“Thunderbolt of Jupiter”: Its incendiary symbol

Myths, thousands of years ago, has been the main tool to explain the environment in which people live. In our mythology, the thunderbolt was one of Zeus’ weapons with which he ruled mortals as well as divine beings.

Lightning construction by three cyclops: It was the most valuable tool he owned. Thunder, thunder and lightning were given to him by the 3 Cyclops, children of Gaia and Uranus. They were called: Thunder – Steropis – Argis. The name of the first means thunder, the second comes from the word “steropi” = lightning, and the third means “white” and indicates lightning from its white glow. They offered to thank him for freeing them from Tartarus. These weapons were produced on Etna under the supervision of Hephaestus and have been symbols of Zeus’ power ever since.

Its special features: The symbol of the thunderbolt appears in ancient iconography as a trunk held by Zeus and radiating from both sides of his hand. There is a triple division on both sides, that is, 3 + 3 = 6 rays. In this six-fold version, the sign of the Thunderer tells us that Zeus is life, that it reproduces and evolves, that it is created through union (Zeus) and division (Jupiter).

And why lightning? Because, as modern science has proven, the lightning that reigned on earth before the birth of life, as scientists say, “fermented” the original “soup” in a way. They increased the production of nitrogen, and therefore amino acids, necessary for the creation of proteins and life.

Zeus and Semele’s Thunder: Semele was the mother of the god Dionysus. Zeus secretly married her. She was one of the 4 daughters of Cadmus (king of Thebes) and Harmonia (daughter of Ares + Venus). Hera was furious when she found out. She appeared in the form of a nurse and painfully urged him to ask Zeus to appear in divine form. Zeus appeared as a god who wanted to satisfy his desire. Instantly, lightning, flames, and blinding light kill him. Enraged, Zeus took the unborn Dionysus and sewed her to his thigh until she was born…

Jupiter’s Lightning and Typhoon: One story says that when Typhon (a giant monstrous being: human-like in body up to the waist, but with coiled serpent bodies below the waist) arrived at Olympus in a rage and began stoning the gods, they were frightened and hid in Egypt. Zeus returned alone to face her. At one point, he relaxed his vigilance and slept in his palace. Typhon approached, saw where Zeus kept his Lightning Bolt, and prepared to grab it. It was at this moment that Zeus opened his eyes, took out his weapon and struck his opponent with a thunderbolt. Two forces clashed: Olympia and Chaotic. Typhon loses, and Jupiter’s Thunder strikes nerves in his arms and legs. Then paralyzed, he was sent back to cloudy Tartarus…

Pioneer’s Divine Torment: Scapaneus was one of the “Seven over Thebes”. He was the nephew of the Argive hero Adrastus, King of Argos, famous for his physique and strength. He is also famous for his arrogance. During the siege of Thebes, when he captured the part of the wall where he fought, he asked for a ladder to climb to the top of it. When he reached the top, he boasted that not even Zeus could stop him now. Then suddenly lightning struck and killed him…

Combination with explosive substance: For the ancient Greeks, a flash of lightning meant that Zeus, the father of the gods, was very angry. The thunderbolt is remembered not only as something intertwined with the divine quality of Zeus, but also as the 3 cyclops (as I mentioned earlier), the product of the art of specialists.

When a broad description of the events accompanying the use of lightning is given, the following are always noted: disastrous effects – violent lightning – appearance of flames – development of cloud – widespread smell of sulphur. These are typical characteristics of the explosion of explosive material. The corresponding descriptions given by Herodotus and Plutarch are exactly the same as Homer’s (the word “thunder” is the same as in the Homeric epics!). So, for some, Jupiter’s Thunder was actually an explosive…

From divine phenomenon to nature: Fear of the unknown and a simultaneous thirst for learning and understanding led to the creation and proliferation of myths about the creation and functioning of the natural world. The sky is associated with the realm of the gods, and the natural phenomenon of lightning has acquired a mythical status, indicating an emblem of power and sovereignty.

It wasn’t until 1752 that lightning left its divine pedestal and took its place among other natural phenomena. Benjamin Franklin created the first artificial lightning with an experiment and proved that behind it was not the wrath of the gods, but a huge electrical charge against the earth….

~ «Hear, thunder Zeus great and crushing, now falling with a roar. / Fear shakes the roots of my hair. My soul was crushed. / Heavenly lightning flares again. Where will the meteor fall? / It never falls in vain, without causing some trouble”…. (Dance, “Oedipus at Colonus”, by Sophocles).

Bibliography: a) “Greek mythology”, Th I. Kakridis. b) Homer Elias.

*Image: From the National Museum of Archaeology.

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