[Sidenote: Jupiter's titles.]
Jupiter, Jove, or Zeus, king of the gods, supreme ruler of the
universe, the special deity of mankind, the personification of the sky
and of all the phenomena of the air, and the guardian of political
order and peace, was the most prominent of all the Olympian
divinities: the others were obliged to submit to his will, and
trembled at his all-powerful nod.
"He, whose all-conscious eyes the world behold,
The eternal Thunderer sat, enthroned in gold.
High heaven the footstool of his feet he makes,
And wide beneath him all Olympus shakes."
"He spoke, and awful bends his sable brows,
Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod,
The stamp of fate and sanction of the god:
High heaven with trembling the dread signal took,
And all Olympus to the center shook."
Homer (Pope's tr.).
The Fates and Destiny alone dared oppose Jupiter's sovereign will, and
they continued to issue their irrevocable decrees, even after he
supplanted his father and began to rule over all.
In common with all other Greek and Roman divinities, Jupiter, though
immortal, was subject to pleasure, pain, grief, and anger, and a prey
to all the passions which rule the hearts of men.
[Illustration: OLYMPIAN ZEUS.--Flaxman.]
It was he who presided at the councils held on the top of "many-peaked
Olympus," and summoned the gods whenever he wished to discuss with
them any matter of importance, or to indulge in a sumptuous repast,
when they ate the celestial ambrosia and quaffed the fragrant nectar.
He is generally represented as a fine majestic figure, with long
curling hair and beard, clad in flowing drapery, his redoubtable
thunderbolts or scepter in one hand, and a statue of Victory in the
other. The world is his footstool; and the eagle, emblem of strength
and power, is generally seen close beside him.
[Sidenote: Jupiter's attendants.]
Jupiter had his own special attendants, such as Victoria, or Nice, the
goddess of victory, who was ever ready to obey his slightest behest,
and it is said her master loved her so dearly, that he generally held
an image of her in his hand.
The hundred-tongued goddess of fame, Fama, trumpet in hand,
proclaimed, at his bidding, anything he wished, never questioning
whether it were true or false.
"Fame than who never plague that runs
Its way more swiftly wins:
Her very motion lends her power:
She flies and waxes every hour.
At first she shrinks, and cowers for dread:
Ere long she soars on high:
Upon the ground she plants her tread,
Her forehead in the sky."
Virgil (Conington's tr.).
Close by Jupiter's side was sometimes seen Fortuna, goddess of
fortune, poised on a constantly revolving wheel, whereon she journeyed
throughout the world, scattering with careless hands her numerous
gifts, and lavishing with indifference her choicest smiles; while
Hebe, or Juventas, the goddess of youth, was ever ready at his wish to
pour out the nectar, in which the gods were wont to pledge each other.
"Hebe, honored of them all,
Ministered nectar, and from cups of gold
They pledged each other."
Homer (Bryant's tr.).
[Illustration: GANYMEDE AND THE EAGLE. (National Museum, Naples.)]
But this fair goddess awkwardly tripped and fell on a solemn
occasion, and was forced to resign her office. To replace her, the
father of the gods was obliged to go in quest of another cup-bearer.
To facilitate his search, he assumed the form of an eagle, and winged
his flight over the earth. He had not flown far, before he beheld a
youth of marvelous beauty, alone on a neighboring hill. To swoop down,
catch him up in his mighty talons, and bear him safely off to Olympus,
was but a moment's work; and there the kidnapped youth Ganymede, the
son of a king of Troy, was carefully instructed in the duties he was
called upon to perform in the future.
"And godlike Ganymede, most beautiful
Of men; the gods beheld and caught him up
To heaven, so beautiful was he, to pour
The wine to Jove, and ever dwell with them."
Homer (Bryant's tr.).
[Sidenote: Story of Philemon and Baucis.]
Solicitous for the welfare of mankind, Jupiter often visited the
earth, taking great care to assume some disguise which would enable
him to ascertain all he wished without any risk of detection. One day
he and Mercury, his special messenger and favorite among the gods,
took the forms of needy, belated travelers, and entered the lowly hut
of a worthy old couple, Philemon and Baucis.
Eager to offer their best to the strangers, these poor people decided
to kill their sole remaining goose; but their efforts to secure it
were vain, and finally the persecuted fowl took refuge between
Jupiter's knees. Touched with their zeal, yet anxious to prevent the
death of the confiding goose, Jupiter revealed himself to his faithful
worshipers, and in gratitude for their intended sacrifice bade them
ask any boon, promising by the great river Styx--the most binding and
solemn oath a god could utter--to grant their request.
Contrary to the custom current in similar cases, Philemon and Baucis
made a modest and judicious choice, and proffered a timid request that
they might serve the gods as long as life and strength endured, and
finally die together. This most reasonable wish was immediately
granted; and Jupiter, moreover, changed their humble abode into a
superb temple, where they could offer daily sacrifices on his altars.
"Their little shed, scarce large enough for two,
Seems, from the ground increased, in height and bulk to grow.
A stately temple shoots within the skies,
The crotches of their cot in columns rise;
The pavement polish'd marble they behold,
The gates with sculpture grac'd, the spires and tiles of gold."
Ovid (Dryden's tr.).
After many years of faithful service, when age had made them long for
death, Philemon and Baucis were transformed into majestic oaks, which
stood for many a century in front of the temple, monuments of the love
and faith which had bound the pair through life.
Although married to Juno, Jupiter often indulged in love affairs with
other goddesses, and even with mortal maidens. The ancients themselves
did not practice polygamy, but their gods were supposed to be able to
indulge all their passions with impunity. As the personification of
the sky, Jupiter, therefore, consorted at times with Juno (the
Atmosphere), with Dione (Moisture), with Themis (Justice), etc.,
without incurring any reproach; for these marriages, in their
estimation, were all symbolical.
But Juno being of a jealous disposition, Jupiter was forced to conduct
his courtships with great secrecy and circumspection, and therefore
generally adopted the precaution of a disguise. To win Europa, the
fair daughter of Agenor, for instance, he became a bull.
"The gods themselves,
Humbling their deities to love, have taken
The shapes of beasts upon them. Jupiter
Became a bull, and bellow'd."
[Sidenote: Jupiter kidnaps Europa.]
One day Europa was playing in her father's meadows with her three
brothers, Cadmus, Phœnix, and Cilix, when she suddenly saw a white
bull coming towards her; not with fiery eyes and lowered horns, but
gently, as if to express a mute request to be petted. The maiden,
delighted, stroked the beast, and decked him with bright garlands of
meadow-blossoms. Then, seeing him kneel, as if to invite her to mount,
she lightly sprang upon his broad back, calling to her companions to
follow her example; but, before they could do as she wished, the bull
had risen to his feet, and galloped off towards the sea with his fair
burden on his back.
Instead of turning when he saw the foam-crested waves, he plunged into
the midst of them, and in a few minutes disappeared from view, so
rapidly did he swim away. To reassure the frightened girl, the bull
now spoke in gentle accents, bidding her dismiss all fear, for he was
the great Jupiter in disguise.
"Take courage, gentle maid! nor fear the tide:
I, though near-seen a bull, am heavenly Jove:
I change my shape at will."
Moschus (Elton's tr.).
Pleased with the novelty of her situation, and flattered by the god's
evident admiration, Europa ceased to struggle, wound her arms more
closely around the bull's neck to prevent the waves from washing her
off her perilous seat, and allowed herself to be carried away.
Jupiter finally deposited his fair burden upon the shores of a new
land, to which he gallantly gave her name, Europe. He then resumed his
wonted form, explained at length his reasons for so unceremoniously
kidnapping her, and finally won her consent to their union. Their
three sons were Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon. The two former were
subsequently appointed judges in the Infernal Regions, while the third
found an early but glorious death during the Trojan war.
[Illustration: THE ABDUCTION OF EUROPA.--Albani. (Uffizi Palace,
[Sidenote: Search for Europa.]
All unconscious of their sister's fate, the young princes had
returned in haste to their father's palace to announce her sudden
involuntary departure. Agenor, whose favorite she had always been,
rent his garments for grief, and bade his sons go forth and seek her,
and not to return till they had found her. Accompanied by their
mother, Telephassa, they immediately set out on their journey,
inquiring of all they met if they had seen their sister. Search and
inquiry proved equally fruitless.
At last, weary of this hopeless quest, Phœnix refused his further
aid, and allowed his sorrowing relatives to continue without him,
remaining in a land which from him was called Phœnicia. Cilix, too,
soon followed his example, and settled in a fertile country which they
had reached, hence called Cilicia; and finally Telephassa, worn out
with grief and fatigue, lay down to die, charging her oldest son to go
Cadmus wandered on till he came to Delphi, where he consulted the
oracle; but, to his great dismay, the only reply he received was,
"Follow the cow, and settle where she rests."
In deep perplexity he left the temple, and, from force of habit,
journeyed on, patiently questioning all he met. Soon he perceived a
cow leisurely walking in front of him, and, mindful of the oracle, he
ceased his search and followed her. Urged by curiosity, many
adventurers joined him on the way, and, when the cow at last lay down
in the land since called Bœotia, they all promised to aid Cadmus,
their chosen leader, to found their future capital, which was to be
[Sidenote: Founding of Thebes.]
Parched with thirst after their long walk, the men then hastened to a
neighboring spring, but, to Cadmus' surprise, time passed and still
they did not return. Armed with his trusty sword, he finally went down
to the spring to discover the cause of their delay, and found that
they had all been devoured by a huge dragon, which lived in the
hollow. The prince raised his sword to avenge their death, and dealt
the dragon such a deadly blow upon the head, that he put an immediate
end to its existence.
While Cadmus stood there contemplating his lifeless foe, a voice bade
him extract the dragon's teeth, and sow them in the ground already
broken for his future city. No human being was within sight: so Cadmus
knew the order proceeded from the immortal gods, and immediately
prepared to obey it. The dragon's teeth were no sooner planted, than a
crop of giants sprang from the soil, full grown, and armed to the
teeth. They were about to fall upon Cadmus, when the same voice bade
him cast a stone in the midst of their close-drawn phalanx. Cadmus,
seeing the giants were almost upon him, and that no time was to be
lost, quickly threw a stone. The effect produced was almost
instantaneous; for the giants, each fancying it had been thrown by his
neighbor, began fighting among themselves. In a few minutes the number
of giants was reduced to five, who sheathed their bloodstained
weapons, and humbly tendered their services to Cadmus. With their aid,
the foundations of the city were laid; but their labor was not very
arduous, as the gods caused some of the public buildings to rise up
out of the ground, all complete, and ready for use.
To reward Cadmus for his loving and painstaking search for Europa,
Jupiter gave him the hand of the fair princess Harmonia, a daughter of
Mars and Venus, in marriage. Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, is
supposed to have invented the alphabet, and introduced its use into
Greece. Although his career was very prosperous at first, he finally
incurred the wrath of the gods by forgetting, on a solemn occasion, to
offer them a suitable sacrifice; and, in anger at his dereliction,
they changed him and Harmonia into huge serpents.
[Sidenote: Worship of Jupiter.]
Jupiter was, of course, very widely and generally worshiped by the
ancients; and his principal temples--the Capitol at Rome, and the
shrine of Jupiter Ammon in Libya--have been world-renowned. He also
had a noted temple at Dodona, where an oak tree gave forth mysterious
prophecies, which were supposed to have been inspired by the king of
gods; this long lost shrine has recently been discovered.
"Oh, where, Dodona! is thine aged grove,
Prophetic fount, and oracle divine?
What valley echoed the response of Jove?
What trace remaineth of the Thunderer's shrine?
All, all forgotten!"
A magnificent temple at Olympia, on the Peloponnesus, was also
dedicated to Jupiter; and here every fifth year the people of Greece
were wont to assemble to celebrate games, in honor of Jupiter's great
victory over the Titans. These festivals were known as the Olympian
Games; and the Greeks generally reckoned time by olympiads, that is to
say, by the space of time between the celebrations. Within the temple
at Olympia stood a wonderful statue of gold and ivory, the work of
Phidias. Its proportions and beauty were such, that it was counted one
of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It is said, too, that the
artist, having completed this masterpiece, longed for some sign of
approval from heaven, and fervently prayed for a token that the god
accepted his labor. Jupiter, in answer to this prayer, sent a vivid
flash of lightning, which played about the colossal image,
illuminating it, but leaving it quite unharmed.
The Greeks were indebted to Phidias for many of their most exquisite
statues of the gods; but none of the others equaled this figure of
Jupiter in size, dignity of attitude, or elaborate finish.
"Wise Phidias, thus his skill to prove,
Through many a god advanc'd to Jove,
And taught the polish'd rocks to shine
With airs and lineaments divine;
Till Greece, amaz'd, and half afraid,
Th' assembled deities survey'd."
[Illustration: JUNO. (Vatican, Rome.)]