Okay, I need to warn about this one. It gets bad, way, way fast. As in sexually bad. As in rape. It’s a Greek myth, so well, that’s something you have to get used to seeing in their stories.
So the king is dead (Cronus), long live the king (Zeus). It’s good to be the king. But, there’s a slight hitch. He wants to marry his sister Hera. She is the strongest of his siblings and would cement his rule quite nicely. The hitch? His Mom Rhea forbids him to marry.
She knows he’s going to be a womanizing, cheating, d-bag. It’s just who he is. The thing is, this puts Zeus in a bad spot. He can’t have mom telling him what he can and can’t do. If he abides by her wishes, then he’s really just a puppet dancing to mom’s strings. He needs to establish himself as the king, and that he stands on his own without any kind of influence from mom.
Zeus being Zeus, he envisions only one way of doing this.
He rapes his mother.
I’m sure there’s a list out there (it’s the Internet, there’s a list for everything) about ways to establish dominance. Zeus jumped straight to the top then over the list. This is some dark side of the Force level stuff, here.
I’m not defending him. I am in no way defending him. Zeus is an alpha male, and he establishes that fact with a vengeance. No one, and I man no one will ever think that he is subordinate to his mother after this. That was his goal, and he achieved it by using a nuclear weapon and annihilating the planet.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the family system to date. Power is established through dominant sexuality. Both Uranus and Cronus felt that their wives were spending too much time with the kids instead of servicing them, and they took drastic measures to ensure that their needs were of primary importance. Zeus topped them by far, but it’s still in the same vein of how his father and grandfather operated.
Could he have found another way? He is intelligent. I like to think that, yes, he was smart enough to find another way. However, we must consider his siblings. What are they like? What do they respond to? Do they take after dad and grandad? Any demonstration of power, of dominance, will be aimed at them. In his own mind, Zeus is king and dominant. He dethroned his father. He established political alliances to secure his position. By right and by fact, he is king. It doesn’t matter that he’s the youngest child. He was the one to do the deed.
The rape of Rhea is all about the other children. If they do not perceive Zeus to be in charge, they will rebel, and we’ll start this all over again. They are the ones who need to recognize his authority.
This is where we add a new dimension to how twisted this story is. Zeus judges that the only demonstration of authority that his siblings will recognize is raping Rhea. It’s one thing for him to think that this is the only solution, it’s another that he is likely right about what they will recognize. Zeus’s siblings didn’t have the benefit of his education. They grew up inside of Cronus’s stomach, so how civilized could they be?
Zeus definitely went too far when it came to Rhea, but his authority is completely established, now. Mythology, particularly Greek mythology, doesn’t sugarcoat things, nor is it interested in being nice since life is hard. The lesson here is one that has been played out thousands of times across all of history, power must be seized. The notion of power deriving from the people, of democracy, is still a long ways off, even in Athens, much less modern notions of democracy.
When we tie this story back to Cronus and Uranus, it also establishes that tyranny will happen unless there are reasons preventing it. Zeus, so far, has fallen into the same category of ruler as his father and grandfather; however, he did make allies, which is a significant difference compared to his father and grandfather, one that will be important, later.