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The Wive(s) of Zeus

By Elani Temperance

When I was younger, I firmly believed that Zeus freed His siblings from His father’s belly, led the Titanomanchy, and married Hera as His one and only wife. Imagine my surprise when I came upon the works of Hesiod and found out there had been others before Her. We’ve already discussed the many liaisons of Zeus through His offspring, but today we look at the distinction between lover and wife.

We have established before that marriage was often a matter of moving in together, and consummating the relationship. Within the lives of ancient Hellenes, marriage was an arranged affair, usually by the parents of the two who were to be wed. The Theoi are, of course, a little different, and all we have to go on when it comes to Them are the ancient writers. Hesiod, for example, gives us a list of the lovers Zeus had before Hera: Metis, Themis, Eurynome, Demeter, Mnemosyne, and Leto. Only two of those are described as ‘wife’ or as ‘having been married’ (Metis and Themis), although it is implied for the others (Theogony 886-923). There is no mention of divorce, however, and in the text that follows, Hesiod relies more on euphemisms for sex than marriage to describe the relationships between Zeus and these women.

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