On a recent trip to Crete, we just HAD to take the hike to see the cave where it is said Zeus was born. Yes, I know Zeus isn’t real (sorry for the spoiler), but it is interesting that for a couple of thousand years the locals have consistently said that this particular cave is where he was born. A very brief background: Zeus’s father, Cronus, was a very paranoid guy who was afraid his offspring might overthrow him and take his throne. So he made it a habit of eating his children as soon as they were born. He did this five times and his wife, Rhea, got tired of the nonsense. She delivered her When sixth child, Zeus, in a cave deep below the Lasithi Plain in Crete. Rhea then gave Cronus a rock wrapped in cloths, claiming it was the baby. Cronus ate it and believed he had killed his child. Zeus was then raised by nymphs in the cave and grew to adulthood.
There was a bit of a hike to go see the cave. We had to park in a lot surrounded by gift shops, restaurants and coffee shops. A nice young lady was directing cars as to where to park. The parking was free. After making the obligatory browse through a few shops, we bought some water and headed out. The distance to the cave was only about a kilometer, but it was practically straight up and a real breath-taker. Some lads were offering donkey rides for a price, but that seemed kind of scary, not to mention humiliating. We chose to walk. The climb was a bit more awkward than expected in that the young mother climbing the steep hill in front of (and above) us was wearing a very short skirt and no visible undergarments. (!)
After stopping a few times to catch our breath, and once to eat a snack, we reached the ticket booth at the top of the hill. We paid our modest entrance fee and headed toward the mouth of the cave. Even before reaching the descent down, the surrounding air became cooler and the ground was damp and mossy. The gaping, mouth of the cavern indeed, seemed other-worldly. Stairs, of sorts, are cut into the rock, and a make-shift hand rail makes the descent a bit less treacherous than it must have been in times past. The farther we went, the cooler and wetter it became. As our eyes adjusted to the dim, we caught glimpse of the cave’s interior. It was breathtaking! Stalactites and stalagmites protrude from every surface and the whole cave has a green glow. The formations from top and bottom evoke the impression of a giant, gaping mouth of some monstrous creature.
I can imagine some humble shepherd two thousand years ago, perhaps seeking shelter for his flock, discovering this cave. He must have been so amazed and overwhelmed by such a natural wonder! I am sure he brought his friends back to witness the sight and, over time, a myth emerged about a supernatural event that surely must have occurred in this other-wordly place. Such an environment, undoubtedly, seemed to be a dwelling place of the gods, perhaps even the head god. And this is how myths are made.
To be a witness to such a geological wonder that is also attached to an interesting myth was certainly worth the trip! And the hike back down was a piece of cake.