“For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?” —Euthyphro (from Plato’s dialogues)
Well, of all aspects, there is one characteristic that Zeus clearly was best in: lasciviousness. Whether the Greeks also thought it was righteous or not, the sheer volume of sexual activity that Zeus participated in is dazzling. I decided to try to make a list and see how large it would be.
To start off, he married his sisters Demeter and Hera (his only other sister, Hestia, must have not been one of his wives only because she couldn’t marry), his aunt Mnemosyne, his cousin Leto, another of his cousins’ daughter Dione, and yet another of his cousins’ daughter Maia. Close relatives aside, he also married some not-so-related females: Semele, Alcmene, and Io (the granddaughter of two siblings that after marriage produced over three thousand sons and daughters). He also married Themis, Eurynome, Europa, and Metis, the last of which he swallowed after marriage (Metis, while in Zeus’ stomach, gave birth to Athena, who later exited Zeus’ body via his skull). That covers all of his marriages, but he also had other sexual pursuits: for one, he had an affair with his daughter Aphrodite, and some Greek sources say a curse by Hera caused them to give birth to Priapos, a god that was deformed in the shape of a penis. He went after Asteria but was not successful. As a swan, he had an affair with Nemesis, and he also produced one child with Hybris and two children with Selene, as well as an unspecified amount of offspring with the ninth muse Calliope. He accidentally impregnated his grandmother, Gaea, twice (also to note, Zeus’ father Cronos came about when Gaea married her son Uranus). He pursued Persephone twice, once in the world and once in the underworld. He also went after Thetis but dropped the pursuit when it was prophesized that she will give birth to a son greater than whoever the father would be. Zeus also abducted the Naiad Aigina for sexual purposes. Although he married Maia, as listed many lines above, he also had sexual relations with two other Pleides: Electra and Taygete. He also seduced Aix, Deino, Himalia, Hora, Callirhoe, Carme, Othreis, Plouto, Sinope, and Thaleia, as well as an unnamed African Nymph. Gods aside, Zeus also had sexual affairs with 20 mortals, including one male, Ganymede, a prince ofTroy. The other 19 were Lysithea, the Hellenics Pandora, Protogeneia, and Thyia, Antiope of Boeotia, Callisto of Arcadia, Cassiopeia of Crete, Danae of Argos, Dia of Thessalia, Elara of Orkhomenos, Eurymedousa of Phthiotis, Kalyke of Elis, Lamia of Libya, Laodemia of Lykia, Leda of Lakedaimonia, Nioba of Argolis, Olympias of Macedonia, Pyrrha the wife of Deukalion, and Phthia of Aegion. Thus, Zeus had sexual relations with a total of at least 57 others, a number of exceeds the number of Achaean deaths in the Iliad. It is certainly an outstanding achievement by the best and most righteous of the gods.