Hera

Olympian Goddess of Marriage

Hera was the Olympian goddess of marriage and childbirth. She was also the wife (and sister) of Zeus, making her the queen of the Gods.

Role

Hera was goddess of marriage, family, motherhood, legal birth rights and legal wives’ rights to inheritance, and protector of childbirth. Married women would turn to her for help. Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth established Hera’s dominant role in childbirth.

Physical Features, Symbols and Character

Hera is depicted fully clothed, often wearing a crown and sitting next to Zeus. Though Hera was considered to be beautiful, she was also often called “cow-faced”, an attribute given to her probably influenced by her personality.

The peacock was her sacred animal, which, myth has it, was adorned with the many eyes of Argus, Hera’s servant, after he was killed by Hermes under Zeus’s orders.

Hera is usually represented as a jealous and vindictive wife. Zeus’s many infidelities caused Hera’s wrath, which was usually directed mostly towards the (often innocent) lover and offspring of the affair and far less towards Zeus himself.
She would protect the ones who were faithful to her, but be ruthless towards those who defied her.

Although she was worshipped all around Greece, she favoured Argos, where her worship began when the city was first established.

Goddess Hera head

Hera at a Glance
Roman nameJuno
GenderFemale
TypeDeity
Rules over - In charge ofMarriage, Childbirth, Family
SymbolsDiadem, Sceptre, Pomegranate
Sacred AnimalsPeacock, Cow
ParentsCronus and Rhea
SpouseZeus
ChildrenAres, Hebe, Eileithyia, Hephaestus, Angelos, Eris

Mythology

Hera was the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, but Oceanus and Tethys were responsible for her upbringing. She helped Zeus during the Titanomachy (the battle between the Gods and the Titans), and after Zeus established his reign he married her. Nevertheless, they had already been seeing each other and having intercourse before they got married.

Hera and Zeus had Ares, god of war, Hebe, goddess of youth, and Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth. Hera also gave birth to Hephaestus, god of the forge, but sources vary as to whether Zeus was the father or it was a parthenogenesis. After giving birth to Hephaestus, she threw him from Mount Olympus. As to whether this was the cause or result of his lameness, sources vary once again. However, Hephaestus survived and took revenge by creating for her a throne that bound her to it when she sat on it and was unable to untie herself or move. Dionysus eventually persuaded Hephaestus to liberate her.
According to some sources, Hera was also the mother of Angelos and Eris.

In the Judgment of Paris, where he had to choose over the offers of Aphrodite, Athena and Hera, Hera offered Paris the rule of the world but he chose Aphrodite’s offer instead – the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen. As a result, Hera sided with the Greeks in the Trojan War.
As a notable exception to her usual cruel nature, she helped Jason (the leader and king of Argos) and the rest of the Argonauts throughout their adventures in the Quest of the Golden Fleece.

Etymology

Some consider the name Hera to be the feminine of ήρως (=hero), giving it the meaning “Lady”, others claim it derives from α-ήρ (=air), in accord with pre-socratic cosmology (which considered the goddess to be the personification of the essence of air), while others consider it to be pre-hellenic.

Classical Sources

Τhe Homeric Hymn to Hera, Aeschlyus’s Prometheus Bound (1.81, 365–369), Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.6, 2.1.3–4, 2.4.8, 3.6.7, 3.8.2, Epitome 3.2), Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argonauts (passim), Hesiod’s Theogony (326–332, 453–506, 921–929), Homer’s Iliad (passim), Hyginus’s Fabulae (5.13, 22, 102, 150), Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods (9, 18, 22), Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1.568–746), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (2.13.3, 2.17.1– 7, 8.22.1–2, 9.2.7–3.8), Pindar’s Nemean Odes(1.33–72), and Virgil’s Aeneid (passim).