HERA

Hera was the wife of Zeus and the queen of the Greek gods. One of the most ancient of the Greek deities, Hera protected all women, especially wives and mothers. But Hera was violently jealous and often cruel to her rivals.

According to Greek myth, Hera was the child of Chronos and Rhea (as was Zeus). Despite her role as a protector, Hera had a destructive side to her personality. For example, when Paris, the son of the king of Troy, chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, Hera was so angry that she tried everything in her power to destroy Troy during the Trojan War. Hera also had many quarrels with Zeus, particularly over his frequent love affairs. Often cruel and vengeful toward her rivals, Hera attempted to kill Heracles, the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, by sending two snakes to strangle him in his cradle.

Hera was originally worshiped in the southern Greek city of Argos, but her cult* spread throughout Greece. Her marriage to Zeus was celebrated at festivals, where her statue was dressed up as a bride and carried in a procession. The Greeks worshiped Hera at some of their most ancient temples, and many cities and towns had a temple in her honor. The historian Herodotus described the main building of Hera’s sanctuary* on the island of Samos as magnificent.

The cult of Hera spread early to the Greek colonies in the west, where she later became identified with the Roman goddess Juno. Like Hera, Juno protected women, especially when they married or gave birth. Juno was also a great Roman goddess of state. As Juno Regina (Juno the Queen), she ruled Rome with her brother and husband Jupiter. (See also Divinities; Festivals and Feasts, Greek; Religion, Greek; Religion, Roman.)

* cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god

* sanctuary place for worship

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