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Hera
Hera Campana Louvre
The Campana Hera, a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original, from the Louvre
Queen of Olympus
CountryGreece
GenderFemale
AbodeMt. Olympus
SymbolAardvark, bird feather, cow, crane, cuckoo, diadem, lion, lotus, lotus-tipped staff, peacock, pomegranate, poppy
Cult centerArgos
ParentsKronos and Rhea
SiblingsZeus, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter and Hestia
ConsortsZeus
ChildrenAres, Eris, Enyo, Eileithyia, Hephaestus, Hebe
Name in GreekἩρη
Latinized spellingHera
Pronunciation (IPA)/ˈhɛːra/
Roman equivalentJuno
Equivalents in other mythologiesIsis (Egyptian mythology)
God ofWomen, family, motherhood, marriage, fertility, birth, air, sky, familial love and the starry heavens
Quote1 Of golden-throned Hera I sing, born of Rhea, queen of the gods, unexcelled in beauty, sister and glorious wife of loud-thundering Zeus. Quote2
— Homeric Hymn to Hera.

In ancient Greek mythology and religion, Hera was the goddess of women, family, motherhood, marriage, fertility, birth, air, sky, familial love and the starry heavens. She was the Queen of Olympus. Her Roman counterpart was Juno, and she was sometimes identified with the Egyptian Isis.

She was the youngest daughter of Kronos and Rhea, and the sister and consort of Zeus. She was known as possessing a jealous and vengeful nature, mostly against the victims of her husband's erotic escapades, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris offended her by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, earning Hera's hatred.

Her symbols were the lotus and the cow, due to its maternal nature. Not wanting to be seen as plain and dull like the cow, Hera chose the peacock to resemble her vain nature and the lion for her shrewdness.

NameEdit

EtymologyEdit

The etymology of the name "Hera" is unclear. Walter Burkert, a noted scholar of Greek myth, suggests a connection with ὥρα, hora "season", and to interpret it as ripe for marriage. [1] According to John Chadwick, a decipherer of Linear B, it may be connected with ἥρως, hērōs "hero", but "that is no help, since it too is etymologically obscure." [2] According to Plutarch, Hera was an allegorical name and an anagram of aēr (ἀήρ - air). [3]. Plato suggests ἐρατή ērate "beloved", as Zeus is said to have married her for love. E-ra appears in Mycenaean Linear B tablets.

EpithetsEdit

CultEdit

Hera was especially worshiped at the sanctuary that stood between the former Mycenaean city-states of Argos and Mycenae, where festivals in her honor called Heraia were celebrated. Though Greek altars of classical times were always placed under the open sky, Hera may have been the first deity to whom an enclosed, roofed temple sanctuary was dedicated. The cosmopolitan nature of the early cult of Hera is also evidenced in her iconographic representations. In Hellenistic imagery, Hera's wagon was pulled by peacocks, birds not known to Greeks before the conquests of Alexander: Alexander's tutor, Aristotle, refers to it as "the Persian bird." Likewise, the Athenians, during the month of Gamelion ("month of marriage") took part in an annual festival commemorating the "Sacred Marriage of Zeus and Hera," and during Metageitnion, celebrated Hera alone, in her role as the "Goddess of Charm."

WorshipEdit

Hera had sanctuaries, and was worshipped in many parts of Greece, often in common with Zeus. Her worship there may be traced to the very earliest times: thus Hera, surnamed Pelasgis, was worshipped at Iolcus. But the principal place of her worship was Argos, hence called the dôma Hêras. [4][5] According to tradition, Hera had disputed the possession of Argos with Poseidon, but the river-gods of the country adjudicated it to her. [6] Her most celebrated sanctuary was situated between Argos and Mycenae, at the foot of Mount Euboea. The vestibule of the temple contained ancient statues of the Charites, the bed of Hera, and a shield which Menelaus had taken at Troy from Euphorbus. The sitting colossal statue of Hera in this temple, made of gold and ivory, was the work of Polycletus. She wore a crown on her head, adorned with the Charites and Horae; in the one hand she held a pomegranate, and in the other a sceptre headed with a cuckoo. [7] Respecting the great quinquennial festival celebrated to her at Argos, see Dict. of Ant. s. v. Hêraia. Her worship was very ancient also at Corinth [8], Sparta [9], in Samos [10], at Sicyon [11], Olympia [12], Epidaurus [13], Heraea in Arcadia [14], and many other places.

Respecting the real significance of Hera, the ancients themselves offer several interpretations: some regarded her as the personification of the atmosphere [15], others as the queen of heaven or the goddess of the stars [16], or as the goddess of the moon [17], and she is even confounded with Ceres, Diana, and Proserpina. [18]. According to modern views, Hera is the great goddess of nature, who was worshipped everywhere from the earliest times. The Romans identified their goddess Juno with the Greek Hera.

Hymns to HeraEdit

Homeric Hymn to HeraEdit

Quote1 I sing of golden-throned Hera whom Rhea bare. Queen of the Immortals is she, surpassing all in beauty: she is the sister and wife of loud-thundering Zeus,--the glorious one whom all the blessed throughout high Olympos reverence and honour even as Zeus who delights in thunder. Quote2
— Homeric Hymn 12 to Hera. English version translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.

Orphic Hymn to HeraEdit

Quote1 O royal Hera, of majestic mien, aerial-formed, divine, Zeus' blessed queen, throned in the bosom of cerulean air, the race of mortals is thy constant care. The cooling gales they power alone inspires, which nourish life, which every life desires. Mother of showers and winds, from thee alone, producing all things, mortal life is known: all natures share thy temperament divine, and universal sway alone is thine, with sounding blasts of wind, the swelling sea and rolling rivers roar when shook by thee. Come, blessed Goddess, famed almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene. Quote2
— Orphic Hymn 16 to Hera. English translation by Thomas Taylor.

Hera in mythEdit

Hera presided over the right ordering of marriage and was the archetype of the union in the marriage bed, but she was not notable as a mother. The legitimate offspring of her union with Zeus were Ares (the god of war), Hebe (the goddess of youth), Eris (the goddess of discord) and Eileithyia (goddess of childbirth). Enyo, a war goddess responsible with the destruction of cities and attendant of Ares, is also mentioned as a daughter of Zeus and Hera, though Homer equates her with Eris.

The saga of the godsEdit

Pre-birthEdit

According to Hesiod, Ouranos (Sky) came every night to cover and mate with Gaia (Earth) but he hated the children she bore him. Hesiod named their first six sons and six daughters the Titans, the three one-hundred-armed giants the Hekatonkheires, and the one-eyed giants the Cyclopes.

Ouranos imprisoned Gaia's eldest children, the Cyclopes and the Hekatonkheires in Tartarus, deep within Earth, where they caused pain to Gaia. She shaped a great flint-bladed sickle and asked her sons to castrate Ouranos. Only the youngest Titan, Kronos, was wily enough to do it, on being offered the promise of the mightiest weapon of all, the thunderbolt after the completion of the deed. In the dark of the night, he ambushed Ouranos as he lay with Gaia, castrated him, and threw his testicles into the sea.

The birth of HeraEdit

Quote1 But he again bound and shut them up in Tartarus, and wedded his sister Rhea; and since both Earth and Sky foretold him that he would be dethroned by his own son, he used to swallow his offspring at birth. His firstborn Hestia he swallowed, then Demeter and Hera, and after them Pluto and Poseidon. Quote2
— Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca. English translation by J. G. Frazer.

After this fearful deed, Kronos re-imprisoned the Cyclopes and Hekatonkheires in Tartarus. Angry with the way she had been deceived, Gaia cursed Kronos that he would be deposed by his child in the same way as he had deposed his own father. Seething with fury, Gaia hid away the thunderbolt in the depths of her womb, where Kronos could not reach.

Now Kronos took for himself his sister Rhea as wife, and in fear of the curse swallowed the children he sired——Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon.

RescueEdit

When Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him, so that Kronos would get his retribution for his acts against Ouranos and his own children. Rhea covertly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Kronos a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed.

With Kronos tricked, Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete, where he was raised by Amalthea and the shield clashing Kouretes. After reaching manhood, he learnt of his father through Gaia, who told him to seek the Titanide Metis' advice to save his brethren. Metis prepared an emetic, and gave it to Zeus to be mixed into Kronos' drink. With Gaia's help, he attained the position of cupbearer in Kronos' palace, and mixed the emetic into his wine. Kronos choked, and disgorged first the stone (which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, the Omphalos), then Zeus' siblings in reverse order of swallowing.

TitanomachyEdit

Quote1 I [Hera] go now to the ends of the generous earth on a visit to Okeanos, whence the gods have risen, and Tethys our mother who brought me up kindly in their own house, and cared for me and took me from Rheia, at that time when Zeus of the wide brows drove Kronos underneath the earth and the barren water. Quote2
— Homer, Iliad 14.)

Hera was not involved in the ensuing battle [19], the Titanomachy. During the battle, she delved into the realm of the kind Oceanus and Tethys, who remained neutral, and was raised by them throughout the years of the war.

Hera and ZeusEdit

The seduction of HeraEdit

Hera grew up to become the most beautiful of the goddesses. Thus, Zeus decided to make her his bride. When he began courting her, Hera, who knew he already had six different lovers, spurred his romantic overtures.

Zeus decided to adopt a different approach and win over her by deceit and trickery. He appeared in front of her as a bedraggled, rain-soaked cuckoo. Hera saw the poor bird and brought him to the shelter of her bosom to warm and dry him. Zeus immediately returned to his true form and ravished her. Driven by shame, Hera agreed to marry her.

The sacred weddingEdit

The wedding of Hera and Zeus took place in the garden of the Hesperides. This was no small occasion and almost every deity and nymph attended. Those who declined the invitation (such as Chelone) were punished severely, usually by metamorphosis.

All the gods brought marvellous presents, and Gaia brought the grandest present of all: a golden tree laid with golden apples. Hera planted this wondrous tree in her garden under the care of the Hesperides, nymphs who were daughters of Nyx. Hera and Zeus had a glorious wedding night——one that lasted 300 years.

Hera and HephaestusEdit

Hera was jealous of Zeus' giving birth to Athena without recourse to her (actually with Metis), so she gave birth to Hephaestus without him. Hera was then disgusted with Hephaestus' ugliness and threw him from Mount Olympus. In an alternate version, Hera alone produced Hebe after being impregnated by a head of lettuce or by beating her hand on the Earth, a solemnizing action for the Greeks.

Quote1 One of the Greek legends is that Hephaistos, when he was born, was thrown down by Hera. In revenge he sent as a gift a golden chair with invisible fetters. When Hera sat down she was held fast, and Hephaistos refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysos--in him he reposed the fullest trust--and after making him drunk Dionysos brought him to heaven. Quote2
— Pausanias, Description of Greece

Hephaestus gained revenge against Hera for rejecting him by making her a magical throne which, when she sat on, did not allow her to leave. The other gods begged Hephaestus to return to Olympus to let her go, but he repeatedly refused. Dionysus got him drunk and took him back to Olympus on the back of a mule. Hephaestus released Hera after being given Aphrodite as his wife.

Patron of ArgosEdit

Once, Hera and Poseidon vied for the patronship of Argos. The king, Ianchus, sided with Hera, as a result of which, Poseidon cursed the land and drained its sources of water. Hera induced Poseidon to replenish the sources, and the Argives made a sanctuary to Poseidon at the place the tide ebbed.

The GigantomachyEdit

Angry at the way Zeus had treated the Titans by throwing them into Tartarus, Gaia mated with Tartarus, the spirit of the abyss, to create the Heca-gigantes, a tribe of hundred giants. At the instigation of Gaia, the Giants declared war on the gods, and the king of the Giants, Porphyrion, kidnapped Hera in the process.

Porphyrion raped Hera, and in fury was killed by Zeus and Heracles. This act helped to earn Hera's respect for Heracles.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, (Harvard University Press) 1985, p. 131
  2. Chadwick, The Mycenaean World (Cambridge University Press) 1976:87.
  3. On Isis and Osiris, 32
  4. Pind. Nem. x. imt.
  5. comp. Aeschyl. Suppl. 297
  6. Paus. ii. 15. § 5
  7. Paus. ii. 17, 22; Strab. p. 373; Stat. Theb. i. 383.
  8. Paus. ii. 24, 1, &c.; Apollod. i. 9. § 28
  9. iii. 13. § 6, 15. § 7
  10. Herod. iii. 60; Paus. vii. 4. § 4; Strab. p. 637
  11. Paus. ii. 11. § 2
  12. v. 15. § 7, &c.
  13. Thuc. v. 75; Paus. ii. 29. § 1
  14. Paus. viii. 26. § 2
  15. Serv. ad Aen. i. 51
  16. Eurip. Helen. 1097
  17. Plut. Quaest. Rom. 74
  18. Serv. ad Virg. Georg. i. 5
  19. Book 14 of the Iliad, starting at Line 197, quoted above