Hera

Hera, the eldest daughter of Cronus and Rhea, was born at Samos, or, according to some accounts, at Argos, and was reared by the sea-divinities Oceanus and Tethys, who were models of conjugal fidelity. She was the principal wife of Zeus, and, as queen of heaven, participated in the honours paid to him, but her dominion only extended over the air (the lower aerial regions). Hera appears to be the sublime embodiment of strict matronly virtue, and is on that account the protectress of purity and married women. Faultless herself in her fidelity as a wife, she is essentially the type of the sanctity of the marriage tie, and holds in abhorrence any violation of its obligations. So strongly was she imbued with this hatred of any immorality, that, finding herself so often called upon to punish the failings of both gods and men in this respect, she became jealous, harsh, and vindictive. Her exalted position as the wife of the supreme deity, combined with her extreme beauty, caused her to become exceedingly vain, and she consequently resented with great severity any infringement on her rights as queen of heaven, or any apparent slight on her personal appearance. Hera was the mother of Ares (Mars), Hephæstus, Hebe, and Eileithyia. Ares was the god of War; Hephæstus, of Fire; Hebe, of Youth; and Eileithyia presided over the birth of mortals. Hera dearly loved Greece, and indeed always watched over and protected Greek interests, her beloved and favourite cities being Argos, Samos, Sparta, and Mycenæ. Her principal temples were at Argos and Samos. From a remote period she was greatly venerated at Olympia, and her temple there, which stood in the Altis or sacred grove, was five hundred years older than that of Zeus on the same spot. Some interesting excavations which are now going on there have brought to light the remains of the ancient edifice, which contains among other treasures of antiquity several beautiful statues, the work of the famous sculptors of ancient Greece. At first this temple was built of wood, then of stone, and the one lately discovered was formed of conglomerate of shells. In the Altis races were run by young maidens in honour of Hera, and the fleetest of foot received in token of her victory an olive-wreath and a piece of the flesh of the sacrifices. These races, like the Olympic Games, were celebrated at intervals of four years, and were called Heræ. A beautiful robe, woven by sixteen women chosen from the sixteen cities of Elis, was always offered to Hera on these occasions, and choral songs and sacred dances formed part of the ceremonies. Hera is usually represented seated on a throne, holding a pomegranate in one hand and a sceptre surmounted by a cuckoo in the other. She appears as a calm, dignified matron of majestic beauty, robed in a tunic and mantle, her forehead is broad and intellectual, her eyes large and fully opened, and her arms dazzlingly white and finely moulded. The finest statue of this divinity was that by Polycletus at Argos. Her attributes are the diadem, veil, sceptre, and peacock. The first day of every month a ewe-lamb and sow were sacrificed to Hera. The hawk, goose, and more particularly the peacock were sacred to her. Flocks of these beautiful birds generally surround her throne and draw her chariot, Iris, the Rainbow, being seated behind her. Her favourite flowers were the dittany, poppy, and lily.


Olympian Gods