Hera is the Greek goddess of childbirth, marriage, women, and family. She is the queen of the Olympic gods, and her husband is Zeus.
Hera is the protectress and patroness of marriage, overseeing and blessing weddings, despite the fact that her own marriage was often an unhappy one. Zeus’ many affairs and lovers caused Hera to become vengeful and jealous. Unable to physically hurt Zeus, she often took out her anger on his mistresses and illegitimate children.
In works of art, Hera is usually depicted as wearing a polos, which is a jeweled crown, and holding a pomegranate in her hand. The pomegranate is meant to symbolize death and fertility. She is also often seen accompanied by animals, including the cow, peacock, and lion. In poetry, is descried as “white armed” and “cow-eyed.”
Hera is the daughter of the Titans Rhea and Cronus. Her siblings include Zeus, Demeter, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon.
Because Cronus believed that he would be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed each of them whole. Rhea eventually tricked him into expelling the children, including Hera.
Zeus fell in love with Hera despite her rebuking his advances and refusing to marry him. In order to trick her into marrying him, Zeus transformed himself into a cuckoo, which is a kind of bird. He appeared on her windowsill and pretended to be frozen by the cold. Hera, a lover of animals, felt sorry for the bird and took him inside, holding him to her chest in order to warm him. It was only then that Zeus became himself again. Humiliated and ashamed of how Zeus had tricked her, Hera eventually agreed to marry him.
Of all of Zeus’ illegitimate children, Hera hated Hercules most of all for no particular reason. Learning of Zeus’ affair with Hercules’ mother, Hera hatched a plan.
On the night of Hercules’ birth, she made Zeus promise that a child born that night would become king. Zeus agreed, believing it would be Hercules. But Hercules’ mother was also pregnant with his twin brother, Eurystheus. Hera conspired to have Eurystheus born first, thus making him king instead of Hercules.
Afraid that Hera would continue to try and hurt Hercules, his mother abandoned him. Athena found the baby. She gave him to an unknowing Hera, who nursed him, granting him supernatural powers. At learning who the child was, Hera threw him from her, and Athena eventually returned him to his mother. Enraged, Hera sent two serpents to attack the twin brothers, but Hercules was able to kill the serpents. Hera continued to make Hercules’ life difficult, making him go mad so that he killed his family, which lead him to completing his twelve labors.
Hera also took her anger out on the twins, Apollo and Artemis, who were Zeus’ children by Leto. She tried to prevent their birth by convincing nature spirits to not let Leto give birth on land. Eventually, Poseidon took pity on Leto and gave her a floating island.
Hera didn’t stop at punishing children. She often punished Zeus mistresses as well. She turned Calisto into a bear and kept Io, who Zeus had turned into a cow, from returning to her human form. Then there is Semele, who she tricked into forcing her lover, who was Zeus, into revealing himself, which in turn killed her.
Hera was on the side of the Greeks in the Trojan War, angry that Paris had not deemed her the fairest goddess of all.
- One of the meanings of her name is “young cow” or “heifer.”
- She as also known as the Cow Goddess.
- She reconciled with Hercules after he died, despite disliking him when he was alive.
- Hera was worshiped as “Argive Hera.”
- The festival of the Great Daedala, was sacred to Hera.
- She convinced Medea and Jason to kill Pelias, who she hated.
- Hera is often very jealous of her husband’s mistresses.
- Io was punished by Hera by being forced to look after the many-eyed Argo.
- She turned King Haemus and Queen Rhodope into mountains.
- Her parents were Cronus and Rhea.
- Her children include Ares, Hephaestus, Hebe, Eris, Enyo, Angelos, and Eileithyia.
- The peacock, lion, and cow are her sacred animals.
- Zeus was both her husband and her brother.
- She can be described as vengeful.
- Her chariot is often pulled by peacocks.
- She turned the Queen Gerana into a crane.