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Harping on Hera, Wife of Zeus

By: Chris Welsh - Updated: 4 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Mythology Greek Zeus Hera Gods Goddesses

A quick look at the marriage between the King of the Greek gods and his Queen would leave one with the impression that things between them were rocky, at best. Hera always seems to be chasing after the lovers of Zeus and punishing them, but she wasn't always depicted as a vengeful and scorned matron. In some cults and ages out of Greek myth, Hera was a regal, powerful, loyal goddess in her own right.

Prideful Queen

Hera was not just Zeus' wife, she was also his older sister. As such she had two big reasons to command respect; queen of the gods and elder daughter of the father of the gods, Cronos the Titan. Her prickly ego was often damaged by her lusty husband, however, who could not seem to stay satisfied with Hera; Zeus was not a one-goddess kind of god. He was always on the look out for new conquests, and always watching his back for Hera's vengfull pursuit. Yet there was always some respect for Hera in Zeus, and when she meted out a punishment he could not undo it, although he often found ways to counter act it if he felt it unjust.

There are plenty of examples of Hera acting out of jealousy and pique, and not all of them involve Zeus and his betrayals. For example when the minor goddess of Discord challenged Hera, Athena and Aphrodite over which of them were the most fair, the matter was brought to Zeus. He showed uncommon wisdom by refusing to chose, and instead made the mortal Paris of Troy decide. All three bribed Paris, who chose Aphrodite. Hera was not pleased; it is said she came to hate him as a result.

When Tiresias, a priest of Zeus, found himself a woman from misadventure, and then transformed back into a man after living for years as the other sex, Hera and Zeus wanted him to settle a bet. Zeus claimed that women got more pleasure from sex than men, and Hera thought it the other way around. Tiresias sided with Zeus on this one; Hera, in a fit of pique, struck the priest blind. When Zeus couldn't give him his sight back he compensated Tiresias with the gift of prophecy.

Echo, Echo

When the nymph, a sort of tree spirit, named Echo was picked by Zeus to do a job, it was as a saboteur. Her role was to keep Hera busy and distracted, constantly keeping up a running monolog of compliments; the idea was that Hera would be so focused on Echo that she would miss Zeus sneaking off to have his trysts. When Hera found out she was not pleased - she cursed Echo to never speak an original word again, only to repeat what others say.

Despite what the Disney movie would have you believe, Hera was not Hercules mother. In fact, she quite hated Hercules. As the son of her unfaithful husband (and a mortal woman, no less) who received so much glory, Hera's pettiness toward Hercules came to the fore. She made it a personal vendetta to "get" the hero, starting with putting two serpents in his bed, of which he made short work. She then influenced King Eurystheus to come up with the Twelve Labours to really punish Hercules, and even used her powers to make the challenges more and more impossible to attain. Like many of Hera's efforts, however, they failed to cause as much damage as she hoped.

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