Hera’s MDT – Day 7: Names & Epithets

Χαίρετε πάντες!

Today’s topic will be the names and epithets of Hera. First of all, I want to note that her name has a variant spelling and pronunciation in the Ionic and Homeric/Epic dialects of ancient Hellenic. This alternate form is Here (Ἥρη). Also important, her name is already attested in Linear B tablets from the Bronze Age. Linear B is a syllabic script not very well suited to Hellenic, but the Mycenaean Hellenes used it anyway. In this script, her name is written as “e-ra”.

She has a few major geographic titles to her, referring to her specific relationship with a place. The first is Samia (Σαμία), the Samian Hera, referring to her important cult centre in the Aegean, the island Samos, which claimed to be her birthplace. The second is Argeia (Ἀργεία), the Argive Hera, patroness of Argos, another claimant to her birthplace. Thirdly Olympias (Ὀλυμπιάς), the Olympian Hera, referring to both her cult at Olympia (the Heraion there was older than the Olympion of her husband Zeus) and her place among the Olympians. A minor geographic title was Pharygaia (Φαρυγαῖα), Hera of Pharygai, which is a town in Locris where she had a temple. And at Himera, on Sicily, she was worshipped at Sicilian Hera (Σικελία).

Then she has several major epithets relating to her domain of marriage. The first ones I will treat are those relating to a women’s life phase. Firstly she is Pais (Παῖς), Hera the Girl, as a Goddess of unmarried girls. In this regard she is also called Parthenos (Παρθένος), Hera the Maiden, and Ataurote (Ἀταυρώτη), which literally means “unbulled, not mounted by a bull”, and refers to her virginal state. Then she becomes Nympheuomene (Νυμφευομένη), Hera the Betrothed Bride, in this state she is Goddess of Brides. Then she is the married women, Teleia (Τελεία), literally Hera the Fulfilled, she has fulfilled the role of women, which is to become a wife. Then she is the Goddess of Marital Love and Sexuality, Hera Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη). Finally, she becomes Hera the Widow, Hera Khera (Χήρα).

Some other epithets relating to marriage, but don’t represent the phases of a women’s life are Gamelia (Γαμηλία; of Marriage) and Zygia (Ζυγία; Underneath a Yoke, that is a tamed woman bound by marriage).

Some further functional epithets of Hera are Aigophagos (Αἰγοφάγος), Hera the Goat-eater. This cult is peculiar to Lakonia, the region of Sparta. It is said that the temple was founded by Herakles himself, who founded it because Hera had undertaken no opposition to him during his fight against Hoppokoön and his children. The reason that she is called Goat-eater is that Herakles sacrificed goats to her, as he lacked any other kind of sacrificial animal, and the tradition stuck. Another cult of Hera in Sparta was Hyperkheiria (Ὑπερχειρία), Hera Whose hand is Above, a cult founded after an oracular utterance mandated it to solve a catastrophic flooding of the Eurotas river.

In the polis of Argos, she had a few peculiar cults besides that of Argeia. At Argos itself, she had a temple as Hera Antheia (Ἄνθεια), the Flowery Hera, next to a temple of Leto. In front of this Heraion was a grave of women killed during a war with Perseus. At Larissa, another city in the Argolis region, there was a cult of Hera Akraia (Ἀκραία), Hera of the Height, as her temple was built in a high place.

At Sikyon then, a polis that was a rival of Argos, she was worshipped as Hera Prodromia (Προδρομία), Hera the Pioneer, because of Phalkes, son of Temenos, who considered her to have guided and protected him on the road to Sikyon.

At Korinthos, Hera was worshipped as Akraia, and also as Bounaia (Bounaia). This latter cult was founded by a Hero called Bounos, a son of Hermes. Whence the cult of Hera there was named after him.

Then there are some epithets that may allude to a warrior aspect of Hera. Namely Hippia (Ἱππία), Hera of Horses, a cult of which existed in Elis, at Olympia. The altar where she was worshipped with this epithet was located a the start of the chariot races of the Olympic Games. It stood beside an altar of Poseidon Hippios and the Horseman Gods the Dioskouroi. Another such epithet is Heniokhe (Ἡνιόχη), Hera the Charioteer, whose cult was located at Lebadeia in Boiotia.

At Kroton, in Elis, Hera is surnamed Lakinia (Λακινία), named after the hero Lakinios, who stole the cattle of Geryones, the giant Herakles had to kill by Eurystheus’ order. Herakles had taken the cattle to be delivered to Eurystheus, but Lakinios stole them and Herakles killed him for it.  After the site of the murder was purified Herakles founded a cult there dedicated to Hera Lakinia.

In Picenum, Southern Italy, there was a cult of Hera reportedly founded by Iason and the Argonauts, where Hera is worshipped as Hera Argoia (Ἀργῷα), Hera of the Argo. Another place in Picenum, founded by the Tyrrhenes (Etruscans), Hera was surnamed Kypra (Κύπρα). Kypra is an indigenous Goddess identified with Hera.

Having now passed the cult titles, I will list some poetic epithets used for her: Boöpis (Βοῶπις) the “Cow-eyed”, Leukolenos (Λευκώλενος) and Leukopekhys (Λευκόπηχυς) both meaning “White-Armed”, and Khrysothronos (Χρυσόθρονος) the “Golden-throned”. The first intimates a relationship with cows, the second to white skin, which was a trait of the rich and wealthy who didn’t have to work out in the sun all day, and the third to her golden throne. And off course, she is also called Anassa (ἄνασσα) and Basileia (Βασίλεια), both of which mean Queen, and Pambasileia (Παμβασίλεια), Queen of All.

The Orphic Hymn also calls her Anemon Trophos (Ἀνέμων Τροφός), Nourisher of the Winds, Meter Ombron (Μήτηρ Ὄμβρων), Mother of Rainstorms, and Aeromorphos (Ἠερόμορφος), the Air-shaped. These seem to indicate a role as an atmospheric Goddess, perhaps soothing her husband’s storms into less harshly falling rains, which is easier on crops and doesn’t cause flooding.

That ‘s about it, I think.

Ἔρρωσο.

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