Mythology - Hera in the Homeric Epics

by Erin on January 24, 2012

Naturally, Hera - the queen of the Olympian gods - appears both in the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer. In these two epics her personality is revealed in a series of events. In my opinion, the most compelling of these episodes is the scene in the Iliad where Hera manipulates her husband Zeus. Here, the goddess really makes her feminine wiles and beauty work for her in order to accomplish her goals. My summary of this story follows.

Hera, wishing to influence the outcome of the war between the Greeks and Trojans, realizes that she must in some way distract Zeus from monitoring the battle. You see, the Olympian gods were meddling in the affairs of the humans involved in the Trojan War, much to the annoyance of Zeus. So the goddess devises a plan – she decides that she must seduce her husband. After the seduction was accomplished, Zeus would fall sleep, and she and the other gods would then be free to interfere.

In order to achieve her goal, Hera engages in some serious preening, which the poet Homer delights in describing in detail. Then, gilding the lily, the queen of the gods asks the goddess of love if she can borrow Aphrodite’s powers of Love and Desire. Hera deceives Aphrodite, however, by claiming that she would use these invincible powers to end a quarrel between the Titans. Aphrodite, apparently fooled, agrees, and lends Hera her magic girdle. Thus armed, Hera proceeds with her scheme.

She then cleverly attempts to enlist the assistance of Hypnos, the god of Sleep. But Hypnos, who has interfered in the affairs of the Olympians before, hesitates. That is, until Hera offers him one of the comely Graces as a bride – with this incentive, how could the god refuse? In a deft bit of description, Homer then relates how the pair of deities travel together to find Zeus, and upon reaching him, how Hypnos transforms himself into a songbird while Hera begins the seduction of her husband.

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