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I recently learned of this theory, or cult, whatever. Basically they claim that many people, in ancient Greek already, believed that Zeus was the one and only God of the entire time and space.

So, what's with Zeus' father, brothers, and other gods of his equal? The answers is that Zeus willed all of them into being. He even willed his own birth.

That's how they interprete line 463 to 465 of Hesiod's Theogony, that is, Zeus planned/willed everything.

For he[Kronos] had heard from Earth and starry Sky that, mighty though he was, he was destined to be overpowered by a child of his, through the plans of great Zeus. (translation from Loeb Classical Library)

To me, such interpretation doesn't sound like the only one or the most plausible one. To me, these lines sound more like a prophecy that Kronos was destined to be overpowered by Zeus' plans in the future, than a statement that Zeus planned Kronos' demise then, before he was even born.

The first few lines of the Theogony also, according to them, describe Zeus as omnipotent (ἐρισθενέος Κρονίωνος). But, according to Loeb, and all my dictionaries ἐρισθεν- means "mighty" or "very mighty" instead of almighty. And ἐρι- is only an intensive prefix that means "very" at most. For almighty, one would use παντοκράτωρ.

There are more quotes with no reference claiming Zeus is the one, the beginning and the end.

I wikied a little and it says, in Late Antiquity, there are several competing monotheistic cults.

A number of oracles of Apollo from Didyma and Clarus, the so-called "theological oracles", dated to the 2nd and 3rd century CE, proclaim that there is only one highest god, of whom the gods of polytheistic religions are mere manifestations or servants.[60] 4th century CE Cyprus had, besides Christianity, an apparently monotheistic cult of Dionysus. -- Monotheism

So my questions are:

  1. Did Hesiod really describe an almighty Zeus who planned everything?
  2. How popular was the belief of Zeus being the One among the ancients such as Hesiod, Homer, etc. if any at all, and in Late Antiquity?

Different translations of line 463~465 (related question):

απ' την βουλη του μεγαλου Δια*
from the will/plan of the great Zeus*

*Σαν υα προυπηρχε η βουλη του Δια απο την γεννηση του. Η βουλη του Δια ταυτιζεται εδω, με την Μοιρα, στοιχειο αχρονο.
*As if the will of Zeus had existed since his birth ...

despite his strength, as the will of great Zeus decreed. (Norman O. Brown) [in a footnote among the omitted lines]

no matter how mighty Cronus was,
deliberate action by a great god would win out. (C.S. Morrissey)

powerful though he was, through the designs of great Zeus. (M.L. West)

That his own child would conquer him, powerful though he was, And this was bound to happen through the plan of mighty Zeus. (Catherine Schlegel & Henry Weinfield)

that it had been ordained for him,
for all his great strength,
to be beaten by his son,
and through the designs of great Zeus. (Richmond Lattimore)

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  • Can you point to your source that talks about this?
    – cmw
    Nov 8, 2022 at 3:09
  • @cmw Sure, but it's in Chinese - tieba.baidu.com/p/8128413015 , see the replies from #15 through #18.
    – Eugene
    Nov 8, 2022 at 3:33

1 Answer 1

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Not Zeus per se, but late antique philosophers did advance the idea that all the Greek gods were merely an aspect of one supreme god.

There is a lot of scholarship on this already. If you want a deeper dive, check out:

  • Polymnia Athanassiadi & Michael Frede edd. 1999. Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Cambridge.
  • Stephen Mitchell & Peter van Nuffelen edd. 2010. One God: Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire. Cambridge.

Below is chiefly taken from West 1999, found in the first edited volume I mention above.

What poets like Hesiod and Aeschylus portrayed was not one supreme being, but one supreme king, a god who has won out over his enemies, and whose word the other gods cannot contradict, because he represents justice.

We see some early tendencies toward a monotheistic theology among the Pre-Socratic philosophers, but it's not always easy to differentiate between what is a supreme being and what is a supreme principal. Anaximander's The Infinite, for example, created everything, governed everything, yet doesn't appear to be conscious, so it cannot be a god. Xenophanes seems to be the first, of whom we know, to posit a singular, conscious being instead of all the other gods. Yet Xenophanes' god was distinctly not Zeus; Zeus for Xenophanes was another false god.

The first philosopher on record to specifically make Zeus the supreme being is Parmenides, who is building on Orphic theologies. He has Zeus "[swallow] the universe", whereupon "all the immortals became one with him." Later Orphic writers made the sun the supreme being of the universe and identified it with Zeus.

Neo-Platonism also often toyed with monotheism, but like earlier thinkers, their supreme being isn't Zeus. One exception seems to be Damascius, whose interpretation of the Chaldean oracles makes Zeus the supreme intellect, but he's actually in a triadic grouping with Cronus and Rhea.

All of these philosophers though weren't incredibly popular among the masses. If any particular person off the street of Athens ever thought that Zeus was the supreme being in a monotheistic sense, it doesn't show up in the record, when we have numerous statues and public prayers and altars and temples built to a variety of gods down through late antiquity.


As far as your other questions go, Cairnarvon and I have I think adequately addressed the questions raised therein. Long story short, Hesiod is not a monotheist.

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  • It appears Le Chasseur noir by Peirre Vidal-Naquet is one of their sources.
    – Eugene
    Nov 10, 2022 at 5:08
  • I managed to find Vidal-Naquet's text in English. It says: { Eventually, the triumph of Zeus is projected onto the past, and his will is fulfilled even prior to his birth. [note: Line 465; P, Mazon was unwilling to excise the line, since the Theogony "offers more than one example of this kind of contradiction"] } The author is introducing a concept called divine time here (the chapter name being "Divine Time and Human Time"). I have no idea what he really meant.
    – Eugene
    Nov 10, 2022 at 7:14
  • @Eugene Vidal-Naquet is sometimes, often even, off the mark. I haven't read that chapter before, but I still disagree with that assessment. It just doesn't hold up with the rest of Hesiod or even the rest of epic poetry. It's a development some Greeks made, but by no means all. I think these commentators are reading their own Christianity into the Greek text, something that Vidal-Naquet of all people ought not to be doing.
    – cmw
    Nov 10, 2022 at 14:31
  • @KazamaAiko: Please post your own post if you want to suggest something substantially different from what's written here. I saved your post, though, if you didn't and wanted to use it still, since you wrote quite a lot. Let me know what's the best way to get it to you.
    – cmw
    Sep 5 at 21:19

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