Why did Hera hate Zeus

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The Olympian gods were very human in their emotions and behaviors. They too experienced jealousy, envy and were vengeful and were often more irrational and unpredictable than people. A particularly good example of this is the Queen of the Gods Hera, who was vindictive, vengeful and cunning. Her relationship with her husband the King of the Gods, Zeus was turbulent, to say the least. The following article will explain why Hera often hated Zeus and it will make clear that she had every reason to be jealous of her husband. The King of the Olympian deities was notorious for his many sexual relationships with humans and demi-gods and he had many children with his lovers. Hera was constantly betrayed by her husband and made to look foolish. This article discusses Hera and provides a potted biography of the most powerful Goddess in Greek religion. It also provides many examples of her hatred of Zeus and how she sought to have her revenge on his many lovers.

Hera from an Athenian ceramic

The story of Hera

Hera was possibly worshipped in Greece from early times and many believe that she even had oriental origins. In one archaic Greek dialect, she is known as the ‘mistress’[1]. Hera was in particular associated with the Argive region and she may have been originally a local Argive God, who through a process of synchronization, became part of the Olympian Pantheon[2]. Hera had many sanctuaries throughout Greece, and she was usually worshipped along with her husband and brother Zeus. In later Greek religion, she was the Queen of the Olympian gods and one of the 12 original Olympians. She was the deity of women. Marriage, the sky and was, closely associated with several animals, which were deemed sacred to her, such as cows [3] Her symbol was the peacock. In several Greek traditions, Hera is more of a nature Goddess and she was the personification of the primal power of the earth. The Romans, as a result, identified her with their Goddess Juno. According to some sources, in particular Homer, Hera is the daughter of Cronos and Rhea and her brother was Zeus. At one time during the war between the Titans and Olympians, she was swallowed whole by her father Cronos but was later freed [4]. Because her brother Zeus usurped their father’s throne, she was reared by Oceanus and Thetys. Zeus was madly in love with Hera, despite the fact that she was his sister and he did all he could to woo her and she eventually married him. At the wedding of Zeus and his sister/wife, Hera was presented with a magical tree with golden apples. In later traditions, she is shown as the consort of Zeus who depends on her for advice and support. Hera was often known as the mother of the Gods. In total Hera had eight children and seven of these were fathered by Zeus, with the exception of Typhoon (more on this later). Among the children she had with the King of the Gods was Ares the God of War. Another of their children was Hephaestus, the deity of metalworking and Angelo, a goddess of the underworld. Hera was not a maternal figure and she was not interested in justice or even morality. She even cast one of her children out of Olympus because she thought the infant was too ugly. Hera was arrogant, headstrong and vain and portrayed as a scheming and manipulative wife by poets such as Homer [5].;l

Bust of Zeus

Hera and Zeus- a love/hate relationship

Hera had frequent rows with Zeus and on several occasions, the Father of the Gods had to punish his wife. The relationship between Zeus and Hera was a complex one and the King of the Gods, did love his wife and she loved him. However, as we will see he had a wandering eye and Hera knew this and she did all she could to retain his affections. On one occasion she borrowed the girdle of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, and with this, she was able to charm and fascinate Zeus- but only for a while and he continued to have countless affairs. Often, she is portrayed in Greek myth as someone who is rather ridiculous as she tried and failed to stop Zeus' many affairs. Echo was a nymph in Greek legend, which can best be understood as a spirit of a forest or a body of water. She was given the job distracting Hera from Zeus many sexual adventures. Echo was something of a charmer and a flatterer and he was very successful for a long time. However, Hera discovered that she was tricked and cursed the Echo so that she would forever only repeat the words of others. This is the origin of the word echo. Despite this Hera was a powerful Goddess and she rode in a chariot drawn by two horses and she had her own retinue of Gods. Despite the many portrayals of her as a deceived wife, she was also much feared and was fervently worshipped, especially by women. Hera was the Goddess of marriage and anyone who broke their marriage vows, was thought to have insulted her and committed an act of hubris against the Goddess [6]. She was believed to have punished unfaithful husbands and was believed to also harm those who injured those animals who were sacred to her. The Queen of the Gods was also believed to help women in childbirth. Hera played a crucial role in the Trojan War. Because of the judgment of Paris, she hated the Trojans and she did all she could to help the Greeks in their siege of Troy. Despite Zeus' many affairs, there is no story that survives that Hera was unfaithful to her husband and she was an ever-loyal if long-suffering wife [7]. Not that she did not have her own admirers. When King Ixion, had the temerity to try and seduce Hera, Zeus did not take it well. The King of the Gods bound to a burning solar wheel, spinning across the heavens for all eternity.;l

Typhoon – the giant serpent

One of the features of the Greek gods was the phenomenon of parthenogenous. This is where the deities were thought to be capable of asexual reproduction, that is males and females could produce offspring without a sexual partner. Zeus in some accounts gave birth to the Goddess Athena. This greatly angered Hera who saw it as a betrayal and a slight to her own children with Zeus. In the myths, she is shown as feeling threatened by the arrival of Athena. The Goddess of women and marriage then goes on to pray to Gaia, (the Earth Mother), for a son who would be the equal of Zeus. Gaia heard her prayers and decides to enable her to have a child. This was done because she was angry with Zeus for the destruction of the Giants. Gaia tells the wife of Zeus to go to Cronus and he gives her two eyes that have been smeared with his semen. Hera buried them and from them emerged the huge serpent-monster Typhoon. However, soon after is birth, Hera is reconciled with the King of the Gods and tells him about the monster. Later Zeus battles with Typhoon for control of the cosmos and the Father of the Gods emerges victorious[8]. It appears that Zeus did not blame Hera and they continued to be married, even if it was not domestic bliss.

Hera and Hercules

Hercules is one of the great heroes of Greek mythology and tales of his Seven Labors were very popular in the Ancient World. This demi-god was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, who was already married when Zeus impregnated her. Hera in nearly every account hated Hercules. Not only was she angered by Zeus’ betrayals’ but she feared that the child would eventually be the heir of the King of the Gods. In many accounts, Hera hates him so much that she attempted to kill the infant, Hercules. She sent two snakes to kill the infant in his cradle, but the remarkable Hercules managed to kill the snakes. Alcemne was so worried about the wrath of Hera that she abandoned her infant son on a slope, which was a common form of infanticide in the Greek World. However, Athena, his half-sister Athena managed to save him and deceived Hera into thinking that he was dead. Later when Hercules reached manhood and began his labors, the Queen of the Gods did all in her considerable power to harm the son of Zeus. Later they were reconciled with the King of the Gods and Hercules married her daughter Hebe [9].

Semele and Dionysus

Zeus had an affair with Semele the beautiful daughter of Cadmus, the Theban King. Zeus disguised himself so that he could have an affair with Semele. Hera found out about the affair and she decided to have her revenge. She disguised herself as a nurse and tricked Zeus to show himself in his true form to Semele and when he did his thunder and lightning destroyed his beloved. Zeus took Semele's unborn child and completed its gestation by sewing it into his own thigh. He later became the god of Dionysus, the deity of wine and all forms of intoxication. It also claimed in some accounts of this God, that he later retrieved his mother from the realm of the dead. This was probably at a time when Zeus and Hera were on good terms[10].

Io and Hera

Another one of the more prominent affairs of Zeus was with Io, who was ironically a priest of Hera. When Hera heard about this she was furious, and she turned the unfortunate Io into a white cow. Now Hera knew that Zeus would transform the white heifer back into her old female form and continue the affair. She had a 100 eyed giant Argos, to keep watch on the heifer and to tell her if Zeus tried to change her back to her human form. Zeus, as cunning as ever, sent Hermes and he lulled the 100 eyed monster to sleep and killed it. Io in the form of the white heifer escaped. The Queen of the Gods saw this and she sent a gadfly to torment the heifer. Io in the form of the cow was driven half-mad by the gadfly[11]. It was typical of the cruelty of Hera, who was. Later when Hera had become reconciled to Zeus it seems that Io was turned back into her old form by Zeus. Later she is believed to have married a future King of Egypt. Conclusion The stories above are just some of the incidents recounted from Greek mythology regarding Zeus infidelities and Hera’s vengeance. The Goddess of women, marriage, and childbirth had a complex relationship with Zeus. He was frequently unfaithful and humiliated her with his affairs with mortals. To be a Goddess and to have your husband betray you with mere mortals was insulting. Then the fact that Zeus was having illegitimate children which were an insult to the Goddess of Marriage. Then it appears that she had genuine feelings for her husband Hera was worshipped in a society that believed in vengeance and its morality was very different from those from the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Heras cruelty was legendary. However, this was not something that would have shocked the Greeks. The Gods were great powers and they were not concerned with humans, from who they only sought respect. Nor would her hatred of the lovers of Zeus being seen as something immoral but would have been deemed to be understandable. However, it must be remembered that while Hera often hated Zeus, because of his infidelities, they were always reconciled and continued to live together in Olympus.

Further Reading

Hansen, Randall, and William F. Hansen. Handbook of classical mythology. Abc-clio, 2004.;l

Morford, Mark PO, and Robert J. Lenardon. Classical mythology. Oxford University Press, USA, 1999.;l

O'Brien, Joan V. The transformation of Hera: A study of ritual, hero, and the goddess in the Iliad. Rowman & Littlefield, 1993.


  1. Renehan, Robert. "Hera as Earth-Goddess: A New Piece of Evidence." Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 117, no. H. 3/4 (1974): 193-201
  2. Slater, Philip Elliot. The glory of Hera: Greek mythology and the Greek family (Princeton University Press, 2014), p. 12
  3. Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth (London, Pearson, 2012), p. 12
  4. Powell, p. 161
  5. Beckwith, Miles C. "The' Hanging of Hera' and the Meaning of Greek ἄκμων." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology (1998): 91-102
  6. Powell, p. 118
  7. Renehan, p. 113
  8. Renehan, p. 113
  9. Powell, p. 89
  10. Powell, p. 89
  11. Powell, p. 99