8. mythological tour of the solar system 5: jupiter/zeus


jupiter copy.jpg

Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/visions-of-the-future/


img_6482Today we visit the first of the Gas Giants, Jupiter. This mysterious planet, covered with swirling, toxic clouds in shades of orange, red, white, and brown, is the largest in our solar system. The “King of the Planets” is named after the Greek and Roman king of the gods, Jupiter (Zeus). We examine passages from Greek and Roman literature to shed some light on how the ancients thought of their god they called “the father of gods and men.”


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Primary Source Passage

Theogony 71-74
…he was ruling the
sky as king, holding the thunder and fiery lightning-bolt himself,
having the victory from his father Cronus by strength; in right detail
he dealt laws and appointed donors to the immortals.

Theogony 478-491
They sent her [Rhea] to Lyctus, to the rich land of Crete,
when she was about to bear her youngest son,
great Zeus; vast Earth received him from her
in wide Crete to tend and raise.
Carrying him through the swift black night, she came
first to Lyctus; taking him in her arms, she hid him
in a deep cave, down in dark holes of holy each,
on Mount Aegean, dense with woods.
Rhea wrapped a huge stone in a baby’s robe, and fed it
to Sky’s wide-ruling son, lord of the earlier gods;
he took it in his hands and put it down his belly,
the fool; he did not think in his mind that instead
of a stone his own son, undefeated and secure, was left
behind, soon to master him by force and violence and
drive him from his honour, and be lord of the immortals himself.

Theogony 491-500
Swiftly then the strength and noble limbs
of the future lord grew; at the end of a year,
tricked by the clever advice of Earth,
great crooked-minded Cronus threw up his children,
defeated by the craft and force of his own son.
First he vomited out the stone he had swallowed last;
Zeus fixed it firmly in the wide-pathed land
at sacred Python in the vales of Parnassus,
to be a sign thereafter, a wonder to mortal men.
Trans. Richard Caldwell

Ancient Sources

Theogony. Trans. Richard Caldwell & Stephanie Nelson. Newburyport MA: Focus Publishing, 2009.

Selected Sources

NASA. “Jupiter.” http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/jupiter

NASA. “Juno: Peering Beneath  Jupiter’s Clouds.” http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/juno

NASA. “NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Risk Jupiter’s Fireworks for Science.” http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/2016/06/16/nasas-juno-spacecraft-to-risk-jupiters-fireworks-for-science 16 June 2016.

Osborne, Hannah. “Juno Mission: How NASA will manoeuvre 250 000 km/h spacecraft into Jupiter’s orbit.” http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/juno-mission-how-nasa-will-manoeuvre-250000-km-h-spacecraft-into-jupiters-orbit-1563401 International Business Times 3 June 2016.


Astronomer Erin Ryan on Twitter @erinleeryan, website http://www.erinleeryan.com

The Juno mission on Twitter: @NASAJuno

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This week’s theme music: “Super Hero” by King Louie’s Missing Monuments from the album “Live at WFMU” (2011). Used under Creative Commons license. Music used under Creative Commons license and available from Free Music Archive.