The Brothers and Sisters of Zeus

Authored by: Robin Hard

The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

Print publication date:  June  2008
Online publication date:  October  2003

Print ISBN: 9780415186360
eBook ISBN: 9780203446331
Adobe ISBN: 9781134664061


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Zeus had two brothers, Poseidon and Hades, who exercised supreme power within their own realms, and three sisters, his wife and queen Hera, and Demeter and Hestia. These other children of Kronos and Rhea will form the subject of the present chapter, along with the mythology of the Underworld and afterlife. When the world was divided between Zeus and his brothers after the defeat of the Titans (see p. 76), Poseidon and Hades were allotted realms of their own, the seas and the Underworld respectively, and so acquired sovereign status within their specific domains, even if Zeus retained ultimate power as the king of the gods. Zeus also had his special domain, of course, as the lord of the heavens. Through the possession of these separate kingdoms, the gods of this older generation are set apart from the younger Olympian gods, who have no comparable domains. Since Hades withdrew to his subterranean realm after receiving it in the draw and rarely left it thereafter, he led an isolated existence, having little to do with his fellow gods or the world of the living. The activities of Poseidon, by contrast, were by no means confined to the sea, nor did his functions as the god of that realm set him apart from the common world of gods and mortals. In their images, Poseidon and Hades bear a considerable resemblance to Zeus himself, as mature bearded men of severe and majestic aspect. As regards the sisters of Zeus, we have already encountered Hera as his consort, and Demeter as an early wife or mistress of his who bore Persephone to him. Most of the major myths of Hera, the goddess of marriage, relate to her marriage to Zeus in one way or another, while the main myth of the corn-goddess Demeter brings her into conflict with her brother Hades when he abducts her beloved daughter to provide himself with a wife. The least conspicuous member of the family, Hestia, was the virgin goddess of the hearth; although honoured quite highly in cult, she was too homebound to have any memorable adventures.

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