Zeus: The Thirst for Power

Fifteen columns are still standing from the largest temple ever built in Greece: the Temple of Zeus. Jokingly I am telling to myself “Your Majesty, here you are!” I start laughing. Miguel, raises his right eyebrow. I almost can read his thoughts: “What can anybody do? This is Clara!” Then, with no word, he turns toward the temple and starts taking pictures.

So, here I am in front of the place where the ancient Greeks used to bring offerings to their most powerful god: Zeus, the leader of Olympus. The sunlight is oppressing. The heat is baking my soul, my cracked lips, my swollen feet, my already dry hands. But I keep my eyes straight to the columns: yellow stone which witnessed centuries of worshiping, jubilation, pain, and finally disaster; yellow stone which is still tragically trying to reach a hot, petrified sun that is desiccating its old, dusty face. Miguel turns towards me:

“Clara, welcome to the condo of Zeus! Meet the unlimited power of the god of gods!”

I am smiling for a moment, and then, I am forcing myself to think. Did Zeus have unlimited powers? No, not really. In all those confused Greek legends Zeus did not win all the time. The story of Demeter and Persephone comes to mind. In the fight between Demeter and Hades, Zeus will rule in favor of Demeter, and order Demeter’s daughter – Persephone – to return from the underworld. He tried to do some good at least! But Hades will lure Persephone with the fruit of dead. She ate the fruit. One who eats the fruit of death is doomed to live forever in the haunted, dark world ruled by Hades. The legend ends up with some kind a compromise between Zeus and his brother Hades. Persephone will live on earth with her mother Demeter for half of year. But, she will have to spend the other half, as Hades’ bride, in the underworld. So, in front of death, Zeus has limited powers. Yet, the ancient Greeks, still accepted him as the god of gods. Why?

My eyes turn to Miguel.

“No, no, Miguel, Zeus did not have unlimited powers. He just had an immeasurable, odious thirst for power! I was just…”

“What did he do now, Clara?”

I don’t answer. I know he’s joking. I go and sit down on a stone, and start thinking to myself.

In fact, despite trying to help Demeter, Zeus was an abusive, repugnant character. He dethroned his father Kronos, and ate most of his children – just like his father- fearing that the power can be taken away from him. He was adulterous, and hysterical.  He oppressed, and abused the weak. He threw thunder on the heads of those who stood up to him gods, and humans alike.  Did the ancient Greeks equate power with uncontrolled behavior? Did they think that such “qualities” make one a true ruler?  Or, the ancient Greeks were trying to warn us, to tell us, that the thirst for power comes from our deepest human past, and that it will plague our future forever? Were they trying to say that the thirst for power will eternally be flowing through the veins of every ruler of this world? Were they trying to warn us that madness is a hidden characteristic of rulers?

Instantly, form the heavy clouds of my memory, Miriam’s tearful face appears. Miriam and her abusers. She has never spoken much about. I knew almost nothing.  But I could feel her abusers in every thought of hers, in each color of her paintings, in every line drawn by her. They were there in every glimmer of her eyes, and in every sound of her voice; their hideous faces forever carved in her soul; their repugnant touch imprinted forever in her soft, velvety skin.  What did they do to her? What kind of suffering did she have to go through? Who’s going to bring them to justice? Who?  Who? Where’s the god of gods? Where is he?

He is nowhere to be found. His face is lost in legend, and his columns are buried in the deepest, darkest silence.

“Miguel, I want to go back to the hotel! Now, please!”

 

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