How many jokes about Zeus’s epic sexual history can I make? Let’s just say that I have even more written out.
Of course we know that Zeus did, in fact, “strike” at least twice with some of his sexual partners. What a guy. God. Whatever.
Zeus, chief of the gods of the ancient Greek pantheon was a powerful symbol of the Greek concept of masculinity. Stories of his sexual encounters, while often humorous to both us and the ancient Greeks, helped to convey the raw power and maleness of the god. While it’s true that Zeus had quite the sexual appetite, that is not the only factor that galvanized every affair. Quite a few stories paint Zeus as a bit of a romantic, though of course it’s hard to know for sure what his followers thought of him. If taken at face value, certain stories, like those of Europa and Io, convey a sense of Zeus’s love and passion for at least some of the women (and men) he beds.
Of course, there are other angles to consider. As the “Father” of the gods, Zeus’s constant love affairs produced a great many divine and semi-divine offspring, in keeping with this fatherly image. Zeus may not be the perfect husband by modern western standards, but he certainly knew how to procreate, performing his role in the very human sexual act with gusto, reminding the Greeks and readers today of this fundamental role that males play in the continuation of the species.
It’s always interesting to me just how flawed and humorous and human these ancient concepts of the divine were. The ancient Greeks, especially, are known for their focus on the human element in all their cultural works, and their emphasis on flawed personalities even in stories of their heroes and gods. I say flawed but what I really mean is human. Every human has flaws and parts of their personality that cause conflict within themselves or in their interactions with others. It seems so foreign to us today that a representation of the divine could be so much like us. The more modern impressions of the divine tend to be more abstract and less human. The Christian god fathers a son but most people, even individuals that would call themselves devout, don’t fully understand how that relationship works. As time goes on, these religious concepts seem to become even more abstracted and they push new spiritual messages.
One can argue the value of the old gods vs the new but it’s not a particularly clear or easy argument to have. Weighing the spiritual power of the very flawed and human gods of Ancient Greece or the old Norse peoples and the more abstract concepts of the Christian holy Trinity, the Buddha, Allah, or the deities of India is something you could attempt but honestly, it’s impossible to say that one is better than the other. They’re simply different.
This is probably no surprise to anyone that reads this comic, but I have, personally, always felt a strong connection to the tales of the ancient world. We read them today as stories and not as religious truth, but they contain a kind of truth one cannot find in most modern religions. Undoubtedly, this is why they’ve stood the test of time. It has already been thousands of years since these stories were created and we are still talking about them, still learning from them today. It may be surprising to consider that such flawed figures could teach us so much about ourselves and the human condition, but they were created by humans. Though they may not represent modern spiritual ideals they are still a part of human history, they are still human constructs that carry within them pieces of what it means to be human.
While many of us today look up and out toward abstracted concepts of the divine for guidelines on how to attain spiritual perfection, we can still look back and learn something about what it means to be a living breathing human being from these ancient stories. They can still offer us guidance and help us understand and navigate our own internal world and the struggles that we all go through in our daily lives.
Whatever your thoughts on religion, there is real value in the old gods. You don’t have to believe in their divinity, just simply read and understand what they represent and they can offer a wealth of insight, entertainment, and understanding. Even our good friend Zeus has something to teach us about ourselves…
…primarily, that we’re mostly hung up on banging.
If that isn’t truth, I don’t know what is.
PS – A full month of comics done on time! Exciting! Also, I promise I will try to give you guys something other than Greek mythology for the next couple of weeks!