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Zeus

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Zeus: The Beginning

Legend says that Cronos, father of the gods, who gave his name to time, married his sister Rhea, goddess of earth. Now, Cronos had become king of the gods by killing his father, Uranus, the First One. The dying Uranus had prophesied, saying "You murder me now and steal my throne-but one of your own sons will dethrone you, for crime begets crime."

So Cronos was very careful. One by one, he swallowed his childen as they were born. First three daughters-Hestia, Demeter, and Hera; then two sons-Hades and Poseidon. One by one, he swallowed them all.

Rhea was furious. She was determined that he should not eat her next child who she felt sure would be a son. When her time came, she crept down the slope of Olympus to a dark place to have her baby. It was a son, and she named him Zeus. She hung a golden cradle from the branches of an olive tree and put him to sleep there. Then she went back to the top of the mountain. She took a rock and wrapped it in swaddling clothes and held it to her breast,humming a lullaby. Cronos came snorting and bellowing from his great bed and snatched the bundles from her, swallowing it, clothes and all.

Rhea stole down the mountainside to the swinging golden cradle and took her son down into the fields. There she gave him to a shepard family to raise, promising that their sheep would never be eaten by wolves. Here Zeus grew to be a beautiful young boy and Cronos, his father, knew nothing about him. Finally, however, Rhea became lonely for him and brought him back to the court of the gods as a new cupbearer. Cronos was pleased because the boy was beautiful.

One night Rhea and Zeus prepared a special drink. They mixed mustard and salt with the nectaar. The next morning after a mighty swallow, Cronos vomited up first a stone, and then Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon-who, being gods, were still undigested, still alive. They thanked Zeus and immediately chose him to be their leader.

Then a mighty battle raged. Cronos was joined by the Titans, his half-brothers, huge, twisted, dark creatures taller than trees, whom he kept pent up in the mountains until there was fighting to be done. They attacked the young gods furiously. But Zeus had allies too. He had gone to darker caverns-caves under caves under caves, deep in the mountainside-formed by the first bubbles of cooling earth. Here Cronos thousands of centuries before (a short time in the life of a god) had pent up other monsters, the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hundred-handed Ones. Zeus unshackled these ugly cousins and led them against the Titans.

There was a great rushing and tumult in the skies. The people on earth heard mighty thunder and saw mountains shatter. The earth quaked and tidal waves rolled as the gods fought. The Titans were tall as trees, and old Cronos was a crafty leader. He attacked firecely, driving the young gods before him. But Zeus had laid a trap. Halfway up the slope of Olympus, he whistled for his cousins, the Hundred-handed Ones, who had been laying in ambush. They took up huge boulders, a hundred each, and hurled them downhill at the Titans. The Titans thought the mountain itself was falling on them. They broke ranks and fled.

The young goat-god Pan was shouting with glee. Later he said it was his shout that made the Titans flee. That is where we get the word "panic."

Now the young gods climbed to Olympus, took over the castle, and Zeus became their King. No one knows what happened to Cronos and his Titans. But sometimes mountains still explode in fire and the earth still quakes, and no one knows exactly why.

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