Zeus's Family Tree

Kenli Doss, Christopher Muscato, Lesley Chapel
  • Author
    Kenli Doss

    Kenli Doss has years of experience teaching acting, writing, and drama. She has a BA in English and a BA in Drama from Jacksonville State University. She also has more than five years' experience as a tutor in subjects like English, Science, and Math.

  • Instructor
    Christopher Muscato

    Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

  • Expert Contributor
    Lesley Chapel

    Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Zeus is a Greek god with a long and complicated family tree. His story is full of love, betrayal, and children. Updated: 08/01/2021

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Greek Gods Family Tree

When studying Greek mythology, or any mythological story, it is important to keep in mind that the stories and legends are all oral traditions that have slowly been written down over the millennia. Many stories have shifted, been added to, and changed completely by poets, churches, and citizens over the years. There is no one true story line, and there is no one source for anything Greek mythology, so it is important to take these stories with a grain of salt.

Zeus, generally considered the father and protector of all gods in Greek mythology, had a large and complicated family tree. In myth, two Titans (Rhea and Cronus) created Zeus and his siblings. Rhea was the daughter of Gaia, the Titan of the earth, and Cronus was the son of Ouranos, whom Cronus defeated for control of the universe. Rhea and Cronus had five children before Zeus.

  • Poseidon
  • Hades
  • Hestia
  • Hera
  • Demeter

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  • 0:35 Parents
  • 1:25 Wives and Children
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Zeus Father Cronus

Cronus was the king of the Titans and the god of time in mythology. When he first matured, he castrated his father and overthrew him as king of the Titans. Afraid his children would overtake him in the same way he had done to his own father, Cronus swallowed all five of Zeus's siblings as soon as they were born.

Saturn by Peter Paul Rubens depicting Cronus (Saturn) as he swallows his child.

Saturn by Peter Paul Rubens

When Zeus was born, his mother hid him from Cronus to save him. She fed Cronus a stone wrapped in cloth, tricking him into believing that he ate Zeus. The young god grew in secret in a Cretan cave on Mount Dicte. There, a nymph named Melissa and a goat called Amalthea raised Zeus until maturity.

Zeus Siblings

Zeus grew to maturity in the seclusion of the Cretan cave. Angry at his father for swallowing his siblings and causing him to live in hiding, Zeus fought back. He returned to his parents and tricked Cronus into drinking a potion that caused him to regurgitate Zeus's five siblings. Once the siblings were freed, a long battle ended with the gods' victory over Cronus and the Titans. Zeus cut his father into small pieces and imprisoned him in the Underworld's strongest prison, Tartarus. After this victory, Zeus and his siblings transformed Mount Olympus into their new home and settled into different jobs.

God Identity
Poseidon god of water (the ocean), earthquakes, horses
Hades god of the Underworld, the wealth of the world
Hestia goddess of the hearth
Hera queen of the gods, goddess of marriage, the lives of women
Demeter goddess of agriculture

Zeus and his Family Tree

Zeus was known as the father of the gods because of his constant affairs and seductions of famous Greek figures. The number of wives and mistresses Zeus had varies from tale to tale. According to some myths, though, Zeus had only two wives: Metis and Hera. In all stories, most of Zeus's children came from mistresses.

Metis

Zeus's first wife was the Titan Metis. During Metis's first pregnancy, Zeus became paranoid that his son would overtake him the way he had his father. He swallowed the pregnant Metis to prevent the birth of his child. The child survived, though, and Athena was born fully grown from the forehead of her father. Athena, Zeus's first child, was the goddess of wisdom and warfare. In many myths, she was a lot like Zeus and was regarded as his favorite child.

Painting depicting the birth of Athena from Zeus

Picture of an Athenian urn depicting the birth of Athena

Hera

Zeus's second wife, his sister Hera, was considered his main wife because they were together for the majority of Greek mythology. She was known as the goddess of marriage and gave Zeus two children.

  • Hephaistos (god of fire)
  • Ares (god of war)

The story of how Zeus and Hera became married and started their family completely aligns with the other stories of Zeus's character. In myth, Zeus fell in love with Hera, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Zeus, determined to get what he wanted, started a horrible thunderstorm and disguised himself as a poor little cuckoo bird. Perched on Hera's window in the middle of the storm, cuckoo Zeus preyed on Hera's loving nature and waited for her to pick him up.

When Hera picked up what she thought was a defenseless cuckoo, she was greeted by a trickster Zeus who forced her to sleep with him and then shamed the goddess into marrying him.

Hera stayed with Zeus throughout all of his infidelity and, through these affairs, watched him sire more children than any other god. Zeus had many children by other gods, Titans, women, and nymphs.

  • Apollo and Artemis
  • the nine Muses
  • the fates
  • Hermes
  • Arcas
  • Dionysus
  • Perseus
  • Hercules
  • Helen of Troy

These are not all of Zeus's children, but they are the most notable and generally accepted by most myths to be his.

Zeus Infidelity and Conflicts

Zeus was known in mythology for starting trouble. He often transformed himself or others into animals to aid in his deception. Often impregnating married and unmarried women and abducting others, Zeus was usually not a favorite of the Greek kings, especially those who had daughters. All mortal beings understood that Zeus's presence meant trouble, and this caused many riffs between humanity and Zeus in Greek mythology.

Throughout Zeus's marriage to Hera, when Zeus initiated an affair with a feminine being, Hera either ignored it or became vengeful toward the resulting child or mistress. Zeus's status as king, ability to shapeshift, and natural magnetism allowed him to repeat this cycle for all of mythology, resulting in a confusing web of mistresses and children.

Titan Mistresses

Zeus had affairs with three notable Titans, and, from these affairs were born a few important figures.

Titan Mistress Child
Leto Apollo (god of art and music) and Artemis (goddess of the hunt)
Mnemosyne the nine Muses
Themis the Fates

Nymph Mistresses

There were two main nymphs who bore important figures after having an affair with Zeus.

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Prompts About the Greek God Zeus:

Essay Prompt 1:

Write an essay of approximately two to three paragraphs that describes Zeus' parents and his early family life. Be sure to discuss his siblings and his parents' marriage.

Example: Zeus' mother, Rhea, had to ensure that his father, Kronos, would not eat him.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of about two to three paragraphs that discusses Zeus' married life and his relationships with his children.

Example: Athena was Zeus' favorite child.

Essay Prompt 3:

In an essay of approximately one to two paragraphs, define Titans and nymphs, and explain why they appealed to Zeus. Also be sure to explain why Zeus was attracted to human women.

Example: Nymphs were known for their beauty, thus making them especially alluring to Zeus.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Create a chart, poster, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and briefly describes the important Titan mistresses in Zeus' life.

Example: Zeus' relations with Leto produced Apollo and Artemis.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:

Make a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and briefly describes the significant nymphs in Zeus' life.

Example: Maia came from the mountains.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 3:

Create a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and describes the mortal women who were significant in Zeus' life.

Example: Danae was kept locked up by her father, so Zeus had to take the form of rain to visit her.

How did Zeus kill his father?

Zeus tricked his father into drinking a potion that would cause him to regurgitate the other five gods. This caused a war between titans and gods, and the war was won when Zeus cut his father into pieces and imprisoned him and the other titans in Tartarus.

What is the family tree for the Greek gods?

The two Titans Cronus and Rhea birthed the six original Greek gods. These gods were Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Hestia, and Demeter. Most of the other gods and goddesses were children of Zeus and another deity. The six most referenced are Athena, Hephaestos, Ares, Artemis, Apollo, and Hermes.

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