Zeus often takes many forms to trick his wives and other damsels and some of the more prominent forms that he had taken are:

-the eagle(for Ganydeme)

-the swan(for Leda)

-the bull(for Eurynome)

-the shower of gold(for Danaë)

Are there any significance to these forms? Why was Zeus potrayed in those paryicular ways. By the way I am mostly looking for explanatiobs the above mentioned forms but explanations for other forms will also be appreciated.

  • Graves would definitely attribute meaning to the forms--there is very little randomness in mythology so far as I can tell. Graves' commentary on myths is in question, due to the influence of Frazer, but he had great artistic insight. However, much more conservative have written about such symbols. When I get some time, I'll do a little research, but I'd say definitely, yes, there is significance.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 17:55
  • @Gibet Indeed, I was taught mythology initially through a Freudian and Jungian lens (with most of the focus on Jung.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


There are many ways to read a myth. The Greek philosopher Xenophanes would have seen Zeus' amours as allegories, while Euhemerus would have looked for the history behind the myth. (And, as my link points out, those who see them as the "marriage" of invading sky-gods to local earth-goddesses continue that tradition.)

In modern times, Robert Segal wrote a brief but interesting book interepreting the Narcissus myth in many different ways (archetypal [Jung], structuralist [Levi-Strauss], ritualist [Frazer], etc.). You could certainly do the same with any of these Zeus myths.

As for why those specific animals, the eagle was Zeus' (and Jupiter's) special animal, and the bull was important to the Cretans, as well as the animal of both Zeus and Poseidon. The swan was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which may have suggested the shape to Zeus. I'm not sure about the shower of gold, which sounds painful. (Perhaps Zeus had a fit of realism, and figured that even if Danae didn't want him, she could use the gold.)


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