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Hera

Hera (hĬr´ə, hēr´ə), in Greek religion and mythology, queen of the Olympian gods, daughter of Kronos and Rhea. She was the wife and sister of Zeus and the mother of Ares and Hephaestus. A jealous wife, she fought constantly with Zeus and plagued his mistresses and children. She was the protectress of women, presiding over marriage and childbirth, and frequently punished offending husbands. A powerful divinity, Hera was worshiped in all parts of Greece, especially at Argos and Salmos, where she had splendid temples. She is usually represented as a majestic figure, fully draped, crowned with a wreath or diadem, and carrying a scepter. Frequently she is associated with the pomegranate, symbol of marital love and fruitfulness. The peacock was sacred to her. The Romans identified Hera with Juno.

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Hera

Hera

The queen of heaven in Greek mythology, Hera was the sister and wife of Zeus, the king of the gods. The Greeks worshiped her as a mother goddess and considered her a protector of marriage and childbirth and a patron of women. Many of the myths and legends about Hera concern her terrible jealousy of and revenge against Zeus's numerous lovers and children. Hera's counterpart in Roman mythology was the goddess Juno.


Birth and Marriage. The daughter of the Titans Cronus* and Rhea, Hera was swallowed after birth by Cronus. Her siblings Demeter*, Hades*, Poseidon*, and Hestia suffered the same fate. However, Rhea managed to save Zeus, the youngest brother. Later Zeus rescued his brothers and sisters by giving Cronus a potion that caused him to vomit them up. Some stories say that Hera was raised by the Titans Oceanus and Tethys; others claim that she grew up under the care of Temenus, who ruled the region of Arcadia in Greece.

When Zeus and his brothers defeated the Titans and divided the universe among themselves, they gave nothing to their sisters. Hera was furious at being left out, and this anger persisted throughout her relationship with Zeus. According to some myths, Zeus seduced Hera while disguised as a cuckoo. Other tales say that he found her on an island and carried her away to a cave. Stories place their wedding at various sites: in the Garden of the Hesperides (the nymphs of the setting sun), at the top of Mount Ida in Anatolia (present-day Turkey), or on the island of Euboea in the Aegean Sea. Festivals commemorating the marriage took place throughout Greece.

As the wife of Zeus, Hera bore him four children: Hephaestus, the god of fire and crafts; Ares, the god of war; Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth; and Hebe, the cupbearer of the gods. Zeus and Hera often quarreled, and their arguments sometimes became fierce enough to shake the halls of Olympus, the home of the gods. Most of their arguments concerned Zeus's seduction of other women, but they also argued about the nature of love itself.

In their most famous quarrel over love, Hera insisted that men received more sexual pleasure than women, while Zeus argued the opposite. In an attempt to end the dispute, Hera and Zeus agreed to consult Tiresias, a mortal who had been both male and female. Tiresias sided with Zeus, claiming that women had much greater pleasure than men. Enraged by his answer, Hera blinded Tiresias. Zeus compensated Tiresias for his loss of sight by giving him the gift of prophecy.


Anger and Revenge. Zeus wandered the world seducing beautiful women, goddesses, and nymphsoften while disguised as a mortal or an animal. His unfaithfulness made Hera insanely jealous.

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

Titan one of a family of giants who ruled the earth until overthrown by the Greek gods of Olympus

nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful

prophecy foretelling of what is to come; also something that is predicted

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Most of her anger was directed at Zeus's lovers and their children, whom she persecuted and punished mercilessly. Many of the stories about Hera concern her revenge against these individuals.

One of the greatest victims of Hera's anger was Hercules*, the son of Zeus and a mortal women named Alcmena. Hera hounded and punished Hercules throughout his life. Soon after his birth, she sent two snakes to kill him, but the infant Hercules, who would become known for his tremendous strength, strangled the snakes instead. Another time, Hera drove Hercules temporarily insane, causing him to kill his own wife and children. Once, when she raised a storm against Hercules' ship, Zeus retaliated by hanging Hera from Mount Olympus by her wrists, with anvils attached to her feet.

Another of Hera's victims was Io, a Greek princess with whom Zeus had an affair. Hera suspected that Zeus had a new lover and went searching for him. To save Io from his wife's jealousy, Zeus turned the girl into a white calf. When Hera found Zeus, she asked to have the calf as a gift. Not daring to refuse, he agreed. Io roamed the meadows as a calf for a long time, constantly pestered by a horsefly sent by Hera to torment her. Feeling pity for Io, Zeus often visited her in the shape of a bull. Finally, he promised Hera that he would pay no more attention to Io, and Hera agreed to transform her back into a woman.

Semele, a mortal woman who gave birth to Zeus's son Dionysus*, was another of Hera's victims. Hera suggested to Semele that she ask her lover to appear in his full glory. Zeus, who had promised to grant Semele any wish, sadly did so and appeared with his thunderbolts, causing Semele to burn to death immediately. Athamas, the king of Thebes, and his wife Ino, who later became a sea goddess, raised Dionysus after his mother's death. Hera punished them as well by making them go mad.

Hera's vengeful nature was directed mainly at her husband's unfaithfulness, but there were other victims too. One famous story tells of a beauty contest between Hera and the goddesses Athena* and Aphrodite*. The judge of the contest, the Trojan prince Paris, chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful of the three. The angry Hera punished Paris by siding with the Greeks against the Trojans in the Trojan War and by acting as protector of the Greek hero Achilles*.


The Roman Juno. The Romans identified Hera with the goddess Juno. In many ways, Juno had greater authority than Hera. For the Greeks, Hera's long-lasting bond with Zeusdespite its many problemssymbolized the strength and importance of marriage. Marriage, home, and family were even more important to the Romans, so the cult of Juno was significant throughout ancient Rome.

cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god

Juno closely resembled Hera, and myths about her were basically the same. However, there were some differences. In Roman mythology, for example, Juno's origin is sometimes associated with an Italian mother goddess closely connected to fertility. She is often linked with the moon, and the month that the Romans named in her honorJunewas considered the most favorable time of the year for weddings.

One of the principal Roman myths of Juno concerns Minerva, the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Athena. According to this story, Minerva was born from the head of Jupiter, which angered Juno. She complained to Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens, who touched Juno with a magic herb that caused her to give birth to the god Mars*. A similar myth exists in Greek mythology, but in some versions of that story, Hera gives birth to the monster Typhon, who tries to defeat Zeus and take his power. While the Greek myth illustrates Hera's vengeful nature, the Roman story emphasizes fertility and motherhood.

See also Greek Mythology; Hercules; Io; Paris; Roman Mythology; Zeus.

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Hera

Hera in Greek mythology, a powerful goddess, the wife and sister of Zeus and the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She was worshipped as the queen of heaven and as a marriage goddess. Her Roman equivalent is Juno. Her name comes from Greek Hēra ‘lady’, feminine of hērōs ‘hero’, perhaps used as a title.

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Hera

Hera In Greek mythology, queen of the Olympian gods, sister and wife of Zeus. She appears as a jealous scold who persecuted her rivals but helped heroes such as Jason and Achilles.

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Hera

HeraAltamira, chimera, clearer, Elvira, era, hearer, Hera, hetaera, interferer, lempira, lira, lire, Madeira, Megaera, monstera, rangatira, rearer, scorzonera, sera, shearer, smearer, sneerer, steerer, Thera, Utsire, Vera •acquirer, admirer, enquirer, firer, hirer, inquirer, requirer, wirer •devourer, flowerer, scourer •Angostura, Bonaventura, bravura, Bujumbura, caesura, camera obscura, coloratura, curer, Dürer, durra, Estremadura, figura, fioritura, Führer, insurer, Jura, juror, Madura, nomenklatura, procurer, sura, surah, tamboura, tempura, tourer •labourer (US laborer) • Canberra •Attenborough •Barbara, Scarborough •Marlborough • Farnborough •Deborah • rememberer •Gainsborough • Edinburgh •Aldeburgh • blubberer •Loughborough •lumberer, slumberer •Peterborough •Berbera, gerbera •manufacturer • capturer • lecturer •posturer • torturer • nurturer •philanderer • gerrymanderer •slanderer •renderer, tenderer •dodderer •squanderer, wanderer •borderer • launderer • flounderer •embroiderer • Kundera •blunderer, plunderer, thunderer, wonderer •murderer • amphora • pilferer •offerer • sufferer •staggerer, swaggerer •sniggerer •lingerer, malingerer •treasurer • usurer • injurer • conjuror •perjurer • lacquerer •Ankara, hankerer •bickerer, dickerer •tinkerer • conqueror • heuchera •cellarer • cholera •camera, stammerer •armourer (US armorer) •ephemera, remora •kumara • woomera • murmurer •Tanagra • genera • gunnera •Tampere, tamperer •Diaspora •emperor, Klemperer, tempera, temperer •caperer, paperer •whimperer • whisperer • opera •corpora • tessera • viscera • sorcerer •adventurer, venturer •batterer, chatterer, flatterer, natterer, scatterer, shatterer •banterer •barterer, charterer •plasterer • shelterer • pesterer •et cetera • caterer •titterer, twitterer •potterer, totterer •fosterer •slaughterer, waterer •falterer, palterer •saunterer • poulterer •bolsterer, upholsterer •loiterer • roisterer • fruiterer •flutterer, mutterer, splutterer, stutterer, utterer •adulterer • musterer • plethora •gatherer • ditherer • furtherer •favourer (US favorer), waverer •deliverer, shiverer •hoverer •manoeuvrer (US maneuverer) •discoverer, recoverer

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hera

hera high-explosive rocket-assisted

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Hera

HERA

HERA was the wife of Zeus and, in literature, the most prominent Greek goddess, although her cultic importance was limited. Hera was an ancient goddess, whose name is already attested in Mycenaean times. Etymologically, a relation with the word heros seems probable. As the latter most likely means something like "Lord," Hera's name may be interpreted as "Lady," even if certainty is not attainable.

Zeus's first wife was called Dione, who survived only at the margins of the Greek world, yet Hera had already supplanted her in Mycenaean timesa Linear-B tablet of Pylos mentions the combination "Zeus, Hera, Drimios, the son of Zeus." The role of Hera in Homer's Iliad, the oldest and most detailed source in the Archaic Age, is threefold. First, she is the wedded wife of Zeus (she was also his eldest sister). Hera sits "on the golden throne" and holds the scepter, and there is no doubt about her importance. Second, the picture of the divinely consummated marriage with Zeus made Hera into a goddess of weddings and marriage throughout Greece. Third, she appears as the jealous wife par excellence, whose unruly behavior is a source of continuous concern for the supreme god. He beats her, threatens her with violence, and even penalizes her by hanging her in the sky with anvils on her feet (Iliad 1.5667, 588; 8.4035; 16.1831).

Hera's position as the wife of Zeus most likely goes back to her prominent position in Argos. Even though her name eventually became limited to the city on the Peloponnese, it must have been her position as city goddess of one of the most powerful Mycenaean cities that made it possible for her to supplant Zeus's first wife.

The Education of Girls and Marriage

The education of girls was the sphere of action of several Greek divinities, including Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, and Hera. In the case of the latter, it is striking that virginity is often emphasized. Hera herself was worshipped as Parthenos (Virgin) in Hermione and Arcadian Stymphalos. The island of Samos was once called Parthenie (the Maidenly), and the river Imbrasos by the sanctuary was also called Parthenios. Yet this prematrimonial association of Hera is only dimly visible.

On the other hand, Hera's position as the goddess of marriage is clear. As Hera Teleia, she "keeps the keys of wedlock," as Aristophanes expressed it in his Thesmophoriazusae (973). The epithet was already explained in antiquity by a commentator on line 974 of the play: "Hera Teleia and Zeus Teleios were honored in wedding ceremonies, since they were in charge of weddings." As Teleia, Hera was the "fulfilled" woman par excellence because the Greeks saw the wedding as a girl's life's fulfillment. The relation of the epithet to the wedding also clearly appears from her temple at Plataea. Here, Hera had two statues and two epithets, Nympheuomenê (she who is led as bride during the wedding day), and Teleia (the fulfilled). The wedding of Zeus and Hera was considered to be so important that several Greek communitiessuch as various cities on Euboea or Cretan Knossosclaimed it took place in their area. The inhabitants of these cities would imitate the wedding near a river at the annual sacrificial festival. The Athenians, as well, remembered the marriage of Zeus and Hera in the month Gamelion, in late winter. Husbands even celebrated the central mystery of this festival, the Hieros Gamos, or Theogamia, by (rather unusually) staying home and spending an evening with their wives.

Although Plutarch (fragment 157, Sandbach) mentions that in sacrifices to Hera Gamelia the gall was not offered "so that married life might be without bitterness," the goddess's unruly and jealous behavior is often alluded to in the Iliad. Hera was also anything but a good mother: in a fit of rage she hurled her son Hephaistos, the divine smith, from Olympus into the sea. The close connection between Hera and Hephaistos is striking and may have something to do with the position of the goddess outside the centers of civilization, just as the smith is at the margin of the civilized and political community.

The negative picture of Hera in Greek mythology can hardly be separated from her role in Greek cult, where both her rituals and the location of her sanctuaries point to a position away from the central social order. In some rituals, this jealousy was actually closely connected to the ritual. In Boeotian Plataea, every ten years a great festival took placethe Daidalaof which the meaning is not at all clear. The myth told how Hera had withdrawn to neighboring Euboea out of jealousy, but returned when Zeus dressed up a wooden doll as his bride and pretended to marry her. The ritual ended with the ceremonial burning of the doll, the sacrificial meat, and the wooden altar (a variant of the widespread fire sacrifices that always carry a slightly unpleasant meaning).

Hera's Cult on Argos

Hera's cult was especially prominent in Argos and on Samos. In Argos, Hera's sanctuarythe Heraioncan be traced from about 800 bce. It was situated about eighteen kilometers from Argos and five kilometers from Mycenae, and does not seem to have gained importance before the last third of the eighth century bce. It it is only from around 700 bce that traces of a stone altar are discovered. The temple proper seems to have been built only a few decades later, and it perished in a fire in 423 bce. Hera's Argive cult was well-known for its priestesses, who seem to have served her for the entirety of their livesa rather unusual feat in ancient Greece. The presence of innumerable fibulae shows the importance of the cult for the life of the women, who dedicated their clothes at this sanctuary. The main festival, which was called Heraia and Hecatombaia, was celebrated in the month Panamos, the first month of the Argive year. The festival thus falls within the category of New Year festivals.

During the festival there was a procession from the city to the sanctuary. The procession included Hera's priestesswho traveled the distance in an old-fashioned oxcartas well as, most likely, the maidens who had woven the new peplos for Hera, whose presentation formed part of the festival. However, as an ancient collection of Greek proverbs says, "those in Argos who had kept their boyhood pure and blameless took up a sacred shield and led the procession: this was their honor according to ancient tradition" (Plutarch, 1.44). Evidently, the festival marked the last stage of the initiation, during which the new male citizens showed themselves to the community.

The initiatory function of Hera also appears from the many votives that represent a kourotrophic goddess. On the island of Lesbos, beauty contests took place in front of Hera's temple, and similar contests in other Greek communities demonstrate that these took place just before the formal adulthood of Greek girls. Such initiations are virtually always the prerogative of the upper class; the many dedications of figurines of Amazons on horses also seem to point to the horse-riding aristocracy. Dedications from central Italy in Hera's sanctuary show the great radius of Hera's Argive cult.

Hera's Cult on Samos

The second center of Hera's cult was Samos. Here the Heraion was situated about eight kilometers west of the city of Samos. The first temple was built in the eighth century bce, and the final, impressive temple by Polycrates, the powerful ruler of independent Samos before the island was conquered by the Persians, was built at the end of the sixth century bce. The oldest stage of Hera's cult must have been dominated by women; the typical male featuressuch as the dedications of miniature boatsappear at a later time. Given the prominence of the shield in Argos, it should be noted that many miniature shields were found in the sanctuarysure signs of male initiation. As in Argos, Hera was apparently the goddess who supervised the coming of age of the new generation of citizens, both male and female.

The most important festival of Hera was the Tonaia. The myth related the capture of her statue by Etruscan pirates and its subsequent recovery. The story reflects the leaving of the temple by the statue. During the festival the statue was most likely exhibited near the holy agnus castus a negative tree in ancient Greecewhere it would have been washed and redressed. Coins from the Roman period show that Hera's statue was tethered; such tethered statues indicated that the relevant divinity was connected with the dissolution of the social order. It is unfortunate, however, that the exact position of the festival in the Samian year is not known, and so its precise function remains obscure.

Hera's Cult in Southern Italy

The goddess Hera was also popular in Southern Italy, where excavations in Foce del Sele, at the estuary of the river Sele, have revealed an important sixth-century sanctuary of Hera. Many objects from the life of women have been found there, such as weights for weaving and perfume bottles. This female character is also evident in Croton, where, because of Pythagoras, the women of Croton no longer dared wear expensive clothes; instead, they dedicated them in the most prominent sanctuary of the town, the temple of Hera Lacinia.

Excavations have shown that this sanctuary in Foca del Sele received dedications from throughout the Greek world and therefore must have been held in high standing. There is litle information, however, about Hera's sixth-century temple in Paestum/Posidonia, although the miniature arms found once again seem to point into the direction of initiation. In her sanctuary in Santa Venera, at the border of the urban area of Paestum, Hera was also worshipped (along with Iovia, a kind of Venus of the Italic Lucani). Though scarce, the data available points to Hera as the goddess who presided over both male and female maturation, as well as the wedding. In ways specific to local customs, this must have been Hera's function throughout Greece.

See Also

Artemis; Dionysos; Divination, article on Greek and Roman Divination; Family; Goddess Worship, overview article; Hesiod; Homer; Juno; Marriage; Zeus.

Bibliography

The older collections of material in Lewis Richard Farnell's The Cults of the Greek States, vol. I (Oxford, 1896) pp. 179257, as well as in O. Gruppe's Griechische Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte, 2 vols. (Munich, 1906) II.11211137, keep their value. Karl Kerényi, Zeus und Hera: Urbild des Vaters, des Gatten und der Frau (Leiden, Netherlands, 1972); Walter Pötscher, Hera: Eine Strukturanalyse im Vergleich mit Athena (Dramstadt, Germany, 1987); Joan V. O'Brien, The Transformation of Hera: A Study in Ritual, Hero, and the Goddess in the Iliad (Lanham, Md., 1993); and Reinhard Häussler's Hera und Juno: Wandlungen und Beharrung einer Göttin (Stuttgart, Germany, 1995), are not that helpful. The best modern synthesis is Walter Burkert's Greek Religion (Oxford, 1985), 13135; 400401, which has to be supplemented on the connection between Hera and initiation by Claude Calame, Choruses of Young Women in Ancient Greece: Their Morphology, Religious Role, and Social Functions (Lanham, England, 1997), 11323. Héra: Images, Espaces, Cultes, edited by J. de La Genière (Naples, 1997), is an especially useful update of the archaeological evidence.

Jan N. Bremmer (2005)

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Hera

Hera

Nationality/Culture

Greek

Pronunciation

HAIR-uh

Alternate Names

Juno (Roman)

Appears In

Hesiod's Theogony, Ovid's Metamorphoses

Lineage

Daughter of Cronus and Rhea

Character Overview

The queen of heaven in Greek mythology , Hera was the sister and wife of Zeus (pronounced ZOOS), the king of the gods. The Greeks worshipped her as a mother goddess and considered her a protector of marriage and childbirth and a guardian of women. Many of the myths and legends about Hera concern her terrible jealousy of and revenge against Zeus's numerous lovers and children. Hera's counterpart in Roman mythology was the goddess Juno (pronounced JOO-noh). Juno closely resembled Hera, and myths about her were basically the same. However, there were some differences. In Roman mythology, for example, Juno's origin is sometimes associated with an Italian mother goddess closely connected to fertility. She is often linked with the moon, and the month that the Romans named in her honor—June—was considered the most favorable time of the year for weddings.

As the wife of Zeus, Hera bore him four children: Hephaestus (pronounced hi-FES-tuhs), the god of fire and crafts; Ares (pronounced AIR-eez), the god of war; Ilithyia (pronounced ee-LEE-thee-uh), the goddess of childbirth; and Hebe (pronounced HEE-bee), the cupbearer of the gods. Zeus and Hera often quarreled, and their arguments sometimes became fierce enough to shake the halls of Olympus (pronounced oh-LIM-puhs), the home of the gods. Most of their arguments concerned Zeus's seduction of other women.

Major Myths

The daughter of the Titans Cronus (pronounced KROH-nuhs) and Rhea (pronounced REE-uh), Hera was swallowed after birth by Cronus. Her siblings Demeter (pronounced di-MEE-ter), Hades (pronounced HAY-deez), Poseidon (pronounced poh-SYE-dun), and Hestia (pronounced HESS-tee-uh) suffered the same fate. However, Rhea managed to save Zeus, the youngest brother. Later Zeus rescued his brothers and sisters by giving Cronus a potion that caused him to vomit them out. Some stories say that Hera was raised by the Titans Oceanus (pronounced oh-SEE-uh-nuhs) and Tethys (pronounced TEE-this); others claim that she grew up under the care of Temenus (pronounced TEM-uh-nuhs), who ruled the region of Arcadia (pronounced ar-KAY-dee-uh) in Greece.

When Zeus and his brothers defeated the Titans and divided the universe among themselves, they gave nothing to their sisters. Hera was furious at being left out, and this anger persisted throughout her relationship with Zeus. According to some myths, Zeus seduced Hera while disguised as a cuckoo. Other tales say that he found her on an island and carried her away to a cave. Stories place their wedding at various sites: in the Garden of the Hesperides (pronounced heh-SPER-uh-deez), at the top of Mount Ida in Anatolia (present-day Turkey), or on the island of Euboea (pronounced yoo-BEE-uh) in the Aegean (pronounced i-JEE-uhn) Sea. Festivals commemorating the marriage took place throughout Greece.

Zeus wandered the world seducing beautiful women, goddesses, and nymphs —often while disguised as a mortal or an animal. His unfaithfulness made Hera insanely jealous. Most of her anger was directed at Zeus's lovers and their children, whom she persecuted and punished mercilessly. One of the greatest victims of Hera's anger was Heracles , the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmena (pronounced alk-MEE-nuh). Hera hounded and punished Heracles throughout his life. Soon after his birth, she sent two snakes to kill him, but the infant Heracles, who would become known for his tremendous strength, strangled the snakes instead. Another time, Hera drove Heracles temporarily insane, causing him to kill his own wife and children. Once, when she raised a storm against Heracles' ship, Zeus retaliated by hanging Hera from Mount Olympus by her wrists, with anvils attached to her feet.

Another of Hera's victims was Io (pronounced EE-oh), a Greek princess with whom Zeus had an affair. Hera suspected that Zeus had a new lover and went searching for him. To save Io from his wife's jealousy, Zeus turned the girl into a white calf. When Hera found Zeus, she asked to have the calf as a gift. Not daring to refuse, he agreed. Io roamed the meadows as a calf for a long time, constantly pestered by a horsefly sent by Hera to torment her. Feeling pity for Io, Zeus often visited her in the shape of a bull. Finally, he promised Hera that he would pay no more attention to Io, and Hera agreed to transform her back into a woman.

Semele (pronounced SEM-uh-lee), a mortal woman who gave birth to Zeus's son Dionysus (pronounced dye-uh-NYE-suhs), was another of Hera's victims. Hera suggested to Semele that she ask her lover to appear in his full glory. Zeus, who had promised to grant Semele any wish, sadly did so and appeared with his thunderbolts, causing Semele to burn to death immediately. Athamas (pronounced ATH-uh-mas), the king of Thebes (pronounced THEEBZ), and his wife Ino (pronounced EYE-noh), who later became a sea goddess, raised Dionysus after his mother's death. Hera punished them as well by making them go mad.

Hera's vengeful nature was directed mainly at her husband's unfaithfulness, but there were other victims too. One famous story tells of a beauty contest between Hera and the goddesses Athena (pronounced uh-THEE-nuh) and Aphrodite (pronounced af-ro-DYE-tee). The judge of the contest, the Trojan prince Paris, chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful of the three. The angry Hera punished Paris by siding with the Greeks against the Trojans in the Trojan War and by acting as protector of the Greek hero Achilles (pronounced uh-KILL-eez).

One of the principal Roman myths of Juno concerns Minerva (pronounced mi-NUR-vuh), the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Athena. According to this story, Minerva was born from the head of Jupiter (pronounced JOO-pi-tur), which angered Juno. She complained to Flora (pronounced FLOR-uh), the goddess of flowers and gardens, who touched Juno with a magic herb that caused her to give birth to the god Mars. A similar myth exists in Greek mythology, but in some versions of that story, Hera gives birth to the monster Typhon (pronounced TYE-fon), who tries to defeat Zeus and take his power. While the Greek myth illustrates Hera's vengeful nature, the Roman story emphasizes fertility and motherhood.

Hera in Context

The worship of Hera appears to be older than the worship of Zeus, even though, as the king of the other gods, he has more power and importance than Hera. Archeological evidence suggests that the temples built in Hera's honor are the oldest of any of the other Greek deities; this fact may indicate that Hera developed from a goddess of an earlier matriarchal society (a society in which women hold power) when goddesses could be more powerful than their male counterparts. In the patriarchal society (ruled by men) of the Greeks, Hera became a figure who was powerful in her own right, but not as powerful as her husband. She could not control him, and the constant fighting between the two may reflect the conflict between the older cult worship of Hera versus the newer and more powerful cult worship of Zeus.

Hera's long-lasting bond with Zeus—despite its many problems— reflects the importance of the marriage bond in Greece, and also highlights how husbands and wives were treated differently in ancient Greece. Men spent more time away from home, where their actions could not be seen by household servants; women, being in charge of the household—and with the home being considered the safest place, particularly in times of conflict—had limited contact with men other than their husbands or servants. It seems likely that Greek husbands had more opportunity to be unfaithful than their wives did. Although divorces caused by cheating spouses were not uncommon, a wife would usually have to get the permission of her family before seeking a divorce. This meant that the divorce process was more difficult for a woman than for a man, especially since divorce often meant that her children would remain with her husband. For these reasons, wives tended to remain married even if their husbands were unfaithful. However, the myths of Hera illustrate the kinds of vengeance a wife could inflict upon her husband and his lovers; these may have served as “cautionary tales” for men engaging in affairs with other women.

Key Themes and Symbols

Hera stood as a symbol of motherhood, as well as a symbol of loyalty to her husband Zeus. However, she also represented vengeance in many myths involving Zeus's lovers. The theme of jealousy is continuous in the myths of Hera. Indeed, her jealousy extends not just to those women who are involved with Zeus, but also to their children, as shown in the tales of Heracles.

Both the cow and the peacock were sacred animals to Hera. Like the Egyptian goddess Hathor , Hera was a cow-goddess, described often as “ox-eyed.” The pomegranate fruit also represents Hera as a fertility goddess.

Hera in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

As the wife of Zeus, Hera was one of the more honored gods among the Greeks. She was often depicted in statue form, numerous examples of which have survived to modern times. Many temples were built in her honor, and one can still be seen in the Italian city of Paestum.

Although Hera is not as readily found in art and literature from the Renaissance to present day, she has still made some notable appearances. Carolyn Kizer's poem “Hera, Hung from the Sky” (1973) offers a feminist take on Zeus's legendary punishment of his wife. Hera appears in the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, as well as the 1997 Disney animated film Hercules; in the latter case, however, Hera's role in the myth of Hercules was greatly reduced. A somewhat more accurate portrayal of Hera's relationship with Hercules is shown in the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, in which the character of Hera appeared in two episodes.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The purpose of marriage in ancient Greece was to bear and raise children who would continue the family bloodline, so marriages often ended when this purpose could not be fulfilled for some reason—for instance, when the couple found they could not have children, or because the wife's unfaithfulness could result in her bearing another man's children. Like in the ancient Greek society, divorce is common in the United States, with half of the marriages ending in divorce. What are the primary reasons for divorce in American society? How do these reasons reflect the purposes for marriage in modern culture?

SEE ALSO Greek Mythology; Heracles; Roman Mythology; Zeus

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