Boreas) carry her away and the wind bore her to
Poseidon, who protected her without violating Hera's decree, by taking her to
the island of Ortygia which he covered with waves. That is why Python could
not find her, and when this dragon had returned to Mount Parnassus, Poseidon
brought the island to the surface of the sea.
It is said that several goddesses were present when Leto was about to give
birth, among them Rhea, Themis and Amphitrite, Poseidon's wife. But after
nine days of travail the goddess of childbirth Ilithyia had not yet arrived, for
she was kept in heaven by the envy of Hera. But the goddesses who kept Leto

company bribed the heavenly messenger Iris with a necklace strung with
golden threads, and she brought Ilithyia to Delos.
On her arrival Leto cast her arms around a palm tree (though some say she was
clinging to an olive tree - hey, palm tree, olive tree, Christmas tree, after nine
days of labor all trees look alike!) and, kneeling on the meadow, gave birth,
first to Artemis and then, with the help of Artemis' midwifery, to Apollo. And
so after her travail she bathed in the river Cenchrius.
The immortal Pindar described what happened when Leto was about to give
birth thus:
"When Leto in the frenzied pangs of childbirth set foot upon Delos, then
did four pillars, resting on adamant, rise perpendicular from the roots of
the earth, and on their capitals sustain the rock. And there she gave birth
to, and beheld, her blessed offspring."
Her troubles did not stop after giving birth, for it is said that Leto, having
arrived with her newborns to a certain place in Lycia in Asia Minor where
there was a lake, was forbidden by the inhospitable locals to quench her thirst.
No matter how much she begged the chumps to let her drink, they would still
forbid her to touch the water, and as Leto insisted the Lycian peasants
threatened her and soiled the pool with their feet and hands, stirring up the
mud from the bottom.

"Don't spit in the soup, we've all got to eat," is advice the Lycians never
learned. Seeing them so tight-fisted and mean, and at the same time so in love
with the pool, Leto turned them into frogs so that they could live in its depth,
forever enjoying the water and the mud.
Among the first things the twin gods Apollo and Artemis did as soon as they
were born was to punish all the men of that time who, when Leto was pregnant
and in the course of her wanderings, refused to receive her when she came to
their land.
Paybacks are a bitch!
Only four days after his birth Apollo went to Mount Parnassus and killed the
dragon Python, thus avenging his mother, though others say the dragon was at
Delphi keeping the oracles of Themis. Four days old? Those ancient Greeks
sure developed fast!
Leto was once attacked by the giant Tityus, son of Gaea (Mother Earth), or son
of Zeus & Elare. I suspect that Hera sent him against Leto and he attempted to
rape the goddess. But the twins Artemis and Apollo killed him, or perhaps the
thunderbolt of Zeus, and he is still being punished in the Underworld for
having tried to violate Leto.
There, a couple of vultures, or as some say a serpent, eat his liver, which grows
with the moon, for ever. Ever-thoughtful Prometheus once sent Titius a "Been
there - Done that, got the scars to prove it!" postcard.
Leto was also insulted by Queen Niobe, wife of King Amphion, who boasted
that she was more blessed with children than Leto and besides that, they were
more beautiful. Bad, bad move.
You see, Niobe got so full of herself, and with the prosperity of the kingdom,
that she began to wonder how people could be so stupid to worship the power
and wealth of the gods, which is of an invisible kind, instead of being devoted
to the tangible things they had in front of their eyes. She thought it convenient
to introduce reforms in the religious rites and ordinances, so that their subjects
could attain a more down to earth form of understanding.
In other words, why worship mere Leto, when you can worship glorious
Niobe, fools!
Coming to the temple of Leto, she addressed the worshippers:
"What madness this, to prefer gods whom you have only heard of to those
whom you have seen?"
And after displaying her own family tree she explained to the people that in
her palace there were great stores of wealth, that her own beauty was worthy of

a goddess, and that whatever story had been told about Leto, it could not be
compared with the splendor of her own biography. For, among other things,
while she Niobe had many children, Leto had but two, and somewhat suspect
too, because Artemis was girt in a man's attire and Apollo wore long hair and
used a woman's robe.
She didn't come right out and say it, but the insinuation was there that she
considered Artemis a lesbian and Apollo gay.
Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Niobe, history's first recorded homophobe.
And to remind the people that her words were backed by power, Niobe ordered
the worshippers to take off the laurel wreaths from their hair and leave the
temple. So those who prayed, fearing religious intolerance, left the temple
without a word, but as it often happens, with unchanged mind.
Apollo and Artemis swiftly made it their mission to avenge their insulted
mother.
"Let's go show the good lady the type of mayhem a couple of queers can
perpetrate, sis!" said Apollo.
And coming down from heaven they shot their arrows from afar against the
children of Niobe, who one after the other fell dead.

During nine days the Niobids lay in pools of blood, for there was no one to
bury them because Zeus had turned the people into stone. So it was only in the
tenth day that the gods buried them themselves and then Niobe, who was
exhausted because of her grief, started eating again.
However some have said that not all of them perished, the Niobids Amyclas

and Chloris having been spared by the gods because of their prayers to Leto.
Chloris, who never lost the paleness that the fright caused her, became Queen
of Pylos in Messenia after having married Neleus, and their son Nestor was
granted by Apollo an unusual long life because the god wished to give back the
years he had taken from these young men and women.
And that was the end of the house of Amphion, who killed himself because of
grief at the death of his children, and as some add, he is also being punished in
Hades for having mocked Leto and her children. Also Zethus, Amphion's twin
brother died, as they say, of a broken heart.
The Niobids were buried at Thebes but Niobe left the city after the death of her
children and went to her father's place at Sipylus, near Smyrna in Asia Minor,
and there she was transformed by Apollo into a stone from which tears flow
night and day. Those who have been at this place in Mount Sipylus had said
that the rock lacks any resemblance to a woman when the observer is close to
it, but that going further away one can see the form of a woman in tears, with
her head bowed down.
During the Trojan War Leto and her children sided with the Trojans, and she,
together with her daughter healed the wounded Aeneas in a sanctuary, while
Apollo fashioned a wraith in his likeness to delude the warriors in the
battlefield.

IO

Next in line was a beauty called Io. She was the daughter of the river god

Inachus, the first King of Argos, and a priestess in one of her father's temples
to Hera.
Now, there was fair Io, minding her own virginity, when my lustful godfather
spotted her. Rumor had it that Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, cast a spell on
Zeus and made him fall hopelessly in love with Io, but hers was such a pure
beauty that magic wasn't really necessary. Pain-in-the-neck Hera turned Inyx
into a wryneck as punishment. (A wryneck is a gray-brown woodpecker with
an annoying habit of stretching and twisting its neck.)
The Oracles (remember those spaced-out shysters from Part I?) made it clear
to daddy Inachus that Zeus would wreak havoc on his kingdom if his daughter
Io wasn't immediately expelled, so that my godfather could have his way with
her. What's a concerned father to do? Without even bothering to get a second
opinion, Inachus kicked Io out! What a jerk! I suppose the river god didn't
want to go against the flow...
Quick to seize the
vulnerable moment,
Zeus wrapped the
earth in a black cloud
so dark and thick that
night seemed to
envelop the day. Thus
he hoped to hide
himself and Io, using
the cloud cover to
ravish the unfortunate
girl.
Duh. Man, was my
godfather dense when
the testosterone ruled!
Aunt Hera, being
alerted by the sudden
mid-day darkness that
hubby was up to no
good, knew perfectly
well the score. She
paged him all over
Olympus, and when he
didn't return her calls,
swiftly she glided
down to earth to have
a peek, ordering the
black cloud begone!
Zeus' sixth sense

warned him of
impending doom, so
hurriedly he
transformed Io into a
beautiful white heifer,
much to Io's dismay.
"I know I got to lose a couple of pounds," Io thought to
herself, "but this is udderly ridiculous! I feel like such a
cow!"

When Hera inquired as to the nature of the beast, Zeus


swore to her that he was simply passing by and the darn
cow just appeared out of the ground!
"Imagine my surprise, dear!"
Yeah, sure Zeus. Needless to say, aunt Hera wasn't
fooled. In her sweetest voice, she expressed admiration
for the beauty of the animal, and asked Zeusy if she
could please, pretty please, have her. Hard to get fresh
milk up at Olympus, don't you know, ever since
Dionysus moved in.
What's my godfather to do? If he told his wife that he
had other plans for the cow, surely that would arouse her
suspicion. Still, Zeus felt badly for Io. Besides, he wasn't
finished with her yet - Cowtus interuptus, natch!
As the saying goes, to err is human - to moo is bovine.
Better sense won out, and he reluctantly let Hera have
her, whereupon my triumphant aunt, gloating at the
timeliness of her appearance, and at her slick move, led

Io away.
Still not trusting Zeus, Hera assigned her watchman
Argus to keep an eye on Io. Seeing as Argus had one
hundred eyes, the arrangement was most suitable for my
aunt. He could sleep with some eyes and keep on guard
with the rest.
"Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea," she
told the hundred-eyed Argus.
(Argus was kind of proud of his freaky looks, but man
did he get ripped off whenever he ordered a pair of
prescription eye-glasses! He was only doing the rent-acop gig for Hera because she promised to pay his optical
bills...)
Zeus was helpless. He watched Io's misery, transformed
into a beast and driven from her home, with that monster
Argus always ogling her. What a creep! Can't a heifer get
some privacy already?! What kind of perverse Orwellian
nightmare is this?, she wondered.
Still, the cowed Zeus dared not come to her aid; his fear
of Hera's wrath inhibited his actions.
Finally Zeus sent for Hermes, the clever messenger god,
and told him that he was putting a contract out on the
head of Argus, and would dear, faithful Hermes please
perform the hit.
"Major IOU, Hermy! Just don't let Hera hear of it!"
Since Hera had hidden Io so well, Zeus changed himself
into a woodpecker, of all things, and showed Hermes the
way.
Eager to oblige the Big Guy, the cantankerous Hermes
disguised himself as a peasant. Closely following
'woody', he located Io, then appeared on earth, playing
very sweetly upon a pipe of reeds borrowed from his
buddy Pan (the original, not Peter).
Mannerless oaf that he was, Argus nevertheless was
moved by the music and, once he realized there was no
cover charge, he beseeched Hermes to come nearer and
sit by him on the rocks, playing right into Hermes' ploy.

Lots of free cheese in a rat trap.


By Jove, we have a problem! For hours the skilled
Hermes played, trying to tire Argus, and then he droned
on and on, talking as drowsily and monotonously as he
could, to no avail. Some of Argus' hundred eyes would
go to sleep, but some were always awake. Bummer.

In a sudden flash of bovine inspiration, Hermes began


playing a medley of Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits.
Within moments, Argus had fallen asleep, whereupon
Hermes proceeded to execute the hit. He swiftly crushed
him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io.
(Cocktail party trivia: In tribute, Hera took the hundred
eyes of Argus and set them in the tail of the peacock, her
favorite bird. Is that cool or what?)
So poor Io was free, right? Afraid not. Hera at once sent
a gadfly to plague her, which stung her to madness. She
proceeded to meander all over the earth, looking for a
store that sold RAID, vainly trying to lose the pest.
When Io ran into the bound Prometheus on her many
journeys to escape from the gadfly, she told him:
He drives me all along the long sea strand.
I may not stop for food or drink.
He will not let me sleep.
To comfort her, Prometheus told Io that in the distant
future she would reach the Nile, where Zeus would by

his divine touch restore her human form. She would bear
him a son named Epaphus, and live forever after happy
and honored. And
Know this, that from your race will spring
One glorious with the bow, bold-hearted
And he shall set me free.
He was referring of course to Heracles (Hercules), the
greatest of heroes, to whom Pro would owe his freedom.
More on my nephew Herc later.
Her son by Zeus, Epaphus, became in time king of Egypt
and founded the city of Memphis, and it is said that from
him sprang the Libyans and the Ethiopians. But Hera
wasn't done tormenting Io just yet. She sent the Curetes,
part of her posse, to kidnap Epaphus, which they did. My
godfather Zeus got so angry at this that he struck the
Curetes dead with his thunderbolts.
So once again off went Io, this time hoofing it in search
of her son. Eventually she found Epaphus and returned
to Egypt with him. There she built a statue and temple to
Demeter, introducing the goddess whom the Egyptians
called Isis.
(If you were privy to some late-night debates down at
Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant, you'd learn that
Zeus turned Io into a goddess to make up for the grief
he'd caused her, and it was actually her whom the
Egyptians worshipped as Isis. The Persians on the other
hand claim that Io was one of the women kidnapped by
Phoenician merchants and brought to Egypt to be sold.
Supposedly this was the first link of a long chain of
kidnappings of women - Europa, Medea, and Helen
being the most notable.)
Io is one of the Three Main Ancestors, and her children
were the founders of important cities like Mycenae,
Thebes and Argos. Her offspring dominated also Crete,
Laconia and perhaps Arcadia. The Heraclides were
descendants of Io. So were, among others, Cadmus,
Perseus and my nephew Heracles.
Io also made a geographic impact, as many of the places
she visited while trying to shoo the gadfly were named
after her, including Ionia (the western coast of Asia

Minor) and the Bosphorus (Ford of the Cow).


As Isis, she married the great Egyptian god Osiris, and
together they lived in peace ever after. Don't you just
love happy endings?

EUROPA
Sometimes Hera was pre-occupied, and Zeus was free to
do as he pleased. One morning, as he idly surveyed the
earth, my godfather saw a young maiden named Europa,
daughter of the King of Sidon. The young beauty was
troubled: Just before dawn, she had the strangest dream,
that two continents, each in the shape of a woman, had
tried to possess her.
One of the continents was Asia, but Europa couldn't
determine who the other one was.
Unable to get back to sleep, Europa roused her
companions, noble girls her own age, and told them that
they were going to pick some flowers in the blooming
meadows by the sea. Often they went there, to dance and
bathe their fair bodies and gather flowers.
They filled their baskets with sweet-smelling narcissus
and hyacinths and violets and yellow crocus, and most
radiant of all, the crimson splendor of the wild rose. The
girls delighted in gathering the flowers, wandering hither
and fro over the meadow. Zeus in heaven watched with
lust the young maidens, each one more fair than the
other, yet none as radiant as Europa.
Well. Who should chance by but my second cousin
Aphrodite, goddess of love, in the escort of her
mischievous son Eros (Cupid). One well-aimed arrow
from Cupid, and Zeus was instantly in love with Europa.
He just had to have her!
Even though wife Hera was away, my godfather had
learned to be cautious, so he transformed himself into a
bull. But not just any bull, but one beautiful beyond all
bulls that ever were, pure white, with a silver circle on
his brow and horns like the crescent of the moon.
Struck by his beauty, and finding him gentle as a lamb,
Europa mastered her fear and began to play with him.

She put flowers in his mouth and hung garlands in his


horns. It was a scene right out of Woodstock...
I'll let the Alexandrian poet Moschus tell the story:
He seemed so gentle as well as so lovely that the girls
were not frightened at his coming, but gathered around
to caress him and to breathe the heavenly fragrance that
came from him, sweeter even than that of the flowering
meadow. It was Europa he drew toward, and as she
gently touched him, he lowed so musically, no flute
could give forth a more melodious sound.
Then he lay down before her feet and seemed to show
her his broad back, and she cried to the others to come
with her and mount him.
For surely he will bear us on his back,
He is so mild and dear and gentle to behold.
He is not like a bull, but like a good, true man,
Except he cannot speak.
Famous last words, or what? 'Good true man' indeed!
'Trust me dear, I'll respect you in the morning.' Ha!
Smiling, she climbed upon his shoulders and let him
amble down with her to the edge of the sea. But when he
reached the water, before the others could join them, the
bull at full speed rushed into the wide water.
As he went the waves grew smoother before him and a
whole procession rose up from the deep and
accompanied them - Strange sea gods, Nereids riding
upon dolphins, Tritons blowing their horns, and all kinds
of similar creatures. Even the god of the sea, Zeus'
brother Poseidon, showed up to see if there was any
action for him.
Europa, scared silly equally by the wondrous sea
creatures she saw and the moving waters all around,
clung to the bull and shouted to her friends for help.

However, once she realized that her companions were


useless, she turned her attention to the abductor. This
can't be an ordinary bull, thought Europa, but most
certainly a god. Having descended from Io, and knowing
that woman's peripatetic torment, she spoke pleadingly
to my godfather, begging him to pity her and not leave
her in some strange place all alone.
Zeus then revealed his identity and assured her that she
had no cause for fear. Out of love for her he said, he was
taking her to his place of birth, Crete, and there she
would bear him
Glorious sons whose scepters shall hold sway
Over all men on earth.
Sure enough, Crete came into view. They landed, and the
Seasons, the gatekeepers of Olympus, took Europa and
prepped her for Zeus. (Nice perfume, girls, but must you
marinate her in it?)
Their passionate union produced many famous sons,
including the fabled Minos and Rhadamanthys, who
were rewarded for their justice on earth by being
appointed judges in the Underworld, as well as
Sarpedon, who was killed in the Trojan War. (Wonder if
his bros. got to try his case. Fix!)
Zeus loved his Europa, but his 'incontinence' when it
came to Hera eventually moved him to return to
Olympus. But not before bestowing a number of fine

gifts upon his lover, including a dog, Laelaps, which


could outrun any animal; a javelin which never missed
its mark; and the bronze man, Talos, to act as her
guardian.
(Talos was a man of bronze, made by Hephaestus, whom
Zeus gave to Europa after he kidnapped her and took her
to Crete. Crete was a gated community it seems: Talos
became its guardian, circling the island three times each
day and throwing huge stones at any ship which
approached its shores. He had a devestating fastball,
clocked at over one-hundred miles per hour, and his
curveball was a real killer.
He had a single vein, which ran from his neck to his
ankle and was closed by a single bronze nail. When the
Argo approached Crete on the way back from stealing
the Golden Fleece, Medea cast a spell on Talos and then
removed the bronze nail; all of Talos' blood ran out and
he died, thus enabling the ship to land. Just thought
you'd like to know.)
Europa afterwards married Asterius, the king of Crete,
and lived happily ever after. How many joyful endings
can we take?
(Grandpa Hesiod had a great time pulling uncle Homer's
leg over the identity of the bull that kidnapped Europa:
"Yes, Homey, the bull who carried Europa to Crete was
the same Cretan bull that Heracles faced in one of his
labors, which in turn is the same bull that was sent by
Poseidon to King Minos of Crete, and that later,
consorting with the king's wife Pasiphae, became the
progenitor of the Minotaur. No bull! I've seen the mug
shots, and all the bulls have that identical silver spot on
their foreheads."
"Hesiod, I swear you only open your mouth to change
feet! Are you nuts, man? Have you a death wish? The
bull was Zeus, and that's that! Keep talking trash and
you'll wind up with a thunderbolt upside the head!"

CALLISTO

Callisto was a nymph (or, according to some sources, the


daughter of Lycaon) who was in the service of the
goddess of the hunt, Artemis. Young women who were
devoted to the goddess hunted with her regularly, and
remained virgins, like Artemis herself. Callisto had
upheld these maidenly ideals faithfully, and she quickly
became Artemis favorite.
While Callisto spent her days and nights with Artemis
other followers, she caught the eye of Zeus. Knowing
that the maiden had taken a vow of chastity, my
godfather once again resorted to deception to get at
Callisto. He came to her disguised as Artemis, and the
young huntress let down her guard. Seizing the
opportunity Zeus raped her.

Callisto became pregnant, and tried desperately to


conceal her condition from the goddess. After all, she
had, in a way, broken her vow to the goddess and she
feared her anger. She succeeded for a while, but then a
day came when all of the young women who followed

Artemis disrobed to bathe together in a spring. By now


Callisto was beginning to show, and once she was naked
her secret was revealed. Artemis was furious and she
banished the young woman from her fold. Callisto
wandered off to have her child alone.
Hera decided that this was the time to exact her revenge.
She gripped Callistos hair and threw her to the ground
where the new mother was transformed into a bear. The
hunter became the hunted. The child that Callisto had by
Zeus was spirited away by Hermes to be raised by his
mother, Maia. He was named Arcas, meaning bear,
and he grew up to be a fine hunter himself. Some sources
have the bear captured and taken to Callistos own
father, Lycaon.
According to others Artemis herself killed the bear that
was once Callisto, but it is usually accepted that when
Arcas was out hunting as a young man he encountered
the bear. Callisto recognized the handsome youth as the
son she could not raise herself. Forgetting her present
form, she tried to come near him, but her loving
mothers arms were now strong, furry paws, and her
once soothing voice was now a rumbling growl.
The bear scared Arcas, and he took aim at her with his
spear. Zeus took pity on his former victim and
intervened. He placed Callisto in the sky as the
constellation Ursa Major, or great bear, and then took
Arcas and placed him in the sky near his mother as Ursa
Minor, the little bear.
Hera was not pleased with this arrangement, especially
since Callisto was another of her husbands infidelities.
She went to her nurse, Tethys, the wife of Oceanus, and
beseeched her to punish Callisto and Arcas. Tethys
decided to deprive the pair of water, and so the great
bear and the little bear are cursed to circle in the skies,
never to dip below the horizon for a refreshing bath or a
cool drink.

PALACE REVOLT!

In time, my godfather's pride, petulance and voracious


sexual appetite became so intolerable that Hera,
Poseidon, Apollo, and all the other Olympians, with the
exception of Hestia, decided to depose the Big Guy.
They surrounded him suddenly as he lay asleep on his
couch and tied him up with rawhide thongs, knotted into
a hundred knots, so that he was immobile. The enraged
Zeus threatened them with death most vile, but they had
stashed his thunderbolts out of reach, and they
laughingly mocked and insulted his impotence. Man,
was my godfather angry! Sparks were shooting from his
eyes!
But while the Olympians were celebrating their victory
over a barrel of nectar, and jealously arguing who was to
be his successor, the Nereid Thetis, anticipating a civil
war on Olympus, hurried in search of the hundredhanded E-Cat, Briareus. (Remember the E-Cats, the cool
dudes with the darn unpronounceable name Hecatoncheires - from Part One, and how they, along
with the Cies (Cyclopes) helped Zeus sink the Titans?)
Faithful Briareus raced to Olympus and swiftly untied
the thongs, using every hand at once. Before the other
gods and goddesses could react, his master was free and
once again re-united with his beloved thunderbolts!
Oh my. Can you imagine the soiled godly undergarments
in the room? The Olympians scattered like mad, but to
no avail. Zeus easily corralled them and then lay down
his law.
Because it was Hera who had led the conspiracy against
him, my godfather, the Marquis de Zeus, hung her from
the sky. A golden bracelet was tied to each of her wrists,
and a heavy anvil fastened to either ankle. Can you say
'pain'? Does 'discomfort' ring any bells?

Fondly I recall the animated arguments, late, late at night


down at Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant, between
my grandpa Hesiod, my uncle Homer and the rest of the
ancient literary gang:
"Hesiod, your 'suspended from the sky' premise is about
as credible as your Atlas holding up the earth! Exactly
where is the golden bracelet attached on the sky, man?
From the clouds? Aren't you stretching it a bit, pardon
the pun? Vicki, please call a chariot for Hesiod, no way
he's driving himself home!"
"Homer, Homer, calm down before you go blind. I'll
confide in you, but please keep it to yourself. Remember
when I got royally screwed during my divorce, and lost
the works, including the goats? Ever since, it's been my
fantasy to tie up and hang my wife so that she's helpless,
and then torment and harass her until she comes to her
senses and returns the goats."
"Hmmm...I see you point, Hes. Sorry. Still, you're not
going to win the Feminists' sympathy vote. I suggest you
give it a happy ending. Would you like me to re-write it
for you?"
The other deities were extremely vexed at the
mistreatment of Hera, but valuing their own skin, and
definitely not wanting to switch places with her, they
dared not make an attempt at rescue. For days she hung
like smoked meat, and her pitiful moans and cries filled
the heavens. At last my godfather, unable to sleep due to
the horrible sounds, undertook to cut her down.
But first he made the Olympians swear never again to
rebel against him, which they grudgingly did. He
punished Poseidon and Apollo by exiling them from
Olympus for one year, and placing them as servants to
King Laomedon, for whom they built the city of Troy.
Being a softie deep down, he pardoned the other
Olympians, claiming that they had acted under Hera's
duress.
Needless to say, the near-coup only intensified his sexual
ardor. Once again my horny godfather set off in search
of fresh blood...and boy did he find it!