♃ Zeus (Jupiter, Tarḫunna, Hadad/Adad, Bēl)

Categories: Gods > The “Twelve” Gods
Gods > Cosmocrators (Planets)

1 Introduction

IŠKUR; > Marduk/Bel


There are, to be slightly crude, about a handful of ways of talking about Zeus/Jupiter. One is poetic or mythical, referring to a human-shaped (sōmatoeidēs) god, whose foibles and failings were the subject of much comedy already in antiquity. Myths were often regarded as not only untrue but impossible, leading to what we now call Euhemeristic interpretations (after Euhemerus, who popularized the approach), which attempt to cut away all unbelievable embellishments and recover an original narrative about human actors of the distant past.

In physical and metaphysical (or ‘theological’) readings of myth, on the other hand, it is precisely the more human elements that get stripped away, or rather reinterpreted as symbols encoding much loftier conceptions. Here, Zeus/Jupiter could be understood, for instance, as the aethereal fire encompassing the cosmos or the incorporeal demiurge who created the universe. Overlapping with the physical approach is the astrological, which on occasion uses similar methods, but is far more self-contained.

Finally, there is the civic layer of discourse about the gods, that is to say the narrations and traditions maintained by states, their priests, and to some extent private individuals. If there is such a thing as a mainstream or commonsense approach to the gods, it was probably closest to this last.

if I want to make the next section all about epithets and Zeus as a protector of the misfortunate, I have to explain what ‚layer‘ that discourse is on

Stobaeus: mythical vs. etc.
Martianus 2.196: Jupiter vs. star of Jupiter

Scholia on Iliad 15.192