The Greek god Zeus is essentially the product of several generations of distrust and thirst for power. When Kronos castrates his father Ouranos and cast his genitals into the sea, he is in essence crowned the new king of the universe. Stepping into such a prestigious position drives him to become power hungry so he does not want to relinquish his thrown. So much so, that when he is told by his mother Gaia that his youngest son would overthrow him, he begins to consume all of his children. Disturbed by her husband’s vile actions, Rhea along with the help of Gaia, hides Zeus on earth and feeds Kronos a stone in his place. This is where Zeus’s rise to power truly begins. He along with the help of Gaia, frees the Olympians imprisoned by Kronos.
“He set his father’s brothers free from their baneful bondage, the sons of heaven whom their father in his folly had imprisoned; and they returned thanks for his goodness by giving him thunder and lightning and the smoking bolt, which mighty earth (Gaia) had kept hidden up to then. With these to rely on he is lord of mortals and immortals.” (Hesiod’s Theogony pg. 18)
After releasing the Olympians from their bondage, it is evident that Zeus’ strategy to overthrow his father is to win over his father’s enemies, presenting himself as their savior, and aligning their mutual goals of watching Kronos fall. One can also actively observe this strategy when Zeus frees Cyclopes and Hecatoncheires, and asks them to join his army. He does not however, demand their allegiance, rather he focuses on aligning their mutual goals of bringing
Kronos down, and is therefore able to persuade them to fight for him. A ten year war ensues and after much chaos and destruction, Zeus and the Olympians defeat Kronos and the Titans and imprison them in Tartarus, where Hecatoncheires guards them; another example of Zeus’ cunning strategy. Serving under Zeus’ regime is viewed not as an obligation, but as an honorable, privileged and prestigious position. This is the main reason Zeus is able to maintain his position of power. Zeus’ reign is finalized when he battles and defeats Typhoeus and casts him into Tartarus as well as far away from the Olympians as possible.
Although he is wise and a proven strategist, Zeus is not invulnerable to other threats around him. Rather than become lackadaisical in his newly gained position as king of the gods, he maintains a keen and vigilant eye for anything that might hinder the progression of his kingdom, or end his reign. When he takes his first wife Metis, it is prophesied that his son would over throw him as well. Obviously Zeus wants to prevent his own dethronement but. Zeus however, is smarter than his father Kronos, so rather than attempting to eat his children, Zeus decides to neutralize the source of the threat, so he eats his wife Metis.
This ties in very closely with Zeus’ blatant distrust of women. Historically throughout Zeus’ life, the women he has come across have all been sneaky and disloyal to their husbands. Gaia betrayed Ouranos by giving Kronos the sickle. Rhea and Gaia both betrayed Kronos when they fed him a rock instead of Zeus. “But when she was about to give birth to Zeus, father of gods and men, then she begged her dear parents, Earth and starry Heaven, to devise a plan so that she could bear her child in secrecy and make Kronos pay for her father’s furies and those of the children he had been swallowing” (Hesiod’s Theogony pg. 17) Women at this point have historically assisted their children in overthrowing their husbands as is the case with Gaia and Rhea but when Athena is born from the head of Zeus, these patterns do not apply. Athena is a virgin and has no husband so her loyalties lie with Zeus; her father (and mother). Along with the birth of Athena comes a shift from a brutish and uncivilized culture to one of civilization and craft.
To fully grasp Zeus’ disdain towards women one must understand that in this culture it was not uncommon to treat women as inferior. Zeus himself was extremely sexually promiscuous, sleeping with whomever he desired; however, this did not make him a bad husband to Hera. This was the social norm Women were however expected to remain faithful to their husbands.
Zeus’ behavior as the supreme god is not the least bit surprising ultimately because he has no one to answer to. Zeus is the leader of all and acts like it as he displays an intensive alpha male persona. Anyone who defies the mighty Zeus is met with his all-powerful wrath as is the case with Prometheus when he attempts to trick Zeus into taking a bad sacrifice. Zeus in response withholds fire from humans and condemns Prometheus to have his liver eaten by an eagle eternally even though Prometheus fought with the Olympians in the war. Hesiod writings depict a belief that a son is the product of his father. Prometheus, being the son of the Titan Iapetos, is therefore following suit in his father’s footsteps of evil.
In this aspect of harsh punishments for defilement, Zeus is much like the Hebrew god of the Old Testament. Yahweh was known to smite people for disobeying the most trivial of commands. In the book of Genesis chapter 19 of the Bible, he rains down fire and burning sulfur on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their impure lifestyles. Even when he commands a man named Lot and his wife to flee the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and warns them not to look back as they fled, however when Lot’s wife looked back, she was turned into a pillar of salt. This is only one instance where Yahweh punished those disobedient to him, however he is reported to have smitten millions upon millions of people who did not obey his laws, just as Zeus is known to have struck people with lighting and thunder for defying his commands.