Hera (Greek Ἥρα) is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno.
Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy.
Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus’s lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris also earned Hera’s hatred by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess.
The name of Hera admits a variety of mutually exclusive etymologies; one possibility is to connect it with Greek ὥρα hōra, season, and to interpret it as ripe for marriage and according to Plato ἐρατή eratē, “beloved” as Zeus is said to have married her for love. According to Plutarch, Hera was an allegorical name and an anagram of aēr (ἀήρ, “air”).
Hera may have been the first to whom the Greeks dedicated an enclosed roofed temple sanctuary, at Samos about 800 BC. It was replaced later by the Heraion, one of the largest Greek temples anywhere (Greek altars were in front of the temples, under the open sky). There were many temples built on this site so evidence is somewhat confusing and archaeological dates are uncertain.
We know that the temple created by the Rhoecus sculptors and architects was destroyed between 570- 60 BC. This was replaced by the Polycratean temple 540-530 BC. In one of these temples we see a forest of 155 columns. There is also no evidence of tiles on this temple suggesting either the temple was never finished or that the temple was open to the sky.
Earlier sanctuaries, whose dedication to Hera is less secure, were of the Mycenaean type called “house sanctuaries”. Samos excavations have revealed votive offerings, many of them late 8th and 7th centuries BC, which show that Hera at Samos was not merely a local Greek goddess of the Aegean: the museum there contains figures of gods and suppliants and other votive offerings from Armenia, Babylon, Iran, Assyria, Egypt, testimony to the reputation which this sanctuary of Hera enjoyed and to the large influx of pilgrims. Compared to this mighty goddess, who also possessed the earliest temple at Olympia and two of the great fifth and sixth century temples of Paestum, the termagant of Homer and the myths is an “almost…comic figure”.
Though greatest and earliest free-standing temple to Hera was the Heraion of Samos, in the Greek mainland Hera was especially worshipped as “Argive Hera” (Hera Argeia) at her sanctuary that stood between the former Mycenaean city-states of Argos and Mycenae, where the festivals in her honor called Heraia were celebrated. “The three cities I love best,” the ox-eyed Queen of Heaven declares (Iliad, book iv) “are Argos, Sparta and Mycenae of the broad streets.” There were also temples to Hera in Olympia, Corinth, Tiryns, Perachora and the sacred island of Delos. In Magna Graecia, two Doric temples to Hera were constructed at Paestum, about 550 BC and about 450 BC. One of them, long called the Temple of Poseidon was identified in the 1950s as a second temple there of Hera.
In Euboea the festival of the Great Daedala, sacred to Hera, was celebrated on a sixty-year cycle.
Hera’s importance in the early archaic period is attested by the large building projects undertaken in her honor. The temples of Hera in the two main centers of her cult, the Heraion of Samos and the Heraion of Argos in the Argolid, were the very earliest monumental Greek temples constructed, in the 8th century BC.
In the Temple of Hera at Olympia, Hera’s seated cult figure was older than the warrior figure of Zeus that accompanied it. Homer expressed her relationship with Zeus delicately in the Iliad, in which she declares to Zeus, “I am Cronus’ eldest daughter, and am honourable not on this ground only, but also because I am your wife, and you are king of the gods.” Though Zeus is often called Zeus Heraios ‘Zeus, (consort) of Hera’, Homer’s treatment of Hera is less than respectful, and in late anecdotal versions of the myths (see below) she appeared to spend most of her time plotting revenge on the nymphs seduced by her Consort, for Hera upheld all the old right rules of Hellene society and sorority.
Hera was most known as the matron goddess, Hera Teleia; but she presided over weddings as well. In myth and cult, fragmentary references and archaic practices remain of the sacred marriage of Hera and Zeus, and at Plataea, there was a sculpture of Hera seated as a bride by Callimachus, as well as the matronly standing Hera.
Hera was also worshipped as a virgin: there was a tradition in Stymphalia in Arcadia that there had been a triple shrine to Hera the Girl (Παις [Pais]), the Adult Woman (Τελεια [Teleia]), and the Separated (Χήρη [Chḗrē] ‘Widowed’ or ‘Divorced’). In the region around Argos, the temple of Hera in Hermione near Argos was to Hera the Virgin. At the spring of Kanathos, close to Nauplia, Hera renewed her virginity annually, in rites that were not to be spoken of (arrheton). The Female figure, showing her “Moon” over the lake is also appropriate, as Hebe, Hera, and Hecate; new moon, full moon, and old moon in that order and otherwise personified as the Virgin of spring, The Mother of Summer, and the destroying Crone of Autumn. Source Wikipedia.
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