Loves of Zeus
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
According to Ovid's Metamorphoses and many other sources, Zeus was a notorious womanizer, despite being married to Hera. Among his most famous conquests and metamorphoses are those of Danaë, Io, Leda, Callisto, Antiope, and Europa. The vocabulary used in Zeus's seduction is rape or abduction and seduction, all of which can be used exchangeably, a concept that comes to mind is forced seduction.
His erotic escapades, included 17 goddesses (Aix, Ananke, Demeter, Dione, Thalassa, Gaia, Hera, Eos, Eris, Leto, Maia, Metis, Mnemosyne, Persephone, Selene, Themis); 26 mortals or nymphs (Aegina, Alcmene, Antiope, Callisto, Carme, Danaë, Elara, Electra, Europa, Eurynome, Himalia, Iodame, Io, Lamia, Laodamia, Leda, Maera , Niobe, Olympias, Othreis, Plouto, Podarge, Pyrrha, Semele, Taygete, Thalia) and at least three unknown mothers.
He is known for his shapeshifting abilities, especially when he wanted to seduce. He transforms himself into a cloud (he hid himself in a cloud with Io), a golden shower with Danae, a swan with Leda, a bull with Europa, depending on whether he needed to be charming and beautiful or powerful and frightening in his conquest.
The motif of Leda and the Swan from Greek mythology, in which the Greek god Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan, was rarely seen in Gothic art, but resurfaced as a classicizing theme, with erotic overtones, in Italian painting and sculpture of the 16th Century.
According to Ovid, it was Jupiter (the Roman Zeus) who took the form of the female goddess Artemis/Diana so that he might evade his wife Juno’s detection, forcing himself upon Callisto while she was separated from Diana and the other nymphs. Her pregnant condition was discovered some months later while bathing with Diana and her fellow nymphs. Upon this, Diana was enraged and expelled Callisto from the group, and subsequently she gave birth to Arcas. Juno then took the opportunity to avenge her wounded pride and transformed the nymph into a bear. Sixteen years later Callisto, still a bear, encountered her son Arcas hunting in the forest. The theme has been popular in lesbian erotica since the 18th century.
The mythographers tell that Zeus was enamored of Europe and decided to seduce or ravish her, the two being near-equivalent in Greek myth. He transformed himself into a tame white bull and mixed in with her father's herds. While Europa and her female attendants were gathering flowers, she saw the bull, caressed his flanks, and eventually got onto his back. Zeus took that opportunity and ran to the sea and swam, with her on his back, to the island of Crete. He then revealed his true identity, and Europa became the first queen of Crete. Zeus gave her a necklace made by Hephaestus and three additional gifts: Talos, Laelaps and a javelin that never missed.
In Greek mythology, Danaë was the mother of Perseus by Zeus. Disappointed by his lack of male heirs, her father asked an oracle if this would change. The oracle told him to go to the Earth's end where he would be killed by his daughter's child. She was childless and, meaning to keep her so, he shut her up in a bronze tower or cave. But Zeus came to her in the form of golden rain, and impregnated her. Soon after, their child Perseus was born.
In Greek mythology, Antiope was the name of the daughter of the river god Asopus, according to Homer. Her beauty attracted Zeus, who, assuming the form of a satyr, took her by force. After this she was carried off by Epopeus, who was venerated as a hero in Sicyon; he would not give her up till compelled by her uncle Lycus (brother of Nycteus).
Consorts and children
By divine mothers
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† He is described as being "Earth-born" and was gestated buried beneath the ground; this is Gaia's domain, though she had no direct involvement in his birth or development. Other versions of his parentage include a version of the former excluding Poseidon and one with solely Poseidon and Euryale as his parents.