In the land of the Hesperides (decoding the myth...)
Ιn the days before the rise of Zeus, when the fearsome Titan Cronos ruled over gods and men, a goddess sat upon a rock, holding a little girl in her arms. Her name was Rhea and she was Cronos' wife. Her face was sad and her expression thoughtful... She wished to save her children from her husband whose one desire to destroy them all lest they topple him from his throne. Now she held her little daughter Hera in her arms and racked her brains trying to think of a place where she could hide her.
It was the time where the sun sinks towards its rest, and a breath-taking view spread itself before her. As she gazed out upon the magnificent sunset, a thought suddenly crossed her mind. She remembered that beneath those parti-coloured clouds lay the fairest land in all the world, the land of the Hesperides.
There lived her sisters, the Hours, and now the time had come when she had need of them.
The land of Hesperides lay far away, its shores beyond the reach of man; and it was not until much later that it was visited by the mythical heroes Heracles and Perseus. Above all, Cronus' affairs never carried him so far afield; he had never visited the land of the Hesperides. "That is where I shall hide my daughter" Rhea thought and swift as the wind she set out for the distant, brightly coloured West.
The journey to that earthly paradise was enchanting; the further west she journeyed the more beautiful everything around her became. Sky, earth, and sea were all bathed in countless colours, and when she stepped down into the land of the Hesperides, its radiance seemed to enfold her like an aura, holding her momentarily spellbound. Happy indeed are the Hesperides, the goddesses who live and rule in that place. Happy, too, are the three sisters, the Hours who also live there, far from the tyranny of Cronos.
The Hours came happily forward to meet their sister, but as they drew nearer their faces fell at the sight of Rhea's troubled and anxious expression. She laid the child gently at their feet and then, sobbing, embraced them one by one. "Unhappy mother that I am' she cried. For years now I have been losing my children. Their own father swallows them for fear that they will one day cast him from his throne, just as he overthrew his own father, the once-great Uranus. Thanks to Zeus, I now see them again, for the forced Cronos to bring them forth into the light once more, but alas! I fear that I must lose them yet again. Cronos is in real danger now, and who knows what schemes he may be plotting to do away with them for a second time? And so, kind sisters, I am now bringing you my daughter, Hera. A prophecy foretells that she will become foremost among goddesses, revered by mortals and immortals alike. Here, in this faraway land, Cronos will never come to do her harm."
The Hours, received little Hera gladly, and Rhea, her fears now laid to rest, set out once more for Greece.
The Hours brought up Hera with all the loving care of true mothers. They joined in her games, and taught her countless things about the gods, nature and the world.
Hera grew into a girl so beautiful that the birds and the beasts of the forest were dazzled when she passed. Yet her beauty did not turn her head. She was fond of study and learning, and wished to become a goddess worthy and capable of aiding both gods and mortals; and so she asked the Hours ceaseless questions on every subject under the sun. These fond foster-mothers took her for walks, showed her the sky and the earth and explained how the winter comes and the spring and then the summer. They would often take her to a mountain, show her the clouds and the sea and explain how the thunder and lightning and storms are caused. When night fell, they would show her the starry sky and teach her to pick out the constellations. Hera was never tired to what the Hours had to tell. She had now learned all the mysteries of the skies and felt immortal power stirring within her. She loved the sky and would exclaim the girlish simplicity: "Oh, how I would love to be Queen of the Heavens!"
Iris, one of the goddesses of the sky, was very fond of the lovely Hera. Often to please her, she would deck the heavens with the delicate hues of the rainbow, and Hera could never gaze deeply enough upon its beauty. Of all the creatures that lived in the lovely land of the Hesperides, Hera was especially fond of a large bird whose tail resembled the starry sky. This was the peacock, which became Hera's inseparable companion.
One day, Hera was sitting alone on the edge of a rock by the sea. The Hours had schooled her in the art of controlling the weather, and she now wished to put her powers to the test. She made a gentle movement with her hand, a gesture which resembled a timid command - and lo! black clouds filled the sky, the calm of the day was shattered by bursts of thunder and lightning shafts, and life-giving rain watered the earth. Hera was happy in the knowledge that she was now a goddess of mighty power and her face became radiant with beauty.
At this moment an eagle appeared, winging its way towards her. On its back sat a handsome youth. This was Zeus, the god who would one day rule the heavens and the earth.
Climbing from the eagle's back, he approached Hera and said: "Is it you, beautiful goddess, who gives orders to the skies?"
"Yes it is I" replied the young goddess humbly. "it is an art taught by the Hours. I love the sky and my dream is to become..."
"To become Queen of the Sky" said Zeus who had read her thoughts. "Climb with me upon the eagle and I shall take you to Greece, and if you wish, you shall become my wife."
Hera needed no second asking. She had already de