Reflections of Womanhood: Hera, Athena
The principal female Olympians -- Hera, Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite (together with Demeter, already examined) -- operate almost as though a meditation on the nature of womanhood. Each goddess speaks to a specific power of femaleness, and all sharply differentiate themselves from one another. Together, they seem both to describe and to analyze the many aspects of the feminine.
Hera (=Roman Juno). Special associations include matrons, marriage: wedded women, in particular, prayed to this goddess.
Attributes: no unique iconography, identified by context (the wife of Zeus) or inscription
Hera and Zeus. Relief, wood, from Samos. ca. 610 B.C.
Hera and Zeus. (version #2, in color).Relief, marble. Temple of Hera at Selinus. ca. 465 B.C.
Hera and Zeus. Relief, marble. East frieze of the Parthenon. Ca. 440.
Other images of Hera (from the Univ. of Victoria)
Hera, in literature and in cult: the woman-who-is-the-wife
Athena (Athene). (= Roman Minerva; sometimes called Tritogeneia; often called "Pallas Athena" or simply "Pallas")
Attributes: helmet, spear, aegis (a fringed half-cloak, often decorated with the Gorgon's head, and fringed with snakes); sometimes associated with snakes and owls.
Athena Lemnia (cult statue, original over-sized). Reconstruction in bronze, based on Roman copies of the original bronze statue by Pheidias. ca. 450 B.C.
Athena Lemnia, head. Roman copy of the original by Pheidias. ca. 450 B.C.
Heracles and Athena: Stymphalian birds. Metope from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. ca. 470-455 B.C.
Heracles and Athena: Atlas brings the apples of the Hesperides. Metope from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. ca. 470-455 B.C.
Mourning Athena. Relief, marble. ca. 460 B.C.
Other images of Athena (from the Univ. of Victoria)
Athena, the virgin and warrior goddess of the citadel (the maiden-who-is-not-desired, woman-as-stabilizing-force)
The elemental associations of Athena
Ambiguous sexuality: asexual birth; a tender maiden in the battle arms of a (male) warrior
Carries arms (aegis, helmet, spear): a female god (!) sacred to the warrior and to warrior society
Oversees the central tools of the woman too: as Athena Ergane weaving and woman's handiwork (expressed mythically in the tale of Arachne)
(The two worlds of the Iliad: the dutiful warrior society, the dutiful women working at home at their looms)
Association with the citadel of cities: Athens, Argos, Sparta, Gortyn, even Troy (!)
Association with wisdom, but not the riddling divine wisdom of light and "brilliance" associated with Apollo, but rather a steady, more sober, practical "wisdom"
Helper of heroes: the one-who-is-near
How do we put these disparate elements together?
The idea(l) of civilization, of the city, and the dutiful playing out of male and female roles among the citizens: the well-ordered society, informed by the sort of conservative, sound, organizational "wisdom" that helps to bring it about.
the stabilizing role of women in Greek warrior society (and compare Aphrodite for the destabilizing role of women in that same society!). Women as symbols of the practical and organizational intelligence (necessary for a well-run house): the oikos (=home) as a microcosm of the civil society, the polis (=city)
Reflections of Womanhood: Artemis & Aphrodite
Artemis (= Roman Diana). A virgin goddess, associated with the hunt, chastity, and childbirth (!)
Attributes: bow, fawn (or doe or stag); often appears with her brother, Apollo; usually a short dress (chiton) and a girl's hairstyle
Artemis (?) as Potnia Theron (Mistress of the Animals). Boeotian vase, ca. 680 B.C.
Artemis as protectress of animals (a much later image). Grave relief, ca. 350 B.C.
Artemis as deer hunter (also later). Attic pelike, ca. 380 B.C.
Artemis and Apollo: the killing of the children of Niobe. Niobid painter, ca. 455 B.C.
Artemis and the hunter Actaeon. ca. 475 B.C.
Artemis. Relief, marble. East frieze of the Parthenon. Ca. 440.
Other images of Artemis (from the Univ. of Victoria)
Artemis, the maiden-who-is-desired-but-cannot-be-touched
Associated with "virgin" nature, animals, hunt, chastity (but also childbirth!)
Odyssey 6 (a simile describing Nausicaa): "As Artemis the arrow-shooting moves across the mountains, delighting in boars and swift running deer, and with her play the nymphs, daughters of Zeus, who range in the wilds, and Leto rejoices in her heart: Artemis holds head and forehead above them all and is easily known, but all are beautiful: so excelling her handmaidens shone the unbroken virgin.
In origin, "Mistress of the Animals", both (in some sense) a fertility goddess assoc. with wild beasts, but also a slayer of beasts (Artemis - deer - Iphigenia). Portrayed both with a gentle, virgin nature, accompanied by fawns, and as "the modest maiden who loves the din of the hunt and shoots volleys of arrows at stags" (Homeric Hymn to Artemis).
Similarly there are two sides to her virginal (lack of) sexuality. Not, like Athena, a lack of sexuality: peculiarly erotic, and challenging in the erotic allure. The inviolate and inviolable virgin, usually accompanied (as in the story of Actaeon) by a swarm of equally enticing nymphs. But the appearance of Artemis' nymphs is strangely bound up in myth with rape: Zeus and Callisto, Theseus and Helen.
Instability of the image of the "virgin" follower of Artemis, Hippolytus.
The image of the "Pure Virgin" is unstable: no sanctity here, but rather that destabilizing eroticism tied up with virgin girls of marriageable age. "Nymph": cf. Greek nymphe =
(1) divinities present in streams and flowers and young trees
(2) newlywed brides
(3) young women in their first encounter with love
Actaeon and similar tales can be read then as a mythical exploration of the dangerous eroticism that goes along with the innocence and beauty of a young woman or girl of marriageable age
Aphrodite. (= Roman Venus; sometimes called Cytherea or Cypris).
Attributes: in early art, usually clothed and often impossible to distinguish from Hera or other goddesses, unless there is an inscription; from the 4th century onward, usually nude (after Praxiteles)
sometimes pictured with a sceptre or a mirror; often accompanied by Eros (=Roman Cupid) or several Erotes (Cupids); sometimes accompanied by a goose or swan.
Aphrodite with other goddesses: who is who and what event? Antimenes Painter, ca. 530 B.C.
Ludovisi Throne, ca. 465 B.C.: (close-up)
Aphrodite rides a goose. (color version) Pistoxenos Painter, ca. 460 B.C.
[Aphrodite coming out of a shell. Terracotta statue, 4th c. B.C.]
Aphrodite and Erotes. Apulian vase, ca. 380 B.C.
Aphrodite (Venus of Arles). Roman copy after original attributed to Praxiteles, ca. 360 B.C.
Aphrodite of Cnidos. Later copy of the cult statue by Praxiteles, ca. 350-340 B.C.
Crouching Aphrodite (Venus of Vienna). Roman copy of a 3rd c. B.C. original.
"Venus di Milo". = Aphrodite of Melos, ca. 150-100 B.C.
Venus in her shell, with Cupid alongside. Roman wall painting from Pompeii (Casa dei Venus), 1st c. A.D.
Other images of Aphrodite / Venus (from the Univ. of Victoria)
A definitive ideal of beauty, extremely influential then and now
Aphrodite, the woman-who-is-desired-and-CAN-be-touched (cf. Artemis), the woman-who-is-not-the-wife (cf. Hera), woman-as-destabilizing-force (cf. Athena)
Greek verb: aphrodizein. A. represents female eroticism in the full bloom of beauty and without restraint, not a loss of innocence but a mature sympathy with the frank appreciation and expression of beauty and sexual love: "the joyous consummation of sexuality" (Burkert)
Near Eastern antecedents: Ishtar (goddess of love & war), also called Inanna and Astarte. Ritual prostitution. Sexuality, despite later representations, not solely feminine: bearded Aphrodite/Ishtar, male Aphroditos/Astar.
But as Aphrodite develops in Greek culture, clearly she is conceived as a contrast to Artemis.
Artemis: simple garb, lives among the beasts, accompanied by nymphs (feminine divinities of the wild: streams, trees)
Aphrodite: heavily adorned, accompanied by 3Graces (feminine divinities of feminine allure as it is enhanced by clothes, jewelry, hair-dressing)
Artemis "shoots straight"
Aphrodite "leads astray": Anchises because "she even led astray the mind of Zeus...": her feminine wiles are too much for Anchises, Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, lines 97ff (Powell p. 158-9)
Artemis as the "repression" or denial of Aphrodite (and Euripides' Hippolytus as a meditation on that)