Zethus – Greek Mythology

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Zethus was one of the twin sons of Zeus and Antiope, known for his role in the establishment of the city of Thebes. Together with his brother Amphion, Zethus ruled Thebes which flourished and grew.  Here’s a closer look.

Early Years of Zethus

The story of Zethus begins with Zeus, who pursued the mortal Antiope in the form of a Satyr and raped her. Antiope was the daughter of the ruler Nycteus of Cadmea, the city founded by Cadmus that would later become Thebes. When she became pregnant, she fled from Cadmea in shame.

Antiope ran away to Sicyon and married Epopeus, the king of Sicyon. In some sources, she was taken by Epopeus from her city.

In any case, the Cadmean general, Lycus, attacked Sicyon and took Antiope back to Cadmea. On the journey back, Antiope gave birth to twins and was forced to abandon them on Mount Cithaeron, as Lycus believed that they were sons of Epopeus. The general then gave Antiope over to his wife, Dirce, who treated her terribly for years.

Antiope later escaped from Thebes and went looking for her children. She found them alive and living near Mount Cithaeron. Together, they killed the cruel Dirce, by tying her to a wild bull. Then they formed an army and attacked Cadmea. They also ousted the Cadmean ruler, Lycus, and the twins became the joint rulers of Cadmea.

Zethus as a Ruler

It was during the rule of Zethus and Amphion that Cadmea became known as Thebes. The city might have been named after the wife of Zethus, Thebe. Some sources say that the city was named after their supposed father Theobus.

Zethus area of interest was agriculture and hunting and he had a reputation of being an excellent huntsman and herdsman. Because of this, his main attribute was a hunting dog, symbolizing his interests.

Thebes grew under the brothers’ rule. Together with his brother, Zethus strengthened Thebes by building the defensive walls of Thebes. They built walls around its citadel and worked hard to fortify the city. In this way, Zethus played an important role in the expansion and fortification of Thebes.

Death of Zethus

Zethus and Thebe had one child, a son called Itylus. that they loved very much. However, this boy was killed by an accident caused by Thebe. Distraught, Zethus committed suicide.

Amphion also commits suicide when his wife, Niobe, and all his children were killed by the twin gods Artemis and Apollo.  The gods did this in punishment as Niobe had insulted their mother Leto for only having two children, while she had several.

As both the rulers of Thebes were now dead, Laius came to Thebes and became its new king.

Facts About Zethus

1- Is Zethus a god?

Zethus is a demi-god as his father is a god but his mother is a mortal.

2- Who are Zethus’ parents?

Zethus’ is the son of Zeus and Antiope.

3- Who are Zethus’ siblings?

Zethus has one twin brother, Amphion.

4- Why is Zethus important?

Zethus is known for his role in strengthening, expanding and naming the city of Thebes.

5- Why did Zethus commit suicide?

Zethus killed himself because his wife had accidently killed their only son, Itylus.

Wrapping Up

Zethus was a protagonist in one of the myths about the founding of Thebes. It was during his rule that the city grew and became known as Thebes. He is best known for building the walls of Thebes with his brother.