Zeus the Many Married God – Part 3: Eurynome

After making alliances with goddesses who would secure him his power, Zeus could afford to enter his third marriage without such a blatant agenda. For his third wife he chose Eurynome, a beautiful ocean nymph and goddess of water, meadows, and pasturelands. Eurynome was the daughter of Titans Oceanus and Tethys and sister of his first wife Metis. She had strong connections to the ocean and is often represented in art by statues of what we would call a mermaid.

The Charities

The beautiful Eurynome bore Zeus three daughters, known as the three Charities, goddesses Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia.  The Charities were goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, goodwill, and fertility. The Charities major role was to attend the other Olympians, particularly during feasts and dances. They attended Aphrodite by bathing her and anointing her before her seductions. They were part of a celebratory dance of the birth of Apollo and later Apollo included them in his singing and dancing with the Muses.

These giving, nurturing goddesses seemed to have inherited their natures from their mother. Eurynome’s most famous story is about her caring nature and it is only tangentially connected to Zeus.  After Eurynome’s marriage to Zeus ended, she went to live in a cave on the banks of the earth-encircling river Oceanus. Her companion was the goddess Thetis, a goddess of the sea and leader of the fifty sea-nymph Nereides. Thetis had her own history with Zeus.  The two were in love but Zeus rejected Thetis when he learned of a prophecy from Gaia that a child of Thetis would grow more powerful than his father. Thetis was fortunate to escape the fate of Metis, Zeus’s first wife, who he swallowed because he had heard a similar prophecy that their child would overthrow him.

Foster Mothers

Eurynome and Thetis, a pair of the cast-off women of Zeus, were chilling on the beach when another Zeus related cast-off landed on their shores. It was the god of smiths and volcanoes, Hephaestus, who had been thrown off Mount Olympus by his mother Hera, Zeus’s current wife. His sin apparently was being too ugly for Hera. Other accounts say Hephaestus got in the middle of one of Hera and Zeus’s epic fights and got tossed off the mountain. He landed so violently that he permanently maimed his leg. In any case, no matter how he got there, his so-called parents did nothing to retrieve him and take care of him.

Hephaestus may or may not have been Zeus’s child. By some accounts, Hera gave birth to Hephaestus without any father in retaliation for Zeus having birthed Athena from his head. This was just part of the toxic games these two played with each other throughout their marriage. But at the very least Zeus was Hephaestus’s stepfather and Hera was his mother. Neither one comes off well for abandoning the young god.

Eurynome and Thetis showed compassion for Hephaestus. They took him into their cave and raised him for nine years. He learned the skills of his trade in forging and metal work with them, making splendid artifacts. They provided him with the care and acceptance he could not get from his own family.

In the ultimate bid of acceptance of Hephaestus, Eurynome allowed him to marry her own daughter, the Charity Aglaea, after he divorced Aphrodite. Eurynome was the sweet, beautiful wife that Zeus married for those reasons alone. The marriage ended in divorce because it was Zeus after all. But Eurynome retained the essence of who she was. She raised daughters who brought joy to the world. After his fall from heaven, she helped Hephaestus overcome his cruel beginnings and become the god he was meant to be. She lived a modest life far from the palace she lived in when she was Zeus’s wife but it was a life that meant something.

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