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Ancient Love: What Zeus And Hera Can Teach Us About Relationships

Mythology can teach us a lot of things about life, but specifically it can give us relationship advice. In the next few articles, I’ll be exploring different mythological relationship pairings and analysing what we can learn from them.

In this first article I will be looking at Zeus and Hera.

It has to be said, Zeus and Hera’s relationship is not a conventional one. Their relationship was famously known for being rocky and unstable. Zeus was known for his multiple affairs and Hera was renowned for spending all her time enacting revenge on all of Zeus’ mistresses and their relevant offspring. Perhaps worse of all, they both seem to be in constant competition with one another. Let’s break this down in more detail:

  1. Siblings

The first red flag in Zeus and Hera’s relationship is that they are brother and sister. It seems a little odd that neither find this a problem. Obviously this attribute of being siblings doesn’t translate into modern day life. However, we could interpret Zeus and Hera’s sibling status as a symbol that demonstrates their lack of compatibility and forthcoming troublesome relationship.

2. Was the power too much for Zeus?

Zeus was King of the Gods and was well known for sitting on his throne in Mount Olympus, judging everyone. Zeus’ position as King gave him far too much power, because once he made the decision he wanted Hera, he wouldn’t stop. At every opportunity Hera, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, told Zeus ‘no’ whenever Zeus proposed to her. But Zeus apparently doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

3. Zeus tricked Hera

As a result of Hera persistently saying ‘no’ to Zeus, he tricked Hera into marrying him. In true mythological fashion, Zeus transformed himself into a helpless bird that got stuck in the rain. Hera found the soaked bird and took care of it. Zeus then turned himself back into his true form and Hera fell in love with him, finally agreeing to be his wife.

In 21st century terminology, this sounds a lot like emotional manipulation and therefore is another red flag.

(Zeus – you’re not doing too well here).

4. Zeus’ love affairs

Zeus consistently and repetitively became involved with multiple other women by having affairs with goddesses, nymphs and mortals. Consequently, Hera found out and became incredibly jealous. As a result, Hera’s personality changed. She spent most of her time spying and plotting revenge on Zeus and his lovers. Hera became known for her violent temper and repetitively punished the women he had affairs with and their children.

                              Example 1

Zeus fell in love with Calisto and Hera turned her into a bear.

                              Example 2

Zeus tried to disguise Io from Hera, by turning her into a cow. Hera knew what had happened and subsequently sent a biting fly (gadfly) to sting Io while she wondered the earth.

Other Examples

Other mistresses includes: Danae (mother of Perseus), Alcmena (mother of Heracles), Leda (mother of Helen of Troy and Pollux), Europa (mother of King Minos) and Ganymede (a mortal man and Trojan prince).

Whilst it’s easy to spot Zeus’ red flags, it is possible to see how much he influenced Hera’s behaviour and changed her personality by being emotionally and mentally abusive. Hera become obsessed with Zeus’ mistresses. Unfortunately these women have no control over who Zeus picks as a mistress and therefore were both at the mercy of his abuse and the vengance of Hera as a result of any affairs.

What can we learn from Zeus and Hera?

Zeus has many red flags and the above are only a summary. Zeus couldn’t take ‘no’ as an answer and as a result, Zeus repetitively pressurised and emotionally manipulated Hera into marrying him. Then, when Zeus got what he wanted with Hera, he began multiple affairs with other women, ultimately changing Hera’s character.

On the other hand, Hera shouldn’t have put up with Zeus, even if he was the King of Gods. Maybe Hera was blinded by his power or maybe she felt she couldn’t say ‘no’ any longer. However, Hera’s jealousy poisoned her and changed her for good.

Ultimately, the lesson we can learn from Zeus and Hera is not to ignore red flags. They’ll build up and get worse, changing both your characters for the worse.

I'm the Sex and Relationships Editor for Exeter and a third year student studying Classical Studies and English with a passion for literature, art and film!
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