Mythman's Major Olympian Gods




Greek Hera Postage Stamp
Greek Hera Stamp





Hera was the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea and was born either on the island of Samos or at Argos. These two islands became the chief seats of her worship in ancient Greece, but she was brought up in Arcadia by Temenus, son of Pelasgus, or, according to the poet Homer, by the Titans Oceanus and Tethys.

The Seasons were her nurses, which is a way of saying that Hera was a goddess of the calendar year. She was Zeus’ sister and equal to him in one thing alone: that she could bestow the gift of prophecy on anyone she pleased.

Following the Olympians' overthrow of their father Cronus, who used to swallow his children as they were born, she became the wife of Zeus. But she didn't do so willingly, and in fact she rejected his advances when he courted her at Cnossus in Crete, or on Mount Thornax, since renamed Mount Cuckoo.

Zeus finally resorted to trickery in order to win her over, and transformed himself into a sad-looking and bedraggled cuckoo, soaked from a sudden thunderstorm. Hera did not see through his disguise, took pity on this poor creature and held it in her bosom to warm it.

Resuming his true shape, Zeus then used the opportunity to ravish her and in shame she agreed to marry him. The wedding feast was a huge and momentous bash and all the gods brought wonderful gifts for the new couple.

In particular, Gaea (Mother Earth) gave Hera a tree with golden apples, which she placed in her orchard on Mount Atlas. There the maidens called the Hesperides and the dragon named Ladon guarded the golden apples, until the great hero Heracles came by and stole three of them to fulfill one of his labors.

Following her marriage with Zeus, Hera was treated by the other Olympian gods with the same reverence as her husband.

Zeus himself, according to Homer, listened to her advice, and shared his secrets with her, rather than to other gods. Hera also felt justified to censure her husband when he did not consult with her.

Nonetheless, admittedly she was far inferior to Zeus in stature and power; Hera knew that she should obey him unconditionally, and, like the other gods, she is chastised by him when she has offended the all-powerful king of the Olympians.

Homer describes Hera in rather unflattering terms, painting her as not very amiable, and giving her a jealous, obstinate and quarrelsome disposition, and a wife's wrath which sometimes makes her own husband tremble

Following the wedding party Hera and Zeus spent their honeymoon on the island of Samos and it lasted three hundred years. To them were born the gods Ares, Hephaestus and Hebe, even though some say that Ares and his twin sister Eris (Strife) were conceived when Hera touched a flower (perhaps the may-blossom), and Hebe when Hera touched a lettuce.

Some claim that Ilithyia (or Eileithyia), goddess of childbirth, was her child by Zeus. Even Hephaestus was said to be her son alone, created when she got angry at Zeus for giving birth alone to Athena from his head.

In disgust at the sickly and ugly child she had birthed, Hera flung Hephaestus from Olympus, and he fell for a whole day until he landed in the sea, where the surf carried him to the island of Lemnos.

When Hephaestus grew up and was persuaded to return to Mount Olympus and to regain his rightful place among the gods, he crafted a mechanical chair with arms that folded and imprisoned the sitter. Thus trapping his mother, he made her swear an unbreakable oath by the River Styx that indeed she alone gave birth to him, and that he had no father.

However, while some claim that Zeus was Hephaestus' father, others hold that he was Hera's son by Talos, the nephew of the inventor Daedalus.

Hera's name is usually taken to be a Greek word for 'lady', or perhaps it derives from the pre-Hellenic Herwa (Protectress). She was given the nickname "cow-faced" (in some translations "ox-eyed") which has stuck with her through the ages, but the Queen of the Olympians was very beautiful.

In fact she was one of the three contestants in the Judgment of Paris, which was held to identify the most beautiful goddess, and which led to the Trojan War. (Paris chose Aphrodite after she promised him the hand of gorgeous Helen, forever incurring Hera and Athena's wrath.)

But her personality was not as attractive, for she was frequently petty, cruel and vindictive, and in myths is most often shown administering some sort of revenge on one of Zeus’ lovers or his illegitimate children.


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