Zeus Jupiter Heracles

I have suggested that Zeus, the original sky-god, took over the tempestuous functions of the more dedicated Keraunos. According to Hesiod (Th. 140 f.,

33 Movses Xorenac'i 1. 31; Zaehner (as n. 32); J. R. Russell, Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Cambridge, Mass. 1987), 204 f.; Ishkol-Kerovpian (1986), 151.

34 Cf. Watkins in Mayrhofer et al. (1974), 107; id. (1995), 343 f.; Bader (1989), 93 f.; Nagy (1990), 189 f.

35 CTH 344 A ii, translated in Hoffner (1998), 43 f.; RV 4. 18. 1 f.; Macdonell (1898), 56.

501-6) he received the necessary equipment from three sons of the secondary sky-god Ouranos. Their names, Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, represent the thunder ( povTr¡), the lightning (oTepony), and the shining bolt (apyys Kepawos). They made these weapons for Zeus and gave them to him in gratitude when he released them from the prison in which Ouranos had shut them up—perhaps another expression of the eruption of lightning from the cloud in which it had been confined.

The three brothers reflect an analysis of the god's fulmination into three aspects: the thunder is what you hear, the lightning is what you see, and the thunderbolt is what hits you. There is an interesting parallel in one of the Latvian songs, where Perkons is said to have nine sons:

trois frappaient du pied, trois grondaient, trois étincelaient.36

Here too the three functions are separated and assigned to different brothers, while a superior figure, Peerkons himself, takes the credit for the whole production.

It was mentioned above that Perkunas rides behind a goat or goats, and that the goat is really the snipe that presages a storm. One of Zeus' commonest epithets in Homer is alyi(F)oxos, which must originally have meant 'riding on a goat'; the traditional interpretation as 'aegis-bearing' does violence to the language. In one of the Orphic theogonies (fr. 236 (ii) Bernabé) Zeus rode to heaven on a goat after his birth. The feminine aí'£ presupposed in the Homeric word is cognate with the masculine ozys that denotes Perkunas' goat.

Perkunas' and Perun's special relationship with the oak tree is not foreign to Zeus. His holy oak at Dodona was famous from Homer on (Od. 14. 327 f. = 19. 296 f.), and he had another at Troy (Il. 5. 695, 7. 60). His partiality for oaks is implied by a joke in Aristophanes (Av. 480, cf. schol.; Eust. in Hom. 594. 35). His habit of striking them with lightning is noted (Il. 14. 414, Ar. Nub. 402, Lucian Dial. 20. 16).

In the absence of an independent Jupiter mythology we need not dwell on the Roman god except to note that he too is regularly associated with the oak (quercus). 'Quercus in tutela Iouis est', writes Servius (on Virg. Ecl. 1. 17). The ancient temple of Iuppiter Feretrius was sited by an oak on the Capitol (Livy 1. 10. 5). Many understood the title Feretrius as being from ferire 'strike', though this is probably wrong. The god of lightning had a separate shrine in the Campus Martius as Iuppiter Fulgur.37

36 Mannhardt (1875), 317; LD 33704 = Jonval no. 437; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 628 f.

37 C. Thulin, RE x. 1130 f. For Jupiter and the oak cf. also Virg. G. 3. 332, Aen. 3. 680 f.; Ov. Met. 1. 106; Phaedr. 3. 17. 2; Plut. Coriol. 3, Quaest. Rom. 286a; F. Olck, RE v. 2051 f.

Certain aspects of the Indo-European storm-god that might have seemed beneath Zeus' dignity appear to have been transferred to his son Heracles. Heracles, of course, made his reputation as a mortal hero, performing mighty deeds on earth (though partly in mythical regions of the earth, beyond ordinary people's ken). Whatever the first part of his name signifies, the second part, 'glory', marks it as a compound of a heroic, not a divine type (cf. pp. 400 f.). The story of his posthumous deification is late and inorganic. He is not a déclassé storm-god. But as a beefy, brawny, swaggering figure, always quick to resort to violence, a match for any monster, he had features in common with the storm-god and was able to attract other features. Like Indra, he is a prodigious eater; for example, in an eating contest with Lepreus he consumed a whole ox, and gluttony is one of his standing characteristics on the comic stage from Epicharmus on (fr. 18 K.-A.). Among his legendary feats there is one that deserves particular notice in regard to the mythology of the storm-god: his capture of Geryon's cattle. We shall give attention to this presently.38

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