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Hera

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In the Olympian pantheon of classical Greek Mythology, Hêra the Great Goddess of pre-Hellene Minoan culture transmitted to the Greeks through Mycene and other city-states of the Mycenean culture, had been made into the wife and sister of Zeus. She then presided as goddess of marriage, the patriarchal bond of her own subordination. She had a long separate existence before she was incorporated, with considerable difficulty, into the pantheon dominated by Zeus. In late anecdotal versions of the myths (see below) she appeared to spend most of her time plotting revenge on the other women her husband consorted with. She was called Juno by the Romans.

Table of contents
1 Worship
2 Hera's Children
3 Hera and Zeus's Lovers and Children
4 Other Stories Involving Hera

Worship

Hera was especially worshipped at the formerly Mycenean city-state of Argos, where the Heraia, festivals in her honor, were celebrated. There were also temples to Hera in Olympia, Mycene itself, Sparta, Paestum, Corinth, Tiryns, Perachora, Samos and Delos.

Hera's wagon was pulled by peacocks, one of her symbols, along with the crow, pomegranate, diadem, veil and cow. Her archaic association with cattle as a Cow Goddess led to an epithet Bopis ("cow-eyed" or "with big eyes").

In Rome

See Juno

Hera's Children

Hera was jealous of Zeus' giving birth to Athena without her (actually with Metis), so she gave birth to Hephaestus without him. (An alternate version discounts this and says Zeus and Hera were both parents of Hephaestus) Zeus and/or Hera were then disgusted with Hephaestus' ugliness and threw him from Olympus. As another alternative version, Hera gave birth to all of the children usually accreditted to her and Zeus together, alone by beating her hand on the ground or eating lettuce.

Hephaestus gained revenge against Hera for rejecting him by making her a magical throne which, when she sat on it, didn't allow her to leave it. The other gods begged Hephaestus to return to Olympus to let her go but he repeatedly refused. Dionysus got him drunk and took him back to Olympus on the back of a mule. Hephaestus released Hera after being given Aphrodite as his wife.

Hera and Zeus's Lovers and Children

For a time, a nymph named Echo (mythology) had the job of distracting Hera from Zeus' affairs by incessantly talking. When Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to only speak the words of others (hence our modern word "echo").

Leto and Artemis/Apollo

When Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant and that Hera's husband, Zeus, was the father, she banned Leto from giving birth on "terra-firma", or the mainland, or any island at sea. She found the floating island of Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island and gave birth there. The island was surrounded by swans. As a gesture of gratitude, Delos was secured with four pillars. The island later became sacred to Apollo. Alternatively, Hera kidnapped Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. The other gods forced Hera to let her go. Either way, Artemis was born first and then assisted with the birth of Apollo. Another version states that Artemis was born one day before Apollo, on the island of Ortygia and that she helped Leto cross the sea to Delos the next day to give birth to Apollo.

Callisto/Arcas

Hera also figures into the myth of Callisto and Arcas.

A follower of Artemis, Callisto took a vow to remain a virgin. But Zeus fell in love with her and disguised himself as Apollo in order to lure her into his embrace. Hera then turned Callisto into a bear out of revenge. Later, Callisto's son with Zeus, Arcas, nearly killed her in a hunt but Zeus placed them both in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

An alternate version: One of Artemis' companions, Callisto lost her virginity to Zeus, who had come disguised as Artemis. Enraged, Artemis changed her into a bear. Callisto's son, Arcas, nearly killed his mother while hunting, but Zeus or Artemis stopped him and placed them both in the sky as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Another alternate version: Artemis killed Callisto in bear form, deliberately.

Hera was not pleased with the placement of Callisto and Arcas in the sky, so she asked her nurse, Tethys, to help. Tethys, a marine goddess, cursed the constellations to forever circle the sky and never drop below the horizon, hence explaining why they are circumpolar.

Semele/Dionysus

Dionysus was a son of Zeus by a mortal woman. A jealous Hera again attempted to kill the child, this time by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. Though Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena, Rhea, or Demeter. Zeus used the heart to recreate Dionysus and implant him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again "the twice-born". Sometimes it was said that he gave Semele the heart to eat to impregnate her.

See also Dionysus' birth for other variations.

Alcmene/Heracles

When Alcmene was pregnant with Heracles, Hera tried to prevent the birth from occurring. She was foiled by Galanthis, her servant, who told Hera that she had already delivered the baby. Hera turned her into a weasel.

A few months after Heracles, son of Zeus by Alcmene, was born, Hera sent two serpents to kill him as a he lay in his cot. Heracles throttled a single snake in each hand and was found by his nurse playing with their limp bodies as if they were child's toys.

One account of the origin of the Milky Way is that Zeus had tricked Hera into nursing the infant Heracles: discovering who he was, she had pulled him from her breast, and a spurt of her milk formed the smear across the sky that can be seen to this day.

The Twelve Labors

Hera attempted to make almost each one of Heracles' twelve labors more difficult than they needed to be.

When he fought the Lernaean Hydra, she sent a crab to bite at his feet in the hopes of distracting him.

Eurystheus wanted to sacrifice Cretan Bull to Hera, who hated Heracles. She refused the sacrifice because it reflected glory on Heracles. The bull was released and wandered to Marathon, becoming known as the Marathonian Bull.

To annoy Heracles after he took the cattle of Geryon, Hera sent a gadfly to bite the cattle, irritate them and scatter them. Hera then sent a flood which raised the water level of a river so much Heracles could not ford the river with the cattle. He piled stones into the river to make the water shallower. When he finally reached the court of Eurystheus, the cattle were sacrificed to Hera.

Io

Hera almost caught Zeus with a mistress named Io, a fate avoided by Zeus turning Io into a beautiful white heifer. However, Hera was not completely fooled and demanded Zeus give her the heifer as a present.

Once Io was given to Hera, she placed her in the charge of Argus to keep her separated from Zeus. Zeus then commanded Hermes to kill Argus, which he did by lulling all one-hundred eyes to sleep. Hera sent a gadfly to sting Io as she wandered the earth.

Lamia

Lamia was a queen of Libya, whom Zeus loved. Hera turned her into a monster (or she killed Lamia's children and the grief turned her into a monster) and murdered their children. Lamia was cursed with the inability to close her eyes so that she would always obsess over the image of her dead children. Zeus gave her the gift to be able to take her eyes out to rest, and then put them back in. Lamia was envious of other mothers and ate their children.

Other Stories Involving Hera

Cydippe

Cydippe, a priestess of Hera, was on her way to a festival in the goddess' honor. The oxen which was to pull her cart were overdue and her sons, Biton and Cleobis pulled the cart the entire way (45 stadia, 8 kilometers). Cydippe was impressed with their devotion to her and her goddess and asked Hera to give her children the best gift a god could give a person. Hera ordained that the brothers would die in their sleep.

Tiresias

As a young man, Tiresias found two snakes mating and hit them with a stick. He was then transformed into a woman. Seven years later, Tiresias did the same thing again and became a man again. A time later, Zeus and Hera asked him which sex, male or female, experienced more pleasure during intercourse. Zeus claimed it was women and vice versa. Tiresias sided with Zeus. Hera struck him blind. Since Zeus could not undo what she had done, he gave him the gift of prophecy.

Chelone

At the marriage of Zeus and Hera, a nymph named Chelone was disrespectful (or refused to attend). Zeus condemned her to eternal silence.

The Trojan War

During the Trojan War, Diomedes fought with Hector and saw Ares fighting on the Trojans' side. Diomedes called for his soldiers to fall back slowly. Hera, Ares' mother, saw Ares' interference and asked Zeus, Ares' father, for permission to drive Ares away from the battlefield. Hera encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares and he threw his spear at the god. Athena drove the spear into Ares' body and he bellowed in pain and fled to Mt. Olympus, forcing the Trojans to fall back.

Hera hated Pelias for having murdered Sidero, his step-grandmother, in a temple to Hera. She later attempted to manipulate Jason and Medea to kill Pelias and succeeded.

Hera, with Zeus, turned King Haemus and Queen Rhodope into mountains (Mt. Balkan and Mt. Despoto, respectively) for their vanity.