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Hera (Roman counterpart Juno) is one of the Twelve Olympians and is married to Zeus, the most powerful of all the Greek gods, making her the Queen of the Gods. She is the Greek goddess of women, family, marriage, and childbirth, and the protector of married woman. While she’s seen as a mother figure, Hera is known for being jealous and vengeful against the illegitimate children and many lovers of her husband.
Hera – Origins and Story
Hera was extremely venerated by Greeks who dedicated numerous, impressive temples to her worship, including the Heraion of Samon—which is one of the largest Greek temples in existence. In art, she is commonly seen with her sacred animals: the lion, peacock, and cow. She is always depicted as majestic and queenly.
Hera is the eldest daughter of the titans, Cronus and Rhea. As the myth goes, Cronus learned of a prophecy in which he was fated to be overthrown by one of his children. Terrified, Cronus decided to swallow all of his children whole in an attempt to circumvent the prophecy. Rhea took her youngest child, Zeus, and hid him away, instead giving her husband a strong to swallow. Zeus later tricked his father into regurgitating his siblings, including Hera, who had all continued to grow and mature into adulthood inside of their father courtesy of their immortality.
Hera’s marriage to Zeus was fraught with infidelity as he had many affairs with various other women. Hera’s jealousy towards her husband’s lovers and children meant she spent all of her time and energy tormenting them, trying to make their lives as hard as possible and sometimes even going so far as to have them killed.
The Children of Hera
Hera has many children, but there appears to be some confusion about the exact number. Different sources give different numbers, but in general, the following figures are considered the main children of Hera:
- Ares – god of war
- Eileithyia – goddess of childbirth
- Enyo – a war goddess
- Eris – goddess of discord. However, sometimes Nyx and/or Erebus are portrayed as her parents.
- Hebe – goddess of youth
- Hephaestus – god of fire and the forge. Hera is said to have conceived and given birth to Hephaestus alone, but disliked him for his ugliness.
- Typhon – a serpent monster. In most sources, he’s depicted as the son of Gaia and Tartarus, but in one source he’s the son of Hera alone.
Hera’s Marriage to Zeus
Hera’s marriage to Zeus was an unhappy one. Initially, Hera refused his offer of marriage. Zeus then played on her compassion for animals by transforming himself into a little bird and pretending to be in distress outside Hera’s window. Hera carried the bird into her room to protect it and warm it, but Zeus than transformed back into himself and raped her. She agreed to marry him out of shame.
Hera was loyal to her husband, never engaging in any extramarital affair. This strengthened her association with marriage and fidelity. Unfortunately for Hera, Zeus was not a loyal partner and had numerous love affairs and illegitimate children. This was something she had to battle with all the time, and while she couldn’t stop him, she could take her revenge. Even Zeus was afraid of her wrath.
Stories Featuring Hera
There are several stories connected to Hera, most of them involving Zeus’ lovers or illegitimate children. Of these, the most famous are:
- Heracles – Hera is the sworn enemy and unwitting stepmother of Heracles. As an illegitimate child of Zeus, she tried to prevent his birth in any way possible, but ultimately failed. As an infant, Hera sent two serpents to kill him as he slept in his crib. Heracles strangled the snakes with his bare hands and survived. When he became an adult, Hera drove him mad which caused him to lash out and murder his entire family which later led him to undertaking his famous labors. During these labors, Hera continued to make his life as hard as possible, nearly killing him many times.
- Leto – Upon discovering her husband Zeus’ latest infidelity with the goddess Leto, Hera convinced the nature spirits not to let Leto from giving birth on any land. Poseidon took pity on Leto and took her to the magical floating island of Delos, which was not a part of the nature spirits’ domain. Leto gave birth to her children Artemis and Apollo, much to Hera’s disappointment.
- Io – In an attempt to catch Zeus with a mistress, Hera raced down to earth. Zeus saw her coming and changed his mistress Io into a snow-white cow in order to trick Hera. Hera was unmoved and saw through the deception. She requested Zeus give her the beautiful cow as a gift, effectively keeping Zeus and his lover apart.
- Paris – In the story of the golden apple, the three goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite all vie for the title of the most beautiful goddess. Hera offered the Trojan prince Paris political power and control over all of Asia. When she was not chosen, Hera became enraged and supported Paris’ opponents (the Greeks) in the Trojan War.
- Lamia – Zeus was in love with Lamia, a mortal and the Queen of Libya. Hera cursed her, turning her into a hideous monster and killed her children. Lamia’s curse prevented her from closing her eyes and she was forced to forever look upon the image of her dead children.
Symbols and Symbolism of Hera
Hera is often shown with the following symbols, which were significant to her:
- Pomegranate – a symbol of fertility.
- Cuckoo – a symbol of Zeus’ love for Hera, as he had turned himself into a cuckoo to worm his way into her bedroom.
- Peacock – a symbol of immortality and beauty
- Diadem – a symbol of royalty and nobility
- Scepter – also a symbol of royalty, power and authority
- Throne – another symbol of royalty and power
- Lion – represents her power, strength and immortality
- Cow –a nurturing animal
As a symbol, Hera represented fidelity, loyalty, marriage and the ideal woman. Although she was driven to commit vengeful acts, she always remained faithful to Zeus. This strengthens Hera’s connection to marriage, family and faithfulness, making her a universal wife and mother figure.
Hera In Other Cultures
Hera as a matriarchal mother figure and the head of the household is a concept that predates the Greeks and is a part of many cultures.
- Matriarchal Origins
Hera has many characteristics that are also attributed to pre-Hellenic goddesses. There has been some scholarship dedicated to the possibility that Hera was originally the goddess of a long-ago matriarchal people. It’s theorized that her later transformation into a marriage goddess was an attempt to match the patriarchal expectations of the Hellenic people. The intense themes of jealousy and resistance over Zeus’ extramarital affairs are meant to undercut her independence and power as a female goddess. However, the idea that Hera may be a patriarchal expression of a pre-Hellenic, powerful Great Goddess is fairly fringe among Greek mythology scholars.
- Hera in Roman Mythology
Hera’s counterpart in Roman mythology is Juno. Like Hera, Juno’s sacred animal is the peacock. Juno was said to have watched over the women of Rome and was sometimes called Regina by her followers, meaning “Queen”. Juno, unlike Hera, had a distinct warlike aspect, which was apparent in her attire as she was often depicted armed.
Hera In Modern Times
Hera is featured in a multitude of different pop culture artifacts. Notably, she appears as an antagonist in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. She often works against the main characters, especially those born of Zeus’ infidelity. Hera is also the name of a prominent makeup line by Seoul Beauty, a Korean makeup brand.
Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring Hear statues.
Hera’s parents were Cronus and Rhea.
Hera’s consort is her brother, Zeus, to whom she remained faithful. Hera is one of the few gods who maintained loyalty to their spouse.
While there’s some conflicting accounts, the following are considered Hera’s children: Ares, Hebe, Enyo, Eileithya and Hephaestus.
On Mount Olympus, along with the other Olympians.
Hera was worshiped for two main reasons – as Zeus consort and the queen of the gods and of heaven, and as the goddess of marriage and of women.
Hera had immense powers, including immortality, strength, the ability to bless and curse and the ability to resist injury, among others.
Of all her stories, perhaps the most famous is her meddling in the life of Heracles. Because Heracles is among the most famous of all the Greek mythological figures, Hera gets a lot of attention for her role in his life.
Hera’s jealous and vengeful nature grew from the many romantic trysts of Zeus, which angered Hera.
In all her stories, Hera doesn’t fear anyone, although she is often shown as being angry, resentful and jealous of the many women Zeus loves. After all, Hera is the wife of the most powerful of all the gods, and that may have given her security.
No, Hera is known for her fidelity to her husband, even though he never returned it in like.
Her insecurities and jealousies of Zeus’ lovers, which caused her to misuse and even abuse her powers.
Many of the stories including Hera focus prominently on her jealous and vindictive nature. Despite this, Hera also has distinct ties to motherhood and loyalty to the family. She is an important part of Greek mythology and often makes appearances in the lives of heroes, mortals, as well as other gods. Her legacy as a Queen Mother as well as a woman scorned still works to inspire artists and poets today.