In ancient Greece, certain leadership qualities were seen as more desirable, and by reviewing Greek mythology it is possible to understand what these ancient people valued in their leaders. The tales of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus show which characteristics were prized by the Greek people, and which were despised.
Uranus, son and husband of Gaea, was tyrannical, and fearful, casting his offspring into the underworld. He was obsessed with absolute power. It did not concern him that his children, the Hundred-handed giants and the Cyclopes, burned with rage at him from their Underworld prison. It did not concern him that his mother-wife Gaea suffered dearly knowing the fate of her children. He was a wicked ruler, and his Titan sons and daughters were fearful of him. Even when Gaea urged them to join her in a plot to overthrow Uranus, the Titans, terrified, could not reply. It was only when Cronus, the youngest Titan, finally agreed to help Gaea that Uranus was finally and violently defeated. Cronus dismembered his father and scattered the body parts. The Titans then freed their siblings and made Cronus king.
Cronus, however, turned out to be as wicked a king as his father Uranus. Gaea warned Cronus that like his father, his child would overthrow him. Obsessed with avoiding Uranus’s fate, Cronus devoured each of the children born to him and Rhea, his wife. Eventually, Rhea deceived Cronus to keep him from eating the newborn children. Cunningly, Rhea his one child, Zeus, and fed her husband a rock in the place of the shining child. When Zeus grew up, joined with his brother Poseidon and the other children of Cronus in a war resulted in Zeus’s overthrow of Cronus. At last, overpowered, the Titans retreated into Tartarus, where they were bound, imprisoned, for eternity. With the Titans in the depths of the earth, the rule of Zeus began.
Unlike his father and grandfather, Zeus ruled the world justly. He assigned each of the deities their respective functions. He created a system of laws, and punished those immortals that broke their sacred word. Zeus also allowed the immortals to benefit mankind. Out of chaotic destruction, Zeus’s rule began and he established such order that no Olympian god would question his authority. Even when the Titans would try to return and overthrow Zeus, they could not defeat him due to the loyalty he had earned from the other Olympians.
A reading of these tales shows that the Greeks looked for the qualities of strength and authority in their leaders, along with courage and wisdom. However, these alone were not enough. In order to be a great leader or king, one needed to establish a system of justice and fairness, where those who did wrong would face punishment, and where order would be maintained instead of chaos. Zeus was the model for earthly kings because of his ability to bring order, fairness, and justice along with his great strength.