Recently Maya M and I were discussing the loves of Zeus. To our surprise we cannot find papers on this topic, nor papers on his “official wives” per Hesiod. Now it is time to discuss them. Hesiod discusses Zeus’ queens in the Theogony 886-923
· Zeus' second wife was his aunt the first-generation Titaness Themis, who bore the three Horae and the three Fates
· Zeus then married his third wife, another Oceanid, Eurynome, who bore the three Graces.
· The fifth wife of Zeus was the first-generation Titaness Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses:
· Zeus' seventh and final wife was his sister Hera, who the mother by Zeus of Hebe, Ares, Enyo, and Eileithyia.
First, I am not buying this “list of official wives.” There is no evidence within the Theogony and little without[i] that there was a big wedding ceremony with ritual and cake for any of these goddesses with the possible exception of Hera. The only place where Hesiod supports his notion of Zeus’ “wives” is (886] “Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife first,” and  “Lastly, he made Hera his blooming wife”. Nowhere else in the Theogony is anyone but Hera, Zeus’ wife. In my opinion Hesiod’s list is just a bowdlerization of Zeus’ bed-hopping trying to legitimize his Olympian children.
Demeter along with Leto and Hera are the only of Zeus’ top lovers who make the official wives list. Tellingly, when Zeus talks about his lovers he makes no mention of their children. I think that is because in fact the god was infatuated. To quote Ronny Cammareri in the movie Moonstruck,
“Everything seems like nothing to me now, 'cause I want you in my bed. I don't care if I burn in hell. I don't care if you burn in hell. The past and the future is a joke to me now. I see that they're nothing. I see they ain't here. The only thing that's here is you - and me.”
The list of wives seems a little bit more Machiavellian to me. Before, I start on the analysis of the list of wives, I’d like to point out that the first 5 did not produce sons. Whether Hesiod picked out the list or Zeus picked out his wives, the list shows some serious thought in the advantages gained in each marriage, the power to steal or co-opt, the mysteries or alternative theogonies to pull into Zeus realm of influence, the allies to make and the chance to reduce power hungry heirs and potential rivals.
Metis seems like a really good wife to start with. She is Wisdom itself and one of the older daughters of Oceanus. Marrying a daughter of the Great River Ocean might be a way to make an ally of the Titan and his three thousand sons. “ Styx, eldest daughter of Oceanus” (Hesiod, Theogony 775) Might have been a better choice to insure there was an alliance but there is that taboo on co-mingling with the Children of the Night and other occupants of Hades realm[ii] so Styx and Zeus’ other early ally Hecate are not an opinion as brides . Which brings us back to Metis. Once again, she is Wisdom manifest. Zeus co-opts her divine identity by swallowing her. Good start on a power grab.
Zeus' second wife was Themis, who bore the Fates“to whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honor, Clotho, and Lachesis, and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have." (901) Here Hesiod co-opts the power of destiny from the powers of darkness, because he’d already sang at 217 of Nyx; “Also she bare the Moirai (Morae, Fates) and the ruthless avenging Keres (Death-Fates), Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to have.”
Zeus then married his third wife, Eurynome, Apollonius Rhodius, in Argonautica 1.498 says "He [Orpheus] sang of . . . how, in the beginning, Ophion and Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus (Oceanus), governed the world from snow-clad Olympus.” Wedding Eurynome connects Zeus with a primordial goddess and the Orphic mysteries.
Zeus' fourth wife was his sister, Demeter, who bore Persephone. This gets Zeus involved with the Eleusian mysteries and the Orphic-Zagreus myth.
The fifth wife of Zeus is Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses: It is these daughters of Zeus who insure his own unfailing glory along with Hesiod’s.
His sixth wife was Leto, who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. Thereby gaining control of the Oracle at Delphi when Apollo inherited it from this maternal grandmother Phoebe.
Zeus' seventh and final wife was his sister Hera. Marrying his sister reduces the possibility of nephews and brothers-in-laws trying to overthrow him. Conveniently, his sister Hestia and daughters Artemis and Athena chose virginity as a life-style. His daughter Persephone and ally Hecate seem sterilized by their environment. And again his first five wives produced no sons. All a little too convenient for a king worried about a god greater than his father. You’d think he would have married Thetis and co-opted the theogony of Alcman frag. 5[iii] that makes her a primordial creatrix, but obviously he couldn’t do that for the reason above.
In summary, I think the list of lovers on Mt Ida in the Iliad, really did reflect Zeus lust and passion; these truly were his greatest hits, he might have rearranged the sequence in the arousing retelling. The list of wives from Hesiod, is something that Hesiod came up with Machiavellian intent, out of context with his own poem and nothing but Ancient Greek bowdlerization.
[i] The Homeric Hymn to Apollo refers to Leto as queenly, but there is no mention of her being the wife of Zeus. Plus the poet is clearly trying to kiss up to Apollo, so saying nice things about Leto helps his cause. I just found this; "First did the Moirai (Fates) in their golden chariot bring heavenly Themis, wise in counsel, by a gleaming pathway from the springs of Oceanus to the sacred stair of Olympus, there to be the primal bride of the Saviour Zeus." Pindar, Fragment 30. And during the passionate tryst on Mt Ida, Zeus refers to his sister Demeter as “the fair-tressed queen” (14.326). But there is no suggestion that she was his wife and this could just be a flourish to add to the ascending scale of social status with Hera at the top.