Hera the Blossoming

For the last post of this Hera series, I will be focusing on her Antheia epithet. This will be a rather short post, as information is limited, but I hope to cover the bases.

Antheia means “blooming” or “blossoming” and is a word obviously closely linked to vegetation, and flowers in particular. While, as an epithet, it shared by both Hera and Aphrodite, it is also the name of one of the Kharites/Graces, as the goddess of flowers and wreaths.

Hera only gets this same in her sanctuary of Argos, which happens to be one of the most important cult places of hers. In theory, it would seem that Hera, while being a fertility goddess, doesn’t have any explicit link to grain agriculture. In fact, her only link to vegetation is through her Antheia epithet, or in myth, through her link to apples.

In practice, it seems very different. A group of figurines called “flower-women” found in her sanctuary in Foce Sele have brought attention to her role as a fertility goddess in Magna Graecia (Southern part of Italy). Her realm clearly covered the fertility of both land, animals and humans.

The geography of this sanctuary has also indicated that there was a woody area and a cultivated land dedicated to her. It seems also likely that the myrtle has been introduced in the area by human activity and grew on that cultivated land. The area included also oat, wheat, willow and poplar trees. It seems logical, given this information, that Hera was worshipped as a vegetation goddess there.

As for the statuettes, their role is still unsure. Some seem to have been votives, and they probably doubled as incense burners, given their peculiar shape.

flower woman figurines

Further reading:

  • Cantone F., The “Flower Woman” Figurines from the Foce Sele Hera Sanctuary. Ancient Coroplastic Digital Management, Analysis and Sharing, in: Archeologica e Calcolatori, 2015
  • de La Genière J., Héra. Images, espaces, cultes, 1993 (republished 2019)
  • De Martino G., A multicultural Approach to the Study of the Cult of Hera in Poseidonia/Paestum in: Arctos 52, 2018

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