We Don’t Need Another Hera

Since I haven’t written a post about her yet, and she appears to be a significant character in Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero, which I’m currently reading, I think it might be time for an entry on Hera. The myths about the Queen of Olympus, known as Juno to the Romans, rarely show her in a particularly positive light, instead focusing on her jealousy and temper. Not that she didn’t have her reasons for this attitude, mind you. She was the goddess of marriage, but her own husband was remarkably unfaithful. She often took out her rage on Zeus’s mistresses and their offspring than on the king himself, which hardly seems fair, but I guess it’s a little difficult to put the almighty storm god in his place. She did manage it at times, though, as when she led a rebellion against her husband, tying him to a couch so he would be unable to retaliate. The hundred-handed giant Briareus rescued the king, and he got his revenge on his wife by chaining her to the heavens.

Zeus and Hera’s marriage was a rocky one from the very beginning. The thunderer took the form of an injured cuckoo in order to gain Hera’s sympathy, then he returned to his true form and raped her. Ashamed of this, Hera decided to go ahead and marry the jerk.

Why Zeus wanted to be married isn’t entirely clear, since his personality seems more suited to that of a swinging bachelor, but I guess it wouldn’t have been done for the Lord of Heaven to be without a consort. So we end up with this eternally bickering couple, always trying to outdo one another, as rulers of the gods. Hey, at least the Greeks ADMITTED their deities were messed up.

Sometimes Hera was described as being nasty in ways that don’t involve her cheating husband. The best known is when she threw her own son Hephaestus out of Olympus because he was ugly. I suppose his was a face that even a mother couldn’t love. He later returned to the heavens and took revenge by presenting Hera with a throne that she couldn’t escape. He at first refused to release her, but Dionysus managed to get him drunk and drag him back to Olympus, where he agreed to let her go on the condition that he could have Aphrodite as a bride. In another myth, Hephaestus sided with his mother against Zeus, and released her from her chains. This was quite possibly the same occasion as when Zeus sought revenge for the rebellion, but that depends on the version of the story. Regardless, Hera being caught in bondage appears to have been a common theme.

Hera’s sacred animals are the peacock and the cow. The former was apparently a later development, as peacocks weren’t known in Greece during the earlier days of Hera worship.

The birds apparently came to be associated with the Queen of Olympus because of the similarity between their feathers and the eyes of her servant Argus.

Bovines were connected with Hera from way back in the mists of time, and she was sometimes said to have the eyes of a cow. Comparing a woman to a cow in modern society isn’t likely to win you any points, but the ancient Greeks considered cows to be beautiful, particularly in the eyes.

While the image of Hera as jealous and manipulative seems to have largely supplanted the tales of her beauty, she was indeed regarded as a very attractive goddess, perhaps even more so than Aphrodite.

Paris didn’t agree with this, though, so she wasn’t too fond of him either. Hera’s beauty appears to have been more of a solemn sort than the love goddess’ youthful flirtatiousness.

Also, Hera is said to take an annual bath in the waters of Kanathos in order to restore her virginity. I’m not sure whether that means her hymen is made once again intact every year.

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23 Responses to We Don’t Need Another Hera

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Freshman English in high school my teacher had us pair up and do a presentation on each of the Olympians (including Hestia and Hades). The god I ended up with was Hera. I did most of my research from Classical mythology dictionaries more for college students and the one Greek mythology website at the time that was more serious, Greek Mythology Link or something. I’ve visited that site more recently and a lot of the info (like images and maps) that used to be free to view are now just thumbnails and you have to donate to the site to see full-size images. Theoi.com is a much better site anyway, since it quotes all the sources instead of just naming them, which is easier if you want to write something more professional with historical quotes instead of paraphrasing.

    Anyway… I remember Hera being described as beautiful but not in the same way as the “maiden” goddesses, even Aphrodite. So, yeah, like you said above. And it’s interesting that you mentioned the hymen, since Hymenos was a minor god of the wedding ceremony invoked during the prayers of every wedding. Kinda like saying “Amen” after every Christian prayer today. I think he was too abstract for any myths to be told about him, but he was important enough to get a few statues.

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