She had everything. A husband, in this case a god, (don’t we all wish that!), she shared the throne, was as powerful as her husband, had adoring worshippers and a family. Yet she was one of the most spiteful of the Olympian goddesses. They all had nasty traits but she was vindictive and more often than not, would go out of her way to make lives for those she despised miserable. Perhaps she had good reason to after all she was married to the notorious philanderer Zeus. Evidence suggests Hera pre-dated the onset of the Greek gods and according to some sources she originated from the Minoan pantheon of female divinities. The reason behind this theory is Hera’s name isn’t Greek or Indo-European. Regardless, Hera was important and her affiliation as the goddess of marriage was considered a vital part of Ancient Greek society.
Hera remained faithful to Zeus in spite of his dalliances though she did leave him one time. He wooed her back with a gift. It was a wooden replica of Hera. This symbolic gesture was to represent a new beginning and for Zeus a new bride. Not sure how he worked that one out! Nevertheless, the affairs didn’t stop and Hera decided to punish the women.
She also inflicted terrible things on both men and women who said or did something Hera didn’t like. For instance, Orion’s wife Side was sent to Hades because she regarded herself as beautiful as Hera; then there were Proitos’ three daughters, who Hera turned insane for not respecting the wooden image of the goddess. And what she did to Herakles, well that deserves a post all by itself.
With regards to the women who slept with Zeus, she went out of her way to inflict misery. In Leto’s situation, mother to Artemis and Apollo, Hera had Python pursue her all over the Hellenic world during her pregnancy. Leto finally found refuge on Delos and gave birth to the immortal twins. Another unfortunate victim was Kallisto, who Zeus fell in love with and forced himself on her. Now there are two different versions: one Zeus turns Kallisto into a bear to avoid Hera finding out but she does and had Artemis shoot her; and the other myth has Hera turning the girl into a bear and taunts Zeus, daring him to lay with Kallisto in her new form.
She did have a more amenable side. She had soft spot for Jason, who had carried her across the river. He didn’t know it was her at the time as she disguised herself as an old woman. And she was a staunch supporter of the Greeks in the Trojan War and helped them with various acts of subterfuge. Hera was an important figure in Greek Mythology and I haven’t quite done her justice in this post.
If you would like to know more go to the Theoi Greek Mythology site. It’s worth checking out.
Whose next I hear you ask? Athene, the only Olympian God that has a city named in her honour. If you have any questions, please ask and I’ll answer them as best I can.