Goddess of Youth
Daughter of Zeus and Hera
Hebe is the daughter of Zeus and Hera, and the sister of Ares [god of War] and Eileithyia [goddess of childbirth]. Her name literally means Youth and for that reason she is sometimes thought of as the goddess of youth and spring. Hebe had the good fortune to have the ancient goddess Gaia [Earth] as her nurse … Gaia is Hebe's great-grandmother.
Hebe, the Graces, the Hours, Harmonia and Aphrodite join hands and dance when Apollon leaves his shrine in Pytho and travels to Mount Olympos. With the Muses and his sister Artemis, Apollon sings of the unending gifts the Immortals enjoy and the plight of the mere mortals, who must endure the pains of illness and the failings of old age.
Hebe's role in the Iliad seems to be one of gentle cooperation and selfless affection towards her mother Hera, and her brother Ares. When Hera prepared to leave Mount Olympos, Hebe attended her mother's chariot and when Ares was wounded on the battlefield of Troy, Hebe comforted him.
After his tragic mortal life had ended, Herakles ascended to Mount Olympos where he wedded Hebe "of the golden crown." Hebe's marriage to Herakles can only be seen as a reward for the long suffering hero and a blessing for the kindhearted young goddess. Herakles and Hebe had one son, Alexiares.
Hebe is often confused with the Roman goddess, Juventas.
Hebe in the Iliad
[from four different translations]
- Iliad - book 4, line 2 - Now the gods at the side of Zeus were sitting in council over the golden floor, and among them the goddess Hebe poured them nectar as wine, while they in the golden drinking-cups drank to each other, gazing down on the city of the Trojans.
- Iliad - book 5, line 722 - But Hera, high goddess, daughter of Kronos the mighty, went away to harness the gold-bridled horses. Then Hebe in speed set about the chariot the curved wheels eight-spoked and brazen, with an axle of iron both ways.
- Iliad - book 5, line 730 - … the pole of the chariot is of silver, to whose extremity Hebe made fast the golden and splendid yoke, and underneath the yoke Hera, furious for hate and battle, led the swift-running horses.
- Iliad - book 5, line 905 - As when the juice of the fig in white milk rapidly fixes that which was fluid before and curdles quickly for one who stirs it; in such speed as this he [Paieon] healed violent Ares; and Hebe washed him clean and put delicate clothing upon him. And rejoicing in the glory of his strength he sat down beside Kronion [Zeus].
Loeb Classical Library
- Iliad - book 4, line 2 - Now the gods, seated by the side of Zeus, were holding assembly on the golden floor, and among them the queenly Hebe poured them nectar, and they with golden goblets pledged each other as they looked out on the city of the Trojans.
- Iliad - book 5, line 721 - She then went about harnessing the horses of golden frontlets, Hera, the honored goddess, daughter of great Cronos; and Hebe quickly put to the chariot on either side the curved wheels of bronze, eight-spoked, around the iron axle.
- Iliad - book 5, line 731 - From the body stood out the pole of silver, and on its end she [Hebe] bound the fair golden yoke, and threw on it the fair golden breast-straps; and Hera led beneath the yoke the swift-footed horses, and was eager for strife and the war cry.
- Iliad - book 5, line 904 - Just as the juice of the fig speedily makes to grow thick the white milk that is liquid, and it is quickly curdled as a man stirs it, so swiftly he [Paeeon] healed furious Ares. And Hebe bathed him, and clad him in beautiful clothes, and he sat down by the side of Zeus, son of Cronos, exulting in his glory.
- Iliad - book 4, line 2 - Now aloft by the side of Zeus the gods sat in council, conferring across Olympus' golden floor as noble Hebe poured them rounds of nectar. They lifted golden beakers, pledging each other warmly, gazing down on Troy …
- Iliad - book 5, line 827 - Hera queen of the gods, daughter if giant Cronus, launched the work, harnessed the golden-bridled team and Hebe quickly rolled the wheels to the chariot, paired wheels with their eight spokes all bronze, and bolted them on at both ends of the iron axle.
- Iliad - book 5, line 838-9 - There at the tip she [Hebe] bound the gorgeous golden yoke, she fastened the gorgeous golden breast straps next and under the yoke Queen Hera led the horses, racers blazing for war and the piercing shrieks of battle.
- Iliad - book 5, line 1048 - Quickly as fig-juice, pressed into bubbly, creamy milk, curdles it firm for the man who churns it round, so quickly he healed the violent Ares. And Hebe washed him clean, dressed him in robes to warm his heart, and flanking the son of Cronus down he sat, Ares exultant in the glory of it all.
- Iliad - book 4, line 2 - The gods were seated near to Zeus in council, upon a golden floor. Graciously Hêbê served them nectar, as with cups of gold they toasted one another, looking down toward the stronghold of Ilion.
- Iliad - book 5, line 820 - … Hêra, the eldest daughter of old Krónos, harnessed her team, all golden fringes. Hêbê fitted upon her chariot, left and right, the brazen wheels with eight shinbones, or spokes, around the iron axle-tree: all gold her felloes are, unworn, for warped upon them are tires of bonze, a marvel; and the hubs are silver, turning smoothly on each side.
- Iliad - book 5, line 830 - Hêbê fitted to the tip a handsome golden yoke, and added collars all soft gold. And Hêra in her hunger for strife of battle and the cries of war backed her sure-footed horses in the traces.
- Iliad - book 5, line 1034 - As wild fig sap when dripped in liquid milk will curdle it as quickly as you stir it in, so quickly Paiêôn healed impetuous Arês' wound. Then Hêbê bathed him, mantled him afresh, and down he sat beside Lord Zeus, glowing again in splendor.
Other Text References
- line 17 - The poet asks the Muse to sing of the Immortals; among the other gods and goddesses, they sing of Hebe with the crown of gold.
- line 922 - Lastly, Zeus wedded Hera and she bare Hebe, Ares [god of War] and Eileithyia [goddess of childbirth].
- line 950 - After he had finished his grievous toils, Herakles, the valiant son of Alkmene, made Hebe his shy wife.
Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollon
- line 195 - The Graces, the Hours, Harmonia, Hebe and Aphrodite [goddess of love] dance while Apollon plays his lyre.
Homeric Hymn to Herakles the Lion-Hearted XV
- I will sing of Herakles, the son of Zeus and much the mightiest of men on earth. Alkmene bare him in Thebes, the city of lovely dances, when the dark-clouded Son of Kronos had lain with her.
- Once he used to wander over unmeasured tracts of land and sea at the bidding of King Eurystheus, and himself did many deeds of violence and endured many; but now he lives happily in the glorious home of snowy Olympos, and has neat-ankled Hebe for his wife.
- Hail, lord, son of Zeus! Give me success and prosperity.
The Histories by Herodotus
- book 9.98 - The Hellenes [Greeks] however, when they were informed that the Barbarians [Persians] had gone away to the mainland, were vexed because they thought that they had escaped; and they were in a difficulty what they should do, whether they should go back home, or sail down towards the Hellespont. At last they resolved to do neither of these two things, but to sail on to the mainland. Therefore when they had prepared as for a sea-fight both boarding-bridges and all other things that were required, they sailed towards Mykale; and when they came near to the camp and no one was seen to put out against them, but they perceived ships drawn up within the wall and a large land-army ranged along the shore, then first Leotychides, sailing along in his ship and coming as near to the shore as he could, made proclamation by a herald to the Ionians, saying: "Ionians, those of you who chance to be within hearing of me, attend to this which I say: for the Persians will not understand anything at all of that which I enjoin to you. When we join battle, each one of you must remember first the freedom of all, and then the watchword 'Hebe'; and this let him also who has not heard know from him who has heard." The design in this act was the same as that of Themistokles at Artemision; for it was meant that either the words uttered should escape the knowledge of the Barbarians and persuade the Ionians, or that they should be reported to the Barbarians and make them distrustful of the Hellenes.
Description of Greece by Pausanias
- Pausanias - book 1 [Attica], 19.3 - There is also the place called Kynosarges [possibly meaning white dog], sacred to Herakles; the story of the white dog may be known by reading the oracle. There are altars of Herakles and Hebe, who they think is the daughter of Zeus and wife to Herakles. An altar has been built to Alkmene and to Iolaos, who shared with Herakles most of his labors. The Lykeum has its name from Lykos, the son of Pandion, but it was considered sacred to Apollon from the beginning down to my time, and here was the god first named Lykeos. There is a legend that the Termilae also, to whom Lykos came when he fled from Aigeus, were called Lykii after him.
- Pausanias - book 1 [Attica], 22.3 - When Theseus had united into one state the many Athenian parishes, he established the cults of Aphrodite Pandemos [Common] and of Peitho [Persuasion]. The old statues no longer existed in my time, but those I saw were the work of no inferior artists. There is also a sanctuary of Gaia [Earth], Nurse of Hebe, and of Demeter Chloe [Green]. You can learn all about their names by conversing with the priests.
- Pausanias - book 2 [Corinth], 12.4 - They say that the first man in this land was Aras, who sprang from the soil. He founded a city around that hillock, which even down to our day is called the Arantine Hill, not far distant from a second hill on which the Phliasians have their citadel and their sanctuary of Hebe. Here, then, he founded a city, and after him in ancient times both the land and the city were called Arantia. While he was king, Asopos, said to be the son of Kelusa and Poseidon, discovered for him the water of the river that the present inhabitants call after him Asopos. The tomb of Aras is in the place called Keleae, where they say is also buried Dysaules of Eleusis.
- Pausanias - book 2 [Corinth], 13.3 - I will now add an account of the most remarkable of their famous sights. On the Phliasian citadel is a grove of cypress trees and a sanctuary that from ancient times has been held to be peculiarly holy. The earliest Phliasians named the goddess to whom the sanctuary belongs Ganymeda; but later authorities call her Hebe, whom Homer mentions [Iliad, book 4, lines 2 ff. - Loeb, Lattimore, Green translations] in the duel between Menelaos and Alexandros [Paris], saying that she was the cup-bearer of the gods; and again he says, in the descent of Odysseus to the Underworld [Odyssey, book 11, line 603 - Loeb, Lattimore translations], that she was the wife of Herakles. Olen [a poet with no extant works], in his hymn to Hera, says that Hera was reared by the Horae [Hours], and that her children were Ares and Hebe. Of the honors that the Phliasians pay to this goddess the greatest is the pardoning of suppliants.
- Pausanias - book 2 [Corinth], 17.5 - By the side of Hera stands what is said to be an image of Hebe fashioned by Naukydes; it, too, is of ivory and gold. By its side is an old image of Hera on a pillar. The oldest image is made of wild-pear wood, and was dedicated in Tiryns by Peirasus, son of Argos, and when the Argives destroyed Tiryns they carried it away to the Heraeum [temple of Hera]. I myself saw it, a small, seated image.
- Pausanias - book 2 [Corinth], 17.6 - Of the votive offerings the following are noteworthy. There is an altar upon which is wrought in relief the fabled marriage of Hebe and Herakles. This is of silver, but the peacock dedicated by the Emperor Hadrian is of gold and gleaming stones. He dedicated it because they hold the bird to be sacred to Hera. There lie here a golden crown and a purple robe, offerings of Nero.
- Pausanias - book 8 [Arkadia], 9.3 - Praxiteles made the images Hera is sitting, while Athene and Hera's daughter Hebe are standing by her side. Near the altar of Hera is the grave of Arkas, the son of Kallisto. The bones of Arkas they brought from Maenalus, in obedience to an oracle delivered to them from Delphi.
Library of History by Diodorus Siculus
- book 4.39.3 - Hera, the myths relate, after she had adopted Herakles in this fashion*, joined him in marriage to Hebe, regarding whom the poet speaks in the Nekyia.
- [Odyssey, book 11, lines 602-3 - Loeb, Lattimore translations]:
- I saw the shade of Herakles, but for
- Himself he takes delight of feasts among
- The immortal gods and for his wife he has
- The shapely-ankled Hebe.
- *[Hera lay upon a bed, and drawing Herakles close to her body then let him fall through her garments to the ground, imitating in this way the actual birth.]
Hebe as seen on a Canthare-Vase found on the island of Rhodes, 500-475 BCE.
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