User:Jahsonic/AHE/Greco-Roman/Zeus the proto-Don Juan
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
But the main character of the Metamorphoses, the Don Juan of the entire pantheon is Zeus / Jupiter himself, the king of the gods. He is married to his sister, the goddess Hera, the eldest daughter of Kronos. To her great sadness and anger Zeus can not resist other women. Hera was very jealous and tries in many ways to keep him from his amorous escapades. All too often in vain: we know of at least seventeen relationships with goddesses and twenty-six with mortal women. He fathered dozens of children with them.
His most famous conquests are those of Danae, Io, Leda, Callisto, Antiope, and Europe. Whenever he sets out to conquer a woman, he changes shape to increase his chances of success and to escape the watchful eye of his jealous wife. Depending on the woman he sets out to seduce, he has to be either sweet and gentle or tough and frightening, and accordingly changes his appearance. That this is efficient, is well-known to contemporary man.
With Danae he changes himself into a golden rain, and while she is caught in a tower, he lands comfortably between her legs through the bars of her prison. With Io he shifts into a cloud, with Leda to swan, with Callisto he passes for for the goddess Artemis, with Antiope he pretends to be a and with Europa he takes the shape of a white bull.
Zeus is a seducer, a conqueror, but you might just as well say that he abducts women, or kidnaps or rapes them. The multiplicity of meanings is caused by the Latin term raptio, which may mean any of the aforementioned. But that same ambiguity is also symptomatic of the nature of male-female love and the battle of the sexes described in the Metamorphoses. This theme of forced seduction is celebrated today in the 724 romance novels of Barbara Cartland, in which women chant "No, no, no", but inwardly cheer "Yes, yes, yes".
Zeus's last conquest is the one of Leda, the wife of a Spartan king. When he cannot convince her to give herself to him immediately, Zeus turns into a swan and overwhelms her. Ashamed of what has happened, Leda has intercourse with her husband the same evening, and after nine months she gives birth to four children, coming from one egg. Castor and Helen were the children of Zeus, Polydeukes and Clytemnestra of her husband. It is no coincidence that Ovid chose for a swan in this story, it's the only bird (along with ducks and geese) that has a penis. With a little imagination, the slender neck of a swan can even be taken for a penis symbol.