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The Iliad: Zeus compared to Totalitarian Dictators - Part I: The Treatment of their Kin

*If you want to follow the book, all sources are from book I. Excuse me that I can’t number them as my edition is not enumerated. However, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find as all the quotes are on the last page.


Zeus, the Olympian Lord of Thunder, hastened him (his son Haphaestus) to the bed in which he always slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Hera of the golden throne by his side

Haephustus is the god of fire, blacksmiths, metalworkers, and craftsmanship among other things. He is a decorated figure in his own right, yet he is kept under close watch by his father Zeus. He commits a power maneuver by hurrying him to his own bed. He always sleeps in the same bed, presumably because Zeus always wants to keep a watch on him. A paranoia that is so grand, that he cannot even trust his own son.

So how does this compare to how dictators treat their children? Take a look at the case of Nicolae Ceaucescue, the communist Romanian dictator from the 60s to 80s. He had two seemingly well adjusted children. His son Valentin was a respected physicist while his daughter Zoia was a mathematician. They were seemingly apolitical, yet his son was arrested for ‘corruption’ and the accusations towards his daughter were much more offputting, calling her a ‘nymphomaniac’ who ‘drank like a fish’. They were both jailed.

Both cases share the similarities that their freedoms were restricted because of their father’s paranoid nature.

Cruel Punishments

Once before when I was trying to help you {Hera, Haepestus’ mother}, he caught and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All day long from morn to eve, was I falling, till at sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, an there I lay, with very little life in me.

Haphaestus reminded his mother of this when he was consoling her. He said it as a warning so she wouldn’t quarrel with Zeus or she would bear the brunt of his wrath. As of a result of this punishment, Haphaestus was left crippled.

Compare this to the example of Mao Zedong. After meeting his long estranged son from his first wife (whom he had murdered for failing to divorce him), he sent him to a hard labor camp to “become a better proletariat”. He gave similar punishment to his daughter Li Na. Despite her sycophantic attitude where she would turn against anyone who is insufficiently obedient to Mao (including her own friend, who wound up in a torture camp), she also ended up in a hard labor camp and had to undergo forced brainwashing.

Both tyrants required total obedience if they wanted to avoid punishment. In Mao's case, even that was not enough.

Conclusion The patterns of behavior in these evil dictators are recognized in our oldest stories. If anything, they even exceed it (I had to omit some details because they were truly sick). I also found that it pertains more to communist dictators than right wing ones. Figures like Mussolini and Franco, despite their evils, at least had love for their kids. In this regard, they were a little better morally than the son of Cronus.


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