by Preston Reuther


Zeus, (photo of Zeus Cameo Above) was the son of Cronus and Rhea, he was the Master ruler of Mount Olympus and of the gods who lived there. As the ultimate ruler he upheld law, justice and morals, and was also the spiritual leader of both gods and men. Zeus was originally worshiped as a god that controlled the weather by the Greeks. He has always been associated as being a weather god, as his main weapon is the thunderbolt as he controlled the thunder, lightning, and rain of the sky’s.

The name Zeus is related to the Greek word dios, meaning “bright”. His other attributes as well as lightning were the scepter, the eagle and his Aegis (a goat skin). (This is why many times you will see Zeuse on a shell cameo with an eagle somewhere on the cameo)

NOTE:The Eagle can even be alone on the cameo without the image of Zeus.

Zeus was the protector of the king and his family. Once the age of Greek kings faded into democracy he became chief judge, but most importantly civic god. Zeus was also known as overseer of the city. His duties in this role was to maintain the laws, protect suppliants, to bring the festivals and to give prophecies. As the Major deity Zeus oversaw civilized life. But the father of all gods and all men” has many other stories about him.


The most famous was of how Zeus usurped the kingdom of the immortals from his father. This mythological tale of Zeus’ struggle against the Titans had been caused by Cronus, after he had been warned that one of his children would depose him. To prevent this from happening Cronus swallowed his newborn children, but his wife Rhea, also his sister, and Gala her mother, wrapped a rock in swaddling clothes in place of the infant Zeus. Cronus thought it was the newborn baby swallowed the rock. Meanwhile Rhea had her baby taken to Crete, and there, in a cave and the divine goat Amaltheia raised the child.

When Zeus had grown into a young man he returned to his father’s kingdom, and with the help of Gaia, compelled Cronus to regurgitate the five children he had swallowed. Zeus then led the revolt against his father and the dynasty of the Titans, defeated and then banished them.

Once Zeus had control, he and his brothers divided the entire world between them: Zeus gaining the heavens, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. Zeus had to defend his heavenly kingdom. The three attacks were from the offspring of Gaia: they were the Giganties, Typhon. Zeus fought them with his thunder-bolt, aegis and the twin brothers who were called the Aloada. The latter tried to gain access to the heavens by stacking Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on top of Mount Ossa, but they failed in their attempt to overthrow Zeus. So Zeus banished them all to Tartarus, which is the lowest area of earth even lower than the underworld.

Gaia warned Zeus that Metis would bear a daughter, whose son would overthrow him. On hearing this Zeus swallowed Metis, the reason for this was to continue to carry the child through to the birth himself. Hera (his wife and sister) was outraged and jealous of her husband’s affair, also of his ability to give birth without female participation. To spite Zeus she gave birth to Hephaest (without being fertilized) and it was Hephaestus who split open the head of Zeus, from which Athena emerged with a suit of armour.

Zeus had numerous liaisons with both goddesses and mortals. He either raped them, or used other means to seduce the unsuspecting women. His union with Leto brought  the twins Apollo and Artemis. Once again Hera was jealous and by forcing Leto to roam the earth in search of a place to give birth, as Hera had stopped her from gaining shelter on terra-firma or at sea. The only place she could go was to the isle of Delos a floating island.

Zeus used devious disguises. When he seduced the Spartan queen Leda, he transformed himself into a beautiful swan,

(Many times a cameo will have zeus portrayed on the cameo)

and from the egg which Leda produced, two sets of twins were born: Zeus also took as a lover the Trojan prince Ganymede. He was abducted by an eagle sent by Zeus (some legends believe it was Zeus disguised as an eagle). The prince was taken to Mount Olympus, where he became Zeus’ cup-bearer. Zeus promised Semele, that he would reveal himself in order to seduce her, the union produced Dionysus, but she was destroyed when Zeus appeared as thunder and lightning.

Themis the goddess of justice bore Horae, goddesses of the seasons to Zeus, and also the three Moirae and when Zeus had an affair with Mnemosyne he layed with her for nine nights, which produced nine daughters, who became known as the Muses.(A theme used in many shell cameos)

Zeus had many Temples and festivals in his honor, the most famous of his sanctuaries being Olympia, the magnificent “Temple of Zeus”, which held the gold and ivory statue of the enthroned Zeus, sculpted by Phidias and hailed as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”.

NOTE ON ZEUS SHELL CAMEOS: Zeus was usually portrayed as bearded, middle aged but with a youthful figure. (MUSCULAR) He would look very regal and imposing. Artists always tried to reproduce the power of Zeus in their work, usually by giving him a pose as he is about to throw his bolt of lightening. There are many statues of Zeus, but without doubt the Artemisium Zeus and can now be seen in Athens National Archaeological Museum.


Preston Reuther is a Master Wire Sculptor that has been collecting, showing and selling historical figures on shell cameo jewelry for over 20 years. He has written several e-books and produced over 34 jewelry making DVDs. Aerial maps Written over 1000 articles on the jewelry design process. Visit his cameo collection at wwww.cameojewelry.com or Contact Us at 816-689-2779 ******************************************************************************************************

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