Free Term Paper About The Myth Of Hera The Jealous Goddess Of Heaven
The Ancient Greeks worshiped many gods. Of the twelve gods associated with Mount Olympus, they called theme he Olympian gods. Hera was one of these gods, and she was a female goddess with all the attributes of woman, mother, jealous wife, and protectress of Greece. In the pattern of Greek culture and history, the gods the Greeks worshiped were divine human-like figures of humanity. In other words, the Greeks made their gods and goddesses fully human but filled with heavenly power. Hera is no different in this respect. In this paper, the attributes and contradictions of Hera will be discussed, as well as her powers, her depiction in art, and her role as both matron and spurned lover.
Hera was a goddess worshiped by the Greeks and invoked in issues related to childbirth and marriage (Bierlein 60). Aristophanes talks about wedding hymns being sung to honor the marriage between Hera and Zeus in his comedy Birds (Aristophanes). Rituals of her marriage to Zeus were actually re-enacted at Knoss (Elderkin 424). She is the daughter of the Titans, Rhea, and Cronus, which makes her Zeus’s sister (Berens 31-33). Her own father swallowed her alive and Zeus saved her by tricking Chronos to drink a potion that “disgorged the siblings” (Pausanias Theoi). The heroism of Zeus must have had a nice effect on Hera. In fact, Hera was the wife of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, which made her Queen of Heaven. While Zeus had seven wives, it was Hera who is the most famous. Hera was a popular god for the Greeks. If a god represents the desires of men, Hera represents the desire for love in marriage, the blessing of childbirth, and faithfulness to one’s husband. These attributes and qualities fulfill an ideal desire and the story of Hera herself is far from simple.
Those who worshiped Hera sought out characteristics of royalty and were attracted to those of a kingly character (Plato 253b). Hera’s power was apparently over the air (Berens 31-33). The Romans worshiped her too, but they gave her the name Juno (Bulfinch 3). While Juno and Hera are supposedly synonymous deities, there are significant differences between the two. Juno was certainly more revered as a nice and kind goddess and was a symbol of the trusty housewife (Berens 37). Hera, as the Greeks thought of her, was more complicated, and she often strayed from her image of perfect female motherliness. While she does not divorce Zeus, she makes him suffer for his failures. Hera is not a deity one would want to anger. Plato warned his readers about reading stories that illustrate a wrathful Hera. Even though Hera is of royalty, Plato admonishes people to be careful how gods are depicted in art and literature. Plato thought the gods should be depicted as glorious and was inopportune to tell stories to children that made the gods less than they were (Plato 381-382). For example, Zeus was sexually aroused by Hera and even made himself into a Cuckoo to seduce her and ravage her — us making her his bride, a story that Plato cautioned young people should not hear (Plato 390).
Qualities of Hera
In Greek tradition, Hera is the embodiment of matronly virtue, and she was true to her husband Zeus and never cheated on him (Berens 32). Nonetheless, Hera is depicted in many of the Greek and Roman stories as a tempestuous character. In Homer’s epic story The Iliad, Hera takes sides and shows favoritism to the Greeks because Paris spurns her in a beauty contest. She is one of the three from whom Paris must judge as the fairest. Hera promised Paris the dominion over the lands she controlled (Berens 33). When Paris did not choose her — whom she thought for sure he would — she vowed to seek revenge on the Trojans. In the Trojan war, as depicted in Homer’s story The Iliad, the gods and goddesses are shown as taking sides. Zeus side with the Trojans, while Hera vehemently sides with the Greeks. Homer does not create a very nice picture of Hera, is not of a very amiable kind, and its main features are jealousy, obstinacy, and a quarrelling disposition, which sometimes makes her own husband tremble” (Theoi “Hera”). Hera becomes angry at Zeus for taking sides with Thetis, Achilles’ mother, who begs him to help the Trojans (Homer 27-29). In a humorous exchange, Hephaestus tells Hera to stop quarreling with Zeus for it is ruining all the gods' fun (Homer 75-77). He tells her there will no more pleasure in our feasts (Homer 77). Even though thousands of Trojans and Greeks have died because of their argument, the gods actions seem to be motivated above and beyond the physical and emotional needs of men and women.
Hera was never fond of Zeus’s children he sired from different women. In fact, according to one myth Zeus would send Echo to Hera to keep her occupied with stories she Zeus could have dalliances with girls and boys (Bierlein 180). Zeus’s sexual escapades were many. He had sex with the handsome boy Ganymede as well as the beautiful maiden Semele. In Euripides play Cyclops, it is Hera who drives her stepson Dionysus to madness (Euripides 19). To get back at Zeus for having sex with the young Semele, Hera transforms into Semele’s nurse, and tricks the young girl to ask Zeus to appear before her and when he does Semele is consumed by his flames (Berens 29-30). Hera tells the monster Python to pursue Leto, Zeus’s former wife. The creature destroys her along with her unborn children. Certainly the gods, who are immortal, are not necessarily moral beings. Hera is commonly associated with pride in being Greek. Her favorite Greek city-states were Argos, Samos, Sparta, and Mycenae (Berens 35). The temple of Hera at Olympus is said to be five hundred years older than the temple of Zeus erected at the same spot (Berens 36). She is said to have been the goddess who blinded the seer Tiresias, who then became the famous prophet who helped many a Greek (Bierlein 299). She also asked for Tiresias's advice on how to deal with her marriage to Zeus because the famous prophet was said to have been both man a woman at different times (Bierlein 299).
The Hera-like Image
The traditional image of Hera depicts her seated on a cloud with a scepter in her hand and a crown on her head (Berens 36). The scepter often is depicted with a cuckoo on top, alluding to her betrothal to Zeus. Interestingly in one image she has a lotus-shaped scepter (Theoi). She is often depicted holding a pomegranate in her hand. Polycetus, a great Greek sculptor, crafted Hera’s statue out of ivory and gold at her temple between Argos and Mycenae. In this depiction, the goddess is seated on a throne and her head is crowned with a garland, and the symbolic cuckoo is affixed to the scepter (Smith 691).
Hera in Art
In art, Hera is depicted as a regal figure and most certainly has an influence of Renaissance paintings of the Christian Madonna and Child as well as images of a seated throned female figure. The Theoi Art Collection shows depictions of the Hera-like like images and in each one she is shown in various ways as she was told in the myths. However, art historian debate over what constitutes the true “Hera-like” pose in art. A Hera shown nude would not match the attributes the Greeks normally gave her (Stansbury-O'Donnell 8). So, it interesting that nude representations of what seem to be otherwise Hera-like statues were excavated near a temple that was dedicated to Zeus and may have had temples associated with Hera. The terracotta “Hera-like” sculpture dates from early in Greek History (the Eighth Century B.C.E.).
In Greek Art, nudity was not a part of the artistic expression until much later in Greek history (Stansbury-O'Donnell 8). And when nudity was depicted it was associated with Aphrodite, and not Hera (Stansbury-O'Donnell 8). Picasso, in his painting “The Dream and Lie of Franco” represents a Hera-like figure in his work criticizing the ruthlessness of Fascism during the early part of the twentieth century (Green 2).
In conclusion, who was Hera? She is the depiction of the eternal woman. However, she is often given dual status as both mother and jealous lover. She is the matronly goddess, but she is also insanely violent. She destroys men but also is sought out by worshippers to heal their marriage. Even though her husband Zeus treats her badly, she never leaves him and seeks more.
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