Readings for reflection: Hera

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 3.43
At Sybaris a cithara player was singing in the contest they held in honour of Hera, when the Sybarites began to riot on his account, taking up weapons against each other. They player was frightened and took refuge in full dress at the altar of Hera. But even here they did not spare him. Not long after it seemed that blood welled up in the temple of Hera, in the same way as a perpetual spring. The Sybarites sent a delegation to Delphoi and the Pythia responded, ‘Go away from my tripods, there is still blood on your hands, pouring down in quantity, to keep you from my threshold. I shall not deliver oracles to you; you who have killed a servant of the Mousai by the altars of Hera, without respect for the vengeance of the gods. For evildoers the fulfilment of justice is not long in coming, nor can it be put off, even if they should be descendants of Zeus. It hovers over their heads and among their children; misfortune after misfortune stalks their homes.’ Justice was not slow; for having taken up arms against the men of Kroton they were overwhelmed by them, and their city disappeared.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 2.62
When Herakles was eight months old, Hera sent two great serpents to his bed, for she wanted the infant destroyed. Alkmene cried out for Amphitryon, but Herakles woke up and squeezed the serpents to death.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 2.72
It fell to the lot of Herakles to go mad because of the jealousy of Hera. In his madness he threw into a fire his and Megara’s children, as well as two belonging to Iphikles.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 3.28
Hermes took the infant Dionysos to Ino and Athamas, and persuaded them to bring him up as a girl. Incensed, Hera inflicted madness on them, so that Athamas stalked and slew his elder son Learchos on the conviction that he was a deer, while Ino threw Melikertes into a basin of boiling water, and then, carrying both the basin and the corpse of the boy, she jumped to the bottom of the sea. As for Zeus, he escaped Hera’s anger by changing Dionysos into a baby goat. Hermes took him to the Nymphai of Asian Nysa.

Athenaios, Deipnosophistai 12.21
They, then, having carried their luxury and insolence to a great height, at last, when thirty ambassadors came to them from the people of Crotona, slew them all, and threw their bodies down over the wall, and left them there to be eaten by beasts. And this was the beginning of great evils to them, as the Deity was much offended at it. Accordingly, a few days afterwards all their chief magistrates appeared to see the same vision on one night; for they thought that they saw Hera coming into the midst of the market-place, and vomiting gall; and a spring of blood arose in her temple. But even then they did not desist from their arrogance, until they were all destroyed by the Crotonians. But Heraclides of Pontus, in his treatise On Justice, says,—“The Sybarites having put down the tyranny of Telys, and having destroyed all those who had exercised authority, met them and slew them at the altars of the gods. And at the sight of this slaughter the statue of Hera turned itself away, and the floor sent up a fountain of blood, so that they were forced to cover all the place around with brazen tablets, wishing to stop the rising of the blood: on which account they were all driven from their city and destroyed. And they had also been desirous to obscure the glory of the famous games at Olympia; for watching the time when they are celebrated, they attempted to draw over the athletes to their side by the extravagance of the prizes which they offered.”

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.2.1
Semele was loved by Zeus because of her beauty, but since he had his intercourse with her secretly and without speech she thought that the god despised her; consequently she made the request of him that he come to her embraces in the same manner as in his approaches to Hera. Accordingly, Zeus visited her in a way befitting a god, accompanied by thundering and lightning, revealing himself to her as he embraced her; but Semele, who was pregnant and unable to endure the majesty of the divine presence, brought forth the babe untimely and was herself slain by the fire. Thereupon Zeus, taking up the child, handed it over to the care of Hermes, and ordered him to take it to the cave in Nysa . . . where he should deliver it to the Nymphai.

Homer, Iliad 14.231
There in Lemnos Hera encountered Hypnos, the brother of Thanatos. She clung fast to his hand and spoke a word and called him by name: ‘Hypnos … do as I ask; and all my days I shall know gratitude. Put to sleep the shining eyes of Zeus under his brows as soon as I have lain beside him in love …’

Then Hypnos the still and soft spoke to her in answer: ‘Hera, honoured goddess and daughter of mighty Kronos, any other one of the gods, whose race is immortal, I would lightly put to sleep but I would not come too close to Zeus, the son of Kronos, nor put him to sleep, unless he himself were to tell me …’

Then in turn the lady ox-eyed Hera answered him: ‘Hypnos, why do you ponder this in your heart, and hesitate? Or do you think that Zeus of the wide brows, aiding the Trojans, will be angry as he was angry for his son, Herakles? Come now, do it, and I will give you one of the younger Charites for you to marry, and she shall be called by you lady; Pasithea, since all your days you have loved her forever.’

So she spoke, and Hypnos was pleased and spoke to her in answer: ‘Come then! Swear it to me on Styx’s ineluctable water. With one hand take hold of the prospering earth, with the other take hold of the shining salt sea, so that all the undergods who gather about Kronos may be witnesses to us. Swear that you will give me one of the younger Charites, Pasithea, the one whom all my days I have longed for.’

He spoke, nor failed to persuade the goddess Hera of the white arms, and she swore as he commanded, and called by their names on all those gods who live beneath the Pit, and who are called Titans.

Hyginus, Astronomica 2.3
Constellation Serpens; he is said to have guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, and after Hercules killed him, to have been put by Juno among the stars. He is considered the usual watchman of the Gardens of Juno. Pherecydes says that when Jupiter wed Juno, Terra came, bearing branches with golden applies, and Juno, in admiration, asked Terra to plant them in her gardens near distant Mount Atlas. When Atlas’ daughters kept picking the apples from the trees, Juno is said to have placed this guardian there.

Hyginus, Astronomica 2.23
In one part of the constellation Cancer there are certain stars called Asses, pictured on the shell of the Crab by Liber with two stars only. For Liber, when madness was sent upon him by Juno, is said to have fled wildly through Thesprotia intending to reach the oracle of Dodonaean Jove to ask how he might recover his former sanity. When he came to a certain large swamp which he couldn’t cross, it is said two asses met him. He caught one of them and in this way was carried across, not touching the water at all. So when he came to the temple of Dodonaean Jove, freed at once from his madness, he acknowledged his tanks to the asses and placed them among the constellations. Some say he gave a human voice to the ass which had carried him. This ass later had a contest with Priapus on a matter of physique, but was defeated and killed by him. Pitying him because of this, Liber numbered him among the stars, and so that it should be known that he did this as a god, not as a timid man fleeing from Juno, he placed him above the Crab which had been added to the stars by her kindness.

Hyginus, Fabulae 166
When Vulcan had made golden thrones for Jove and for the other gods, he made one of adamant for Juno, and as soon as she sat down she suddenly found herself hanging in the air. When Vulcan was summoned to free his mother whom he had bound, in anger because he had been thrown from Heaven, he denied that he had a mother. When Father Liber had brought him back drunk to the council of the gods, he could not refuse this filial duty.

Kallimachos, Iambi Fragment 202
Mousa, I will sing for the little maid …  once when Hera was celebrating the feast of the seventh day of her daughter’s birth, the gods sitting on Olympos quarrelled, who would honour the child with the most beautiful gift … Tritonis brought many toys of cunning workmanship shrewdly carved, toys more precious than gold.

Libanios, Progymnasmata Narration 7
Hera hurled Hephaistos down from heaven, ashamed at her son’s lameness, but he made use of his skill. Having been rescued in the ocean by sea divinities he made many glorious things – some for Eurynome, some for Thetis, by whom he had been saved – but he also built a throne with invisible chains and sent it as a gift to his mother. And she was very delighted with the gift and she sat on it and found herself trapped, and there was no one to release her. A council of the gods was held to discuss returning Hephaistos to heaven; for as they thought he was the only one who could release her. So while the other gods remained silent and were at a loss for a solution, Ares undertook to do something, and when he got there, he accomplished nothing, but quit in disgrace when Hephaistos threatened him with blazing torches. Since Hera was in such great distress, Dionysos came with wine and, by making Hephaistos drunk, compelled him to follow through persuasive speech. When he came and released his mother he made Dionysos Hera’s benefactor, and she, rewarding him, convinced the heavenly gods that Dionysos, to should be one of the heavenly gods.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 8.402 ff
Semele saw her fiery end, and perished rejoicing in a childbearing death. In one bridal chamber could be seen Himeros, Eileithyia, and the Erinyes together. So the babe half-grown, and his limbs washed with heavenly fire, was carried by Hermes to his father for the lying-in. Zeus was able to change the mind of jealous Hera, to calm and undo the savage threatening resentment which burdened her. Semele consumed by the fire he translated into the starry vault; he gave the mother of Bakchos a home in the sky among the heavenly inhabitants, as one of Hera’s family, as daughter of Harmonia sprung from both Ares and Aphrodite. So her new body bathed in the purifying fire ((lacuna)) she received the immortal life of the Olympians. Instead of Kadmos and the soil of earth, instead of Autonoe and Agave, she found Artemis by her side, she had converse with Athena, she received the heavens as her wedding-gift, sitting at one table with Zeus and Hermes and Ares and Kythereia.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 9.136 ff
And again Hera would have destroyed the son of Zeus but Hermes caught him up, and carried him to the wooded ridge where Kybele dwelt. Moving fast, Hera ran swift-shoe on quick feet from high heaven; but he was before her, and assumed the eternal shape of first-born Phanes. Hera in respect for the most ancient of the gods, gave him place and bowed before the radiance of the deceiving face, not knowing the borrowed shape for a fraud. So Hermes passed over the mountain tract with quicker step than hers, carrying the horned child folded in his arms, and gave it to Rheia, nurse of lions, mother of Father Zeus, and said these few words to the goddess mother of the greatest: ‘Receive, goddess, a new son of your Zeus! He is to fight with the Indians, and when he has done with earth he will come into the starry sky, to the great joy of resentful Hera! Indeed it is not proper that Ino should be nurse to one whom Zeus brought forth. Let the mother of Zeus be nanny to Dionysos – mother of Zeus and nurse of her grandson!’ This said he put off the higher shape of selfborn Phanes and put on his own form again, leaving Bakchos to grow a second time in the Meter’s nurture.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 35. 333
After Dionysos was reconciled with Hera in heaven, she wished to give him Hebe’s hand in marriage, had not Zeus our Lord on High ordained that in days to come twelvelabour Herakles was fated to be her husband.

P. Oxy. 670, 3-12 &16-22
He tricked you and put you in hellish fetters. Who could set you free, my dear? A painful belt encircles your body, while he, heeding neither command nor entreaty, has formed an unshakeable resolve in his heart. It’s a cruel son you have borne, sister … crafty, even though a cripple … in front of … feet good … Let us find out if he will soften his heart of iron. For there are two clever sons of mine at hand to help with your suffering. There is Ares, who has raised his keen spear, a thick-hide fighter … to look and brandish …; and there is also Dionysos.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.20. 2-3
There are paintings here — Dionysos bringing Hephaistos up to heaven. One of the Greek legends is that Hephaistos, when he was born, was thrown down by Hera. In revenge he sent as a gift a golden chair with invisible fetters. When Hera sat down she was held fast, and Hephaistos refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysos — in him he reposed the fullest trust – and after making him drunk Dionysos brought him to heaven.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.13.3
On the Phliasian citadel is a grove of cypress trees and a sanctuary which from ancient times has been held to be peculiarly holy. The earliest Phliasians named the goddess to whom the sanctuary belongs Ganymeda; but later authorities call her Hebe, whom Homer mentions in the duel between Menelaos and Alexandros, saying that she was the cup-bearer of the gods; and again he says, in the descent of Odysseus to Haides, that she was the wife of Herakles. Olen, in his hymn to Hera, says that Hera was reared by the Horai, and that her children were Ares and Hebe. Of the honours that the Phliasians pay to this goddess the greatest is the pardoning of suppliants. All those who seek sanctuary here receive full forgiveness, and prisoners, when set free, dedicate their fetters on the trees in the grove. The Phliasians also celebrate a yearly festival which they call Kissotomoi (Ivy-cutters). There is no image, either kept in secret of openly displayed, and the reason for this is set forth in a sacred legend of theirs though on the left as you go out is a temple of Hera with an image of Parian marble.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.17.1-7
Fifteen stades distant from Mykenai is on the left the Heraion. Beside the road flows the brook called Water of Freedom. The priestesses use it in purifications and for such sacrifices as are secret. The sanctuary itself is on a lower part of Euboia. Euboia is the name they give to the hill here, saying that Asterion the river had three daughters, Euboia, Prosymna, and Akraia, and that they were nurses of Hera. The hill opposite the Heraion they name after Akraia, the environs of the sanctuary they name after Euboia, and the land beneath the Heraion after Prosymna. This Asterion flows above the Heraion, and falling into a cleft disappears. On its banks grows a plant, which also is called Asterion. They offer the plant itself to Hera, and from its leaves weave her garlands. It is said that the architect of the temple was Eupolemos, an Argive. The sculptures carved above the pillars refer either to the birth of Zeus and the battle between the Gods and the Giants, or to the Trojan war and the capture of Ilium. Before the entrance stand statues of women who have been priestesses to Hera and of various heroes, including Orestes. They say that Orestes is the one with the inscription, that it represents the Emperor Augustus. In the fore-temple are on the one side ancient statues of the Charites, and on the right a couch of Hera and a votive offering, the shield which Menelaus once took from Euphorbos at Troy. The statue of Hera is seated on a throne; it is huge, made of gold and ivory, and is a work of Polykleitos. She is wearing a crown with Charites and Horai worked upon it, and in one hand she carries a pomegranate and in the other a sceptre. About the pomegranate I must say nothing, for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery. The presence of a cuckoo seated on the sceptre they explain by the story that when Zeus was in love with Hera in her maidenhood he changed himself into this bird, and she caught it to be her pet. This tale and similar legends about the gods I relate without believing them, but I relate them nevertheless. By the side of Hera stands what is said to be an image of Hebe fashioned by Naukydes; it, too, is of ivory and gold. By its side is an old image of Hera on a pillar. The oldest image is made of wild-pear wood, and was dedicated in Tiryns by Peirasos, son of Argos, and when the Argives destroyed Tiryns they carried it away to the Heraion. I myself saw it, a small, seated image. Of the votive offerings the following are noteworthy. There is an altar upon which is wrought in relief the fabled marriage of Hebe and Herakles. This is of silver, but the peacock dedicated by the Emperor Hadrian is of gold and gleaming stones. He dedicated it because they hold the bird to be sacred to Hera. There lie here a golden crown and a purple robe, offerings of Nero. Above this temple are the foundations of the earlier temple and such parts of it as were spared by the flames. It was burnt down because sleep overpowered Khryseis, the priestess of Hera, when the lamp before the wreaths set fire to them. Khryseis went to Tegea and supplicated Athena Alea. Although so great a disaster had befallen them the Argives did not take down the statue of Khryseis; it is still in position in front of the burnt temple.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.22.1
The temple of Hera Antheia (Flowery) is on the right of the sanctuary of Leto, and before it is a grave of women. They were killed in a battle against the Argives under Perseus, having come from the Aegean Islands to help Dionysos in war.


Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.25.10
Above Lessa is Mount Arachnaios and on it are altars to Zeus and Hera. When rain is needed they sacrifice to them here.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.15.9
The Lakedaimonians are the only Greeks who surname Hera Aigophagos (Goat-eater), and sacrifice goats to the goddess. They say that Herakles founded the sanctuary and was the first to sacrifice goats, because in his fight against Hippokoon and his children he met with no hindrance from Hera, although in his other adventures he thought that the goddess opposed him. He sacrificed goats, they say, because he lacked other kinds of victim.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.3.6
Kallisto was loved by Zeus and mated with him. When Hera detected the intrigue she turned Kallisto into a bear, and Artemis to please Hera shot the bear. Zeus sent Hermes with orders to save the child Arkas that Kallisto bore in her womb.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.11.3
The Pharmakeai (Witches) were sent by Hera to hinder the birth-pangs of Alkmena. So these kept Alkmena from bringing forth her child. But Historis, the daughter of Teiresias, thought of a trick to deceive the Pharmakeai, and she uttered a loud cry of joy in their hearing, that Alkmena had been delivered. So the story goes that the Pharmakeai were deceived and went away, and Alkmena brought forth her child.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 34. 3
At Koroneia in Boiotia is a sanctuary of Hera; in her hands she carried the Sirens. For the story goes that the daughters of Achelous were persuaded by Hera to compete with the Mousai in singing. The Mousai won, plucked out the Seirenes’ feathers and made crowns for themselves out of them.

Plato, Laws 672b
There is a secret stream of story and report to the effect that the god Dionysos was robbed of his soul’s judgment by his stepmother Hera, and that in vengeance therefore he brought in Bacchic rites and all the frenzied choristry, and with the same aim bestowed also the gift of wine.

Stephanos Byzantios, Ethnica s.v. Νάξος
An island in the Kyklades, the eminent one, named after Naxos, the leader of the Karians. Others say that it it was named after Naxos, son of Endymion. And Euphorion says it was named from the word naxai (‘piling up’), which some use to refer to sacrificing. Asklepiades tells a story that Naxian women alone give birth after eight months of gestation, either because Hera, being dear to Dionysos, gave this gift to the Naxian women, or because Dionysos himself was born thus. He says also that there is a fountain there from which very sweet wine flows.

Suidas s.v. Kroisos
Kleobis and Biton, Argives by birth, whose mother Theano or Kydippe was a priestess and intended to lead a procession in the traditional festival in a wagon as far as the temple of Hera; as the oxen were delayed, her sons bent their own necks and dragged the wagon and took their mother to the precinct. And after their mother had prayed to Hera that the most beautiful thing for men might come to them, in the following night they were found dead.