|Goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, and family|
|Symbol||Pomegranate, peacock feather, diadem, cow, lily, lotus, cuckoo, panther, scepter, throne, lion|
|Parents||Cronus and Rhea|
|Siblings||Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hestia, Zeus, Chiron|
|Children||Angelos, Ares, Eileithyia, Enyo, Eris, Hebe, Hephaestus|
|Mount||Chariot drawn by peacocks|
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|Ancient Greek religion|
Hera (//, //, Greek Ἥρᾱ, Hērā, equivalently Ἥρη, Hērē, in Ionic and Homer) is the goddess of women and marriage in Greek mythology and religion. She is the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. Hera is married to her brother Zeus and is titled as the Queen of Heaven. One of her characteristics is her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus's other lovers and offspring and against the mortals who cross her.
Hera is commonly seen with the animals she considers sacred including the cow, lion and the peacock. Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may hold a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy. Scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, "Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos."
The name of Hera may have several of mutually exclusive etymologies; one possibility is to connect it with Greek ὥρα hōra, season, and to interpret it as ripe for marriage and according to Plato ἐρατή eratē, "beloved" as Zeus is said to have married her for love. According to Plutarch, Hera was an allegorical name and an anagram of aēr (ἀήρ, "air"). So begins the section on Hera in Walter Burkert's Greek Religion. In a note, he records other scholars' arguments "for the meaning Mistress as a feminine to Heros, Master." John Chadwick, a decipherer of Linear B, remarks "her name may be connected with hērōs, ἥρως, 'hero', but that is no help, since it too is etymologically obscure." A. J. van Windekens, offers "young cow, heifer", which is consonant with Hera's common epithet βοῶπις (boōpis, "cow-eyed"). R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin. Her name is attested in Mycenaean Greek written in the Linear B syllabic script as 𐀁𐀨, e-ra, appearing on tablets found in Pylos and Thebes.
Hera may have been the first deity to whom the Greeks dedicated an enclosed roofed temple sanctuary, at Samos about 800 BCE. It was replaced later by the Heraion, one of the largest of all Greek temples (Greek altars were in front of the temples, under the open sky). There were many temples built on this site so evidence is somewhat confusing and archaeological dates are uncertain.
The temple created by the Rhoecus sculptors and architects was destroyed between 570-560 BCE. This was replaced by the Polycratean temple 540-530 BCE. In one of these temples we see a forest of 155 columns. There is also no evidence of tiles on this temple suggesting either the temple was never finished or that the temple was open to the sky.
Earlier sanctuaries, whose dedication to Hera is less certain, were of the Mycenaean type called "house sanctuaries". Samos excavations have revealed votive offerings, many of them late 8th and 7th centuries BCE, which show that Hera at Samos was not merely a local Greek goddess of the Aegean: the museum there contains figures of gods and suppliants and other votive offerings from Armenia, Babylon, Iran, Assyria, Egypt, testimony to the reputation which this sanctuary of Hera enjoyed and to the large influx of pilgrims. Compared to this mighty goddess, who also possessed the earliest temple at Olympia and two of the great fifth and sixth century temples of Paestum, the termagant of Homer and the myths is an "almost...comic figure" according to Burkert.
Though greatest and earliest free-standing temple to Hera was the Heraion of Samos, in the Greek mainland Hera was especially worshipped as "Argive Hera" (Hera Argeia) at her sanctuary that stood between the former Mycenaean city-states of Argos and Mycenae, where the festivals in her honor called Heraia were celebrated. "The three cities I love best," the ox-eyed Queen of Heaven declares (Iliad, book iv) "are Argos, Sparta and Mycenae of the broad streets." There were also temples to Hera in Olympia, Corinth, Tiryns, Perachora and the sacred island of Delos. In Magna Graecia, two Doric temples to Hera were constructed at Paestum, about 550 BCE and about 450 BCE. One of them, long called the Temple of Poseidon was identified in the 1950s as a second temple there of Hera.
Hera's importance in the early archaic period is attested by the large building projects undertaken in her honor. The temples of Hera in the two main centers of her cult, the Heraion of Samos and the Heraion of Argos in the Argolid, were the very earliest monumental Greek temples constructed, in the 8th century BCE.
According to the Homeric Hymn III to Delian Apollo, Hera detained Eileithyia to already prevent Leto from going into labor with Artemis and Apollo, since the father was Zeus. The other goddesses present at the birthing on Delos sent Iris to bring her. As she stepped upon the island, the divine birth began. In the myth of the birth of Heracles, it is Hera herself who sits at the door instead, delaying the birth of Heracles until her protégé, Eurystheus, had been born first.
The Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo makes the monster Typhaon the offspring of archaic Hera in her Minoan form, produced out of herself, like a monstrous version of Hephaestus, and whelped in a cave in Cilicia. She gave the creature to Python to raise.
In the Temple of Hera at Olympia, Hera's seated cult figure was older than the warrior figure of Zeus that accompanied it. Homer expressed her relationship with Zeus delicately in the Iliad, in which she declares to Zeus, "I am Cronus' eldest daughter, and am honourable not on this ground only, but also because I am your wife, and you are king of the gods." Though Zeus is often called Zeus Heraios 'Zeus, (consort) of Hera', Homer's treatment of Hera is less than respectful, and in late anecdotal versions of the myths (see below) she appeared to spend most of her time plotting revenge on the nymphs seduced by her consort, for Hera upheld all the old right rules of Hellene society and sorority.
There has been considerable scholarship, reaching back to Johann Jakob Bachofen in the mid-nineteenth century, about the possibility that Hera, whose early importance in Greek religion is firmly established, was originally the goddess of a matriarchal people, presumably inhabiting Greece before the Hellenes. In this view, her activity as goddess of marriage established the patriarchal bond of her own subordination: her resistance to the conquests of Zeus is rendered as Hera's "jealousy", the main theme of literary anecdotes that undercut her ancient cult.
However, it remains a controversial claim that primitive matriarchy existed in Greece or elsewhere.
Hera is the daughter of the youngest Titan Cronus and his wife, and sister, Rhea. Cronus was fated to be overthrown by one of his children; to prevent this, he swallowed all of his newborn children whole until Rhea tricked him into swallowing a stone instead of her youngest child, Zeus. Zeus grew up in secret and when he grew up he tricked his father into regurgitating his siblings, including Hera. Zeus then led the revolt against the Titans, banished them, and divided the dominion over the world with his brothers Poseidon and Hades.
Hera was most known as the matron goddess, Hera Teleia; but she presided over weddings as well. In myth and cult, fragmentary references and archaic practices remain of the sacred marriage of Hera and Zeus, and at Plataea, there was a sculpture of Hera seated as a bride by Callimachus, as well as the matronly standing Hera.
Hera was also worshipped as a virgin: there was a tradition in Stymphalia in Arcadia that there had been a triple shrine to Hera the Girl (Παις [Pais]), the Adult Woman (Τελεια [Teleia]), and the Separated (Χήρη [Chḗrē] 'Widowed' or 'Divorced'). In the region around Argos, the temple of Hera in Hermione near Argos was to Hera the Virgin. At the spring of Kanathos, close to Nauplia, Hera renewed her virginity annually, in rites that were not to be spoken of (arrheton). The Female figure, showing her "Moon" over the lake is also appropriate, as Hebe, Hera, and Hecate; new moon, full moon, and old moon in that order and otherwise personified as the Virgin of spring, The Mother of Summer, and the destroying Crone of Autumn.
In Hellenistic imagery, Hera's chariot 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." The peacock motif was revived in the Renaissance iconography that unified Hera and Juno, and which European painters focused on. A bird that had been associated with Hera on an archaic level, where most of the Aegean goddesses were associated with "their" bird, was the cuckoo, which appears in mythic fragments concerning the first wooing of a virginal Hera by Zeus.
Her archaic association was primarily with cattle, as a Cow Goddess, who was especially venerated in "cattle-rich" Euboea. On Cyprus, very early archaeological sites contain bull skulls that have been adapted for use as masks (see Bull (mythology)). Her familiar Homeric epithet Boôpis, is always translated "cow-eyed". In this respect, Hera bears some resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian deity Hathor, a maternal goddess associated with cattle.
Hera bore several epithets in the mythological tradition, including:
Hera is known for her jealousy and even Zeus, who is known to fear nothing, feared her tantrums. Zeus fell in love with Hera but she refused his first marriage proposal. Zeus then preyed on her empathy for animals and other beings, created a thunderstorm and transforms himself into a little cuckoo. As a cuckoo, Zeus pretended to be in distress outside her window. Hera, feeling pity towards the bird brought it inside and held it to her breast to warm it. Zeus then transformed back into himself and took advantage of her. Hera, ashamed of being exploited, agreed to marriage with Zeus. All of nature burst into bloom for their wedding and many gifts were exchanged.
Zeus loved Hera, but he also loved Greece and often snuck down to Earth in disguise to marry and bear children with the mortals. He wanted many children to inherit his greatness and become great heroes and rulers of Greece. Hera's jealousy towards all of Zeus' lovers and children caused her to continuously torment them and Zeus was powerless to stop his wife. Hera was always aware of Zeus' trickery and kept very close watch over him and his excursions to Earth.
Hera "presided over the right arrangements of the marriage and is the archetype of the union in the marriage bed." However, she is not notable as a mother.
|Angelos||Zeus||An underworld goddess||Her story only survives in scholia on Theocritus' Idyll 2. She was raised by nymphs. One day she stole Hera's anointments and gave them away to Europe. To escape her mother's wrath, she tried to hide herself. Hera eventually ceased from prosecuting her, and Zeus ordered the Cabeiroi to cleanse Angelos. They performed the purification rite in the waters of the Acherusia Lake in the Underworld. Consequently, she received the world of the dead as her realm of influence, and was assigned an epithet katachthonia ("she of the underworld").|
|Ares||Zeus||God of war||According to Hesiod's Theogony, he was a son of Zeus and Hera.|
|Eileithyia||Zeus||Goddess of childbirth||In Theogony and other sources, she is described as a daughter of Hera by Zeus. Although, the meticulously accurate mythographer Pindar in Seventh Nemean Ode mentions Hera as Eileithyia's mother but makes no mention of Zeus.|
|Enyo||Zeus||A war goddess||She was responsible with the destruction of cities and an attendant of Ares, though Homer equates Enyo with Eris.|
|Eris||Zeus||Goddess of discord||She appears in Homer's Iliad Book IV; equated with Enyo as sister of Ares and so presumably daughter of Zeus and Hera.|
|Hebe||Zeus/–||Goddess of youth||She was a daughter of Zeus and Hera. In an alternative version, Hera alone produced Hebe after being impregnated by a head of lettuce.|
|Hephaestus||Zeus/–||God of fire and the forge||Attested by the Greek poet Hesiod, Hera was jealous of Zeus' giving birth to Athena with Metis, so she gave birth to Hephaestus without union with Zeus, although in some stories, he is the son of her and Zeus. Hera was then disgusted with Hephaestus' ugliness and threw him from Mount Olympus. 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.|
|Typhon||–||Serpent-monster||Typhon is presented both as the son of Hera (in Homer’s Pythian Hymn to Apollo) and as the son of Gaia (in Hesiod’s Theogony). According to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (6th century BC), Typhon who was the parthenogenous child of Hera, whom she bore alone as a revenge at Zeus who had given birth to Athena. Hera prayed to Gaia to give her a son as strong as Zeus, then slapped the ground and became pregnant. Hera gave the infant Typhon to the serpent Python to raise, and Typhon grew up to become a great bane to mortals. The b scholia to Iliad 2.783, however, has Typhon born in Cilicia as the offspring of Cronus. Gaia, angry at the destruction of the Giants, slanders Zeus to Hera. So Hera goes to Cronus and he gives Hera two eggs smeared with his own semen, telling her to bury them, and that from them would be born one who would overthrow Zeus. Hera, angry at Zeus, buries the eggs in Cilicia "under Arimon", but when Typhon is born, Hera, now reconciled with Zeus, informs him.|
Hera is the stepmother and enemy of Heracles. The name Heracles means "Glory of Hera". When Alcmene was pregnant with Zeus' child Heracles, Hera tried to prevent the birth from occurring by having Eileithyia tie Alcmene's legs in knots. Her attempt was foiled when Galanthis frightened Eileithyia while she was tying Alcmene's legs and Heracles was born. Hera thus punishes Galanthis by turning her into a weasel.
Hera's wrath against Zeus' son continues and while Heracles is still an infant, Hera sends two serpents to kill him as he lay in his cot. Heracles throttles the snakes with his bare hands and was found by his nurse playing with their limp bodies as if they were a child's toy.
Later she stirred up the Amazons against him when he was on one of his quests.
One account of the origin of the Milky Way is that Zeus had tricked Hera into nursing the infant Heracles: discovering who he was, she pulled him from her breast, and a spurt of her milk formed the smear across the sky that can be seen to this day. Unlike any Greeks, the Etruscans instead pictured a full-grown bearded Heracles at Hera's breast: this may refer to his adoption by her when he became an Immortal. He had previously wounded her severely in the breast.
Hera assigned Heracles to labor for King Eurystheus at Mycenae. She attempted to make almost each of Heracles' twelve labors more difficult.
When he fought the Lernaean Hydra, she sent a crab to bite at his feet in the hopes of distracting him. When Heracles took the cattle of Geryon, he shot Hera in the right breast with a triple-barbed arrow: the wound was incurable and left her in constant pain, as Dione tells Aphrodite in the Iliad, Book V. Afterwards, Hera sent a gadfly to bite the cattle, irritate them and scatter them. Hera then sent a flood which raised the water level of a river so much that Heracles could not ford the river with the cattle. He piled stones into the river to make the water shallower. When he finally reached the court of Eurystheus, the cattle were sacrificed to Hera.
Eurystheus also wanted to sacrifice the Cretan Bull to Hera. She refused the sacrifice because it reflected glory on Heracles. The bull was released and wandered to Marathon, becoming known as the Marathonian Bull.
Some myths state that in the end, Heracles befriended Hera by saving her from Porphyrion, a giant who tried to rape her during the Gigantomachy, and that she even gave her daughter Hebe as his bride. Whatever myth-making served to account for an archaic representation of Heracles as "Hera's man" it was thought suitable for the builders of the Heraion at Paestum to depict the exploits of Heracles in bas-reliefs.
When Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant and that Zeus was the father, she convinced the nature spirits to prevent Leto from giving birth on terra-firma, the mainland, or any island at sea. Poseidon gave pity to Leto and guided her to the floating island of Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island where Leto was able to give birth to her children. As a gesture of gratitude, Delos was secured with four pillars. The island later became sacred to Apollo. Alternatively, Hera kidnapped Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. The other gods bribed Hera with a beautiful necklace nobody could resist and she finally gave in.
Either way, Artemis was born first and then assisted with the birth of Apollo. Some versions say Artemis helped her mother give birth to Apollo for nine days. Another variation states that Artemis was born one day before Apollo, on the island of Ortygia and that she helped Leto cross the sea to Delos the next day to give birth to Apollo.
Hera saw a lone thundercloud and raced down in an attempt to catch Zeus with a mistress. Zeus saw her coming and transformed his new bride Io into a little snow-white cow. However, Hera was not fooled and demanded that Zeus give her the heifer as a present. Zeus could not refuse his queen without drawing suspicion so he had to give her the beautiful heifer.
Once Io was given to Hera, she tied her to a tree and sent her servant Argus to keep Io separated from Zeus. Argus was a loyal servant to Hera and he has immense strength and one hundred eyes all over his body. It was not possible to go past Argus since he never closed more than half his eyes at any time. Zeus was afraid of Hera's wrath could not personally intervene, so to save Io, he commanded Hermes to kill Argus, which he does by lulling all one hundred eyes into eternal sleep. In Ovid's interpolation, when Hera learned of Argus' death, she took his eyes and placed them in the plumage of the peacock, her favorite animal, accounting for the eye pattern in its tail and making it the vainest of all animals. Hera, furious about Io being free and the death of Argus, sent a gadfly (Greek oistros, compare oestrus) to sting Io as she wandered the earth. Eventually Io made it to Egypt, the Egyptians worshiped the snow-white heifer and named her the Egyptian goddess Isis. Hera permitted Zeus to change Io back into her human form, under the condition that he never look at her again. Io, the goddess-queen of Egypt, then bore Zeus' son as the next King.
A prophecy stated that a son of the sea-nymph Thetis, with whom Zeus fell in love after gazing upon her in the oceans off the Greek coast, would become greater than his father. Possibly for this reasons, Thetis was betrothed to an elderly human king, Peleus son of Aeacus, either upon Zeus' orders, or because she wished to please Hera, who had raised her. All the gods and goddesses as well as various mortals were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles) and brought many gifts. Only Eris, goddess of discord, was not invited and was stopped at the door by Hermes, on Zeus' order. She was annoyed at this, so she threw from the door a gift of her own: a golden apple inscribed with the word καλλίστῃ (kallistēi, "To the fairest"). Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claimed to be the fairest, and thus the rightful owner of the apple.
The goddesses quarreled bitterly over it, and none of the other gods would venture an opinion favoring one, for fear of earning the enmity of the other two. They chose to place the matter before Zeus, who, not wanting to favor one of the goddesses, put the choice into the hands of Paris, a Trojan prince. After bathing in the spring of Mount Ida where Troy was situated, they appeared before Paris to have him choose. The goddesses undressed before him, either at his request or for the sake of winning. Still, Paris could not decide, as all three were ideally beautiful, so they resorted to bribes. Hera offered Paris political power and control of all of Asia, while Athena offered wisdom, fame, and glory in battle, and Aphrodite offered the most beautiful mortal woman in the world as a wife, and he accordingly chose her. This woman was Helen, who was, unfortunately for Paris, already married to King Menelaus of Sparta. The other two goddesses were enraged by this and through Helen's abduction by Paris they brought about the Trojan War.
Hera plays a substantial role in The Iliad, appearing in a number of books throughout the epic poem. In accordance with ancient Greek mythology, Hera's hatred towards the Trojans, which was started by Paris' decision that Aphrodite was the most beautiful goddess, is seen as through her support of the Greeks during the war. Throughout the epic Hera makes many attempts to thwart the Trojan army. In books 1 and 2, Hera declares that the Trojans must be destroyed. Hera persuades Athena to aid the Achaeans in battle and she agrees to assist with interfering on their behalf.
In book 5, Hera and Athena plot to harm Ares, who had been seen by Diomedes in assisting the Trojans. Diomedes called for his soldiers to fall back slowly. Hera, Ares' mother, saw Ares' interference and asked Zeus, Ares' father, for permission to drive Ares away from the battlefield. Hera encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares and he threw his spear at the god. Athena drove the spear into Ares' body, and he bellowed in pain and fled to Mt. Olympus, forcing the Trojans to fall back.
In book 8, Hera tries to persuade Poseidon to disobey Zeus and help the Achaean army. He refuses, saying he doesn’t want to go against Zeus. Determined to intervene in the war, Hera and Athena head to the battlefield. However, seeing the two flee, Zeus sent Iris to intercept them and make them return to Mt. Olympus or face grave consequences. After prolonged fighting, Hera sees Poseidon aiding the Greeks and giving them motivation to keep fighting.
In book 14 Hera devises a plan to deceive Zeus. Zeus set a decree that the gods were not allowed to interfere in the mortal war. Hera is on the side of the Achaeans, so she plans a Deception of Zeus where she seduces him, with help from Aphrodite, and tricks him into a deep sleep, with the help of Hypnos, so that the Gods could interfere without the fear of Zeus.
In book 21, Hera continues her interference with the battle as she tells Hephaestus to prevent the river from harming Achilles. Hephaestus sets the battlefield ablaze, causing the river to plead with Hera, promising her he will not help the Trojans if Hephaestus stops his attack. Hephaestus stops his assault and Hera returns to the battlefield where the gods begin to fight amongst themselves.
Semele and Dionysus
The Golden Fleece
|Hera's family tree |
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