HERA CULT 1
HERA was the Olympian queen of the gods, and the goddess of women, marriage and the sky.
She had numerous shrines and temples in ancient Greece. Her primary cult centres were the Heraion near Mykenai in Argolis, Olympia in Elis--where a women's counterpart of the Olympic Games was celebrated in her honour--and the island of Samos.
In classical sculpture she was depicted as a regal figure, crowned and holding a royal sceptre. Her portrait was that of a beautiful, young woman.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
CULT IN ATTICA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ATHENS (ATHENAI) Main City of Attica (Attika)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 1. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On the way from Phaleron to Athens [in Attika] there is a temple of Hera with neither doors nor roof. Men say that Mardonios, son of Gobryas, [the Persian] burnt it. But the image there to-day is, as report goes, the work of Alkamenes So that this, at any rate, cannot have been damaged by the Persians."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 18. 9 :
"Hadrian [the Roman Emperor] constructed other buildings also for the Athenians: a temple of Hera and Zeus Panhellenios (Common to all Greeks)."
CULT IN CORINTHIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. CORINTH (KORINTHOS) Main City of Corinthia (Korinthia)
Herodotus, Histories 5. 92G. 3 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"[Peirander, an historical despot of Korinthos,] made a proclamation that all the Korinthian women should come out into the temple of Hera. They then came out as to a festival, wearing their most beautiful garments, and Periander set his guards there and stripped them all alike, ladies and serving-women, and heaped all the clothes in a pit, where, as he prayed to Melissa [his dead wife], he burnt them."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 4. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Here [on the Akrokorinthos of Korinthos], too, is the temple of Hera Bounaia set up by Bounos the son of Hermes. It is for this reason that the goddess is called Bounaia."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 13. 11 :
"Jason was king in Korinthos, and Medea, as her children were born, carried each to the sanctuary of Hera and concealed them, doing so in the belief that so they would be immortal."
Suidas s.v. Aix (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"A proverb : ‘The nanny-goat giving the knife.’ For as the Korinthians were sacrificing to Hera Akraia, [whose cult] Medea is said to have established, the mercenaries hiding the knife in the nearby earth claimed that they had forgotten it. But the goat dug it up with her feet."
CULT IN SICYONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. SICYON (SIKYON) Main Town of Sicyonia (Sikyonia)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 11. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[The sanctuary] of Hera [near Sikyon was made] by Adrastos. I found no images remaining in either . . . A little farther away from the sanctuary of Hera founded by Adrastos is a temple of the Karneion Apollon. Only the pillars are standing in it; you will no longer find there walls or roof, nor yet in that of Hera Prodromia (Pioneer). This temple was founded by Phalkes, son of Temenos, who asserted that Hera guided him on the road to Sikyonl."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 12. 2 :
"On reaching Sikyon from Titane, as you go down to the shore you see on the left of the road a temple of Hera having now neither image nor roof. They say that its founder was Proitos, the son of Abas."
II. PHLIUS (PHLIOUS) Town in Sicyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 13. 4 :
"On the left as you go out [of the santuary of Hebe at Phlious in Sikyonia] is a temple of Hera with an image of Parian marble."
CULT IN ARGOLIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ARGOS Main City of Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 22. 1 :
"The temple of Hera Antheia (Flowery ) is on the right of the sanctuary of Leto [in the city of Argos], and before it is a grave of women. They were killed in a battle against the Argives under Perseus, having come from the Aegean Islands to help Dionysos in war."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 24. 1 :
"As you go up the citadel [of Larissa in the city of Argos] you come to the sanctuary of Hera Akraia (of the Height) . . . Adjoining it is the race-course, in which they hold the games in honor of Nemean Zeus and the festival of Hera."
II. HERAEUM (HERAION) Sanctuary of Hera near Mycenae
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 17. 1 - 7 :
"Fifteen stades distant from Mykenai [in Argolis] is on the left the Heraion (temple of Hera). Beside the road flows the brook called Water of Freedom. The priestesses use it in purifications and for such sacrifices as are secret. The sanctuary itself is on a lower part of Euboia. Euboia is the name they give to the hill here, saying that Asterion the river had three daughters, Euboia, Prosymna, and Akraia, and that they were nurses of Hera. The hill opposite the Heraion they name after Akraia, the environs of the sanctuary they name after Euboia, and the land beneath the Heraion after Prosymna. This Asterion flows above the Heraion, and falling into a cleft disappears. On its banks grows a plant, which also is called Asterion. They offer the plant itself to Hera, and from its leaves weave her garlands. It is said that the architect of the temple was Eupolemos, an Argive. The sculptures carved above the pillars refer either to the birth of Zeus and the battle between the gods and the Gigantes, or to the Trojan war and the capture of Ilium. Before the entrance stand statues of women who have been priestesses to Hera and of various heroes, including Orestes. They say that Orestes is the one with the inscription, that it represents the Emperor Augustus. In the fore-temple are on the one side ancient statues of the Kharites (Graces), and on the right a couch of Hera and a votive offering, the shield which Menelaus once took from Euphorbos at Troy. The statue of Hera is seated on a throne; it is huge, made of gold and ivory, and is a work of Polykleitos. She is wearing a crown with Kharites (Graces) and Horai (Seasons) worked upon it, and in one hand she carries a pomegranate and in the other a sceptre. About the pomegranate I must say nothing, for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery. The presence of a cuckoo seated on the sceptre they explain by the story that when Zeus was in love with Hera in her maidenhood he changed himself into this bird, and she caught it to be her pet. This tale and similar legends about the gods I relate without believing them, but I relate them nevertheless. By the side of Hera stands what is said to be an image of Hebe fashioned by Naukydes; it, too, is of ivory and gold. By its side is an old image of Hera on a pillar. The oldest image is made of wild-pear wood, and was dedicated in Tiryns by Peirasos, son of Argos, and when the Argives destroyed Tiryns they carried it away to the Heraion. I myself saw it, a small, seated image. Of the votive offerings the following are noteworthy. There is an altar upon which is wrought in relief the fabled marriage of Hebe and Herakles. This is of silver, but the peacock dedicated by the Emperor Hadrian is of gold and gleaming stones. He dedicated it because they hold the bird to be sacred to Hera. There lie here a golden crown and a purple robe, offerings of Nero. Above this temple are the foundations of the earlier temple and such parts of it as were spared by the flames. It was burnt down because sleep overpowered Khryseis, the priestess of Hera, when the lamp before the wreaths set fire to them. Khryseis went to Tegea and supplicated Athena Alea. Although so great a disaster had befallen them the Argives did not take down the statue of Khryseis; it is still in position in front of the burnt temple."
Herodotus, Histories 1. 31. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Kleobis and Biton were of Argive stock . . . and this story is told about them : there was a festival of Hera in Argos, and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the temple by a team of oxen. But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time, so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time. They drew the wagon, with their mother riding atop it, traveling five miles until they arrived at the temple. When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering, their lives came to an excellent end, and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live. The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having borne such children. She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise, so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for man to her children Kleobis and Biton, who had given great honor to the goddess. After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the temple and went to sleep and never rose again; death held them there. The Argives made and dedicated at Delphoi statues of them as being the best of men."
Herodotus, Histories 6. 81. 1 :
"Kleomenes [historical Spartan leader] sent most of his army back to Sparta, while he himself took a thousand of the best warriors and went to the temple of Hera to sacrifice. When he wished to sacrifice at the altar the priest forbade him, saying that it was not holy for a stranger to sacrifice there. Kleomenes ordered the helots to carry the priest away from the altar and whip him, and he performed the sacrifice. After doing this, he returned to Sparta."
Callimachus, Fragment 495 (from Melet. Anecd.) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Whose task it is to weave the sacred robe of Hera." [N.B. This is perhaps a reference to the Argive festival of Hera.]."
Ovid, Fasti 3. 81 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Sparta and Pelopid Mycenae [in Argolis] worship Juno [Hera]."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 3 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"You [Hera] guard the famed walls of the Argives, by the banks of the river-god Inachus, who now hymns you as bride of the Thunderer and as queen of all goddesses."
Suidas s.v. Argeia (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Argeia : Hera. Or the land of the Argives."
Suidas s.v. Antheia :
"Antheia (Flowery) : An epithet of Hera."
Suidas s.v. Kroisos :
"Kleobis and Biton, Argives by birth, whose mother Theano or Kydippe was a priestess and intended to lead a procession in the traditional festival in a wagon as far as the temple of Hera; as the oxen were delayed, her sons bent their own necks and dragged the wagon and took their mother to the precinct. And after their mother had prayed to Hera that the most beautiful thing for men might come to them, in the following night they were found dead."
III. EPIDAURUS (EPIDAUROS) Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 29. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is also a sanctuary of Aphrodite [at Epidauros in Argolis], while the one at the harbor, on a height that juts out into the sea, they say is Hera's."
IV. MT. ARACHNAEUS (ARAKHNAIOS) Mountain in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 25. 10 :
"Above Lessa [near Epidauros in Argolis] is Mount Arakhnaios (of the spiders), which long ago, in the time of Inakhos, was named Sapyselaton. On it are altars to Zeus and Hera. When rain is needed they sacrifice to them here."
V. MT. COCCUX (KOKKUX) & MT. PRON Mountains in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 36. 1 :
"A mountain [near Halike in Argolis], called in old days Thornax; but they say that the name was changed because, according to legend, it was here that the transformation of Zeus into a cuckoo took place. Even to the present day there are sanctuaries on the tops of the mountains : on Mount Kokkux (Cuckoo) one of Zeus, on Pron one of Hera."
VI. NAUPLIA Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 38. 2 :
"In Nauplia [in Argolis] . . . is a spring called Kanathos. Here, say the Argives, Hera bathes every year and recovers her maidenhood. This is one of the sayings told as a holy secret at the Mysteries which they celebrate in honor of Hera."
CULT IN LACEDAEMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. SPARTA Main City of Lacedaemonia (Lakedaimonia)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 13. 8 :
"On the hill [in the city of Sparta] a temple of Hera Argia (Of Argos), set up, they say, by Eurydike, the daughter of Lakedaemon and the wife of Acrisios the son of Abas. An oracular utterance caused to be built a sanctuary of Hera Hyperkheiria (she whose hand is above ) at a time when the Eurotas was flooding a great part of the land. An old wooden image they call that of Aphrodite Hera. A mother is wont to sacrifice to the goddess when a daughter is married."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 15. 9 :
"The Lakedaemonians [of Sparta] are the only Greeks who surname Hera Aigophagos (Goat-eater), and sacrifice goats to the goddess. They say that Herakles founded the sanctuary and was the first to sacrifice goats, because in his fight against Hippokoon and his children he met with no hindrance from Hera, although in his other adventures he thought that the goddess opposed him. He sacrificed goats, they say, because he lacked other kinds of victim."
Ovid, Fasti 3. 81 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Sparta and Pelopid Mycenae [in Argos] worship Juno [Hera]."
CULT IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. OLYMPIA Village & Sanctuary in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 13. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The altar of Olympic Zeus is about equally distant from the Pelopion [at Olympia] and the sanctuary of Hera, but it is in front of both . . . It has been made from the ash of the thighs of the victims sacrificed to Zeus . . . There is an ashen altar of Hera Samia (of Samos) not a bit grander than what in Attika the Athenians call ‘improvised hearths.’"
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 8 :
"There are [at Olympia amongst in the main collection of altars] also altars of all gods, and of Hera surnamed Olympia (of Olympia), this too being made of ashes. They say that it was dedicated by Klymenos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 15. 5 :
"At the starting-point for the chariot-race [at Olympia], just about opposite the middle of it, there are in the open altars of Poseidon Hippios (Of the Horses) and Hera Hippia (Of the Horses), and near the pillar an altar of the Dioskouroi."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 16. 1 - 8 :
"It remains after this for me to describe the temple of Hera [at Olympia] and the noteworthy objects contained in it. The Elean account says that it was the people of Skillos, one of the cities in Triphylia, who built the temple about eight years after Oxylos came to the throne of Elis. The style of the temple is Doric, and pillars stand all round it. In the rear chamber one of the two pillars is of oak. The length of the temple is one hundred and sixty-nine feet, the breadth sixty-three feet, the height not short of fifty feet. Who the architect was they do not relate. Every fourth year there is woven for Hera a robe by the Sixteen women, and the same also hold games called Heraia. The games consist of foot-races for maidens. These are not all of the same age. The first to run are the youngest; after them come the next in age, and the last to run are the oldest of the maidens. They run in the following way : their hair hangs down, a tunic reaches to a little above the knee, and they bare the right shoulder as far as the breast. These too have the Olympic stadium reserved for their games, but the course of the stadium is shortened for them by about one-sixth of its length. To the winning maidens they give crowns of olive and a portion of the cow sacrificed to Hera. They may also dedicate statues with their names inscribed upon them. Those who administer to the Sixteen are, like the presidents of the games, married women. The games of the maidens too are traced back to ancient times; they say that, out of gratitude to Hera for her marriage with Pelops, Hippodameia assembled the Sixteen Women, and with them inaugurated the Heraia. They relate too that a victory was won by Khloris, the only surviving daughter of the house of Amphion, though with her they say survived one of her brothers . . .
Besides the account already given they tell another story about the Sixteen Women as follows. Damophon, it is said, when tyrant of Pisa did much grievous harm to the Eleans. But when he died, since the people of Pisa refused to participate as a people in their tyrant's sins, and the Eleans too became quite ready to lay aside their grievances, they chose a woman from each of the sixteen cities of Elis still inhabited at that time to settle their differences, this woman to be the oldest, the most noble, and the most esteemed of all the women. The cities from which they chose the women were Elis ((lacuna)) . . The women from these cities made peace between Pisa and Elis. Later on they were entrusted with the management of the Heraian games, and with the weaving of the robe for Hera. The Sixteen Women also arrange two choral dances, one called that of Physkoa and the other that of Hippodameia. This Physkoa they say came from Elis in the Hollow, and the name of the parish where she lived was Orthia. She mated they say with Dionysos, and bore him a son called Narkaios . . . various honors are paid to Physkoa, especially that of the choral dance, named after her and managed by the Sixteen Women. The Eleans still adhere to the other ancient customs, even though some of the cities have been destroyed. For they are now divided into eight tribes, and they choose two women from each. Whatever ritual it is the duty of either the Sixteen Women or the Elean umpires to perform, they do not perform before they have purified themselves with a pig meet for purification and with water. Their purification takes place at the spring Piera. You reach this spring as you go along the flat road from Olympia to Elis."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 17. 1 - 5 & 20. 1 - 3 :
"In the temple of Hera [at Olympia] is an image of Zeus, and the image of Hera is sitting on a throne with Zeus standing by her, bearded and with a helmet on his head. They are crude works of art. The figures of Horai (Seasons) next to them, seated upon thrones, were made by the Aeginetan Smilis. Beside them stands an image of Themis, as being mother of the Horai. It is the work of Dorykleidas . . .
The Hesperides, five in number, were made by Theokles . . . The Athena wearing a helmet and carrying a spear and shield is, it is said, a work of Medon . . . Then Kore (the Maid) and Demeter sit opposite each other, while Apollon and Artemis stand opposite each other. Here too have been dedicated Leto, Tykhe (Fortune), Dionysos and a winged Nike (Victory). I cannot say who the artists were, but these figures too are in my opinion very ancient. The figures I have enumerated are of ivory and gold, but at a later date other images were dedicated in the Heraion, including a marble Hermes carrying the baby Dionysos, a work of Praxiteles, and a bronze Aphrodite made by Kleon of Sikyon . . . A nude gilded child is seated before Aphrodite, a work fashioned by Boithos of Kalkhedon. There were also brought hither from what is called the Philippeon other images of gold and ivory, Eurydike the wife of Aridaios and Olympias the wife of Philip. There is also a chest made of cedar [the chest of Kypselos], with figures on it, some of ivory, some of gold, others carved out of the cedar-wood itself . . .
There are here other offerings also : a couch of no great size and for the most part adorned with ivory; the quoit of Iphitos; a table on which are set out the crowns for the victors. The couch is said to have been a toy of Hippodameia. The quoit of Iphitos has inscribed upon it the truce which the Eleans proclaim at the Olympic festivals; the inscription is not written in a straight line, but the letters run in a circle round the quoit. The table is made of ivory and gold, and is the work of Kolotes . . . There are figures of Hera, Zeus, the Mother of the gods, Hermes, and Apollon with Artemis. Behind is the disposition of the games. On one side are Asklepios and Hygeia (Health), one of his daughters; Ares too and Agon (Contest) by his side; on the other are Plouton, Dionysos, Persephone and Nymphai, one of them carrying a ball."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 3. 15 :
"There is a bronze statue of Alkibiades dedicated by the Samians in the temple of Hera [at Olympia]."
II. CROTONA (KROTONA) Village in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 13. 1 :
"[At Krotona in Elis is] the temple of Hera Lakinia."
CULT IN ARCADIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. MEGALOPOLIS Main City of Arcadia (Arkadia)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 31. 9 :
"[At Megalopolis in Arkadia is] a temple of Hera Teleia (Full-grown), this too being in ruins."
II. STYMPHALUS (STYMPHALOS) Town in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 22. 2 :
"The story has it that in the old Stymphalos [in Arkadia] dwelt Temenos [a mythical hero], the son of Pelasgos, and that Hera was reared by this Temenos, who himself established three sanctuaries for the goddess, and gave her three surnames when she was still a maiden, Pais (Girl); when married to Zeus he called her Teleia (Grown-up); when for some cause or other she quarrelled with Zeus and came back to Stymphalos, Temenos named her Khera (Widow). This is the account which, to my own knowledge, the Stymphalians give of the goddess."
III. MANTINEIA Town in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 9. 2 :
"Near the theater [at Mantineia, Arkadia] I saw a temple of Hera. Praxiteles made the images Hera is sitting, while Athena and Hera's daughter Hebe are standing by her side. Near the altar of Hera is the grave of Arkas, the son of Kallisto."
IV. HERAEA (HERAIA) Village in Arcadia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 26. 2 :
"There is also in Heraia [an Arkadian village] a temple of Pan . . . and of the temple of Hera I found remaining various ruins, including the pillars."
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.