The Children of Zeus and Hera

Some myths say that the wedding night of Zeus and Hera lasted for 300 years! Despite their extended honeymoon, the couple had only three children — together, that is.

Ares

According to most myths, Ares was the only son of Zeus and Hera. As Chapter 5 notes, Ares would become the god of war, taking his place among the great gods of Olympus. Chapter 10 gives the details of his life.

Eileithyia

Some myths imply that Eileithyia was born out of wedlock. In any case, this daughter of Zeus and Hera was the goddess of childbirth. Hera sometimes took advantage of her daughter's role as the helper of women during labor, and Eileithyia rarely questioned her mother's wishes. For example, jealous Hera wanted to prevent Leto from giving birth to Zeus's children so she tried to prevent Eileithyia from going to Leto's side. Eileithyia wanted to obey her mother, but other goddesses convinced her to help Leto. When Eileithyia arrived there, Artemis was born.

Another example involved the birth of Heracles. Again, Hera's jealousy was intense. She told Eileithyia to sit outside the room where Heracles' mother (Alcmene, a mortal lover of Zeus) was in labor, keeping her own arms, legs, and fingers crossed (or simply clutching her own knees together). This action postponed the birth of Heracles for several days.

Heracles was born thanks to the clever servant who attended Alcmene during her labor. Although Alcmene's child had not been born yet, the servant pretended that he had, shouting, “It's a boy!” Eileithyia, shocked that her spell had failed, got up and went to see the child. When she uncrossed her limbs, the spell was broken, and Alcmene was able to give birth.

Hebe

Hebe was less prominent than her brother and sister, but she was known for her beauty. The personification of youth, Hebe was forever young and beautiful. She was cupbearer to the Olympians, serving them their divine drink of nectar. Hebe also drew baths, helped Hera into her chariot, and took care of other household chores.

One myth says that Hebe was released from her cupbearing duties when she accidentally tripped and fell at an important festival. As she fell, she indecently exposed herself to the guests and, as a result, lost her job of serving. Later, however, Hebe became the bride of Heracles when he was admitted into the heavens.

Hephaestus: A Fourth Child?

Some myths state that Zeus and Hera had a fourth child together. In those versions, Hephaestus was their second son. But Hesiod tells the story a different way, claiming that Hera conceived Hephaestus without the aid of Zeus or any other man. In this popular version of the myth, Zeus and Hera argue, and afterward Hera gives birth to Hephaestus by an act of sheer will.

If you're wondering what it's like to be the child conceived of only one parent, take a look at Chapter 15, which gives a full account of the life of Hephaestus.

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