Hebe (Ancient Greek: Ἡβη) in ancient Greek religion, is the goddess of youth or the prime of life. She is the daughter of Zeus and his wife, Hera. Hebe was the cupbearer for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, serving their nectar and ambrosia until she married Herakles her successor was the divine hero Ganymede. Another title of hers for this reason is Ganymeda, meaning "Gladdening Princess". Hebe was worshipped as the goddess of forgiveness or mercy at Sicyon.
Hebe is the Goddess of Eternal Youth as well as the Keeper of the Fountain of Youth.
In some myths, she was the Cupbearer of the Gods. She was also sometimes said to be the Patron of Brides as well as the Goddess of Pardon and Forgiveness.
The most prominent myth about Hebe would be Euripides' play, Heracleidae.
In this play, Iolaus prayed to Hebe to make him young again for a day in order to fight Eurystheus. While she was reluctant to do so at first, after Themis assured her that it would be just, Hebe granted Iolaus' wish, and he enjoyed one more day of youth in his old age - he charged into battle as a strong and healthy young man, and came out victorious.
Hebe is the daughter of Zeus and his older sister, Hera, and was seen in myth as a diligent daughter performing domestic tasks that were typical of high ranking, unmarried girls in ancient Greece. In the Iliad, she did tasks around the household such as drawing baths for her brother Ares and helping Hera enter her chariot. Pindar in Nemean Ode 10 refers to her as the most beautiful of the goddesses, and being by her mother's side in Olympus forever.
One of her roles was to be the cupbearer to the gods, serving them ambrosia and nectar. In Classical sources, Hebe's departure from this role was due to her marriage to the deified hero Heracles. Despite this, in the Iliad Hebe serves all the gods at their heavenly feast, while Ganymede is wine-pourer to Zeus alone. Additionally, Cicero seems to imply that either Hebe or Ganymede, who is typically seen as her successor, could serve in the role of cupbearer at the heavenly feast. The reasoning for Hebe's dismissal was transformed into a moralizing story in the 1500s by the Church of England, where it was stated in a note in an English-Latin dictionary that Hebe fell while in attendance to the gods, causing her dress to become undone, exposing her naked body publicly. Although there is no Classical literary or artistic source for this account, the story was modified to function as a warning to women to stay modestly covered at all times, as naked women in particular were seen as shameful by the Church.
A fragment by Callimachus describes Hera holding a feast to celebrate the seventh day after her daughter Hebe's birth. The gods have a friendly argument over who will give the best gift, with Athena, Poseidon, Apollo, and Hephaestus specifically mentioned as presenting toys or, as in Apollo's case, songs. Callimachus, who composed a poem for the celebration of the seventh day after the birth of a daughter to his friend Leon, used Apollo's gift of a song as a divine prototype for his own gift.
Hebe had two children with Herakles: Alexiares and Anicetus. Although nothing is known about these deities beyond their names, there is a fragment by Callimachus that makes a reference to Eileithyia, Hebe's sister and the goddess of childbirth, attending to her while in labour.
- Zeus (Father)
- Hera (Mother)
- Hephaistos, Ares, Enyo, and Eileithyia (Siblings)
- Heracles (Husband and half-brother)
- Alexiares and Aniketos (Sons with Herakles)
Because Hebe was the Goddess (and sometimes the very personification) of Youth, Hebe was always portrayed by artists as a charming young girl. In most depictions, she either wore a sleeveless dress or was semi-nude. In other portrayals, she was dressed in light garments adorned with roses, on her head was a wreath of flowers, in one hand she carried the amphora of nectar, and in the other is the cup of eternal youthfulness. She is also sometimes shown with wings.
Hebe had four symbols:
- Chalice: One of Hebe's symbols was a decorated cup as she was responsible for filling all the chalices of the gods with nectar.
- Fountain of Youth: In Greek mythology, the Fountain of Youth is a special fountain the waters of which could either preserve one's youth eternally or restore youth to one who had lost it. Due to her status as the Goddess of Youth, this fountain could only be summoned and used by Hebe.
- Lettuce: It was sometimes said that Hera became pregnant with Hebe only by eating lettuce.
Gallery of Symbols of Hebe
- Apart from serving nectar to the Gods of Olympus, Hebe was also said to be the one who helped her mother, Hera, enter her chariot, and she drew baths for her brother, Ares, as well.
- Hebe was usually seen as a companion of Aphrodite.
- Her male counterpart was Ganymede.
- Her opposite number was Geras.
- She may have been equated with Pandia.
- Some say that she gave up her cup-bearing position to Ganymede after she married Herakles
- A statue of Hebe can be found on the Temperance Fountain in Tompkins Square Park.
- Hebe had temples in Athens, Sicyon, and Phlius.
- Freed prisoners would hang their chains in the sacred grove of her Phlius sanctuary.
- Her Roman name was Juventas, the Latin word for "Youth".