The Ancient Library

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On this page: Zeus (continued)



of the seasons also proceed from him as the

father of the Hours.

As the supreme lord of heaven, he was worshipped under the name of Olympian Zeus in many parts of Greece, but especially in Olympia, where the Olympian games (q.v.) were celebrated in hia honour. The cult of Zeus at the ancient seat of the oracle at Dodona recognised his character as dispenser of the fertilizing dew. Among the nume­rous mountain-cults in the Peloponnesus, the oldest and most original was that of the Lycsean Zeus, on Mount Lycseus in Arcadia, where human beings were actually sacrificed to him in propitiation. (See lyclea.) In Attica, again, many festivals refer to the god as a personification of the powers of nature. Various rites of purifi­cation and expiation were observed in his honour as the god of wrath (Gr. Maimaktss), in the month Maemacterion (Nov.-Dec.) at the beginning of the winter storms ; while towards the end of winter he was wor­shipped as the gracious god (Gr. MeiHcMSs) at the festival of the DldsiG. (q.v.). Among the islands, Rhodes and Crete were the principal seats of the worship of the sky-god ; not only his birth, but also his death was there celebrated, and even his grave was shown, in accordance with the widely spread notion that the annual death of Nature in winter was the death of the god. In Asia, the summit of Mount Ida in the Troad was especially and beyond all other places sacred to Zeus.

As he presides over the gods and the whole of nature, so also is he the ruler of men, who all stand in need of his help, and to whom, according to Homer, he weighs out their destinies on golden scales [II, viii 69, xxii 209], and distributes good and evil out of the two jars which stand in hia palace, filled the one with good and the other with evil gifts [xxiv 527]. But his natural attributes are goodness and love; hence Homer calls him " the father of gods and men." He gives to all things a good beginning and a good end: he is the saviour in all distress: to Zeus the saviour (Or. soter) it was customary to drink the third cup at a meal, and in Athens to sacrifice on the last day of the year. From him comes everything good, noble, and strong, and also bodily vigour and valour, which were exhibited in his honour, particularly at the Olympian and Nemean games. He is also the giver of victory; indeed the goddess of victory (see nice), and her brothers and sister, Force, Might, and Strife (Gr. Bid,

Kr<Hfi», ZelSs), are his constant companions. Prom him, as ruler of the world, proceed those universal laws which regulate the course of all things, and he knows and sees everything, the future as well as the past. Hence all revelation comes in the first I instance from him. At times he himself announces to mortals his hidden counsels by manifold signs, thunder and lightning and other portents in the sky, by birds, espe­cially the eagle, which was sacred to him, by prophetic voices (see mantike), and special oracles. (See dodona and ammon.) At times he makes use of other deities for this purpose, chiefly of his son Apollo, through whose mouth he speaks at Delphi in particular. Thus the course of the world is ordained by him; he is the author and preserver of all order in the life of men. In conjunction with Themis, Dike, and Nemesis, he watches over justice and truth, the foundations of human society; in par­ticular he is the special god who guards the sanctity of the oath; he is also the avenger of perjury, the keeper of boundaries and of property, the defender of the laws of hospitality and the rights of the suppliant. But nevertheless to him who has oifended against the laws of human life, Zeus, as the supreme god of atonement, offers the power of expiating his guilt by rites of purification. As he presides over the family and community of the gods, so also he is the chief patron of the family and of all communal life. In the former relation he was especially worshipped in all branches of the family as protector of house and home (Gr. herkeids), and defender of the domestic hearth (gphestids): in the latter, as the shield of the State, e.g. in Athens at the DlipQHd (q.v.)', as director of the popular assembly and of the council; as the god of covenants ; as the source of kingship, whose symbol, the sceptre, was traced back to him. From him also proceed both national and personal freedom ; hence a sanctuary was dedicated at Athens by freedmen to Zeus the Liberator (eleuthSrlds) ; and after the battle of Plataea a thanksgiving festival, Eleuthlrld, was instituted by the allied Greeks, which was still celebrated by the Plataeans in Roman times, and attended by deputies from the other states. Zeus is to the Greeks—as Jupiter (q.v.), who in his principal characteristics exactly corresponds to him, is to the Romans,—the essence of all divine power. No deity received such wide-spread worship; all the others were, in the popular belief, subordinated to him

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