Mythology – Symbols of Zeus

by Erin on January 3, 2012

The gods and goddesses of ancient Greece often had symbols or attributes associated with them. These symbols served many functions in myth and art. On the most basic level, they helped to distinguish a specific god or goddess.

Zeus is the ruler of the Olympians. He is therefore a powerful god. Indeed, his primary symbols reenforce this sense of awesome power. They are the thunderbolt, the eagle, the bull, and the oak tree. Let’s explore these attributes in a bit more detail.

Thunderbolt – The thunderbolt is a type of weapon wielded by Zeus in both myth and art. It can range from a simple, unadorned bolt to a much more elaborate object in works of art.

Eagle – It is not surprising that the king of the Greek gods would be identified with the majestic eagle. After all, the eagle soars the skies and sees all, much like Zeus sits on his throne in lofty Mount Olympus and surveys his kingdom.

The painting Jupiter and Thetis by J.A.D. Ingres features Zeus - or Jupiter, as he was called by the ancient Romans - accompanied by an eagle.

Bull – Zeus appears in the form of a bull in a few stories from mythology. Of these tales, one of the most famous is of the god and his encounter with a woman named Europa.

Oak – The oak tree represents Zeus in mythology and religion. Indeed, there was a cult associated with this tree at Dodona.

Select Sources - Books :

Art and Myth in Ancient Greece by T.H. Carpenter

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