Mythman's Major Olympian Gods



(c) Encyclopedia Britannica




Hestia is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea and the sister of Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Demeter and Hera. She was the firstborn of the Olympians and is the goddess of fire, particularly the hearth, the symbol of the house around which a new born child is carried before it is received into the family.

Hestia was also the lastborn of the Olympians - When Cronus swallowed his children because he feared they would overthrow him, Hestia was the first to be devoured and the last to be yielded up again. Hence, she was the oldest, as well as the youngest.

Her name translates to 'hearth and home', what the Greeks call the 'oikos', and Hestia was arguably the most revered goddess in ancient Greece and Rome, universally loved by all. Her residences were Olympus and Delphi.

The center of Greek life was the domestic hearth, which was also used as a sacrificial altar. The hearth provided warmth, enabled the preparation of food, and served to complete the sacrificial functions. Hestia would receive the first offering of every meal, albeit a modest one.

Hestia, as the goddess of the hearth, represented personal security and happiness, and the sacred duty of hospitality. She was considered the patron goddess of architecture as well.

The leading woman of the house would be responsible for the worship of Hestia, but sometimes a man would perform the duties. With the establishment of any new town or colony, Hestia's sacred flame from the public hearth in the mother city would be brought along to the new settlement.

Hestia was anything but pretentious, choosing to sit on a plain wooden throne with a white wool cushion, unlike the other Olympians who were far more ostentatious. She did not even choose an emblem for herself, being too modest.

In classical Greek art Hestia is depicted as a plain woman modestly dressed in a head veil, sometimes holding a staff.

She is one of the three virgin goddesses, although both Apollo and Poseidon wooed her as rival suitors following the dethronement of Cronus by Zeus.

Hestia at that time swore by Zeus's head to remain a virgin forever and Zeus rewarded her efforts to keep peace among the two gods by awarding her the first offering of every public sacrifice. In that sense, Hestia was the opposite of Aphrodite, goddess of love, having rejected her values and choosing chastity instead.

Her temples were circular and served by virgin priestesses who dedicated their lives to her. Each city also had a public hearth sacred to Hestia, where the fire was never allowed to go out.

Many triangular or leaf-shaped ladles in stone or clay have been discovered in Cretan and Mycenaean shrines - these seem to have been used for tending the sacred fire.

As goddess of the hearth, she never left the 'lofty adobe of the eternal gods' (Hesiod, Theogony) and never intervened in the stormy history, petty infighting and intrigue of the gods. Zeus tasked her with feeding and maintaining the fires of the Olympus hearth with the fatty portions of offerings to the gods.

Alone among the great Olympians, she never took part in wars or disputes. She was the central point, the meeting place, and received the first part of every sacrifice. She's charitable to those who flee to her for protection.

If it were a beauty pageant up on Mount Olympus, surely Hestia would win Miss Congeniality!

Hestia, in all dwellings of men and immortals
Yours is the highest honor, the sweet wine offered
First and last at the feast, poured out to you duly.
Never without you can gods or mortals hold banquet.

An offering to Hestia at the beginning of each meal

Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo,
the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho,
Hestia, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks,
come now into this house, come,
having one mind with Zeus the all-wise:
draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.

Homeric Hymn to Hestia


Mythman's Hestia
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