War with the Giants

Hera wasn't the only one who started a rebellion against Zeus. Gaia (Mother Earth) was terribly upset that her children, the Titans, were imprisoned in Tartarus. So she rallied the Giants to avenge them.

The Giants were a very powerful race, with human heads and torsos but legs made of serpents. They were huge and had wild, thick hair and beards, and they terrified everything that crossed their paths.

The Giants represented a serious challenge to the Olympians. Aside from their colossal power and strength, the Giants could not be killed by an immortal alone. Instead, an immortal and a mortal had to work together to slay a Giant. To make matters even more difficult, some myths say that a certain plant could make the Giants immune to mortals' attacks. Zeus caught wind of this and had the plant removed from the earth before the Giants could obtain it.

The Battle Begins

The Giants initiated the battle by bombarding the heavens with boulders and flaming trees. Their actions certainly got the Olympians' attention. The gods quickly fought back, but because the Giants could not be killed, the Olympians struggled simply to hold their ground.

An oracle warned them that they needed the help of a mortal to win the war against the Giants. Zeus sent Athena to Earth to recruit Heracles, Zeus's son by a mortal woman. When Heracles entered the war, things started looking up for the Olympians. Athena and Heracles joined forces to bring down Alcyoneus, a leader of the Giants. While Athena attacked, Heracles shot the Giant with a poisoned arrow. Alcyoneus had special protection, however. He was immortal as long as he stood on his native soil. Therefore, Athena advised Heracles to drag the Giant outside of the boundaries of his land. Heracles did as he was told, and Alcyoneus died on the spot.

The next to fall was Alcyoneus's co-leader, Porphyrion. Porphyrion attacked Hera, meaning to kill her. Instead, Zeus filled him with lust for her, turning the Giant's desire to kill into sexual passion. With Hera as the decoy, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Porphyrion, while Heracles shot him with an arrow. Porphyrion dropped dead, and Hera remained unharmed.

Some myths say that Zeus had an ulterior motive in filling Porphyrion with lust for Hera: Zeus wanted to test his wife's virtue. When Hera fled Porphyrion's advances, Zeus killed him. (As you will see in the next chapter, jealousy and deceit played a big part in the marriage of Zeus and Hera.)

After the Giants' two leaders had fallen, an Olympian victory was assured. But the Giants did not give up easily. The Olympians had to combine their efforts and fight fiercely to win the war.

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