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Hera’s suspension

January 14, 2013
tags: ,

So in taking advantage of JSTOR opening up some of their treasures, I stumbled across an interesting article.

Hera’s Anvils by Cedric H. Whitman
Harvard Studies in Classical Philology
Vol. 74, (1970), pp. 37-42
Published by: Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Article Stable URL:

It discusses the below quote and the possible reasons for Homer to include such a domesticated scene.  This happens right after Zeus realizes that Hera tricked him with her wiles and Aphrodite’s girdle to keep him from seeing the latest antics of the Trojan war.

“I’ll whip you stroke on stoke.
Don’t you recall the time I strung you in mid-air
And slung those two massive anvils down from your feet
And lashed both hands with a golden chain you could not break?
There, there in the clouds and high clear sky you dangled.” Iliad 15.22-26 (Fagles)

Below are some notes that stuck out for me:

  • describes air between upper and lower aether as golden
  • whipped with lightning
  • Homer may have been using or referring to a disintegrated myth about Heaven and Earth, used for comedic purposes to punish the wayward Hera
  • Suspension with weights and whipping was a punishment used on slaves and malefactors
  • golden chain used earlier when Zeus said that to a fomenting rebellion that not all the gods could pull him from heaven using a golden chain be that he’d pull them, the earth and sea up and suspend them from that chain to dangle in the air.
  • golden chain/cable/air seems to be connected to the space between heaven and earth
  • anvils=slingstones=meteorites=spent lightning
  • comparison of  Hephaistos as personified lightning, associated with heavenly fire instead of volcanic fire in this instance; comparison of the birth of Hephaistos with the myth of Hera producing Typhoeus.
  • tradition of violence between earth and sky divinities, Ouranos and Gaia for example
  • Heaven and Earth have a paradoxical relationship “distinctly separate and yet inseparably unified”.
  • all this implies that Hera is a earth goddess not a sky/aether goddess which is not typical; Pherecydes named her Chithonie
  • Homer turned the Sacred Marriage into a seduction for ill purposes and so had Zeus punish his wife using the tradition of violence between Earth and Sky
  • when it rains and shines at once it is said that the Devil is beating his wife
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