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

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

Hera is the sister and wife of Zeus (the Greeks did not approve of this arrangement for real people but they thought it was okay for gods). (The Egyptian goddesses also married their brothers). So Hera, like Zeus, is the daughter of Earth (Rhea) and Time (Chronos).

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

Hera was responsible for marriage and the family, and Greek men thought of her as mean and selfish and generally unpleasant to be around. She's always getting mad at Zeus about something. But people did sacrifice to her, especially at a wedding.

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.

Learn by doing: Greek Gods Bingo
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 Zeus
Ancient Greece
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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