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Ancient Greek Mythology: Who is Hera?

By Yona Williams    7/31/09

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In the majority of Greek myths, it is Hera who usually lurks in the shadows, trying to figure out her husband's next move. Being married to Zeus is no easy task, leading her to lash out on unsuspecting mistresses and protect her interests from the offspring produced by some of Zeus' affairs.

Not only is Hera the wife of Zeus, but she is also his older sister. Raised by the Titans Ocean and Tethys, she later becomes the protector of marriage and pays close attention to the plight of married women. From the very beginning of their courtship, Hera met great obstacles and headaches. Zeus was unsuccessful in wooing Hera at first, so he resorted to using tricks. He changed himself into an unkempt cuckoo, which Hera placed to her breast to warm it out of pity. Changing back to his true self, he took advantage of Hera's surprise and raped her. Filled with shame, Hera decided to marry him to hide her secret.

Hera has found ways to best her husband. For example, on one occasion when Zeus was being harsh to the other gods, she swayed them to arrange a revolt against their ruler. She took part in the revolt by drugging Zeus so that the other gods could tie him up while he was sleeping. With many knots, they bound Zeus, but they started to fight over what their next move should be. Overhearing the discord, Briareus got close to Zeus and quickly untied the knots. As a result, Zeus was free and soon grabbed hold of his thunderbolt.

Begging for mercy, the gods fell to their knees. To punish Hera for her role, he took her and hung her from the sky with golden chains. She cried from the pain throughout the night, but no one dared to help. Zeus could not sleep from her weeping and in the next morning, he freed her on the condition that she would never try to rebel again. Her only choice was to agree and while she never openly opposed her husband, she did find ways to outsmart him and undo some of his plans.
 
Hera and Her Children

Although Hera watches over the union in the marriage bed and encourages appropriate arrangements between man and woman, she isn’t going to win any Mother of the Year awards. Children that Hera gave legitimate births with Zeus to Ares (the god of war), Eris (the goddess of discord), Hebe (the goddess of youth), and Eileithyia (the goddess of childbirth). Her son Hephaestus is another story with an even more interesting twist.

Jealous over Zeus having Athena, Hera decided to give birth to Hephaestus without the mighty god. However, the sight of Hera disgusted her so that she threw him from Mount Olympus. Being rejected by his mother filled Hephaestus with revengeful thoughts so he plotted against Hera by creating a magical throne for her. When she sat on the throne, it did not allow her to leave it.

The other gods begged Hephaestus to release Hera, but he would not budge. In the end, Dionysus got Hephaestus drunk and took him back to Olympus by way of mule. Eventually, Hera was released only after he had been given the beautiful Aphrodite (the goddess of love) as his wife.


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