The Fall of Hera: Demoted from Autonomous Goddess to Wife of Zeus

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Hera and Luna by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1735 – 1745) Museum of Fine Arts Houston (Public Domain)

The Fall of Hera: Demoted from Autonomous Goddess to Wife of Zeus

Constantly battling with Zeus’ infidelity, Hera the ancient Greek goddess of family and marriage, often took swift and cruel revenge - not on her philandering husband, but on his conquests and the resulting children. "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” are the lines of the 1697 play The Mourning Bride by William Congreve, which may apply, in retrospect to Hera’s scorn, but did she have recourse?

Hera Discovering Zeus with Io by Pieter Lastman (1618) National Galley London (Public Domain)

Hera’s Scorn

Hera turned Io, who was one her own priestesses, into a cow to deter Zeus’ advances. In other versions, it was Zeus who turned Io into a white cow, either to secretly rendezvous with her or to persuade Hera that he was not really interested in Io. However, Hera took the cow and set the one-hundred-eyed Argos to guard her. Zeus ordered Hermes to trick and kill Argos. In memory of Argos, Hera set his eyes on the wings of the peacock. Never forgetting her revenge, Hera then sent a gadfly to continually pester the unfortunate Io. Another victim of Hera’s jealousy was Semele. Hera tricked her into asking Zeus to reveal himself in all his godly splendor. The sight of Zeus’ divine body immediately destroyed Semele. Hera also turned Callisto into a bear to be hunted by Artemis.


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