Zeus was the almighty father of the skies worshipped throughout Greece. He carried a thunderbolt as a weapon to keep heavenly order on Mount Olympus and mortal order on Earth.
Zeus, supreme ruler and king of all Greek gods, is connected with Naxos in a very special way. Naxos plays a crucial part of his life story and the ancient Naxians were very well aware of this fact. They honored him by calling their island “Dia” and its highest mountain “Zas”. Both names are evidently connected to the god Zeus, ‘CEO of the gods,’ whose rule on Mount Olympus was full of challenges and domestic drama.
More precisely, according to Greek mythology, Zeus was born on the island of Crete. Unlike other babies, he did not grow up with his mother (Rhea), as one would normally expect. Unfortunately, Zeus’ father (Cronus) was noted for the very bad habit of swallowing his children, fearful of an oracle which had pronounced that one of them would dethrone him. As a result, Cronus and Rhea had had five children before Zeus, who all ended up in their father’s stomach. These were Demeter, Hera, Hestia, Hades and Poseidon, who would later become some of the other Olympian gods. So, when Rhea became pregnant with Zeus, she wanted to save the new baby from that fate deciding to deceive her husband by giving him a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to swallow instead of her newborn. Right after his incognito birth, baby Zeus was given to the goat Amalthea and the nymph Melissa to raise and keep him safe deep inside a cave on the high mountains of Crete.
However, according to Aglaosthenis, an ancient historian from Naxos, Zeus was transferred from Crete to Naxos during his childhood to escape, once again, his father’s wrath. So, Zeus spent his early years in a second cave and, this time, on Zas mountain , the highest mountain in the Cyclades. Archaeological evidence shows that there was a shrine dedicated to Zeus inside this cave and that he was especially worshipped by locals as “the protector of sheep and goats”.
Once Zeus eventually grew up and came of age, he was ready to overthrow Cronus and assume his divine authority. Luckily, also, the Cyclops were on his side. With the help of an eagle, the Cyclops gave Zeus the “thunderbolt”, the most dangerous and powerful weapon. Full of self–confidence with this all mighty weapon in his hand, Zeus takes revenge on his father Cronus opening his belly to liberate the rest of his brothers and sisters. All together they fight against the Titans and Cronus who, until then, controlled the universe. The famous War of the Titans was long and cruel but it was finally won by Zeus and his siblings, who, together with Zeus’ children, made up the Twelve Gods of Olympus!
Today, active travelers to Naxos can enjoy the hike to Zas cave where the majesty of Zeus can still be felt.
Contact Naxos Cultural Tours and join a Mythology Tour of Naxos island or an outstanding hiking experience to the top of Mt. Zas. All tours are led by expert certified guides who know Naxos past and present, inside out!