When I was younger, I firmly believed that Zeus freed His siblings from His father's belly, led the Titanomanchy, and married Hera as His one and only wife. Imagine my surprise when I came upon the works of Hesiod and found out there had been others before Her. We've already discussed the many liaisons of Zeus through His offspring, but today we look at the distinction between lover and wife.

We have established before that marriage was often a matter of moving in together, and consummating the relationship. Within the lives of ancient Hellenes, marriage was an arranged affair, usually by the parents of the two who were to be wed. The Theoi are, of course, a little different, and all we have to go on when it comes to Them are the ancient writers. Hesiod, for example, gives us a list of the lovers Zeus had before Hera: Metis, Themis, Eurynome, Demeter, Mnemosyne, and Leto. Only two of those are described as 'wife' or as 'having been married' (Metis and Themis), although it is implied for the others (Theogony 886-923). There is no mention of divorce, however, and in the text that follows, Hesiod relies more on euphemisms for sex than marriage to describe the relationships between Zeus and these women.

For Metis, for example, Hesiod first uses:

"Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife first, and she was wisest among gods and mortal men. But when she was about to bring forth the goddess bright-eyed Athene, Zeus craftily deceived her with cunning words and put her in his own belly." (886-900)

But then elaborates a little bit later:

"[Zeus], apart from Hera, had lain in love with a fair-faced daughter of Okeanos and lovley-haired Tethys, Metis, whom he deceived, for all she was so resourceful, for he snatched her up in his hands and put her inside his belly for fear that she might bring forth a thunderbolt stronger than his own." (929a-929t)

So, which one is true? Was Zeus married to others before Hera? Personally, I believe that the unions with anyone but Hera were to either establish divine offspring, or to give Zeus dominion over areas He would not otherwise have dominion over. His liaisons prior to, and including, Hera, help to make Him the most powerful of Theoi, capable of proclaiming law, and justice, of influencing the seasons and many other feats He would not have been capable of if it were not for His involvement with these other divine women.

Hera remains Zeus' one and only true wife, and although Zeus' liaisons with others are legendary, He returns to Her in the end. She is His true wife, Queen of the Theoi, and while His affairs are usually of great importance, I strongly feel Zeus' relationship with Hera tops them all.