Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth

Hestia worships

The worship of Hestia.

HESTIA (Ἑστία), in Greek mythology, the fire-goddess, daughter of Cronus and Rhea, the goddess of hearth and home. Hestia is mentioned in passing by Hesiod. She is not mentioned in Homer, although the hearth is recognized as a place of refuge for suppliants; this seems to show that her worship was not universally acknowledged at the time of the Homeric poems. In Book VII of the Odyssey Odysseus enters the palace of Alcinous and begs mercy at the knees of Arete. Then “…he sat down upon the hearth in the ashes beside the fire…” Here homer uses the word ‘ἐσχάρῃ’ to mean hearth. But ‘ἑστία’ is commonly used to mean ‘hearth’ in ancient texts.

Hestia probably came with the Indo-European peoples that came to Greece in about the second millenium BCE. They mixed with the Minoans and Pelasgians who were already there. They became the Myceanean civilization that flourished in the period from 1600 B.C. to 1400 B.C. Hestia may have come with Zeus from the Indo-Europeans. If this is true then there may be words in the Indo-European language that relate to the goddess’s name. The most likely word related to ‘Hestia’ is the English word ‘is’. In the Spanish the word ‘esta’ makes the resemblance more clear. The ‘h’ was often not written in ancient Greek. For this reason her name, according to Plato, means ‘the essence of things’, and since she is the essence of everything that moves and flows and has life and personality, she is herself the most anonymous, the least personal of all the goddesses.

In post-Homeric religion she is one of the twelve Olympian deities, but, as the abiding goddess of the household, she never leaves Olympus. When Apollo and Poseidon became suitors for her hand, she swore to remain a maiden for ever; whereupon Zeus bestowed upon her the honour of presiding over all sacrifices. To her the opening sacrifice was offered; to her at the sacrificial meal the first and last libations were poured. Her maidenhood may reflect the cultural fact that it was the maidens in the home who were given the duty of maintaining the home fire. (Price and Kerns, p262)

The fire of Hestia was always kept burning, and, if by any accident it became extinct, only sacred fire produced by friction, or by burning glasses drawing fire from the sun, might be used to rekindle it. Hestia is the goddess of the family union, the personification of the idea of home; and as the city union is only the family union on a large scale, she was regarded as the goddess of the state. In this character her special sanctuary was in the prytaneum, where the common hearth-fire round which the magistrates meet is ever burning, and where the sacred rites that sanctify the concord of city life are performed. From this fire, as the representative of the life of the city, intending colonists took the fire which was to be kindled on the hearth of the new colony.

Hestia was closely connected with Zeus, the god of the family both in its external relation of hospitality and its internal unity round its own hearth; in the Odyssey a form of oath is by Zeus, the table and the hearth. Again, Hestia is often associated with Hermes, the two representing home and domestic life on the one hand, and business and outdoor life on the other; or, according to others, the association is local that of the god of boundaries with the
goddess of the house. In later philosophy Hestia became the hearth of the universe the personification of the earth as the centre of the universe, identified with Cybele and Demeter. As Hestia had her home in the prytaneum, special temples dedicated to her are of rare occurrence. She is seldom represented in works of art, and plays no important part in legend. It is not
certain that any really Greek statues of Hestia are in existence, although the Giustiniani Vesta in the Torlonia Museum is usually accepted as such. In this she is represented standing upright, simply robed, a hood over her head, the left hand raised and pointing upwards. The Roman deity corresponding to the Greek Hestia is VESTA (q.v.).

Hestia was a virgin goddess like Athena and Artemis and was Zeus’s sister, as well as the sister of Hera, Demeter, Hades and Poseidon. As the goddess of the hearth, she was the symbol of the home. Because of her connection no Greek went without at least daily contact with the worship of Hestia. A public hearth sacred to Hestia allowed the maintenance of a fire
that was never allowed to go out.

These are the myths about her:

  • She was one of the children swallowed by Cronus.
  • Both Poseidon and Apollo wanted to marry her but she swore to remain a
    virgin.
  • She nearly lost her virginity when Priapus tried to rape her at a
    festival
  • When Dionysus came to Olympus Hestia yielded her seat at the high table to
    him.

Greek art was mostly public, and not used much in the home. For this reason
Hestia did not influence art that much. There are pictures:

From Hesiod:

(ll. 453-491) “But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bare
splendid children, Hestia (18), Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and
strong Hades, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth, and
the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, and wise Zeus, father of gods and
men, by whose thunder the wide earth is shaken. These great
Cronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother’s
knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Heaven
should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he
learned from Earth and starry Heaven that he was destined to be
overcome by his own son, strong though he was, through the
contriving of great Zeus (19). Therefore he kept no blind
outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children: and
unceasing grief seized Rhea.”

XXIV. TO HESTIA (5 lines)

(ll. 1-5) Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo,
the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from
your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with
Zeus the all-wise — draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my
song.

XXIX. TO HESTIA (13 lines)

(ll. 1-6) Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless
gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting
abode and highest honour: glorious is your portion and your
right. For without you mortals hold no banquet, — where one
does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first
and last.

(ll. 7-10) (33) And you, slayer of Argus, Son of Zeus and Maia,
messenger of the blessed gods, bearer of the golden rod, giver of
good, be favourable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful
and dear. Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship
together; for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid
on their wisdom and their strength.”

Aeschines, On the Embassy 2.45 “Hestia, goddess of the senate”. The standing committee of the senate met around the hearth of the Prytaneum which was considered the common hearth of the state. Most communities had a Prytaeum which housed a permanent fire and served as a meeting place for important meetings.

Apollodorus, Library 1.1.5: “His firstborn Hestia he (Cronus) swallowed,”

Bacchylides, Epinicians Ode 14b: “Golden-throned Hestia, you who increase the great prosperity of the rich Agathocleadae,” This may be a reference to the cact that fire is used to smelt gold.

Herodotus, The Histories, 2.50. Herodotus states that Hestia was unique to Greece according to the Egyptians.

Resources:

  • Paris, Ginette, “Pagan Meditations : The Worlds of Aphrodite, Artemis, and
    Hestia”, Spring Publications, Incorporated, 05/01/1986, ISBN: 0882143301.

To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Hestia) and
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Hestia, goddess of the Hearth

Questions and Answers

Question: What is her symbol????

Answer: A perpetual hearth or lamp with a perpetual flame.

Question: hestia birth date

Answer: The main festival of Hestia is at Candlemas, December 21. For an
example of a festival of Hestia: Click here

Question: exactly what kind of impact did she have on the greeks?

Answer: Most of the goddesses were pretty remote, but you had to deal with
Hestia every day. Hestia was a very personal goddess.

Question: What were Hestia features and what talets did dhe
have? Was Hastia ever married?To what person?

Answer: Hestia was a virgin whose domain was fire hearths and activities
related to them. Fire was very important to the ancient Greeks and in order
to use it a fire was maintained at all times. New fires would be kindled from
old ashes. It was a great inconvenience to have your fire go out because you
would have to send for a light from a neighbor, if you could find a neighbor
that had one. Because storms would put fires out a priestess was designated
to maintain a fire in each community. This fire would be kept in a temple of
Hestia and the attendants would see that the fire always burned. The various
houses in the community would send for a light from that temple.

Many activities took place in or near the hearth. These included cooking,
boiling water for cleaning, cleaning, baking of bread and crafts such as
weaving, which required hot water or heat. In other cases the heat of the fire
or its light was important. Hestia would affect the success of any of these
activities. The success of a recipe might be due to Hestia. Whether a pot
broke or water boiled would relate to Hestia. Whether wood burned brightly,
etc. In fact, many of the daily activities depended upon Hestia

Answer: Hestia was the first born of the children of Cronus. He swallowed
all his children except Zeus, who disabled Cronus and caused him to
regurtate all the children he swallowed. This is the only myth about Hestia.

Question: What area or city – state does Hestia govern?

Answer: Every fireplace or hearth was sacred to Hestia and this was her
realm.

Question: What is the symbol and animal associated with Hestia?

Answer: Her symbol is a flame and her animal is a calf.

Question: what was hestia’s sacred tree?

Answer: Because Hesiod wrote the following poem I assume it is the olive.

XXIV. TO HESTIA (5 lines)

(ll. 1-5) Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo,
the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from
your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with
Zeus the all-wise -- draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my
song."

Question: What other names does Hestia have?

Answer: None that I know of.

Question: I’ve read that Hestia has ties to lotus trees. Is this correct and how it that so?

Answer: The fruit of the lotus tree is eaten by the lotus-eaters. I do no
find a connection.

Question: What is Hestia domain?

Answer: Hestia’s domain is all hearths where fire burns to provide heating
and cooking of food. She is also involved with the activities done at the
hearth such as starting the fire and keeping it lit. Cooking activities
and community activities involving the light of the fire are all in her
domain. In the sense that a fire is used to purify then Hestia is involved
here as well.

Question: What Natural phenomenon did Hestia have?

Answer: Combustion

Question: Why is Hestia’s favorite animal the calf?

Answer: The calf was the favorite sacrifice victim and most calves were
sacrificed on the hearth.

Question: how did she become a goddess?

Answer: All goddesses are born to their realm from the womb of another
goddess. Often the babies realm is an offshoot of the realm of the mother
or the realm of the father.

Question: How is Greek mythology used in our modern everyday life?

Answer: Greek mythology is used in many ways. The ancient Greeks were some
of the most creative story tellers who ever lived and they were very prolific.
Many people find their stories very entertaining. Others turn to mythology
for an ieducation. The ancient Greeks liked to play with many different ideas
and included many of these in their myths. These ideas have proved useful in
many areas and are often essential for understanding. Words are often tied to
these ideas and so ancient Greek mythology helps with vocabulary. Though
the religion of ancient Greece is no longer widely believed, yet the divinities
are often used as personifications of natural events. Literature often makes
reference to these dieties as a way of being poetic. So ancient Greek
mythology helps with the understanding of Literature. Ancient Greeks led the
world in advanced learning for over 1000 years and their ideas of mythology
have crept into many ideas of advanced learning.

On the more pedantic side Greek mythology contains within it many clues to
the behavior of ancient cultures. These clues help in fields such as
history and archeology that study the past.

Question: origin of Hestias life

Answer: Hestia was born of Cronus and Rhea so she is one of the earliest
of the Olympian deities to be born.

Question: What are some of Hestia’s personality traits

Answer: At conception a deities personality is bound up in the realm
assigned to that deity. The realm assigned to Hestia is the hearth, or
more accurately the flame burning on the hearth. Because the fire in the
hearth is the center of the household she is also the goddess of domestic life.
No temple was built to Hestia because every hearth was her altar and many
communities maintained a public hearth where an eternal fire burned. She
has the personality that you would expect of such a familiar person.

She is stately but not formidable, pretty but not too pretty, sweetfaced
but distant. She was modest and gentle. She was not involved in any of the
conflicts that the other deities engaged in. Of all the olympians she seemed
to be the most upright and charitable and when Dionysus came to Olympus, she
yielded her high seat to him.

Question: Why did her brother Poseidon propose to her?

Answer: Hestia would make a very desirable wife, beautiful and sexy as were
all the major goddesses, but also domestic in a way that would make for a happy
home, but she was a confirmed virgin.

Question: what is hestia’s strengths and weaknesses

Answer: Goddesses do not have strengths and weaknesses, but they personify
a realm which has social, economic and political implications. Hestia is
the goddess of the hearth, home fire, and consequently of domestic life. In
ancient Greece the hearth was built in the center of the courtyard of the
home. Around the edge of the courtyard was a porch. This arrangement allowed
domestic life to proceed regardless of the weather. The fire in the hearth
cooked the meals, baked the bread, warmed water for washing, and provided
any heat required by the house. Any home trades would also use this fire.
The fire would always be burning. At night the fire would reduce to a bed of
coals. In the morning the fire would have to be re-kindled from these
remaining coals. If the fire could not be re-started, someone would have to
go to the temple of Hestia for a light.

Question: Hestia was also called Vesta(roman name)

Answer: Vesta was the Roman equivalent of Hestia.

Question: What word are derived from Hestia

Answer: I do not find any. “Hestia” means hearth. Hestia in Greek is
spelled epsilon, sigma, tau, iota, alpha or Iota, sigma, tau, iota, eta.

Question: What did Hestia say a lot or what were some quotes?

Answer: Hestia was very mild. I cannot find any quotes.

Question: Who were Hestia’s allies?

Answer: Her mild manners made her popular with mortals and immortals.

Question: How was Hestia’s role in the war against the Titans and the giants

Answer: I find no information on this.

Question: How can I worship Hestia

Answer: The main worship of a goddess involves respecting her realm and
using it well. With Hestia this means maintaining the home fires: a warm house
and well-cooked meals. More intense worship is required only if there is a
problem in her realm. It never hurts to remember Hestia in a prayer or with
a libation, but one cannot remember all the goddesses in this way. It is wise
to concentrate on the ones that are likely to be needed.

Question: In which year became the cult of Hestia illegal

Answer: I know of no cult of Hestia. The Greek religion was broken in
Roman times about 125 AD but you would have to consult Roman law about it
being illegal.

Question: What happened to Hestia after she gave up her spot on Mount Olympus to Zeus’s son Dionysus?

Answer: Every diiner at Olympus is a banquet with Zeus and Hera sitting
in their throne chairs behind a table on an elevated platform. The table is
along a wall on which hangs the Aegis. The table is long enough to sit twelve
deities and perhaps two guests on the side facing the wall. No one sits on
the other side which faces ranks of tables on the floor of the hall. Lesser
deities, perhaps a thousand in number, sit in stools on the floor of the
hall. If there is a speaker he speaks from the platform either behind his
chair or from a podium on the front of the platform. Entertainers perform in
the same spot with the podium removed. Hestia merely moved from a place of
honor on the high platform with Zeus to the floor of the hall with the lesser
deities. But her status was elevated by this gracious act. She received the
same food, but had a poorer view of the events.

Question: Two questions about Hestia:why is she also called”mother”?why is
she represented wilth a large breast in some statues?Is it a symbol of
fertility?

Answer: Hestia was associated with the world of women because it was they
that tended the fire and used it. But I find no references of the sort you
mention.

Question: I read Priapus raped hestia. What about this fact? Are there pix,statues?

Answer: Goddesses are hard to rape even by gods. Though Priapus is a god
he is not strong and this rape is unlikely. But you must look beyond the fact
to the meaning. What could be learned by a rape of Hestia? What would
the moral be? Don’t get drunk because you might be raped? Hestia is
still a virgin.

Question: How was Hestia born?

Answer: The assumption is that a goddess has similar baby making equipment
as a mortal woman. Hestia was born of this equipment in Rhea from the seed
of Cronus. Her father immediatelly swallowed her and confined her to his body.
Later Zeus caused Cronus to regurgitate all the children he had swallowed and
Hestia was literally born a second time.

Question: Are there pictures,statues of Hestia and Priapus together?

Answer: Not that I can find.

Question: has Hestia ever had a little love temtation for man/god?

Answer: no. As a virgin goddess she is immune to such things. She can
be said to love mankind in general, but not in a sexual way.

Question: What are Hestia’s personality traits

Answer: A goddesses’s personality traits are exactly determined by the
qualities of the realm she rules.

Question: Has Hestia ever desired to get pregnant and have children in
spite of her virginity?

Answer: It would have been natural for her to have such thoughts before
she took her vow of chastity.

Question: Did hestia want to have children with a husband or preserving virginity?

Answer: After she took her vow of chastity Hestia was more interested in
preserving her virginity. For Hestia virginity was a source of power.

Question: Did hestia want to have children with a husband or preserving virginity?

Answer: After she made her vow of chastity she wanted to concentrate on her
work and leave family activities for others.

Question: What is Hestia’s animal?

Answer: The ass is Hestia’s sacred animal,

The calf is also associated with Hestia.

Question: what most important thing did hestia do?

Answer: The most important thing that a goddess does is provide rules and
regulations for her realm. She also enforces those rules and listens to
prayers so that exceptions to the rules are provided. Hestia has as her
realm the hearth of the home. This means she controls fires and the many
things cooked on them.

Question: What did Hestia look like?

Answer: Remember that a goddess should not be identified by her
appearance, but rather by her symbol. And her symbol somehow relates to her
realm. In Hestia’s case her symbol is a lighted lamp or hearth. Goddesses
can be as beautiful as they want, so all an artist has to depict a goddess
is portray a beautiful womaen and attach the appropriate symbol to her.

Question: When Priapus tired to rape Hestia, in a first time did she agree
to him?

Answer: Probably not. Goddesses do no like to be raped and they have
power s to prevent it. Also Hestia swore a vow of chastity. Vows are much
more serious for a goddess than for a mortal. There is a question of whether
the Priapus incident came before or after the vow. But it seems that Hestia
made her vow quite early in her life and so it will likely apply.

Question: I read Hestia/Vesta was assciated to a consort Pales.What about
him?

Answer: An interesting web site on Pales:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/7740/Pales.htm

Pales does not seem to be an ancient Greek god or goddess so is not
a consort of Hestia. The religion of Rome was very ecclectic and
Pales may have become attached to Vesta.

Question: So for roman religion Vesta’s virginal status isn’t clear.In
greek hestia’s virginity is there any paradox?

Answer: Virginity is simple in concept but in practicality it is very
complex. The Greeks focused on the ideal while the Romans were more practical.
One has to think about the value of virginity in each case. Virgin olive
oil is pure and unadulterated. But this concept is not so easily applied
to a virgin girl. Some would say a virgin girl must be pure morally as
well as being sexually inexperienced. But does pure morals imply
ignorance? Some would seem to desire this. The reason goes back to the
old Greek idea that girls are insatiable and once they learn about sex
they will pursue it without reason. But it seems likely that girls are
reasonable and will benefit from more information rather than less.
But they might not be so cooperative. Why did the vestal virgins need to
be virgin girls? It is good for a girl to remain a virgin in order to
allow her to pursue her education until she is mature enough to handle the
challenges of a family. Is it good for a girl to remain a virgin if it
is more pleasant for her husband? It is not good for a girl to remain a
virgin if it means she will put off her family until it is a strain on her
body and puts her at risk.

Question: In according to you, what are the differences between roman and
greek culture?

Answer: I can gloss over this difference by explaining that the Greeks were
idealistic and the Romans more down to earth and practical but this
is a subject that needs a lot of detail that is out of my realm of
expertise. Vesta is one of the few Roman goddesses about which there is
considerably more information than her Greek counterpart. A web page about
Vesta is Click here

Question: What is Hestia’s impact on the future?

Answer: Consider the following:

Sophocles, Philoctetes 989: Odysseus “Zeus it is, I tell you, Zeus, who rules this land, [990] and it is by Zeus that these actions are decreed. I am his servant.”

Hymn 24 to Hestia: “Then Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind [5] with Zeus the all-wise —draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.”

Hymn 5 to Aphrodite, line 22: “Nor yet does the pure maiden Hestia love Aphrodite’s works. She was the first-born child of wily Cronos and youngest too, by will of Zeus who holds the aegis, —a queenly maid whom both Poseidon and Apollo sought to wed. [25] But she was wholly unwilling, nay, stubbornly refused; and touching the head of father Zeuswho holds the aegis, she, that fair goddess, swear a great oath which has in truth been fulfilled, that she would be a maiden all her days. So Zeus the Father gave her an high honor instead of marriage, [30] and she has her place in the midst of the house and has the richest portion. In all the temples of the gods she has a share of honor, and among all mortal men she is chief of the goddesses.”

Hymn 29 to Hestia “[1] Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor: glorious is your portion and your right. [5] For without you mortals hold no banquet, —where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last.”

From these quotes we learn that Hestia carries out the will of Zeus. She is a personification of the functions of the household and meeting place. She is often referred to as the goddess of the hearth. Her affect on the future depends upon the will of Zeus and the role of the household in that will. In ancient Greece how well a day went depended upon whether one could light a fire from yesterday’s coals, and whether the fire would burn hot to make food for the day. She seems to have been responsible for water quality in the home and the condition of the wine. At the end of the day there was much to thank her for.

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