Hera: icon of womanhood or original desperate housewife?

header-Hera-Mythos-second-life

Of all the Olympian Gods, no other had fascinated nor closely aligned to me as Hera. However, I am often left to wonder what really compelled her to be as history recounts her. The myths that have been remembered most readily paint a portrait of a jealous and prideful woman. Yet to the ancients Hera held a following equaled to that of her lofty husband, the all-powerful Zeus.

To debate the Goddess and her nature would not be fair without first defining the role to which she would serve to the ancient Greeks. Hera was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and sister and wife to Zeus, to whom she had ruled from the heights of Olympus both Gods and Men. Her patronage leant way to women, marriage, family, and childbirth. According to the writer Walter Burkert, she had been a great Pre-Greek Goddess, whose cult centered at the Heraion of the island of Samos.

Heraion of Samos

In the beginning following her birth Hera the eldest daughter of Cronos and Rhea. Following the releasing from the belly of her father with her siblings, she was raised by the Oceanus and Tethys. Virginal and tender had been the Goddess’ early Nature. Yet, this had also caught the eye of Zeus. Whom to evade the words of the oracle had swallowed his first wife, Metis the Titan of wisdom, skill, and craft. As the stories tell Hera knew of Zeus’ ways and she wished nothing to do with him. She evaded his advances upon her. Still he tried to persuade her, trick after trick to win her affections. Gifts showered her, to win her hand. Many forms of the myths exist, the same motive shines through, the possibility of all Zeus’ conquests. Hera most seemingly had been for love. At least it is in my opinion this was the case in the beginning. As she was the only to deny him so ardently.

Hera and Zeus shared a honeymoon of 600 year. 

The honeymoon were not to last.

Zeus would return to his old ways


Zeus, being one to not give up, disguised himself as a cuckoo, fallen from a nest, which played upon the maternal side of the young Goddess. Hera lifted the helpless creature between her breast to warm it from the chill of the air. Only to find it was not a bird but the trickery of Zeus to be close and over take her. From which point she submitted and wed him. Together they shared a honeymoon of 600 years. In bliss and happiness. Only her did Zeus lay with, and she bore him children: Angelos, Ares, Eileithyia, Hebe, Hephaestus. The honeymoon were not to last. Zeus would return to his old ways.

Zeus and Hera

Hera had gone from the virgin, to the mother,

now with each new child born out of her union,

a cold nature would seed her heart

Hera too would change in the wake of the wake to the bliss that was the honeymoon of her marriage to the King of the Heavens. She had gone from the virgin, to the mother, now with each new child born out of her union, a cold nature would seed her heart. The once loving dutiful wife becomes vengeful. It is here we will look at the Goddess indepthly.

The freedoms of Women were far more limited

by the standards in Ancient Greek daily life

The Hellenic world when compared to modern times, was a world of complete parallels. The freedoms of Women were far more limited by the standards in Ancient Greek daily life. Men had the freedoms to come and go, and to act according to the impulses that they had. Women who were given greater responsibility to control their urges. They were to always be under the protection of a male. They were seen as the property of the Eldest male ortheir husbands. To go into the Market alone was to risk everything including ones own reputation and safety. Many women would remain within the home tending to the chores and the children, as the men were out. This was the world to which Hera from Olympus ruled. These were the women that would pray to her for guidance. They looked to her for the type of woman and wife that they should be.

Hera was a Goddess that stood up to the neglect,

the indignity, and infidelity of her male counterpart

Let us not forget that Greek culture was a male dominated society, a “boysclub” so to speak. There for in many ways, Hera was given harsh traits by writers, but from the women that followed her, the stories that seldom had been written down. The goddess was sung praises too. One need only look to the number of her temples to realize, She was not as Ares, nor was she as Hades. A God to be feared and spoken of in whispered tones. She was a Goddess that stood up to the neglect, the indignity, and infidelity of her male counterpart. Doing what in the rules of the world, she ruled she was allotted to do. Punishing her husband was not in her favor. To do so would shame her and her place. Aligning to the minds of the men around her. To go after his seductress; that was fair game. The Ancient Greeks often found the woman at fault. Even in the rape of Medusa, Athena deemed Medusa the catalyst to cause the sacrilege to the temple.

Hera

To close, I wish that this essay has shed some light on a misunderstood character of the Greco-Roman world. Allowing you to see she was not always the woman we hear of today. Hera was a product of a different time, and the life she endured. The sum the men in her life from her father, to her husband adding to the creation of the Hera we know today.

I will leave you with the words of a song, sung by Ricky Van Shelton, and written by Harlan Howard. It is one that I have always attributed to Hera:

“If she seems cold and bitter, then I beg you.

Just stop and consider all she’s gone through.

Don’t be quick to condemn her for things she might say.

Just remember life turned her that way.”

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