HERA was the Olympian queen of the gods and the goddess of women and marriage. She was also a goddess of the sky and starry heavens. She was usually depicted as a beautiful woman wearing a crown and holding a royal, lotus-tipped staff. Sometimes she held a royal lion or had a cuckoo or hawk as her familiar.
Her marriage with Zeus also offered ample scope for poetical invention and several places in Greece claimed the honour of having been the scene of the marriage, such as Euboea, Samos, Cnossus in Crete, and Mount Thornax, in the south of Argolis. This marriage acts a prominent part in the worship of Hera under the name of hieros gamos; on that occasion all the gods honoured the bride with presents, and Ge presented to her a tree with golden apples, which was watched by the Hesperides in the garden of Hera, at the foot of the Hyperborean Atlas.
The Homeric poems know nothing of all this, and we only hear, that after the marriage with Zeus, she was treated by the Olympian gods with the same reverence as her husband. Zeus himself, according to Homer, listened to her counsels, and communicated his secrets to her rather than to other gods. Hera also thinks herself justified in censuring Zeus when he consults others without her knowing it; but she is, notwithstanding, far inferior to him in power; she must obey him unconditionally, and, like the other gods, she is chastised by him when she has offended him. Hera therefore is not, like Zeus, the queen of gods and men, but simply the wife of the supreme god. The idea of her being the queen of heaven, with regal wealth and power, is of a much later date. There is only one point in which the Homeric poems represent Hera as possessed of similar power with Zeus. She is able to confer the power of prophecy. But this idea is not further developed in later times.
Her character 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. Hence there arise frequent disputes between Hera and Zeus; and on one occasion Hera, in conjunction with Poseidon and Athena, contemplated putting Zeus into chains. Zeus, in such cases, not only threatens, but beats her; and once he even hung her up in the clouds, her hands chained, and with two anvils suspended from her feet. Hence she is frightened by his threats, and gives way when he is angry; and when she is unable to gain her ends in any other way, she has recourse to cunning and intrigues. Thus she borrowed from Aphrodite the girdle, the giver of charm and fascination, to excite the love of Zeus. By Zeus she was the mother of Ares, Hebe, and Hephaestus.
Hera had sanctuaries, and was worshipped in many parts of Greece, often in common with Zeus. Her worship there may be traced to the very earliest times: thus we find Hera, surnamed Pelasgis, worshipped at Iolcos. But the principal place of her worship was Argos, hence called the dôma Hêras.
image: Gustave Moreau