(Ionic, Ἧρη, and in Attic, Ἧρα: the name is often connected with the Latin hra; but on this, see Curtius, p. 119). In Greek mythology, the queen of heaven, eldest daughter of Cronus and Rhea, sister and lawful consort of Zeus. According to Homer, she was brought up in her youth by Oceanus and Tethys. But every place in which her worship was localized asserted that she was born there, and brought up by the Nymphs of the district. She is said to have long lived in secret intimacy with Zeus before he publicly acknowledged her as his lawful consort. Her worshippers celebrated her marriage (ἱερὸς γάμος) in the spring time. In the oldest version of the story it took place in the Islands of the Blessed, on the shore of the Ocean stream, where the golden apple-tree of the Hesperides sprang up to celebrate it. But this honour, too, was claimed by every place where Her was worshipped. According to one local story, Zeus obtained the love of Her by stealth, in the form of a cuckoo.
Her seems originally to have symbolized the feminine aspects of the natural forces of which Zeus is the masculine representative. Hence she is at once his wife and his sister, shares his power and his honours, and, like him, has authority over the phenomena of the atmosphere. It is she who sends clouds and storms, and is mistress of the thunder and lightning. Her handmaids are the Horae or goddesses of the season, and Iris, the goddess of the rainbow. Like Zeus, men worship her on mountains, and pray to her for rain. The union of sun and rain, which wakes the earth to renewed fertility, is symbolized as the loving union of Zeus and Her. In the same way a conflict of the winds is represented as the consequence of a matrimonial quarrel, usually attributed to the jealousy of Her, who was regarded as the stern protectress of honourable marriage. Hence arose stories of Zeus illtreating his wife. It was said that he scourged her, and hurled Hephaestus from heaven to earth when hurrying to his mother's assistance; that in anger for her persecution of his son Heracles, he hung her out in the air with golden chains to her arms and an anvil on each foot ( Il.viii. 400). There were also old legends which spoke of Her allying herself with Athen and Poseidon to bind Zeus in chains. Zeus was only rescued by the giant Aegaeon, whom Thetis called to his assistance. The birth of Athen was said to have enraged Her to such a pitch that she became the mother of Typhon by the dark powers of the infernal regions. In fact, this constant resistance to the will of Zeus, and her jealousy and hatred of her consort's paramours and their children, especially Heracles, become in the poets a standing trait in her character.
In spite of all this, Homer represents her as the most majestic of all the goddesses. The other Olympians pay her royal honours, and Zeus treats her with all respect and confides all his designs to her, though not always yielding to her demands. She is the spotless and uncorruptible wife of the king of Heaven; the mother of Hephaestus, Ares, Heb, and Ilithyia, and indeed may be called the only lawful wife in the Olympian court. She is, accordingly, before all other deities the goddess of marriage and the protectress of purity in married life. She is represented as of exalted but severe beauty, and appears before Paris as competing with Aphrodit and Athen for the prize of loveliness. In Homer she is described as of lofty stature, large eyes (βοῶπις), white arms (λευκώλενος), and beautiful hair. On women she confers bloom and strength; she helps them, too, in the dangerous hour of childbirth. Her daughters Heb and Ilithyia personify both these attributes.
In earlier times Her was not everywhere recognized as the consort of Zeus; at the primitive oracle of Dodona, for instance, Dion occupies this position. The Peloponnesus may be regarded as [figure in text: Head of Her. (Naples. Supposed to be from a Statue by Polyclitus.)] the earliest seat of her worship, and in the Peloponnesus, during the Homeric period, Argos, Mycenae, and Sparta are her favourite seats. Of these, according to the poet, she is the passionate champion in the Trojan War. In later times the worship of Her was strongly localized in Argos and Mycenae. At Argos she took the same commanding position as Athen at Athens, and the year was dated by the names of her priestesses. Between [p. 797]
these cities, at the foot of Mount Euboea, was situated the Heraeum (Ἡραῖον), a temple held in great honour. (See Heraea.) At Corinth she was the goddess of the acropolis. At Elis a garment was offered her every five years by sixteen ladies chosen for the purpose, and maidens held a race in her honour on the race-course at Olympia. Boeotia had its feast of the Daedala (q. v.); Samos its large and splendid temple, built by Polycrates. The cuckoo was sacred to her as the messenger of spring, the season in which she was wedded to Zeus; so were the peacock and the crow, and among fruits the pomegranate, the symbol of wedded love and fruitfulness. Hecatombs were offered to her in sacrifice, as to Zeus.
In works of art she is represented as seated on a throne in a full robe, covering the whole figure. On her head is a sort of diadem, often with a veil; the expression of the face is severe and majestic, the eyes large and wide open, as in the Homeric description. The ideal type of Her was found in the statue by Polyclitus in the temple at Argos. This was a colossal image, in gold and ivory, representing the goddess on her throne, her crown adorned with figures of the Graces and the Seasons, a pomegranate in one hand, and in the other a sceptre with the cuckoo on the top. The Farnese Her at Naples, and the Ludovisi Iuno in Rome, are copies of this work. The Romans identified Her with their own Iuno (q.v.).