Who is Hera? - Greek Goddess Hera
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Who is Hera?

Hera
Hera (on the left) on the
Siphnian Treasury at Delphi (500s BC)

October 2016 - Hera is the sister and wife of Zeus (the Greeks did not approve of this arrangement for real people but, like the Egyptians, they thought it was okay for gods). So Hera, like Zeus, is the daughter of Earth (Rhea) and Time (Chronos). People were worshipping Hera in Greece as early as the Bronze Age - she probably came to Greece from Central Asia with the Yamnaya people, about 2000 BC.

standing woman before seated man
Hera's marriage to Zeus (Pompeii, ca. 79 AD)

Among the Greek gods, Hera was responsible for marriage and the family. Greek men thought of her as mean and selfish and generally unpleasant to be around, like their idea of a nagging wife. She's always getting mad at Zeus about something. But people did sacrifice to her, especially at a wedding, as Indians did to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.


Echo and Narcissus

Hera is the mother of Hephaistos, the god of volcanoes and blacksmithing. That's appropriate, because she is an Earth goddess and volcanoes are born out of the earth. She's also the mother of Hebe, the goddess of youth, and Ares, the god of war (maybe because she is associated with agons). Different Greek story-tellers disagreed about whether Hera's husband Zeus was the father of these children, or maybe Hera just made them on her own, with no father.

Throughout all the stories, Hera spends a lot of her time trying to get back at Zeus for having other girlfriends besides her. When one of Zeus's girlfriends has a baby, Hera hates that baby and tries to get rid of it. The most famous of these babies is Hercules, who was the son of Zeus and a human woman named Alcmena. Another famous story about Hera is the one about Echo and Narcissus.

People kept on worshipping Hera - often by her Roman name, Juno - all over the Roman Empire until the 300s AD, when most people became Christians and stopped worshipping the older gods.

Learn by doing: Greek Gods Bingo
More about Juno
More about Zeus

Bibliography and further reading about Hera:

We Goddesses: Athena, Aphrodite, Hera by Doris Orgel and Marilee Heyer. With a feminist view.

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire.

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1987). By a leading expert. He has sections on each of the Greek gods, and discusses their deeper meanings, and their function in Greek society.

More about Isis
More about Lakshmi
More about Zeus
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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