Originally the personifications or goddesses of the order of nature and of the seasons, but in later times they were regarded as the goddesses of order in general and of justice. In Homer, who neither mentions their parents nor their number, they are the Olympian divinities of the weather and the ministers of Zeus; and in this capacity they guard the doors of Olympus, and promote the fertility of the earth, by the various kinds of weather they send down.1
As the weather, generally speaking, is regulated according to the seasons, they are further described as the goddesses of the seasons, i.e. the regular phases under which Nature manifests herself.2 They are kind and benevolent, bringing to gods and men many things that are good and desirable.3 As, however, Zeus has the power of gathering and dispersing the clouds, they are in reality only his ministers, and sometimes also those of Hera.4
Men in different circumstances regard the course of time (or the seasons) either as rapid or as slow, and both epithets are accordingly applied to the Horae.5 The course of the seasons (or hours) is symbolically described by the dance of the Horae; and, in conjunction with the Charites, Hebe, Harmonia, and Aphrodite, they accompany the songs of the Muses, and Apollo's play on the lyre, with their dancing.6 The Homeric notions continued to be entertained for a long time afterwards, the Horae being considered as the givers of the various seasons of the year, especially of spring and autumn, i.e. of Nature in her bloom and maturity.
At Athens two Horae, Thallo (the Hora of spring) and Carpo (the Hora of autumn), were worshiped from very early times.7 The Hora of spring accompanies Persephone every year on her ascent from the lower world; and the expression of "The chamber of the Horae opens" is equivalent to "The spring is coming."8 The attributes of spring-flowers, fragrance, and graceful freshness are accordingly transferred to the Horae; thus they adorned Aphrodite as she rose from the sea, made a garland of flowers for Pandora, and even inanimate things are described as deriving peculiar charms from the Horae.9 Hence they bear a resemblance to and are mentioned along with the Charites, and both are frequently confounded or identified.10 As they were conceived to promote the prosperity of every thing that grows, they appear also as the protectresses of youth and newly-born gods;11 and the Athenian youths, on being admitted along the ephebi, mentioned Thallo, among other gods, in the oath they took in the temple of Agraulos.12
In this, as in many other cases of Greek mythology, a gradual transition is visible, from purely physical to ethical notions, and the influence which the Horae originally had on nature was subsequently transferred to human life in particular. The first trace of it occurs even in Hesiod, for he describes them as giving to a state good laws, justice, and peace; he calls them the daughters of Zeus and Themis, and gives them the significant names of Eunomia, Dike, and Eirene.13 But the ethical and physical ideas are not always kept apart, and both are often mixed up with each other, as in Pindar.14
The number of the Horae is different in the different writers, though the most ancient number seems to have been two, as at Athens;15 but afterwards their common number is three, like that of the Moirae and Charites. Hyginus16 is in great confusion respecting the number and names of the Horae, as he mixes up the original names with surnames, and the designations of separate seasons or hours. In this manner he first makes out a list of ten Horae, viz. Titanis, Auxo, Eunomia, Pherusa, Carpo, Dike, Euporia, Eirene, Orthosia, and Thallo, and a second of eleven, Auge, Anatole, Musia, Gymnasia, Nymphes, Mesembria, Sponde, Telete, Acte, Cypridos, Dysis.
In works of art the Horae were represented as blooming maidens, often scantily clad, carrying the different products of the seasons. Older depictions, such as on the François vase, show them without attributes. As the goddess of the seasons they are depicted with the associated attributes such as flowers, wreaths, fruits, baskets, sickles, crooks, etc., for instance on a well-known Roman relief (in Paris). Famous too is the fresco of Guido Reni in Rome.
- Odyssey xxiv, 343; comp. x, 469; xix, 132; Iliad v, 749; viii, 393.
- Odyssey ii, 107; x, 469; xii, 294; xix, 152; xxiv, 141.
- Iliad xxi, 450; comp. Hymn to Pythian Apollo, 16; Theocritus, xv, 105; Ovid. Fasti i, 125.
- Iliad viii, 433; comp. Moschus. Idylls ii, 160; Pausanias. Description of Greece v, 11.2.
- Theocritus, xv, 104; Pindar. Nemean Odes iv, 34; Horace. Carmina iv, 7.8; Ovid. Metamorphoses ii, 118.
- Homer. Hymn to Apollo, Pyth. 16 ff.; Pindar. Olympian Odes iv, 2; Xenophon. Symposium, 7.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 35.1; comp. Athenaeus, xiv., 636; Ovid. Metamorphoses ii, 1118 ff.; C. Valerius Flaccus. Argonautica iv, 92; Lucian. Dialogi Deorum, x, 1.
- Orphic Hymn 42, 7; Pindar. Fragments xlv, 13, 576 (ed. Boeckh.).
- Homer. Hymns, viii, 5 ff.; Hesiod. Works and Days, 65; Hyginus. Poetical Astronomy, ii, 5; Theocritus, i, 150; Athenaeus, ii, 60.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 17.4; Müller. Orchomenos und die Minyer, 176 ff. 2nd ed.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 13.3; Pindar. Pythian Odes ix, 62; Philostratus. Imagines i, 26; Nonnus. Dionysiaca xii, 50.
- Pollux, viii, 106.
- Theogony, 901 ff.; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 3.1; Diodorus Siculus, v, 72.
- Olympian Odes iv, 2; xiii, 6; Nemean Odes iv, 34; Orphic Hymn 42.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iii, 18.7; ix, 35.1.
- Fabulae, 183.
- Athenaeus, i, 38; comp. xiv, 656; Hesychulus, s.v. ὥραια.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 20.4.
- ibid. v, 15.3.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.