Hera was both the twin sister and the wife of the Greek god Zeus. She was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven and reigned sovereign over all matters concerning women.
She represented the institution of marriage and all aspects of family life. Hera also watched over expectant mothers and was called upon to give aid during childbirth.
According to most accounts, the goddess favored the city of Argos and was said to have been chosen over Poseidon to rule as its patron deity. Though the origin of Hera’s birthplace varies throughout the ancient texts, the regions mostly commonly associated to the event are Samos, Argos, Euboea and Stymphalos.
During the great war of the gods and titans, Hera was whisked away and safely hidden inside the land of Arcadia. Here she was raised under the guidance of King Temenus and lovingly nursed by the four seasons.
When it came to be that the fighting had ended and the titans had been banished to Tartarus, Zeus traveled to Mount Thornax to seek out the company of his sister.
When he saw that Hera was not even remotely interested, the enterprising god quickly assumed the shape of a dowdy cuckoo bird and coyly paraded himself before the goddess.
Just as he had hoped, Hera instantly took pity upon the shabby creature and nestled him closely against her warm breast. In the blink of an eye, Zeus resumed his true form and ravished his unsuspecting sister right on the spot!
Hera was so embarrassed by the shameful incident that she saw no other alternative but to marry him. As a wedding present Mother Earth presented the couple with a magical fruit tree capable of producing an abundance of elegant golden apples.
If eaten, these delightfully gilded orbs would reward their taster with the gift of immortality. Wanting to keep her prize safe, Hera journeyed far beyond the river Oceanus and into the remote land of the Hyperboreans.
She then planted the sapling into the ground and appointed the Hesperides, three daughters of Night and Erebus, to act as caretakers to the garden. Because she did not fully trust the nymphs, Hera placed Ladon, a hundred-headed serpent skilled at the art of human speech at the entrance way to guard and protect her sacred orchard.
The Garden of the Hesperides makes numerous appearances throughout the ancient tales. It is from this mystical grove that Eris picked the apple of discord used to instigate the beginning of Greece’s ten year siege on Troy.
Hera’s wedding present was also the focal point of the eleventh labor of Heracles for the hero’s task was to retrieve samples of the divine fruit and present them to King Eurystheus of Tiryns.
The Nature of the Goddess
Hera went on to bear Zeus three children; Ares, Hebe and Eileithya, but in spite of this her marriage was anything but happy.
It seems that her husband proved to be quite the rogue and was well known throughout Greece for his countless romances.
Hera spent most of her time trying to catch the scoundrel in the act, and when she did, it almost always meant trouble for the unfortunate maiden involved. You can read more about these illicit affairs by going to my page dedicated to Zeus .
Hera was known to be jealous and demanding, and could be unforgiving to those showing her even the slightest bit of impiety. It is said that she once condemned Side, the first wife of Orion to hades for claiming to have beauty that surpassed her own.
According to Apollodorus, Hera caused the daughters of Proetus to go mad for not showing proper reverence to one of her statues. She also vindictively blinded the old seer Teiresias for siding with Zeus during one of their many arguments.
Because of her dislike for Paris , Hera fought fiercely on the side of the Greeks during the Trojan War. She also played a major role in the story of Jason and the golden fleece.
Hera proved to be a loyal friend to the Argonauts and frequently came to them in their time of trouble. You can read more about Jason and his quest for the magical fleece by going over to my page dedicated to Medea .
Because she ruled over all aspects of feminine issues and concerns, Hera was often worshiped in the three phases of womanhood; maiden, mother, crone. It was believed that she was able to renew her virginity every year by traveling back to Argos and bathing in the Canathus Spring.
Hera is very rarely depicted without having a peacock by her side. To see how this beautiful creature came to be so highly cherished by the goddess, I bring to you the tale of Io and how the peacock got its spots.