Daughter of the titans Cronus and Rhea, Hera (Gr. Ηρα; Lat. Hera) was the queen of heaven and Olympus.
She is the goddess of marriage and life and also of the family.
Hera is most often portrayed as a jealous wife, who likes to abuse Zeus’ mistresses and their children. Among her victims: Heracles, to whom she puts in her cradle two snakes and the nymph Io, transformed into a cow by Zeus to protect her, but driven mad by the bites of a horsefly sent by Hera.
Goddess of legitimate marriage, she has no lover. It is still desired by Ixion and Endymion. Hera’s attributes are the royal tiara and the scepter.
Juno’s tank by TIEPOLO (detail)
She had been swallowed from birth by her father, but her brother Zeus had known how to bring her back to life. Wife and elder sister (according to Homer) of Zeus shared with him sovereignty over heaven and earth.
Hera was originally the ruler of the sky, the celestial virgin, completely independent from Zeus. Her marriage with him was later imagined, to explain the fusion of two different cults.
Her name seems to be a survival of a pre-Greek name of a great goddess, probably one of the powerful deities of the Minoan pantheon, or the unidentified Pelasgians.Her temples of Argolida and Samos date from the 8th century BC and are among the very first buildings built in Greece.
She was identified early as Juno by the Romans. Juno, before being Hellenized, personified the celestial light among the Latins, Sabines, Oscans, Umbrians, and Etruscans.
She is one of the twelve Olympians.
What is Hera the goddess of?
Hera is the female personification of the summer season. It was only later that his union with Zeus was interpreted as the prototype of the legitimate union. Her symbolic color is white, she is qualified in Greek as θεά λευκώλενος / theá leukốlenos, “goddess of white arms”, the chosen deity of Argos “the white city”. If Hera is linked to the symbolism of the white cow, it is to the extent that this animal is a symbol of prosperity and abundance. Hera is finally linked to spring goddest and finally to the heroes Heracles, literally the one who has the glory of Hera. The hero thus, according to Haudry, is the one who is born mortal, conquering the beautiful season of the year escapes death.
Hera is also the goddess of marriage and wives, protector of the couple, fertility and women in childbirth: an area she shares with her daughter Eileithyia. Under her epiclesis of ὁπλοσμία / hoplosmía, at Cape Lakinion and Elis, she assumes a warlike function.
Her traditional description is not very characterized: standing or throning, she carried with great majesty the traditional royal symbols: the tiara and the scepter surmounted by a cuckoo (by allusion to the circumstances of her marriage). The head covered with veils is the symbol of marriage. Sometimes she held a pomegranate in one of her hands, the emblem of fertility. The peacock was dedicated to her in memory of Argos, of which she took its hundred eyes, when he was killed, to place them on the bird’s plumage.
Like all Cronos’ children (except Zeus) Hera had been swallowed as soon as she was born by her father and then regurgitated later when Zeus made her drink the vomit.
However, in a version reported by hyginus, Hera was not swallowed by Cronos but on the contrary, it was her, the older sister, who saved and raised Zeus in secret.
Various countries fought for the honor of having seen her born. She was born, the Samians said, on the island of Samos, on the shores of the Imbrasos River, near a wicker that was still visible in the time of Pausanias.
- In Argolis, the names of the young women who had raised the goddess were mentioned. They were the three daughters of the river god Asterion, Acreus, Evia, Prosyrane.
- She had been fed by Macris, her nurse who took care of her for a long time.
- Other sources gave him the following information nannies Hours
There are also several versions of her youth:
- Her childhood ended on the island of Evia where his brother Zeus met her in secret from the Oceanus and Tethys, which corroborates that Zeus’ love for Hera was very old and then he came to seek her out and make her his wife.
- It is also said that when the war between the gods and the Giants took place, Rhea entrusted him to Ocean and Thetys who lived at the ends of the earth. Hera kept them a deep affection and gratitude. She interceded when Ocean and Thetys couple became confused.
The hero Temenos, son of the king Pelasgos, in Arcadia, who allegedly built three temples for her, as Pausanias quotes him: “the first, Pais (child) when she was still a virgin; as soon as she was married to Zeus, he nicknamed her Teleia (accomplished), and when, following some dispute with Zeus, she returned to Stymphale, he called her Chera (widow)”.
Loves of Hera
According to a minority tradition of Euphorion of Chalcis, the Giant Eurymedon abused Hera while she was still in her family; she conceived Prometheus. So when Zeus, after marrying Hera, heard about this story, he rejected Eurymedon at the bottom of Tartarus and took the first opportunity to chain Prometheus.
Zeus and Hera on Mount Ida (detail)
by James BARRY (c.1800)
After having exiled Cronus to Tartarus, Zeus had many love affairs with goddesses and nymphs, but he decided that only Hera was suitable to become his wife. He sought her in Knossos in Crete, and in Argolida, where he courted her unsuccessfully.
One day Zeus saw Hera walking in the woods of Mount Thornax (also called the cuckoo mountain) in the south of the Argolida, he metamorphosed into a cuckoo. When Hera saw the poor bird wet and cold, she put it under her tunic to warm it on her breast.
Then Zeus immediately regained his true appearance. She was so surprised that she agreed to marry him.
Zeus saw Hera near Mount Cithaeron in Evia, he took her away and joined her in a cave. Macris, his nurse, came to get her but the nymph of the mountain at Zeus’ instigation strongly advised her to leave, claiming that Zeus himself was hiding in the cave with Leto.
It must be said that Hera did not lack any assets even if her beauty, of which she took great care, was a little strict. The “goddess with white arms” was more than any other irresistible, when she had coated her beautiful body with a soft and suave oil, whose perfume, if she walked in her palace wearing her famous golden sandals, was felt everywhere on the whole earth as on Olympus. When she had placed her divine braids around her forehead, tied to her breast with gold clasps the dress that Athena had woven for her with art, hung from her ears three-stone buckles of finished work, and covered her head with a magnificent veil as white as the sun.
“Never has the desire of a goddess or a woman so tamed my whole heart. “Zeus said in the Iliad.
The Argians claimed that their polite goddess, Hera, went every spring to bathe in the Kanathos fountain in Nafplio near Argos to recover her virginity.
A tumultuous household
All the gods brought gifts for the wedding. However, the Chelone nymph refused to attend the wedding. To punish her for her impertinence, the gods turned her into a turtle condemned to silence.
But another version tells us that Chelone took so long to prepare himself that Zeus, overwhelmed, crushed the house on her and condemned her to carry her house on her back.
Mother Earth Gaia gave Hera a tree covered with golden apples, which was later guarded by the Hesperides in the Hera orchard on Mount Atlas. It is also said that it was here that the wedding took place. But many other places like Mount Ida in Phrygia or Evia Island are fighting for the privilege of hosting the world’s first real wedding. They spent their wedding night in Samos, which lasted three hundred years.
From their love were born the deities Eileithyia, Hebe and Ares.
It was while breastfeeding the latter that a jet of his milk traced the Milky Way on the celestial vault, but there are other texts with Heracles, Hermes or Dionysus. Despite these children, there were many disputes within the couple, as the poets’ recount.
Angelos would be an unknown daughter of Zeus and Hera who became a Chthonian goddess. Her father had entrusted her to the nymphs from an early age. One day she stole her mother’s lotions and offered them to Europe. To escape Hera’s anger she hid in the house where a woman was giving birth or among the people who carried the dead. Zeus asked his wife to stop his pursuits and the Cabires to purify their daughter. They purified in Lake Acherusia in the Infernos and Angelos became a divinity of the Infernos comparable to a primitive Hecate.
According to Hera, Hephaestus had been conceived without the intervention of her husband, a miracle that Zeus would not believe until he had imprisoned his wife in a mechanically chair whose arms folded back and held the person who was sitting, she was forced to swear by the Styx, an inviolable oath.
Homer and Cicero claimed that Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera.
Hera also considered that Zeus which had given birth alone to Athena is an outrage. In her anger, she invoked the earth, the vast sky and the Titans locked in Tartarus, and asked them for the favor of giving birth, alone, to a child “who was by no means inferior in strength to Zeus”. Her wishes were granted, and when the times were over, she gave birth “not to a son like gods and men, but to the terrible Typhon, the plague of mortals“. Typhon, the son of Gaia and Tartarus, against whom Zeus had to fight a terrible battle.
Hera, the wedding protector was a model of fidelity. However, it sometimes became the object of the assiduity of men, such as Ixion, Ephialtes or the Giant Porphyrion, who were quickly punished by Zeus or his children. This insolence had received an exemplary punishment: Ixion was attached to a burning wheel and carried away by it through the air.
However, there is a legend told by Nonnus where she would be Pasithea’s mother by Dionysus.
Jupiter and Juno
Cabinet des medailles Paris
Ixion, Juno, and Nephele
Louvre Museum, Paris
One day, Hera abandoned Zeus, tired of her husband’s constant unfaithfulness and returned to the island of Evia. Then, on the advice of the king of Plateaus, Alalcomeneus, Zeus made an elegant wooden statue, covered it with a veil and placed it beside him on his chariot. Then he spread the word that he was going to marry Plataea, the king’s daughter. As soon as Hera heard about it, she was so angry that she immediately ran and knocked down the statue. But when she saw the trickery, she made up with her husband in a loud laugh.
Facts and myths about Hera
If some accounts show Hera fighting the giants, many more texts tell of her jealousies and her incessant quarrels with Zeus.
Combat and Conspiracy
by Le CORREGGE
One day, tired of her husband infidelities, she instigated a revolt with Poseidon, Apollo and some other inhabitants of Olympus, except the wise Hestia. They surrounded Zeus by surprise while he was asleep on his diaper, tied him with leather straps and made a hundred knots so that he could not move. He threatened to kill them immediately, but since they had put his lightning bolt out of his reach, they laughed at him.
As they celebrated their victory and bitterly debated who would succeed him, Thetis the Nereid, planning a civil war on Olympus, went to fetch Briareus with a hundred arms who promptly undid the thongs, using all his hands at once and freed the master.
As Hera was at the instigator of the conspiracy against him, Zeus hung her in the sky, a gold chain attached to her wrist and an anvil at each ankle. The other gods were furious but did not dare to help her despite his heart-rending cries.
It was not good to come and interfere in the couple’s disputes. Hephaestus experienced it bitterly when Zeus threw him off the Olympus for defending his mother. Finally, Zeus freed her on the condition that everyone would take an oath never to rebel against him again; they reluctantly obeyed.
Friendships and enmities
Hera against the Giants
Her favored deities or heroes and thwarted the projects of many others. But her husband’s female conquests were her main targets like Io, Semele, Leto, Europe, Callisto or their children like Heracles or Dionysus.
However, the goddess’ vindictive mood was not only exercised when her marital honor was at stake.
Argos and Argolida are often associated with the goddess Hera. She was the defending champion of the country she competed for with Poseidon. She was elected by Phoronea and the river gods Asterion, Inachos, and Cephissus. Furious, Poseidon dried them up, except for the fountains of Lerna.
She’s getting monumental with the Argonauts who built her a great temple in Samos because she hoped they would come back with Medea.
Hera, which actively participated in the Trojan War. Humiliated by Paris’ judgment, she joined the Greek camp at the beginning of the hostilities and helped them throughout the siege of the city. She used all means to achieve her goals: she borrowed Aphrodite’s magic belt to seduce her husband and keep him away from the fighting.
All Trojans were the object of his wrath:
- Paris who had not elected her “the most beautiful” during the famous judgment;
- After the fall of the city, she continued to pursue the Trojans with her anger. Aeneas narrowly escaped him several times thanks to Aphrodite’s protection.
Venus lends her belt to Juno
J.B. PIERRE (Château de Versailles)
One day, Antigone, Laomedon’s daughter, boasted that her hair was more beautiful than Hera’s, she saw her hair turn into snakes.
For treating the goddess’ wooden statue with disdain, the daughters of Proetus, the mythical king of Argos, Lysippe and Iphianassa, were struck by leprosy and madness. They traveled half naked all over the Peloponnese and were only healed thanks to the costly intervention of the divine Melampus.
Indeed, he asked Proetus, for the price of his services a third of his kingdom. Proetus refused at first; but, with the evil of his daughters getting worse, he turned again to Melampus, who raised his claims and demanded another third from the kingdom for his brother Bias. Proetus consented, and Melampus obtained from Hera the healing of the two young girls. Another tradition attributes the misguidedness of the daughters of Proetus to the anger of Dionysus.
Juno with the seductive Venus belt Jupiter
by Jean-Baptiste PIERRE. Trianon © Trianon
Hera wasn’t very generous, one of her priestesses, asked her for the most beautiful gift for her two sons, Biton and Cleobis, who had replaced her oxen in 45 stadiums so that she could make it to a celebration in honor of the goddess. The goddess replied that they would die in their sleep.
She blinded Tiresias for having told to Zeus that women had nine times more pleasure than men. Yet Tiresias, who had been a woman during her life, had to have a fair opinion. Zeus gave her the gift of prophecy to compensate.
She rushed to the Orion’s mistress, who had the audacity to compare their beauty.
She condemned the nymph Echo to repeat only the last word of a sentence because her constant chatter prevented her from discreetly watching her husband in the company of nymphs.
Lamia was the beautiful queen of Phrygia and was loved by Zeus. In retaliation, Hera had her own children killed or devoured. Lamia went madder and madder until she turned into a horrible monster that devoured the children.
Cult of Hera
The main center of his cult in Greece was Argos. There were five or six temples, the oldest of which had been built by Phoronea. It is in the Heraion of Argos that the famous statue of Hera in gold and ivory sculpted by Polyclete was located. The goddess was represented sitting on a throne. Hera still had sanctuaries in Mycenae, Olympia, Sparta, Sparta, in Attica, Boeotia, Evia; She was particularly venerated on the island of Crete and in Samos, where the largest of its temples, built, it was said, by the Argonauts, was located.
She had temples that she often shared with her husband in almost all Greek countries and especially in Samos and Argos where a great feast, Heraea, was held every five years in his honor. There was also the Daedala festival which took place every 7 years or a big celebration every 60 years.
Gamelia, celebrated in the month of Gamelion (late January – early February), was the best time to get married. All over Greece, the marriage of Zeus and Hera was celebrated with great feasts. The statue of the goddess was dressed in a bride’s finery and taken in procession to her temple where the bridal bed was erected.
Hera was portrayed as a young woman, in the accomplished fullness of her forms, of a chaste and a little severe beauty.
Hera in arts
Hera and her daughter Hebe
Her forehead is usually crowned with a tiara or a cylindrical ornament, the polo shirt. Dressed in a long tunic, or chiton, she is, in addition, wrapped in a veil that adds to the reserved nobility full of modesty of her support. Her attributes are a scepter surmounted by a cuckoo (by allusion to the circumstances of the meeting with Zeus) and a pomegranate, symbol of conjugal love and fertility. The bird dedicated to her is the peacock whose studded plumage recalls the stars of the celestial vault standing near her. Hera as Queen of the Sky has very often been represented by Greek artists. Originally, they gave her the simple shape of a tree trunk, a column, then a xoanon.
Then, the archaic type is constituted: a woman of great stature, with rigid features, wavy hair, wearing a polo shirt and a long tunic.
In the 5th century, Phidias, Alcamene, Kolotes, and Polyclitus created a new type to give the goddess an attitude full of nobility.
Juno surprising Jupiter and Io
National Gallery, London
Juno and Argus
Gregorio de FERRARI (c.1690)
Louvre Museum, Paris
Jupiter and Juno
It is in the Heraion of Argos at the foot of Mount Cithaeron that the famous statue of Hera in gold and ivory sculpted by Polyclete was found. The goddess was represented sitting on a throne, her forehead encircled by a tiara on which were depicted the Hours and Charities; in her left hand she held a grenade, and in her right hand a scepter surmounted by a cuckoo. Near her stood Hebe.
Generally speaking, Juno’s figurative type is the same as that of the Greek Hera. (see the file on Juno)
A. APPIANI (1796)
Juno Sospita (2nd century)
Jupiter and Juno (details of the arrival of Marie de Medicis) by RUBENS
Peacock complaining to Juno
by G. MOREAU
Gustave Moreau Museum, Paris
The creation of the Milky Way (c.1570)
National Gallery, London