In memoriam OCTAVIAN PALER
Why was Zeus honoured at the Olympic Games?
A student of multilateral diplomacy read recently in our course text that negotiations among envoys of city-states were held during the ancient Olympic Games, organized in honour of the gods. “What gods?”, he asked, probably trying to learn whether the Greeks clashed with other civilisations or foreign bankers. In honour of Zeus, the supreme God in the Greek family of gods, or the king of gods, was the short answer.
But then a more perfidious question raised its ugly head. Why Zeus? Was he up to such distinction?
As Zeus is no longer in power and the risk of divine retaliation is rather minor, we can try to respond. Zeus would be currently labelled as a brutal and immoral dictator for many reasons: using violence against political opponents and burning properties, or cheating on his wife and neglecting children born out of the wedlock, and I’ll pass on other wrongdoings.
To make it worse, Zeus was honoured after he killed his father Cronos in the fight for power. Yes, I know, I know, killing one’s own father is by no means something to honour in the current world order. However, as usual, one should look at things in context.
Cronos’ personal files and unhappy end
The fact is that Cronos was not a very nice guy either. As you may be aware, in the time of ancient Greece, contraceptives were not available. Not even the Gods (who allegedly lived quite a luxurious life on Mountain Olympus, abundantly provided with necessities from the altars of their followers), were able to find condoms in the heavenly drugstores.
As a result, the gods were quite efficient in having babies almost every time they tried. This sounds good in principle, but those kids had the option to claim power for themselves. When Zeus was born, Cronos was in charge, so to say. He had six kids. To make sure they would not be able to overthrow him, in blatant ingratitude after having been fed, raised and educated at the highest level, Cronos found a compromise solution. He ate them all, while they were still – excuse the expression – fresh meat. He used, unchallenged, the abhorrent practice of swallowing his first five children.
The emerging Zeus, the next in line for lunch, forestalled the procedures, anticipated a possible premature exit from the stage, and kicked off a successful pre-emptive strike. He made his father vomit his brothers and sisters out of his large stomach. Somehow unpleasant, but what a relief it was! He also killed him, without due process of law and fair trial, critics say, and took power by acclamation.
Yet, it may be useful to note that the memory of Cronos, despite the troubling circumstances of his death, is still treasured by the use of the word “chronology”. Let us admit that we would have been lost without this particular concept in planning for retirement. Moreover, all the brilliant historians we know would have been out of work (making the current crisis even more unbearable).
The exercise of power under Zeus
You may object that the change of government was not exactly in line with norms of democracy, whose invention is attributed to the ancient Greeks (the contemporary Greeks are being credited with other virtues). I have to disagree!
First, democracy was experimented to benefit to the mortal people living down the mountain, not for the rich and famous on top.
Second, the private life of our rulers is not our business, unless they would themselves wish to expose part of it (weddings in particular) to enhance popularity of royal houses.
Third, please do not try to politicize our academic conversation by noting that in our era, too, democracy and rule of law are not intended for the powerful.
Zeus was not alone in governing the world. He was assisted by a team of twelve Olympian technocrats, all gods of his kin, who were vested with authority in some areas of public interest.
Ruling the air space, with all its storms, clouds, lightening, and outer space, with its geostationary orbits and debris, gave enough trouble to Zeus. Therefore, he delegated Poseidon to rule the seas, while Hades was installed in the underground. They became masters in fishy and obscure matters.
The other gods developed expertise on various topics in accordance with their vocation, training and skills.
Aphrodite took care of the beauty and skin care. A business which would always flourish unabatedly, even in times of severe economic depression and budgetary austerity!
Ares was in charge with making wars, against terrorism and what have you! The job was not as dangerous as you may think. He did not risk his life, because he was immortal, remember! Nowadays, the generals are no longer immortal but they have drones. One must recognize that Ares was an accomplished professional in his field, as he built solid foundations for a long tradition of wars, immortal too!
Athena was in charge of the wisdom and intelligence. Unfortunately, for being very busy with organizing Olympic plots and intrigues, some things escaped her control. For example, she did no provide sufficient federal reserves of intelligence to face the needs of the increasing population.
The deficit keeps growing.
(end of part 1)