Who were Hera and Zeus?
Who were Hera and Zeus? Hera and Zeus were the husband and wife deities who ruled as King and Queen on Mount Olympus. Hera was also the sister of Zeus. Hera was a powerful goddess, the protector of women who presided over marriage and childbirth and frequently punished offending husbands. As husband and wife Hera and Zeus had many quarrels and disagreements, most of which were due to the infidelities of Zeus and the jealous nature of Hera. As gods they both had great supernatural powers and abilities and these were used to devastating, and often cruel, degrees during their clashes which featured strongly in the legends and mythology of the Ancient Greeks.
The Children of Hera and Zeus
The names of their children were:
- Ares - the god of war)
- Hebe - the goddess of youth
- Eileithyia - the goddess of childbirth
- Hephaestus, Hebe and Eileithyia
The Children of Hera and Zeus - Hephaestus
Hephaestus, was the only Greek god who was ugly. When Hera first saw Hephaestus she was so affronted by his ugly appearance that she threw him into the sea from the summit of Mount Olympus, causing him to become lame. So although Hera was closely linked with marriage and family she was not a particularly good mother. Hephaestus took revenge on Hera for rejecting him by making her a beautiful, magical throne but when she sat on it she was unable to rise. He then left Mount Olympus in a rage. The other gods begged Hephaestus to return to Mount Olympus to release Hera from the throne, but he repeatedly refused. The god Dionysus visited him, they rank wine and Hephaestus became intoxicated. Dionysus took him back to Mount Olympus on the back of a mule. Hephaestus then released Hera from the throne after she gave him the goddess Aphrodite as his wife.
Hera and Zeus - the Infidelities of Zeus
The liaisons between mortals and Zeus led to the birth of famous demigods and included the hero Perseus and Hercules. The names of the lovers of Zeus included Antiope, Callisto, Danae, Europa, Electra, Leda, Leto, Maria, Taygete, Niobe, Io, Semele, Themis, Mnemosyne, Demeter and Alcmene. So Hera did have a lot to put up with! Zeus would appear to mortal women in the guise of various creatures and then seduce them. The myths and legends of Zeus the lover included his seduction of Leda in the form of a swan and Europa in the form of a bull. Hera hated his mistresses and sought revenge on many of them and their children, the demigods.
Hera and Zeus and Hercules
The favorite son of Zeus was Heracles (Hercules). Whilst understanding Hera's jealousy of other women, he could not tolerate her jealousy of his son, the Demigod Hercules. While Hercules was still a baby, Hera sent two serpents to kill him as he lay in his cradle. Hercules strangled a single snake in each hand and was eventually found by his nurse playing with their limp bodies as if they were toys. Hera then attempted to drown Heracles in a storm and Zeus punished her by having her hung upside down from the sky. Hera enraged Zeus further when she arranged for Hercules to perform the twelve labors for King Eurystheus and attempted to make almost each of the twelve labors of Hercules more difficult.
Hera and Zeus - The Deception of Zeus
The 'Deception of Zeus' is detailed in the Iliad and his account of the Trojan War by the Greek writer Homer. Hera notices Zeus on Mount Ida, overlooking Troy, and devises a plan to distract him so that she may help the Greeks behind his back. She enlists the help of the goddess Aphrodite to make her beautiful in preparation for seducing Zeus. Zeus and Hera make love hidden within a golden cloud on the summit of Mount Ida. By distracting him in the 'Deception of Zeus', Hera makes it possible for the Greeks to regain the upper hand in the Trojan War.
The relationship between Hera and Zeus
Their relationship was a turbulent one, due to his numerous affairs with other goddesses and mortals. The children of his affairs with mortals are referred to as Demigods, and included legendary figures such as Hercules and the woman who became known as Helen of Troy. His infidelities made his wife extremely jealous and vengeful. In an effort to resolve the problem he gave a nymph named Echo the task of distracting Hera from his affairs by talking incessantly to her. However, Hera discovered the deception of Zeus and she took revenge on Echo by making her constantly repeat the words of others. Regardless of their differences Zeus was protective towards Hera. In one of the myths related to the couple the king of the Lapiths, called Ixion, attempting to violate Hera. As a punishment Zeus condemned Ixion to be tied to a winged fiery wheel for eternity. A nymph named Chelone refused to attend their marriage ceremony and Zeus condemned her by turning her into a turtle. The legend and myth of the Metamorphoses involves Hera and Zeus who turned King Haemus and Queen Rhodope into mountains.