I wrote a post about Hera as part of the Olympian Gods series titled The Price of Love and focused on the mythology for which she was famously known. This article will be more about her pre-history. Thought I’d better get in first before she takes over!
According to a number of sources the name ‘Hera’ dated back to the Minoan goddesses and adopted by the Mycenaean’s when the warriors invaded following the cataclysmic destruction of Thera in 1500 BC. Hera was one of the female deities worshipped on Krete, as were a number of the other Olympian goddesses. The Minoans revered female goddesses above all for their affinity with fertility and link to nature, both flora and fauna. Their most powerful goddess was the Snake Goddess. I will write about the Minoans after the series on the gods is finished as they are fascinating and the premise for my series, Eternal Quest.
As mentioned in my earlier post, Hera was worshipped by the Argives and had many temples: Argos, Mycenae, Samos, Sparta, Olympia, Corinth, Tiryns and Paestum (Italy). Following excavations at Samos, votive offerings now housed in the museum there, provides evidence Hera was not only worshipped as a Greek goddess. People from Armenia, Babylon, Iran, Assyria and Egypt travelled to the sanctuary at Samos to make offerings to the goddess. How would these people know about Hera? The location of Krete enabled the Minoans to trade with many great powers and relied on diplomacy as part of their goodwill policy. Like most political relations, ideas, concepts and goods were exchanged.
In her words:
I am Hera, Queen of the Gods and once, of mortals. You wish to know more about me? There isn’t much more to tell. My affiliation with Zeus and inherent stories has been couched in a way which perhaps paints an unseemly picture of me. However let me ask you this: why did so many people from different places in the world worship me? They saw me as a nurturer of life and one who brought harmony. The offerings showed dedication, affection and a belief their wishes would be heard. Of which they were.
My reign as goddess is much older than most humans realise. I come from a time when female goddesses dominated the people’s religion. Our importance stemmed from the realisation of the female’s affinity with fertility. Over time our power diminished, though we were still regarded in high esteem. Our status changed to suit the demands of the new world. I became the iconic symbol for the protection of beliefs and rules of the Hellene society.
Nevertheless, I am still Queen of the Gods.