1902 Encyclopedia > Hera


HERA, a word of which many different derivations have been proposed, is the name of a Greek goddess, corre-sponding to the Latin Juno, who according to the conventional type is the wife of Zeus and queen among the gods of Olympus. In the literature of the Greeks Hera fills a very conspicuous place—the strong, haughty, and rebellious character, full of intense hatreds and likings, which was associated with her, made her a pic-turesque and dramatic figure. According to this concep-tion of her, she was daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and at once sister and wife of Zeus. She was always the bitter enemy of all the heroines who were the successive objects of her husband's love, and her persecution of them and of their children often forms the theme of poets from the Iliad (xxiii. 119) downwards. This type, which is the familiar one in all literature, had never any real existence in religion ; but had been gradually elaborated by poets from the actual deity worshipped in various parts of Greece, and from the legends transmitted to the Greeks from earlier races.

The most characteristic and fundamental point in the worship of Hera is the íepós yá/xos, her marriage with Zeus; and from this any explanation of the conception involved in the goddess must start. Again in Greek legend we learn that a close connexion exists between Hera and the cow, and that probably she was originally thought to have the form, of a cow. These facts at once direct us to the ancient Aryan idea, described in detail by Gubernatis (Zoolog. Mythol., i.), that the divine power as the origin of all life is embodied in a pair of gods male and female, whose fertility leads to the conception of them as a bull and a cow. This pair, the bull and the cow, appear in various fantastic developments in Greek legend. For example, Zeus himself in the form of a bull carries off Europa; and we learn from Hesychius that Europia is an epithet of Hera. Look-ing at the matter from this point of view, we find that the question so much disputed among mythologers, whether the naturalistic conception out of which the Greek goddess has developed be earth or moon, is a mere matter of words, and that there is no real discrepancy between the two views. The free and vague conceptions of primitive men refuse to be shut into the precise circumscribed terminology of modern thought. Ideas which to us are very different were once expressed by the same root (see Curtius, Grundz., iii. 284, No. 415). Thus we have in the Rig Veda, vi. 51, 5, a clear trace of the view so common in all mythologies, whether in the theogony of Hesiod or of the New-Zealanders, that Heaven and Earth are the primitive pair of deities, parents of all existence and first of the gods. This view is of peculiar importance in old Roman religion (cf. Schwegler, Born. Gesch., i. 328, 422, &c), and also among the older Pelasgic tribes of Greece. But this same divine power the primitive Aryans beheld in all the great operations of nature; in each they saw the prototype of all earthly works, and in seeking here the origin of life, they found it in the same divine pair, the bull and the cow. In particular, the various alternations of light and darkness appealed to their minds most strongly, and occupy great part of their mythology. In the transitions between light and darkness, and especially in the struggle between night and day, the idea of a pair is not so prominent; and in legends the marriage of moon and sun does not figure very conspicuously. Yet we sometimes find the marriage of the moon and sun described exactly in the way of this Upbg ya/Aos. In Rig Veda, x. 85, it is the type of all earthly marriage (see Weber, hid. Stud., v. 178). A Slavonic story makes the marriage of moon and sun annual: they part every winter and meet again in the first days of spring; and a Lettish song makes the marriage of moon and sun in spring (Mannhardt in Zft. f. Ethnol., 1875, p. 316). The moon too is often symbolized as a cow. The mystic union takes place in the spring when life returns to the earth, and the voice of the cuckoo is heard in the land. Hence in the legend Zeus, enamoured of his sister Hera, is said to have flown to her in the form of a cuckoo dripping wet, and to have been in pity received into her bosom. In various parts of Greece where traces of the ruder tribes are strongest, there remains a coarser conception of this union, and in the popular accounts the marriage customs of the country are reflected (see Welcker, Gr. Gbtterl., i. 364 ff.). Lectum in the Trojan Ida and Ocha in Eubcea, on the summits of which this union is placed by the legends of the countries, received their names from it. As we might expect, this idea is too purely naturalistic to form any part of the moral Olympian religion. Hera appears there as the wife of Zeus, but all deeper meaning has disappeared. The old tale remains in the mythological legends, which always clung as a degrading appendage to this religion, and we find it in Homer (II., xiv. 294) trans-formed into an incident of the Trojan war. In the popular religion, however, Hera, as first the virgin, then the sacred bride, and finally the lawful wife of Zeus and the patron of all marriage, is a very prominent figure. Every year the festival of Hera was celebrated with special reference to this union in Argos, Samos, Elis, Platsea, and many other parts of Greece. The festival took place in a month named raju/iyAioV at Athens, 'Hpaios in some other parts of Greece. Hence we have such epithets of Hera as Ni^^, wfj.-favofiievr], TtXcia, ya^Aia ; and the bridal veil is one of her most frequent attributes. Hera was married to Zeus in early youth, and knew no other marriage. Hence she is the patron goddess of all married women, the protectress of the sanctity of marriage; and she demands the utmost purity from her votaries. In this respect Hera approaches closely to Demeter Thesmophoros. As the winter is a time of barrenness and separation, so we have in Arcadian, Argive, and Samian legend the angry Hera, the widow Hera, separated from her husband.

Other points in Hera again point directly to the moon. Like all other forms of the moon-goddess (see HECATE), she presided over child-birth, and under the epithet d\aOvia was invoked by women in labour. This idea arises from the moon's use as measurer of time and numberer of the months. Then the epithet became gradually developed as a daughter, or set of daughters, of Hera, named Eileithyise. Beauty is another characteristic of all moon-goddesses, and of Hera also. In her festival at Lemnos prizes were assigned after a contest to the most beautiful woman. Large eyes were part of the artistic type, and /?o£m,s is one of her most constant epithets in literature.

Eubcea, the very word being an epithet of the goddess, was one of the chief seats of the worship of Hera. So in Bceotia, her temples both at Thespise and at Plataea were famous. In the Iliad, Argos, Sparta, and Mycenae are the cities which she specially protects and loves. Argos was always one of the chief seats of her worship, and the Heraion there was one of the chief temples of Greece. At Olympia also was a very ancient temple, the Heraion, the ruins of which have been recently brought to view by the German exploring expedition. At the Lacinian promontory Hera was the patroness of the union first of the Achaean cities and afterwards of a wider circle of the Greek colonies. But the Hera of Samos was perhaps the most famous and most characteristic appearance of the goddess. There the Greek goddess was amalgamated with another, who was worshipped by the kindred tribes among whom the Greeks settled, and who is clearly the same as the Artemis of Ephesus or Clazomenae; and so on coins of Samos we find Hera standing with the sun and moon on either side of her head, exactly like Artemis on coins of Ephesus.

"We find such rude images of Hera as a plank at Samos, or a branch at Thespise. A very ancient statue by Smilis stood in her temple at Samos ; the goddess, veiled, stood erect, clad in a long chiton, holding in each of her outstretched hands a <pid\ri. In the earlier vase-paintings she is hardly to be distinguished from Artemis. She appears, just like Artemis, carrying torch and bow, and wear- ing the kalatlios or the Stephanos ; and several figures which others consider to be Artemis, are by Overbeck explained as Hera. In representations of the Judgment of Paris there is often nothing to distinguish her from Aphrodite. Her characteristic symbols are the veil or sceptre, and she often carries a fruit. Numerous vase- paintings, representing a bridal procession, which Forster (Zeus und Hera's Hochzeit) believes to represent the Uphs yafios, are by Jahn and Overbeck shown to be an earthly marriage escorted by deities. Overbeck [Hera, p. 174) maintains that only three certain repre- sentations of this scene exist. The colossal statue by Polycletus in the Heraion at Argos showed her enthroned, wearing the areijxlvri, holding in one hand a pomegranate and in the other a sceptre, on the top of which was a cuckoo. There is no evidence to determine what was the character of the face, nor what share it had in deter- mining the ideal type of Hera (Overbeck, I.e., p. 51). The Farnese bust at Naples represents a type more antique than the style of Polycletus. Praxiteles made three great statues of Hera, at Megara, Mantinea, and Platsea. The last, which represented Hera Teleia standing, is known to us by many imitations in the Vatican and elsewhere. From the works of these two great artists we may sup- pose that the highest type of Hera was elaborated in the Athenian school about the middle of the 4th century, and in the famous bust of the Villa Ludovisi it is probable that we have the actual work in which this type was first attained. This bust, which has been often described, and especially by Goethe, was probably once the head of a colossal seated statue. (W. M. RA.)

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