He is the son of Cronosand Rhea, in fact the only son of these two to survive to adulthood. Zeus hadbeen hidden by Rhea so that Cronos would not swallow him like he had all ofhis other offspring; he had been warned that one of his children wouldeventually overthrow him. Rhea sent Zeus to the island of Crete where he wasraised. Zeus eventually killed his father. After he killed Cronos, he restored lifeto his brothers and sisters. He then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon andHades to see who would become ruler of the various parts of the universe.
Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. He is lord ofthe sky, the rain god. His weapon is a thunderbolt, made for him by theCyclopes under the direction of Hephaestus, which he hurls at those whodisplease him. He married a succession of spouses with whom he had manychildren including: Athena, The Fates, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, and Hermes. His last, and most well-known wife is Hera but he is famous for his manyaffairs. Odin is the leader of the Norse gods and has a myriad of namesincluding Allfather, Ygg, Bolverk (evil doer), and Grimnir.
He also has manyfunctions within the myths including being a god of war, poetry, wisdom, anddeath. However, he is not considered the “main” god of each of thesefunctions. Odin’s symbol is his magical spear named Grungir which nevermisses its mark. He also owns a magic ring called Draupnir which can createnine of itself every night. It was this ring that Odin laid on his son Balder’sfuneral pyre and which Balder returned to Odin from the underworld. Odinalso has two wolves, Geri and Freki, and two ravens, Hugin (thought) andMunin (memory).
He sends his ravens out every day to gather knowledge forhim. Odin was destined to die at Ragnarok; Fenris-Wolf swallowed him. Knowing his fate, he still chose to embrace it and do battle, showing the truewarrior ethic. He is the god of warriors and kings, not the common man. Among his children are:Thor, Hermod, and Balder.
He is married to Frigg, thegoddess of marriage. The first obvious similarity between Zeus and Odin is intheir appearance. Both are very large men, but they are not depicted as fatmen. Both look very powerful and foreboding. They also are both shown ashaving beards. A beard represents manliness, in a very basic way as facial hairis something that every man can have.
In this sense the beard as a signaturefeature of these gods brings in a sense of attachment to the people within thesocieties that worshipped them. If they had a different signature feature, forexample wings, this would remove the gods from the common man. Thebeard is something ordinary people can relate to. It may also be of note thatthe stereotypical view of Vikings and Norsemen almost always includesbeards on the men. Maybe they were trying to emulate their head god ormaybe the god was “created” in the image of the ordinary man.
Here is thedirect comparison. Zeus and Odin were respective rulers over the gods intheir mythologies. Zeus was known for upholding the law and social order. Infact, one of his titles was Zeus Horkios which literally means “the Guarantor ofOaths. ” This is quite similar ot Odin’s recording of all the laws, contracts andagreements onto his spear which he was bound to uphold. They both had theirpalaces in the sky to some extent.
Mt. Olympus was very high (in themythologies; the real Mt. Olympus is a mountain, but not very high. ) It is alsoimportant to note that when the three brothers (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades)were deciding which part of the world each would get, Zeus chose the sky.
There are many stories of Zeus looking down from Mt. Olympus into the livesof other men. This is also the case with Odin. He could watch other people,gods and mortals alike, from his throne Hlidskialf in Asgard, Asgard being thepalace in the sky where the gods met. So there are distinct similaritiesbetween Asgard and Mt.
Olympus: both were in the sky, both allowed for theobservation of the rest of the world, both were the meeting place for the godsin their respective mythologies. The actions of the two gods are very importantto look at as well. Zeus is well-known for going off into the world of mortalsand trying to have “relations” with the mortals. Often times he would changeshape in order to accomplish this. He took such forms as a bull, swan, goldenshower, and a quail, for example.
This shape-shifting was also a typical actionof Odin. He changed himself into animals occasionally, such as a snake or aneagle. (Interestingly, Zeus is often depicted as an eagle!) But, more often thannot, Odin changed himself into “The Wanderer. ” In this form he was known towear a long grey cloak and a wide brimmed hat that covered or cast shadowsover his missing eye. In this form he attempted, on many occasions, to have”relations,” often spawning offspring. There is one story of Odin and Rindwhere Odin must change his shape multiple times to meet the needs of Rindwho he is wooing.
He transforms from captain of her father’s army to a smithto a warrior and finally is accepted into her arms only after taking his naturalform as a god. This raises one important difference between the two: theattitudes of the two respective wives of the gods, Hera and Frigg. Hera iswell-known for her jealous and vengeful reactions to Zeus actions. However,Frigg does not have the same reaction.
To see the development of thisthought, see the wives’ page. Another commonality of the two gods is theirinteraction with mortals. In both their visiting and aiding of these mortals Zeusand Odin identified certain people that they considered great and offered themtheir assistance. This supports the theory that these mythologies, because theywere serving generally less-advanced societies (industrially, socially andintellectually), created gods who would come down and physically interactwith mortals, gave the gods a sense of tangibility to the society. At this pointcould a society have been able to accept a flawless, omnipotent being,especially one on a cosmic level, rather than a physical level? If a god couldcome to a man and physically aid him, that would be an incentive to believeand worship.
Both of these gods have a specific symbol of power. Zeus hashis lighting bolt, and Odin has his spear. Both of these items have a somewhatnegative interpretation. Lighting is a destructive force and a spear is a weaponused to kill. In our society, gods are usually displayed to have a very positivelight surrounding them and a weapon may seem strange to us as a symbol of agod.
We must also see that the gods both used their respective weapons bythrowing them. Maybe this is the beginning of the thoughts of a cosmic entity– the gods did not have to be physically there, but could project theirintentions from afar. The fact that both of these symbols were destructive inone form or another raises a few questions: Were these cultures looking for adestructive god? Were they still at a state that a primitive personification ofman was desired as a god? Were these societies looking at chaos anddestruction as being more important in the society than order? It may be thatthe fear that they invoke will have people thinking that they can be punished,and if they are punished it will not be a simple slap on the wrist, but rather aspear or lightning bolt hurled at them. So I believe that this fear was usedwhen the myths were being originally fashioned so that one would beintimidated to believe and worship.
One last thing to be considered aboutthese two gods, and their manliness, is that both of them were very fertile. They were both fathers to many offspring, thus spreading their wonderfulqualities around to other beings. What I think these societies needed was apowerful man, one who was warlike, strong, large, intimidating and prolific. This was they type of god that one in those times could fear and respect, andtherefore worship fairly easily.