Hera Henioche, the charioteer

This will be a short deep dive into the curious epithet of “Henioche”, which translates to “charioteer”. This name is only found in Lebadaea in Boetia and is linked to the oracle Trophonius.

In the context of this sanctuary, Hera Henioche received offerings alongside Zeus Basileus (“King”), implying that she was indeed worshipped in close relationship with Zeus.

However, Hera is worshipped under no less than 3 epithets there: Henioche, Kore and Basilis. The last one, meaning “Queen” makes sense, and mirrors Zeus’ directly. The two others are more difficult to approach.

There are a few theories as to how Hera ended up with the Henioche epithet. First, we know that in this city held a festival called Basileia, which included horse races. It is possible that both Hera Basilis and Zeus Basileus were honored during this festival, and might have led to Hera having something to do with the horse race.

Another theory considers the epithet as a metaphorical link to Hera as a goddess of marriage. The idea being that Hera “leads” young people to marriage, the same way horses are led by the charioteer. The theory is somewhat supported by comparing the role of Hera in Argos, where she watched over the transitions important to young people: war and marriage.

This theory also makes some sense out of her Kore epithet. That is, Hera Kore would represent maidenhood, while Hera Henioche would represent her dominion and lead over the nuptial ceremony. Those two epithets would thus be two of the many epithets of hers that relate to a specific way of seeing marriage or a stage in a woman’s life.

Further reading:

Bonnechere P., Trophonios de Lébadée: Cultes et mythes d’une citée béotienne au miroir de la mentalité antique, 2003


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