Recently Maya M and I were discussing the wives and loves of Zeus. One of us suggested comparing the first list and the second. Hesiod lists seven official wives for Zeus in the Theogony. His list ends with Hera. Homer has Zeus list his seven greatest passions prior to the moment on Mt. Ida with Hera (Iliad 14.312-328) To my surprise I can find no papers on this topics. I will start my analysis with the Lovers.
“Then in answer spake to her Zeus, the cloud-gatherer: "Hera, thither mayest thou go even hereafter. But for us twain, come, let us take our joy couched together in love; for never yet did desire for goddess or mortal woman so shed itself about me and overmaster the heart within my breast--nay, not when I was seized with love of;”
- “the wife of Ixion, who bare Peirithous, the peer of the gods in counsel”
- “Danaë of the fair ankles, daughter of Acmsius, who bare Perseus, pre-eminent above all warriors”
- “(Europa) daughter of far-famed Phoenix, that bare me Minos and godlike Rhadamanthys.”
- “Semele bare Dionysus, the joy of mortals”
- “Alcmene in Thebes, and she brought forth Heracles, her son stout of heart,”
- “Demeter, the fair-tressed queen;
- “Glorious Leto”
Universally, his recital of the names of his lovers at this moment is considered a poor way to seduce his wife. Maybe he is trying to “seduce” himsef.
Here is my first observation. He lists his lovers in ascending scale of social status;
- The first is an unnamed mortal woman with no family of conseuqence.
- Danaë is a mortal woman and via her son Ancestress of most the royal families of Greece.
- Europa is a mortal woman and descendant of the Nymph Telephassa, whose sons became daemons in the Underwold. (More on this later but the descendants of Telephassa produced an unusually high number of gods and goddesses. They were more than merely human.
- Semele was a moral woman and descendant of Telephassa and her son became an Olympian god.
- Alcmene a mortal woman, wed to a descendant of Telephassa and her son attained Olympus too.
- Demeter, was a second-generation Titaness.
- Leto was also a second generation Titaness.
With the list actually ending with Hera a second generation Titaness and Queen of the Universe. Apparently, Zeus while in the process of reliving his glory days wanted to prove to his wife that no one compared to here.
My second obervation is that lovers 2-5 are sort of chronological.
- Number two; Danae is the great-grandmother of Number 5 Alcema
- Number three; Europa is the aunt of Number four Semele.
- Number four: Semele is aunt to the fourth generation of the husband of number five Alceme
The bedding of Leto and Demeter (in that order I think based on Artemis witnessing of Persephone’s kidnapping the in the HH2 to Demeter.) naturally would have occurred long before Zeus mortal daillances and his passion for Dia, wife of Ixion would have occurred last on a chronological list
My third observation is about the reason why love and passion did “overmaster the heart within (his) breast”on these seven previous occasions. Pure speculation of course.
#1)The fact that Zeus refers to this mortal woman as Mrs Ixion, rather than Dia, daughter of Eioneus, makes me wonder if his passion is some how spurred by the fact Ixion was just as passionate for Zeus wife Hera (Pindar, Pythian Ode 2. 32) To complicate the issue Pindar says Ixion had murdered his own father-in-law “For this offence he could obtain purification from neither man nor any god, until Zeus, showing himself a “gracious avenger” took compassion on his suppliant, cleansed him of bloodshed, and even raised him to Olympus” (Aaron Atsma) Zeus’ affection for Ixion reminds me of a similar affection and betrayal in Olympus of his son and boon-companion Tantalus. (Hyginus, Fabulae 82 ) I wonder if his affection for Ixion some how was transferred to Dia.
#2) I can’t explain Zeus passion for Danaë daughter of Acmsius, unless it was her “fair ankles”.
#3-5) Follow Maya’s Law that “Zeus never liked a true human woman!” More accurately put; Zeus has a marked preference for banging Ionians and barbarian babes.
#6) We have no story about Zeus and Demeter mating and I have no idea why he finds his own sisters so hot. Oh wait, maybe I just explained that.
#7) Leto like Dia might be another case of tranferance of affection. We have no myth relating Zeus’ opinion of Leto’s “loveliness”, but we know what he thought about her sister Asteria. Ovid describes the resisting “Asteria in the struggling eagle's clutch [Zeus' disguise]." (Metamorphoses 6. 108) To escape his passion Asteria turns into a bird and eventually an island.
In summary, when discussing the list of Zeus’ greatest hits as recited atop Mt. Ida to Hera during an intimate moment. We can say the following. They are listed in ascending scale of social status. The mortal portion of the list is somewhat chronological. Some cases conform to Maya’s Law, he might have a thing for his sister, and he believes as the Rolling Stones did; “if you can’t love the one you want, love the one you are with.”