Did Zeus'/Iupiters' lightning bolt ever attain it's own personal name, or did the Greeks and Romans only ever use generic words for thunder and lightning?

  • 2
    IIRC he had a whole bucket of them, or they were frequently made for him, so no, lightning was just ammunition like bullets. He didn't throw a single bolt which returned to him like Thor did with Mjolnir (lightning is one of the derivations of the name's meaning). Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 11:21
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    @LaurenIpsum He got the bucket or pouch from the cyclopes which would infinitely fill itself. As you said this would mean that he would be spending them like bullets. There might be name for the pouch? Like a man naming his weapon but not the bullets.
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:29
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    In French Zeus has le foudre which is different from the natural phenomenon la foudre. Also in German there are Donnerkeil and Donner. It's a clue that needs some search.
    – sand1
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:37
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    Hesiod has keraunos vs brontes.
    – sand1
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 22:00

3 Answers 3


Zeus didn't have a single individual weapon, like Þor's Mjǫllnir, which would come back to him after each strike—instead, most depictions have him hurling a new lightning bolt each time, which is destroyed on impact. So in that sense, there was never a single bolt to name.

However, in Ancient Greek, there are several words for what happens during a storm: brontë for "thunder" and astrapë for "lightning" are extremely common. Most often, Zeus's weapon is neither of these: it's keraunos, a "thunderbolt". This is a somewhat poetic word that's especially associated with Zeus throwing down Cyclops-crafted bolts.

In Latin, the distinction is less pronounced, but fulgur or fulgor is conventionally "lightning" in the general sense while a fulmen is a "thunderbolt", an individual strike, especially one hurled by Jupiter. The words are mostly interchangeable, but some authors draw a distinction between them (possibly after the model of Greek). In metaphorical usage, fulgur is generally about brightness and flashing, while fulmen is about destructive power.


Zeus' thunderbolt in ancient times was often depicted as a single weapon. It was usually depicted as a winged flaming staff with lightning wrapped around it (although the lighting then was different from the zig zag we use today, it's got more right angles). You can see this in the heraldry of the Roman legions and into the Middle Ages in heraldry. Here's a decent drawing of how it was depicted: https://mistholme.com/dictionary/thunderbolt/


In my interpretation, I think that the thunderbolts of Zeus are not the thunderbolts that we see in storms. And yes beam of light, and he held a composite arrow in flames that by the way looks like wheat. Well, let's face it, what divinity would be afraid of lightning? We myths hinted that this weapon it shook the earth, boiled the ocean and land, lit up the world or universe, and wrought havoc worse than nuclear bombs...

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