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The Most Messed Up Things Zeus Ever Did

Updated January 6, 2020 7.0k votes 983 voters 32.7k views12 items

List RulesVote up the times Zeus took it too far.

Zeus, the king of the gods in Greek mythology, is famously wicked. He lies and cheats, especially when it comes to tricking women into infidelity. Zeus consistently doles out harsh punishments to those who act against his will - regardless of their merit. And although some characters from Greek mythology arguably deserve to be put in their place, most of Zeus's punishments are way out of line.

The messed up things Zeus has done usually involve extreme circumstances, and humans are not his only prey. The deity is responsible for some of the most over-the-top punishments in Greek mythology. 

  • 5

    He Was Consistently Unfaithful To His Wife, Hera

    He Was Consistently Unfaithful is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Messed Up Things Zeus Ever Did
    Photo: Giovanni Ambrogio Figino / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    While in an immortal union with the goddess Hera, Zeus stepped out on her many times, usually in creative ways to conceal his infidelity. Zeus turned into a bull to sleep with Europa, he impregnated Semele with the god Dionysus, and he turned into a swan to get with Leda, an Aetolian princess.

    While all of those transformations are odd, perhaps the strangest was when he turned into a shower of gold so he could be with Danaë. 

    Is this messed up?
  • 6

    Humankind Annoyed Him, So He Decided To Wipe Them Out

    When Zeus got frustrated with the decadence of humanity, he decided to wipe everyone out with a great flood. With the help of Poseidon, he raised the oceans so high that everyone except for Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha lost their lives. 

    Deucalion and Pyrrha rode out the flood in an ark. The waters only receded after they offered a sacrifice to Zeus, and following their penance, they were told to toss stones over their shoulders to repopulate the Earth. 

    Is this messed up?
  • 7

    He Forced Atlas To Hold The World On His Shoulders

    After defeating the Titans as a young god, Zeus cast most of his elders into Tartarus, an underworld dungeon. The Titan Atlas received a special punishment though. Instead of tossing this muscle-bound Titan into the underworld, he forced Atlas to hold up the Earth on his shoulders. 

    But that wasn't his final fate. After spending generations holding the planet in place, he was transformed into a massive mountain with the head of Medusa. 

    Is this messed up?
  • 8

    He Bound Ixion To An Eternally Burning Wheel

    He Bound Ixion To An Eternally is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Messed Up Things Zeus Ever Did
    Photo: Jules-Élie Delaunay / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    After doing away with his father, Ixion was forced out of Thessaly and shunned. Zeus pitied the young man and invited him to move to Mount Olympus. Everything was fine - until Thessaly tried to sleep with Zeus's wife, Hera. 

    When Zeus found out about Thessaly's desire, he didn't merely kick Thessaly out of the palace. Instead, he made a cloud in the shape of Hera; after Thessaly made love to the Hera-cloud, Zeus bound him to a burning wheel that was sentenced to spin through the sky continuously. 

    Is this messed up?
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