She is deemed the founder and maintainer of the family and the state, of civic concord and of public reverence for the gods. She is the daughter of Cronus Kronos and of Rhea; sister of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, and Demeter; one of the twelve Olympian deities, from whom she is distinguished by the fact that, as the abiding goddess of the household, she never leaves Olympus. In Homer the sanctity of the hearth is indeed recognised, but as yet we find no mention of the goddess.
It is a matter of discussion whether this was by accident, or because in that period the personification of the worship of the hearth had not attained its full perfection. Having been wooed by Apollo and Poseidon, she took an oath of perpetual virginity; so Zeus granted her the honour of being worshipped, as a tutelary goddess, at every hearth, in human habitations as well as in the temples of the gods, and of being called to mind amid libations at the beginning and end of every sacrifice and every festal entertainment.
Hence it was that every sacrifice began and ended with a libation to Hestia, so that she had a share in all festivities; and in every prayer, as well as in all the public forms of solemn oaths, her name was recited before the name of any other god. Just as in the home her consecrated hearth formed the central point of family life, at which family festivals were celebrated and where both strangers and fugitives found a hospitable asylum, so also in the Prytaneionor townhall, whore the sacred fire was ever burning, her hearth was the centre of the life of the city, indeed of the whole state, and of the colonies which had gone forth from it.
Here, as representative of the state, the highest officials sacrificed to her, just as in every private house the father or mother of the family provided for her worship. Here also were held the public deliberations, and the public banquet given to deserving citizens and to foreign ambassadors. Hither repaired all who besought the protection of the state.
Hence also did the colonists, bound for distant shores, take the fire for the public hearth of their new community. In some respects, the centre of the religious life of Greece was the fire on the hearth of Hestia in the Delphic temple, where was the sacred omphalos or navelwhich the Greeks considered to be the central point of the inhabited earth. Hestia stands in close connexion with Zeus as the guardian of the law of hospitality and of the oath. She was also much associated with Hermes and often invoked in conjunction with him; Hestia, as the goddess of gentle domesticity, and Hermes, as the restless god of trade on the public streets and ro, representing between them the two principal varieties of human life.
According to a view that afterwards became current, under the influence of philosophers and mystics, she was regarded as personifying the earth, as the fixed centre of the world, and was identified with Demeter and Cybele. The corresponding deity among the Romans was Vesta q.
The statues placed in the Prytaneia represented her, in accordance with her nature, as a being with grave and yet gentle expression, sitting or standing in an attitude of rest, wiih a sceptre as her attribute. The most celebrated of her existing statues is known as the Giustiniani Vesta see cut ; a form robed in simple drapery, with hair unadorned and wearing a veil; her right hand rests on her hip, and her left hand, which is pointing upwards, once held a long staff as her sceptre. At Athens, it was here that the State offered hospitable entertainment as a public compliment to foreign ambassadors, to Athenian envoys on their return from the successful discharge of their mission, also to citizens who had done good service to the State, especially to distinguished generals, and victors in the great Panhellenic games, and sometimes even to their descendants.
In the case of those who were Athenian citizens, this privilege was usually granted for life. This worship was introduced by Numa from Lavinium, whither Aeneas had brought the Penates and the sacred fire from Troy. Hence it was that Roman consuls and dictators, on taking up and laying down their office sacrificed in the temple of Vesta at Lavinium.
It was customary in Italy as in Greece for the colonies to kindle the fire of their own Vesta at the hearth of the mother city. The ancient round temple of Vestawhich served as the central point of the city, was built by Numa.
In its neighbourhood was the so called atrium of Vestathe abode of the virgin priestesses of the goddess, the Vestals excavated in ; Middleton's Remains of Ancient Romei ]. Here the goddess was worshipped not in the form of a statue, but under the symbol of the eternal fire, which it was the chief duty of the Vestals to keep alight.
On every 1st March it was renewed. If it went out of itself, a great national disaster was held to have occurred, and the guilty Vestal was scourged by the pontifex. The fire could only be rekindled by a burning glass, or by the primitive method of friction by boring a piece of wood from a fruit tree. Corresponding to the lares and penates of the domestic hearth, there were, according to later usage, the penates of the State in the temple of Vesta; and similarly, on the temple-hearth, a sacrifice was offered daily, consisting of the plainest form of food in a simple vessel of clay.
The daily purifications could only be made with flowing water, which the Vestals carried in pitchers upon their he from the fountain of Egeria, or of the Muses. By day every one had the right of admission to all the temple, save only that part in which the palladium and other mystic relics were kept, where the Vestals alone had the right to enter.
It was only by night that men were excluded. As goddess of the sacred fire of the hearth in every house, and for the city in general, Vesta was also the goddess of every sacrificial fire.
Hence she was worshipped with Janus at every religion service, Janus being invoked at the opening, Vesta at the close. Her own festival, the Vestaliawas kept on July 9th. The matrons of the town walked barefooted in procession to her temple, to implore tba blessing of the goddess for their households, and to offer sacrifice to her in rude dishes, in remembrance of the time when the hearth served generally for the baking of bread.
The millers and bakers also kept holiday.
The mills were crowned, and the asses employed in them had garlands and loaves suspended about their necks. The worship of Vesta survived to the last days of paganism, and was abolished by Gratian in A. Although there was no image of the goddess in the actual temples, her statues were not uncommon at Rome in later times. Like the Greek Hestia, she was represented sometimes as standing, sometimes as sitting, completely clothed and veiled, with chalice torch, sceptre, and palladium.
But his mother prophesied that one of his children would overthrow him. He accordingly swallowed them all except Zeus, whom Rhea saved by a stratagem. Zeus, when grown tip, obtained the assistance of the Ocean-nymph Thetis in making Cronus disgorge his children, and then, with the help of his kinsfolk, overpowered Cronus and the Titans. According to one version of the fable, Cronus was imprisoned in Tartarus with the Titans; according to another, he was reconciled with Zeus, and reigned with Rhadamanthys on the Islands of the Blessed.
Cronus seems originally to have been a god of the harvest; whence it happens that in many parts of Greece the harvest month was called Cronion. His name being easily confused with that of Chronos "Time"he was afterwards erroneously regarded as the god of time.
In works of art he was represented as an old man with a mantle drawn over the back of his head, and holding a sickle in his hand. RHEA According to a myth indigenous to Crete, he was the youngest son, and Rhea in dread of Cronus who had swallowed all is children, bore him secretly in a cave of the island, where he was suckled by the goat Amalthea q.
When he was grown up, Zeus married Metis q. When with the help of his brothers and sisters, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, he had over-thrown Cronus and the Titans, the world was divided into three parts, Zeus obtaining heaven, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the lower world; the earth and Olympus being Appointed for the common possession of all the three.
But the king of the gods is Zeus, whose power, as Homer says, is greater than that of all the other gods together. Next to him, but in a subordinate position, stands, as queen of the gods, his sister and consort Hera, the mother of Ares, Hephaestus, and Hebe, who was regarded as pre-eminently his rightful wife.
Not incompatible with this however was the idea that the marriage with Hera was the earliest of a series of marriages with other goddesses: first, according to Hosiod, with Metis, whom he swallowed, in order to bring forth Athene from his own head; then with Themis, the mother of the Hours and the Fates; afterwards with Eurynome, the mother of the Graces; Demeter, the mother of Persephone; Mnemoysene, the mother of the Muses; and Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis.
The fact that still later, in Dodona, Dione, the mother of Aphrodite, was also honoured as the wife of Zeus, shows the origin of the legend.
Originally different wives of Zeus were recognised in the different local cults. When the legend of the marriage with Hera had become the predominant one, an attempt was made to harmonize the different versions of the story by the supposition of successive marriages.
In the same way the loves of Zeus with half-divine, half-mortal women, of whom Alemene, the mother of Heracles, was said to be the last, were originally rural legends, which derived the descent of indigenous divinities, like Hermes and Dionysus, or of heroes and noble families, from the highest god; and not until they had become the common property of the whole Greek people, which was practically the case as early as the time of Homer, could the love affairs of the greatest of the gods become the theme of those mythical stories which are so repugnant to modern taste.
The very name of Zeus Sanskrit, dyausthe bright sky identifies him as the god of the sky and its phenomena. As such he was everywhere worshipped on the highest mountains, on whose summits he was considered to be enthroned. Of all places the Thessalian mountain Olympus q. From Zeus come all changes in the sky or the winds; he is the gatherer of the clouds, which dispense the fertilizing rain, while he is also the thunderer, and the hurler of the irresiptible lightning. As by the shaking of his oegis q. The changes of the seasons also proceed from him as the father of the Hours.
As the supreme lord of heaven, he was worshipped under the name of Olympian Zeus in many parts of Greece, but especially in Olympia, where the Olympian games q. The cult of Zeus at the ancient seat of the oracle at Dodona recognised his character as dispenser of the fertilizing dew. Among the numerous mountain-cults in the Peloponnesus, the oldest and most original was that of the Lycaean Zeus, on Mount Lycaeus in Arcadia, where human beings were actually sacrificed to him in propitiation.
In Attica, again, many festivals refer to the god as a personification of the powers of nature. Various rites of purification and expiation were observed in his honour as the god of wrath Gr. Maimaktesin the month Maemacterion Nov. Meilichios at the festival of the Diasia q. Among the islands, Rhodes and Crete were the principal seats of the worship of the sky-god; not only his birth but also his death was there celebrated, and even his grave was shown, in accordance with the widely spread notion that the annual death of Nature in winter was the death of the god.
In Asia, the summit of Mount Ida in the Troad was especially and beyond all other places sacred to Zeus.
As he presides over the gods and the whole of nature, so also is be the ruler of men, who all stand in need of his help, and to whom, according to Homer, he weighs out their destinies on golden scales [ IL. But his natural attributes are goodness and love; hence Homer calls him "the father of gods and men. From him comes everything good, noble, and strong, and also bodily vigour and valour, which were exhibited in his honour, particularly at the Olympian and Nemean games.
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