Zeus the Many Married God – Part 1: Metis

Zeus Takes a Wife

The ancient Greek god Zeus ruled as king of the gods on Mount Olympus. He had many children by the many women that he slept with, both human and divine. The original daddy, he was called father by everyone and not just his children.  As much as Zeus was a player, he was down with the idea of traditional domestic bliss.  Zeus liked to get married. He famously was a bad and cheating husband to his queen wife, the goddess Hera. But Hera was not the only one who had to endure Zeus’s dastardly ways. The thunder god was married a total of seven times.

Marriage to Zeus tended to end badly for his wives. If they weren’t abandoned for someone else, they were tormented or faded into obscurity. Zeus wasn’t inclined to marry for love. He wanted to get something from his wives that could benefit him. As a new young god and ruler of the skies, he wanted to convey an air of wisdom that he didn’t come naturally to him. How better to do that than to marry the personification of wisdom, prudence, and deep thought, the Titan, Metis? She was one of the three thousand Oceanid or sea nymph daughters of parents Oceanus and Tethys. Her parents had three thousand river-god sons too. Her parents were so prolific at producing children that eventually they divorced because they were associated with bodies of water and they thought having more children would lead to flooding.

When Zeus Met Metis

When Zeus met Metis he was the only Olympian who had escaped being swallowed by his father Cronus as an infant. His five brothers and sisters had been eaten by Cronus when they were born.  Spared this fate, he wanted to overthrow his father. He was lucky that Metis wanted to help him out. She told him that he should not try to take on Cronus by himself and should get backup from his siblings. She gave Zeus a potion that he gave to Cronus. The wily old god vomited up his children Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera. Cronus was promptly thrown into a war along with the Titans against Zeus and the other Olympians for supremacy of the cosmos. Metis’ Titan parents sat out the war and Metis became Zeus’s wife. Zeus now had a wise council in his wife to help solidify his rule.

The erudite Metis was also endowed with the gift of prophecy. She had a vision that one of Zeus’s children would gain ascendancy over Zeus, just like he had over his own father, and his father had over his own father before him. Succession was not decided peacefully in this family.  Unfortunately for Metis, her husband found out about the prophecy. According to the prophecy, Metis would bear two children, the first being Athena while the second, a son, would be so powerful he would overthrow Zeus. Metis was already pregnant with Athena and the father-usurping son had yet to be conceived. But Zeus wasn’t taking any chances. He turned Metis into a fly and swallowed her whole.

Her Mother’s Daughter

Zeus would not be where he was without Metis. But he was the god of thunder not loyalty so he ate the problem as his kind liked to do and did not give it another thought. But the wife now living in his stomach was the personification of deep thought. Metis made sure her daughter Athena would be a goddess to be reckoned with. Metis outfitted Athena with armour and equipped her with arms. Her daughter was not going to be swallowed by a man. She was going to know how to fight. Athena had inherited her mother’s wisdom. She became the goddess of wisdom and military strategy. Held captive since before she was born, she would go on to inspire heroes to have courage. When it came time for her release, there was only one thing to do – she was going to explode out of Zeus’s head.

Athena pounded at Zeus’s head from within, causing her father massive headaches. Her father was in agony and could not get the pain to stop. Finally, he called on the god of smiths Hephaestus to split open his head with an axe. Hephaestus did as he was told and took an axe to Zeus’s head. Athena sprung out from his forehead fully armed and ready for battle. To Zeus, the birth of his daughter from his forehead signalled the end of a bloody line of succession. His rule would go unchallenged. He adored his goddess of wisdom daughter and often could be seen in close council with her. He didn’t have the personification of wisdom in his wife Metis to rely on any longer but his daughter could provide just as good advice. Father and daughter always shared a special bond.

What happened to Metis?

But what happened to Metis? Legend has it that she remained inside Zeus, trapped forever in the belly of her child’s father. She was a captive but she was not without influence. Zeus was not credited with having wisdom of his own. Whenever he was called upon to make a wise decision it was Metis who took over. She was the source of his wisdom. Metis lost her freedom but her wisdom lived on.




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