Hebe (mythology)

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Goddess of eternal youth/prime of life
Cupbearer to the gods
Canova-Hebe 30 degree view.jpg
AbodeMount Olympus
SymbolWine-cup, Eagle, Ivy, Fountain of Youth, and Wings
Personal information
ChildrenAlexiares and Anicetus
ParentsZeus and Hera
SiblingsAeacus, Angelos, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Enyo, Ersa, Helen of Troy, Heracles, Hermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses, the Moirai
Roman equivalentJuventas

Hebe (/ˈhˌb/; Greek: Ἥβη) in ancient Greek religion, is the goddess of youth or the prime of life[1] (Roman equivalent: Juventas).[2] She is the daughter of Zeus and Hera.[3] Hebe was the cupbearer for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, serving their nectar and ambrosia until she was married to Heracles (Roman equivalent: Hercules); her successor was the divine hero Ganymede. Another title of hers, for this reason, is Ganymeda. She also drew baths for her brother Ares[4] and helped Hera enter her chariot.[5] She was often connected to Aphrodite, whom she was described dancing with and acting as her herald or attendant, linking the Classical association between beauty and youth.[6] In Euripedes' play Orestes, Helen is said to sit on a throne beside Hera and Hebe upon obtaining godhood. In some traditions, her father Zeus gifted her two doves with human voices, one flew to where the Oracle of Dodona would be established.[7]

Hebe was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth and to restore youth to mortals, a power that appears exclusive to her, as the in Ovid's Metamorphoses, the some gods lament their mortals aging. According to Philostratus the Elder, Hebe was youngest of the gods and responsible for keeping the other gods eternally young, and thus was highly revered by them.[8] In art, she is typically seen with her father in the guise of an eagle, often offering a cup to her. This depiction is seen in classical engraved gems as well as later art and seems to relate to a belief that the eagle (like the phoenix) had the ability to renew itself to a youthful state.


The Greek ἥβη is the inherited word for "youth", from Proto-Indo-European *(H)iēgw-eh2-, "youth, vigour".[9]

The name Hebe comes from Greek word meaning "youth" or "prime of life". Juventus likewise means "youth", as can be seen in such derivatives as juvenile.


Hebe is the daughter of Zeus and Hera. In an alternative version, her mother became pregnant merely by eating a lettuce plant when dining with Apollo.

Hebe had two children with Heracles: Alexiares and Anicetus.[10]

In Euripides' play Heracleidae, Hebe granted Iolaus' wish to become young again in order to fight Eurystheus.


Hebe was particularly associated with the worship of her mother at Argos and in the Heraion of Argos, one of the main centres of worship of Hera. It was said that Hebe, in a statue made of ivory and gold, was depicted standing beside a very large statue of her mother Hera, which depicted the goddess seated holding a pomegranate and sceptre with a cuckoo perched on top.[11] A relief made of silver above an alter depicted the marriage of Hebe and Heracles.[11] Both of these depictions have been lost. It is possible the Hebe was worshipped as or represented the virginal aspect of Hera.[12]

Hebe was also depicted, alongside Athena, standing beside a sitting statue of Hera in the Temple of Hera at Mantinea in Arkadia, sculptured by Praxiteles.[13] Aelian also refer to Hebe being worshipped alongside her spouse Hercules in a temple dedicated to them both on an unknown location. [14]

However, Hebe also had her own personal cult, and at least one temple in Greece dedicated to her personally. There was an altar to her in Athens,[15] and her own temple in Sicyon, which where the center of her own cult. The Phliasians, who lived near Sicyon, honored Hebe (whom they called Dia) by pardoning supplicants. Hebe was also worshipped as a goddess of pardons or forgiveness; freed prisoners would hang their chains in the sacred grove of her sanctuary at Phlius. Pausanias described the Temple of Hebe: "A second hill on which the Phliasians [of Phlios in Argolis] have their citadel and their sanctuary of Hebe."[16] He also described the cult of Hebe around the sanctuary:

"On the Phliasian citadel [at Phlios in Argolis] is a grove of cypress trees and a sanctuary which from ancient times has been held to be peculiarly holy. The earliest Phliasians named the goddess to whom the sanctuary belongs Ganymeda; but later authorites call her Hebe, whom Homer mentions in the duel between Menelaos (Menelaus) and Alexandros (Alexander), saying that she was the cup-bearer of the gods; and again he says, in the descent of Odysseus to Haides, that she was the wife of Herakles. Olen [a legendary Greek poet], in his hymn to Hera, says that Hera was reared by the Horai (Horae, Seasons), and that her children were Ares and Hebe. Of the honours that the Phliasians pay to this goddess the greatest is the pardoning of suppliants. All those who seek sanctuary here receive full forgiveness, and prisoners, when set free, dedicate their fetters on the trees in the grove. The Phliasians also celebrate a yearly festival which they call Kissotomoi (Ivy-cutters). There is no image, either kept in secret of openly displayed, and the reason for this is set forth in a sacred legend of theirs though on the left as you go out is a temple of Hera with an image of Parian marble."[17]

Ancient art[edit]

In art, Hebe is usually depicted wearing a sleeveless dress, typically she was depicted with either one or both her parents, at her wedding ceremony, or with Aphrodite.

In post-classical art[edit]

Hebe was a remarkably popular subject in art in the period from about 1750 to 1880, having attracted little artistic attention before or after. However, it is possible that she is one of the headless figures from the Parthenon pediment in the British Museum, and she may have been the Acroterion on the Temple of Ares in the Athenian Agora.[18] In the later period, many depictions were portraits of ladies as Hebe, for which at a minimum the only modifications to a normal costume needed were a flowing white dress, some flowers in the hair and a cup to hold. Most artists added an eagle, and a setting amid the clouds. In French there was a special term "en Hébé" for the costume. The personification appears in rococo, Grand Manner and Neoclassical styles. Even some very aristocratic models allowed a degree of nudity, such as exposing a single breast, though this was often much greater in non-portrait depictions.

Jean-Marc Nattier painted a Rohan princess as Hebe in 1737,[19] and then the royal Louise Henriette of Bourbon, Duchess of Orléans (1744) and another duchess the same year as Hebe, the latter with a breast exposed. François-Hubert Drouais painted Marie-Antoinette, when Dauphine, en Hébé in 1773, and Angelica Kauffman and Gaspare Landi both painted several Hebe's. Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun tells in her memoirs how she painted the 16-year-old Miss Anna Pitt, daughter of Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, as Hebe in Rome, with a real eagle she borrowed from Cardinal de Bernis. The bird was furious at being brought indoors to her studio and badly frightened her, though it looks relatively harmless in the painting (now in the Hermitage Museum).[20] An entirely nude depiction by Ignaz Unterberger was a huge success in Vienna in 1795, and bought by Emperor Francis II for a large amount; the artist was also made a court painter.[21]

In sculpture Hebe began to flourish as a subject slightly later, but continued longer. Antonio Canova sculpted four different versions of his statue of Hebe, and there are many later copies.[22] This had no accompanying eagle, but including the bird was a challenge accepted by several later sculptors. An elaborate marble group with a naked Hebe and the eagle with wings outspread was started in 1852 by the elderly François Rude but unfinished by his death in 1855. Finished by his widow and another it is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon and was very popular in bronze versions, with one in Chicago.[23] Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse produced another spectacular group, with the eagle perched above a sleeping Hebe (1869, now Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Jean Coulon (1853-1923) produced another group about 1886, with versions in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice, Nice and the Stanford Museum in California.

Especially in America, figures of Hebe continued to be popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century for garden fountains and temperance fountains, and were widely available in cast stone. Tarentum, Pennsylvania, United States displays two such cast stone statues of Hebe.[24] The mold for these statues was donated to the borough by the Tarentum Book Club on 6 June 1912. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Bloom Fountain installed in 1927 near the municipal rose garden, thanks to a bequest of $6,500 in the will of Louis Bloom, features a Hebe of cast zinc. At Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Hebe fountain in Fountain Square follows Canova's model, in patinated cast iron, purchased in 1881 from the J. L. Mott Iron Works of New York, at a cost of $1500.[25] Similar Hebe fountains, probably also from Mott, are located in Court Square, Memphis, Tennessee and in Montgomery, Alabama, and one with bronze patination was formerly the Starkweather Fountain in Ypsilanti, Michigan, installed in 1889.[26]

There is a bronze statue of Hebe, by Robert Thomas; (1966), in Birmingham city centre, England.[27]


Hebe's family tree
Alcmene [28]ZeusHera
    a [29]
     b [30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Kerényi, p. 98, "Hebe's name... means 'Flower of Youth'. She was another version of her mother in the latter's quality of Hera Pais, 'Hera the young maiden'."
  2. ^ Ovid does not detect a unity of Hera (Juno) and Hebe (Juventus): he opens Fasti vi with a dispute between Juno and Juventus claiming patronage of the month of June (on-line text).
  3. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 921–922; Homer, Odyssey 11. 604–605; Pindar, Isthmian 4.59–60; Apollodorus, 1.3.1, and later authors.
  4. ^ Homer, Iliad 5.905.
  5. ^ Homer, Iliad 5.722.
  6. ^ Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo. pp. 186 ff.
  7. ^ Cook, Arthur Bernard (1906). "Who Was the Wife of Zeus?". The Classical Review. 20(7): 365–378 – via JSTOR.
  8. ^ Philostratus the Elder. Imagines (Book 2).
  9. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 507.
  10. ^ Apollodorus, 2.77.
  11. ^ a b Pausanias. Description of Greece.
  12. ^ Graves, Robert (1955). The Greek Myths. Penguin Books.
  13. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 9. 2
  14. ^ Aelian, On Animals 17. 46 (trans. Scholfield)
  15. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 19. 3
  16. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 12. 4 (trans. Jones)
  17. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 13. 3
  18. ^ Neils Boulter, Patricia (1953). "An Akroterion from the Temple of Ares in the Athenian Agora". Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. 3: 141–147 – via JSTOR.
  19. ^ Charlotte Louise de Rohan (1722-1786), princesse de Masseran, daughter of Hercule Mériadec, Prince of Guéméné, now Palace of Versailles
  20. ^ Her Memoirs, start of chapter III (in French); Portrait of Anna Pitt as Hebe
  21. ^ A. Griffiths and F. Carey, German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, London, 1994, pp. 90-92
  22. ^ The original is in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersberg, with others in the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin and Museum of Forlì, Italy;
  23. ^ Hebe and the Eagle of Jupiter, Art Institute of Chicago
  24. ^ They are located at 40°35′59″N 79°45′09″W / 40.59977°N 79.752621°W / 40.59977; -79.752621 and 40°36′06″N 79°45′26″W / 40.601603°N 79.757264°W / 40.601603; -79.757264).
  25. ^ "The City of Bowling Green, Ky: Fountain Square"
  26. ^ Ypsilanti Historical Society: "Lost Ypsilanti: The Starkweather Fountain"; the single figure of Hebe cost $750. Other cast zinc Hebe fountains by Mott and other manufacturers are documented by Carol A. Grissom, Zinc sculpture in America, 1850–1950 2009:301ff.
  27. ^ Located at 52°29′04″N 1°53′32″W / 52.484438°N 1.892175°W / 52.484438; -1.892175).
  28. ^ Alcmene was the granddaughter of Perseus, and hence the great-granddaughter of Zeus.
  29. ^ According to Homer, Iliad 1.570–579, 14.338, Odyssey 8.312, Hephaestus was apparently the son of Hera and Zeus, see Gantz, p. 74.
  30. ^ According to Hesiod, Theogony 927–929, Hephaestus was produced by Hera alone, with no father, see Gantz, p. 74.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Wives of Heracles Succeeded by