The Sons of Zeus

Zeus, the king of Mount Olympus and the father of the gods, was quite infamous for his erotic escapades with many different women, which resulted in the birth of numerous divine and semi-divine beings. He gave life to many sons who carried their father’s divine powers and who ruled cities claiming descent direct descent from him. Some of his sons were Olympians themselves, such as Ares, Apollo, Hermes, and Dionysus, while others were half-human, such as Hercules and Perseus.

Some of the most famous sons of Zeus were:

  • Apollo
  • Hermes
  • Dionysus
  • Ares
  • Hercules
  • Perseus

Who Were the Sons of Zeus?

Apollo

Apollo ancient god of poetry and music
Apollo ancient god of poetry and music

Apollo, the god of light, poetry, healing, and music, was the son of Zeus and the Titaness Leto. He was also the twin brother of the goddess Artemis. A prophecy warned Hera that Leto’s son would be favored by his father over her own, and so she decided to prevent her from giving birth in every way she could, chasing her away in every corner of the Earth.

In the end, Leto managed to find refuge on the island of Delos and give birth to her twins. From that moment, the gods were considered two of the most powerful and beloved deities in the Greek pantheon.

Hermes

Hermes

The messenger of the gods and one of Zeus’ favorite sons was born in secret. Herme´s mother was the nymph Maia, who Zeus managed to visit frequently while keeping it a secret from both his wife and the other gods so that no one knew when she gave birth to him. From the start, Hermes was a natural-born trickster, since on the first night of his life he managed to creep out of his crib and steel the prized cattle of Apollo.

Apollo took the baby to Olympus to be judged, but instead, Zeus was proud of his new son’s humor and wit. Thus, Hermes was accepted among the other Olympians, becoming Zeus’s messenger and herald to every corner of the earth.

Dionysus

Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, the first king of Thebes. Due to her jealousy, Hera planted seeds of doubt in Semele’s mind. She, then, demanded from Zeus to prove that he was indeed a god. Zeus acted thus since he had taken a sacred oath to make Semele’s every wish come true.

Unfortunately, light and fire enveloped the beautiful Semele and burned her body to death. Zeus managed to prevent the death of the unborn child by sewing it into his own leg. He then gave Dionysus to his messenger Hermes, who took the baby to Semele’s sister Ino and her husband Athamantas. This was the couple Zeus had chosen to raise his newborn child, who grew up to be the god of wine, ritual madness, and theater.

Ares

Ares was the god of war, violence, and destruction. He was the son of Zeus and Hera, and thus its birth was normal and inside the context of acceptable behavior for Zeus. However, in some myths, Hera had Ares without the help of Zeus by using a magical herb.

While he was still an infant, he was captured by two giants and put into a bronze jar, but he was eventually rescued by his brother Hermes. Ares was an ambivalent figure in Greek mythology, due to its brutality and bloodlust, and he was only worshiped in Crete and the Peloponnese, particularly in Sparta, as well as in Pontus, the northern part of modern Turkey, where Amazones lived.

Hercules

Hercules

Undoubtedly, Hercules is the most famous hero of ancient Greek mythology. He was the son of the affair Zeus had with Alcmene, a mortal woman. Zeus managed to trick her by disguising himself as her husband, Amphitryon, who returned home early from war.

This affair caused the anger of Hera, who, when Hercules was 8 months old, sent two giant snakes into the children’s chamber. Hercules, however, was unperturbed, and so he grabbed a snake in each hand and strangled them. Amphitryon was utterly astonished, sending for the seer Tiresias, who prophesied a glorious future for the child, claiming that he would vanquish numerous monsters.

You might like: The 12 Labours of Hercules.

Perseus

Statue of Perseus with the Head of Medusa on Piazza Della Signoria in Florence

Perseus was the legendary founder of Mycenae and the Persian dynasty. He was the son of Zeus and Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos. Acrisius had received an oracle that one day he would be killed by his daughter’s son, and so he orders to keep Danae childless, imprisoning her in a bronze chamber, open only to the sky, in the courtyard of his palace.

Nevertheless, this was not a difficult task for Zeus, who came to Danae in the form of golden rain and fathered her son Perseus. The boy grew to be the greatest Greek hero and slayer of monsters before the days of Heracles, slaying the Gorgon Medusa and saving Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus.

You might also like: 12 Famous Greek Mythology Heroes.

The Lines of Kings

Not all of Zeus’s sons, however, were heroes or gods. Several sons of the ruler of the skies were mortals who managed to become kings and the ancestors of entire nations. Virtually every city and region in Greece could trace its ruling heritage back to the king of the gods. By claiming ancestry from Zeus, the rulers of city-states could give legitimacy to their claim to power, claiming that their power was based on divine heritage and right, not on weaker mortal laws.

One of the most famous examples of this was the use of the hero Aeneas by the early Romans, who borrowed his figure from the Iliad of Homer in order to create a mythology in which the son of Venus traveled west to found Rome. Among other rulers that claimed divine ancestry was Lacedaemon, Aegyptus, Tantalus, and Argus.

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