Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Zeus and Hera

The gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus have provided us with entertainment for thousands of years. One of the more interesting couples was Hera and Zeus, the children of Rhea and Cronus.

Hera and Zeus may not have had the most loving romance of all time, but they certainly kept life exciting. Zeus drew the long straw so he had the honor of being the ruler of heaven and earth. Hera was the goddess of childbirth and marriage. She was the supreme goddess on Mt. Olympus.

Theirs was an arranged marriage, one which Hera managed to avoid for three centuries. She wanted nothing to do with a god who was a womanizer, even if he was her own brother. Worse, he swallowed his first wife, Metis, a Titaness. That's just never a positive foundation for a loving marriage.

Finally Hera relented--only after Zeus tricked her by shifting into a cute little bird. Once she had him nestled in her bosom, he shifted back to his man form and made mad, passionate love to her. Once again he proposed, and this time she agreed. A lavish wedding followed, and almost immediately Zeus went back to his philandering ways.

Her reservations about his character were well founded. Zeus fathered many offspring, three by Hera: Ares, Hepheseus, and Hebe. Affairs with other women produced the twins Artemis and Apollo, Dionysus, Hermes, Athena, and Persephone. Also of note are Perseus, Herakles, The Muses, Minos, and Helen, among many dozens of others. So Zeus was a busy guy, and Hera wasn't all that thrilled with the situation. A bit jealous, you might say.

She banished Leto, pregnant with Zeus' twins, Apollo and Artemis, to Delos and then prevented the Goddess of Childbirth from attending her, forestalling the birth. Other goddesses felt sorry for Leto and bribed Hera with a golden necklace. She finally relented and allowed Leto to give birth.

Io didn't fare very well, either. When Hera nearly caught Zeus in flagrante delicto with Io, Zeus turned his lover into a white heifer. Hera wasn't a bit fooled, and to make a long story short, sent gadflies to pester Io, who ran and ran until she reached Egypt, where she became Isis.

I've mentioned a cursory scan of the events but most stories, as bawdy or salacious as they may seem, all have a lesson to teach, or explain nature in some way. Very few are for entertainment value only, although a more fascinating cast of characters would be hard to find.

And whether Hera and Zeus every settled into a Happily Ever After, I don't know. But what a wild ride!

Marriages of the Gods, a Storybook by Erika Mitchell-DeLuca
The Loves of Zeus
Theoi Greek Mythology
Wikipedia: Hera
Wikipedia: Zeus


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