Hebe, Ancient Greek Goddess of Youth

Hebe is the cupbearer to the gods and the personification of youth. She is much more popular as an art subject than as a literary subject. Her name ‘Hebe’, ‘Ἡβη’ is derived from the Indo-European ‘yegwa’, ‘Power, youth strength’. The Norse goddess of of love and beauty Freya or Frejya seems to have a name from this root also. But in the Greek myths Hebe shares some of Freya’s powers with Aphrodite. There can be little doubt that this goddess came with the Indo-Europeans from the north.

Homer, Odyssey 9.5 explains the role of the cup-bearer as follows: (Odysseus speaks) “For myself I declare that there is no greater fulfillment of delight than when joy possesses a whole people, and banqueters in the halls listen to a minstrel as they sit in order due, and by them tables are laden with bread and meat, and the cup-bearer draws wine from the bowl and bears it round and pours it into the cups.

Even though her involvement in myth is slight there are conclusions that can be drawn about Hebe. Her early placement in the Theogony suggests that her place in Greek religion was more important early on and then waned throught the classical period. Yet she is a true goddess with a realm, youth, over which she rules. With her birth the realm of youth was organized by rules which Hebe enforces. She can receive prayers and be worshiped. Strabo and Pausanius describe cults to Hebe. Hera and Hebe form a mother-daughter pair as do Demeter and Persephone but nothing ois mad of this in existing myth. In some myths Hecate, Hera, and Artemis from a triple and Hebe is left out.

Hebe had to share her cupbearer duties with Ganymede. Hebe did not seem to form a sexual relation to Zeus while Ganymede seems to have dispalced her for this very reason; “Plato, Laws 636c (trans. Bury) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
“One certainly should not fail to observe that when male unites with female for procreation the pleasure experienced is held to be due to nature, but contrary to nature when male mates with male or female with female, and that those first guilty of such enormities were impelled by their slavery to pleasure. And we all accuse the Kretans of concocting the story about Ganymedes. Because it was the belief that they derived their laws from Zeus, they added on this story about Zeus in order that they might be following his example in enjoying this pleasure as well.”. One can susbect this was a result of Minoan influence early on as the displacement is evident even in the Iliad

Hebe, the CupbearerThe goddess of youth, Hebe, stands with her cup at a banquet of the gods. (Click on image to see a larger version)

Of Hebe Pausanias Description of Greece 2.13.3
says:[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 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 authorities call her Hebe, whom Homer2 mentions in the duel between Menelaus and Alexander, saying that she was the cup-bearer of the gods; and again he says, in the descent of Odysseus to Hell,3 that she was the wife of Heracles. Olen,4 in his hymn to Hera, says that Hera was reared by the Seasons, 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. All those who seek sanctuary here receive full forgiveness, and prisoners, when set free,
dedicate their fetters on the trees in the grove.”

Apollodorus, 2.7.7, says that Alexiares and Anicetus are the sons of Hebe by Hercules. There is no information on other children.

In the Iliad, Book IV Homer says “Now the gods were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden floor while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink, and as they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked down upon the town of Troy.”

Later in Book V Homer says “Thereon the august goddess,
daughter of great Cronus, began to harness her gold-bedizened steeds. Hebe with all speed fitted on the eight-spoked wheels of bronze that were on either side of the iron axle-tree.”

Finally in Book V Homer says: “As the juice of the fig-tree curdles milk, and thickens it in a moment though it is liquid, even so instantly did Paeeon cure fierce Mars. Then Hebe washed him, and clothed him in goodly raiment, and he took his seat by his father Jove all glorious to behold.”

In the Odyssey Odysseus says: “And after him I descried
the mighty Heracles, his phantom, I say; but as for himself he hath joy at the banquet among the deathless gods, and hath to wife Hebe of the fair ankles, child of great Zeus, and of Here of the golden
sandals.” (Book XI)

In the Theogony of Hesiod(ll 13): “and Hebe with the crown of gold”
Also (ll. 950-955) “And mighty Heracles, the valiant son of neat-ankled Alemena, when he had finished his grievous toils, made Hebe the child of great Zeus and gold-shod Hera his shy wife in snowy
Olympus. Happy he! For he has finished his great works and
lives amongst the dying gods, untroubled and unaging all his
days.”
TO PYTHIAN APOLLO — (ll. 182-206) Meanwhile the rich-tressed Graces and cheerful Seasons dance with Harmonia and Hebe and Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, holding each other by the wrist.
TO HERACLES THE LION-HEARTED, “and has neat-ankled Hebe for his wife.”

In The Heracleidae by Euripides, Translated by E. P. Coleridge, there is this description of action by Hebe, “When lo! old Iolaus sees Hyllus starting from the ranks, whereon he lifts his hands to him with a prayer to take him up into his chariot. Thereon he seized the reins and went hard after the horses of Eurystheus. From this point onward must I speak from hearsay, though hitherto as one whose own eyes saw. For as he was crossing Pallene’s hill, sacred to the goddess Athene, he caught sight of Eurystheus’ chariot, and prayed to Hebe and to Zeus, that for one single day he might grow young again and wreak his vengeance on his foes. Now must thou hear a wondrous tale: two stars settled on the horses’ yokes and threw the chariot into dark shadow, which-at least so say our wiser folk-were thy son and Hebe; and from that murky gloom appeared that aged man in the form of a youth with strong young arms; then by the rocks of Sciron the hero Iolaus o’ertakes Eurystheus’ chariot. And he bound his hands with gyves, and is bringing that chieftain once so prosperous as a trophy hither, whose fortune now doth preach a lesson, clear as day, to all the sons of men, that none should envy him, who seems to thrive, until they see his death; for fortune’s moods last but a day.”

The Wedding of Heracles and Hebe

Pretty much all information about the wedding is contained in the following quote from the Theogony of Hesiod line 950: “And mighty Heracles, the valiant son of neat-ankled Alcmena, when he had finished his grievous toils, made Hebe the child of great Zeus and goldshod Hera his shy wife in snowy Olympus. Happy he! For he has finished his great work [955] and lives amongst the undying gods, untroubled and unaging all his days.” There are many pictures of Heracles after his apotheothesis (transformation to a god) and some of them include pictures of Hebe. Some have been interpreted as involving the wedding: Philadelphia MS5462 (Vase) The lack of information about the wedding may be due to the fact that the myth of the wedding is quite late and even Homer may not have known of it. Another fact may be that the apotheosis of Heracles may have been much more important than the wedding and that these happened at the same time.

Pictures

Resources


To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Hebe) and
Click here


Questions and Answers

Question: What does Hebe wear?

Answer: Check the ancient pictures of Hebe above. More recent pictures of
Hebe:

  • HebeFrancesco Bartolozzi, artist
    Italian, circa 1725 – 1815 [Hebe], 18th – 19th century 32.3 x 25.3 cm (image) Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts 1963.30.36974
  • Catalogue of Images at Click here
  • 2111: Statue by Antonio Canova, 1757-1822. Altes Museum, Berlin.
  • 4906: Jens Adolph JerichaÏ 1816-1883: Hercules and Hebe, 1845. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
  • 4211: Charles Durand 1837-1917: HÅbÅ, 1874. Palais des Beaux-arts, Lille.

Question: Was there a special meaning to any of the clothing that Hebe wore?

Answer: Not really. Goddesses were dressed in the fancy clothes of ordinary people. In neolithic times the designs on clothes did relate to specifice meanings of the wearer but in Greece this idea appears to have been lost. The designs on the gowns of the ancient images above appear to bear no relation to the function of Hebe, but rather illustrate the same designs that appear on vases.

Question: How was Hebe born

Answer: Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera his blooming wife.

Question: What is Hebe’s full name

Answer: Hebe of Zeus and Hera, the Goddess of Youth

Question: is there a flower by the same name

Answer: Yes: Click Here

Question: What other informaton can you give me about Greek Goddess Hebe?

Answer: Herodotus indicates that her name was used as a watchword or battle-cry. Pausanius indicates that her sanctuary was and asylum for slaves and that released prisoners hung up fetters in her grove.

Question: did Hebe ever do anything super great or
extra-ordinary??

Answer: Hebe was born the goddess of youth and cup-bearer to the gods. In the myths of other cultures, such a goddess was kidnapped to threaten the gods with old age. Since this did not happen to Hebe she must have an extra-ordinary power. After Herakles became a god Hebe married him.

Question: what is Hebs sybole i dont know if you know , but if
you can will you please send it to me!

Answer: Since she was cup bearer to the gods a cup could be used. As the goddess of youth, toys could be used. A citrine has been referenced but I do not know why. I cannot find any of these symbols in ancient literature.

Question: Is Herakles another god or just a typo of Hercules?

Answer: The Greek name is Herakles. The Roman name is Hercules.

Question: How was Hebe concived or delievered?

Answer: As soon as Zeus conceives the need of a god or goddess he is able to will his sperm to incorporate his idea. When he has sex with Hera the idea finds its way to her uterus and the divinity is conceived. At birth the deity is imbued with the idea of Zeus and the divine material of Hera. Hera gives birth in the nomal way through her uterus. But the baby is capable of realizing the idea of Zeus almost immediately after it leaves Hera’s body. In this way the deity is born to its role. If Zeus does not conceive the idea of a god or goddess then his sperm is sterile and Hera does not conceive. Zeus and Hera can have sex whenever they want without any fear
of Hera having an unwanted pregnancy. Hera only becomes pregnant if Zeus sees the need for a new divinity.

Question: why were godess important to the Greek society

Answer: The ancient Greeks believed the Goddesses were in control of some of the basic forces of nature.

Question: whos the goddess of nature

Answer: Artemis is the goddess of wild nature but she is not equivalent to Mother Nature in contemporary society. Many of the gods and goddesses were associated with natural processes that might be associated with mother nature. Hestia was the goddess of fire and controlled this process both in nature and in the hearth. Zeus was the god of the Atmosphere and Poseidon the god
of Earthquakes and the Sea. Aphrodite controlled love in nature and in human society. Artemis mainly protected living things in the wild.

Question: Who is Hebe’s Roman equivalent?

Answer: Juventas was the name of Hebe’s Roman counterpart

Question: Did Hercules kill Hebe, some stories said he killed his wife?

Answer: No. Hebe was an immortal who could not be killed. But he did kill his wife Megara, and later was killed himself by his wife Deianeira.

Question: was she happy

Answer: Yes. Most goddesses live in a state of eternal bliss. They have a much better sense of the true value of life than humans.

Question: Does Hebe have any brothers and sisters? If so who.

Answer: She is the sister of Ares, Hephaestus, and Eileithyia.

Question: What was Hebe’s symbol?

Answer: Her symbol is a cup

Question: Can you please give me the story of Praxithea

Answer: This is the name of four different individuals:

  • the water nymph
  • Daughter of Phrasimus and Diogenia
  • One of the Thespiades
  • One of the Leontides

Question: Was Hebe treated fairly by history? Why or Why not?

Answer: An immortal goddess such as Hebe is beyond history. A better question is whether the realm of Hebe, youth, has been treated fairly.

Question: What did Hebe accomplish or fail to accomplish?

Answer: Every goddess accomplishes the rules for her realm. She then administers those rules including punishing wrongdoers and rewarding patrons. She also answers prayers and grants exceptions to those rules. If a mortal is special to her she may request a favor from another god or goddess. Hebe’s realm was youth.

Question: Is hebe a vergin?

Answer: No. In ancient Greece youth must have extended to adult life. Maidens were virgins and youths, but married women could be youths as well.

Question: Are there any significant literatures, historical/political event or creation that she has been associated with?

Answer: Hebe married the immortalized Herakles in an important ceremony.

Question: Is Hebe still thout to be living

Answer: The ancient Greeks thought Hebe is an immortal goddess so in their mind her status has not changed from ancient times.

Question: What was Hebe’s personality like?

Answer: Since Hebe is the goddess of youth she has the personality of a perfect youth.

Question: where did Hebe come out of when she was born

Answer: Hebe was born of the seed of Zeus in the womb of Hera. Most of the goddesses were born of a god and goddess who performed a sexual union. The birth of a goddess looked very much like the birth of a mortal. But goddesses are full of knowledge at birth, unlike mortals. And the realm of the goddess is determined at conception while the realm of a mortal is determined by marriage.

Question: what is hebe`s nature?

Answer: Her nature is the same as the qualities of the realm of youth
over which she rules. She has the qualities of perfect youth.

Question: What are some myths about the goddess hebe?

Answer: The most exciting myth about Hebe was her marriage to Herackles. Other quotes from myths are mentioned earlier.

Question: what powers did hebe have?

Answer:

  • Immortality
  • The power to prophecy
  • The ability to know all
  • The power to move through the air
  • The power to change her shape to that of any mortal and many animals
  • She could negotiate with other deities for temporary powers from their realms but subject to their review.
  • . She is the goddess of youth and she had most of her powers
    in this realm. Within her own realm she sets the natural law and provides fixes when her laws go awry. The fates seem to weave a cord for mortals of many strands but knots to hold the strands together at points. Each strand is a better or worse path through time that the mortal can take while the knots represents events that must be endured regardless. What the goddess can do is divert the mortal to a better or worse path as relates to her realm. Though she has no control over what happens at the knots she can make the life between them miserable or maneagable. Obviously she can only do this during a mortal’s youth.

Question: Has the realm of Hebe, youth been treated fairly?

Answer: Perhaps not. Education is more important to youth than bearing cups.

Question: Can you give me a site to go to, to read about Hercules’ and Hebe’s wedding

Answer: Philadelphia MS5462

Question: Why should Hebe be remembered?

Answer: A goddess does not need to be remembered in the same sense as a mortal person. Information about a goddess is information about her realm. The more you know about her realm the better able you are to accomodate yourself to your environment. Of course at any one time you may only need to attend to one or two goddesses. But sometime you may be in a special situation that requires knowledge of one who is unfamiliar.
You may be stuck if you did not bother to learn about her.

Question: I was wondering if you know the weaknesses and the strenghts of Hebe?

Answer: A goddess does not really have strengths or weakenesses. Each goddess has a realm that she rules and the properties of that realm are what are really important. First see the page on powers of a goddess to see how powerful goddesses are. This page is at Click here Hebe is the goddess of youth and it is in the realm of youth that she has importance. She was the perfect picture of indutrious youth meaning that these qualities were important to youth. It was not just youth that attended her, however, as it was felt that she had the ability to make the old young again.

It must be assumed that it is Hebe that provides the eternal youth of the gods but this point is not important to the Greek stories as similar stories are to other pantheons. Hebe does wed Herakles, though the reason for this is not certain, except that she was young and available. Homer does not seem to know of this wedding so the origin of the story seems to be post Homer.

Question:where does Hebe come from, and I think Im supposed to look for an acutal place in Greece or something. But I dont know
if that is possible since she is a Goddess.

Answer: There are a number of ways to answer the question where does Hebe come from.

One answer is to give her parents. Zeus and Hera.

Another answer is to give the place of her birth. This is probably Mt. Olympus, the location of the palace of Zeus..

But we can also consider the idea of the goddess. The idea of Aphrodite seems to have come from Astarte in the Middle East. Athena seems to have come from a similar source. Hera seems like she was the great goddess and came from the North. But Hebe has no foreign source. She might have originated in Athens, Mycenae, Pylos, or some other Mycenaean city.Athens is a good guess because there as a temple of Hebe there.

The myths state that Hebe was the daughter of Hera and Zeus. Since Zeus is the father of the Universe and Hera its mother it stands to reason that they should produce youth. Thus Hebe is a simple pesonification of an aspect of nature that follows from all creation. Unlike Hera, Artemis, and Aphrodite, Hebe’s name means what it personifies. This means that she was a later addition to the Greek Pantheon, at least when Greek was being spoken.

Hebe is also referred to as maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess, Hebe.Hera.Hecate. This tripling of deities is a peculiarity of the Mycenaean civilization where there were three classes and the
deities were divided among them. Each ritual was repeated three times, once for each different class. Michael Ventris did show that the Mycenaeans spoke Greek and so one might assume that Hebe came to the Greeks from the Mycenaeans.

Question: what weapons does the goddess Hebe use

Answer: The only “weapon’ a goddess needs is her wand. The weapons associated with goddesses are entirely symbolic. Hebe is usually shown with a cup. In that sense her weapon is a cup. She doesn’t really need a wand. It is just shown as a symbol of a transfomation that she is performing. She might bestow age or youth on an individual as an act. If a warrior were attacking her favorite hero she might make the warrior age quickly so the hero could safely do him in. She would be shown in an illustration of the scene touching the warrior with a wand.

Question: Why was Hebe made cup bear of the gods?

Answer: A cup bearer was an honorary position at a banquet that allowed a young person to be involved in a less challenging way. This would allow the participants to witness the youth’s demeanor and the youth would have access to influential people. Also the cupbearer would have to be an honorable berson so the that the contents of the cup would not be tainted or poisoned. So it is appropriate that the goddess of youth should have this position at a banquet of the gods.

Question: Where was Hebe’s birthplace and habitat?

Answer: Phliasia borders on Sicyonia in Greece. Pausanius said that Phliasia had a sanctuary of Hebe. Sanctuaries often claim to be birthplaces of the deities they are dedicated to. So this is a possibility for Hebe.

As to habitat a goddess is equivalent and coextensive with her realm so everywhere there is youth, there Hebe will be found. In addition a goddess can be found anywhere upon the earth. Goddesses are restricted in their ability to visit the realm of the dead since they are immortal. Finally most of the deities take up residence in the palace of Zeus on Mt. Olympus.

Click Here for Menu Directory

 

2 thoughts on “Hebe, Ancient Greek Goddess of Youth”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Including Amazons, Goddesses, Nymphs, and Archaic Females from Mycenaen and Minoan Cultures