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Hera

by Micha F. Lindemans
The queen of the Olympian deities. She is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and wife and sister of Zeus. Hera was mainly worshipped as a goddess of marriage and birth. It is said that each year Hera's virginity returns by bathing in the well Canathus. The children of Hera and Zeus are the smith-god Hephaestus, the goddess of youth Hebe, and the god of war Ares. According to some sources, however, her children were conceived without the help of a man, either by slapping her hand on the ground or by eating lettuce: thus they were born, not out of love but out of lust and hatred.

Writers represented Hera as constantly being jealous of Zeus's various amorous affairs. She punished her rivals and their children, among both goddesses and mortals, with implacable fury. She placed two serpents in the cradle of Heracles; she had Io guarded by a hundred-eyed giant; she drove the foster-parents of Dionysus mad, and tried to prevent the birth of Apollo and Artemis. Even Zeus usually could not stand up to her. Sometimes when he got angry, he chained her to the mountain of Olympus by fastening anvils to her feet. However, most of the time Zeus resorted to stratagems: he either hid his illegitimate children, or he changed them into animals.

Hera's main sanctuary was at Argos in the Peloponnesus, where she was worshipped as the town goddess. Also, in this town the Heraia, public festivities, were celebrated. Other temples stood in Olympia, Mycene, Sparta, Paestum, Corinth, Tiryns, Perachora, and on the islands of Samos and Delos.

The peacock (the symbol of pride; her wagon was pulled by peacocks) and the cow (she was also known as Bopis, meaning "cow-eyed", which was later translated as "with big eyes") are her sacred animals. The crow and the pomegranate (symbol of marriage) are also dedicated to her. Other attributes include a diadem and a veil. Hera is portrayed as a majestic, solemn woman.

Her Roman counterpart is Juno.


Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
    hir'-uh
  • Etymology:
    haireo: chosen one

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