LLR Books

JUNO.



[Sidenote: Juno's marriage.]

Juno (Hera, Here), queen of heaven, and goddess of the atmosphere and
of marriage, was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and consequently the
sister of Jupiter; but, as soon as the latter had dethroned his
parents and seized the scepter, he began to look about him for a
suitable helpmate. Juno won his affections by her great beauty; and he
immediately began his courtship, which he carried on in the guise of a
cuckoo, to infuse a little romance into it. He evidently found favor
in her sight, and won her consent to share his throne; for shortly
afterward their wedding was celebrated with great pomp on Mount
Olympus. It was on this solemn occasion that the immortal conclave of
the gods declared that Juno should be henceforth honored as goddess of
marriage.

                      "Juno, who presides
    Supreme o'er bridegrooms and o'er brides."

                   Virgil (Conington's tr.).

But although in the beginning this union seemed very happy, there soon
arose subjects for contention; for unfortunately Jupiter was inclined
to be faithless, and Juno jealous, and, like the element she
personified, exceedingly variable in her moods. On such occasions she
gave way to her violent temper, and bitterly reproached her husband,
who, impatient of her censure, punished her severely, and, instead of
reforming, merely continued his numerous intrigues with renewed zest.

[Sidenote: Story of Callisto and Arcas.]

On one occasion he fell deeply in love with a maiden named Callisto,
gentle, fair, and slender; but, in spite of all the precautions which
he took when visiting her, Juno discovered the object of his
affections. Night and day she thought and planned, until she devised a
species of revenge which seemed adequate. The graceful girl was
suddenly bereft of speech, changed into a rough, ungainly bear, and
driven out into the solitudes of the great forests, which were from
that time forth to be her home. Jupiter vainly sought his missing
ladylove, and it was only long afterward that he discovered her and
her little bear son Arcas. In pity for all they had suffered, he
transferred them both to the sky, where they are still known as the
constellations of the Great and Little Bear.

[Sidenote: Juno's attendant.]

Juno, like her husband, had also her special attendant, Iris (the
Rainbow), whom she frequently employed as messenger,--a task which
this deity accomplished with as much celerity as Mercury. Her flight
through the air was so rapid, that she was seldom seen; and no one
would have known she had passed, had it not been for the brilliant
trail her many-colored robe left behind her in the sky.

    "Like fiery clouds, that flush with ruddy glare,
    Or Iris, gliding through the purple air;
    When loosely girt her dazzling mantle flows,
    And 'gainst the sun in arching colors glows."

                      Flaccus (Elton's tr.).

Juno is the mother of Mars, Hebe, and Vulcan, and is always described
and represented as a beautiful, majestic woman, clad in flowing robes,
with a diadem and scepter. The peacock and cuckoo were both sacred to
her, and are therefore often seen at her side.

  [Illustration: IRIS.--Tito Conti.]

[Sidenote: Worship of Juno.]

Her principal places of worship were at Mycenæ, Sparta, Argos, Rome,
and Heræum. She had also numerous other sanctuaries scattered
throughout the ancient world, and was worshiped in the same temples as
Jupiter. Many fine statues of this goddess were found in Greece and
Italy, some of which are still extant, and serve to show the
ancients' exalted conception of the Queen of Heaven.

[Sidenote: Story of Cleobis and Biton.]

Juno's festivals, the Matronalia, in Rome, were always celebrated with
great pomp. Less important feasts were held in each city where a
temple was dedicated to her. On one of these occasions an old
priestess was very anxious to go to the temple at Argos, where she had
ministered to the goddess for many years, and which she had left only
to be married. The way was long and dusty: so the aged woman, who
could no longer walk such a distance, bade her sons, Cleobis and
Biton, harness her white heifers to her car. The youths hastened to do
her bidding; but, although they searched diligently, the heifers could
not be found. Rather than disappoint their aged mother, who had set
her heart upon attending the services, these kind-hearted sons
harnessed themselves to the cart, and drew her through the city to the
temple gates, amid the acclamations of all the people, who admired
this trait of filial devotion.

The mother was so touched by her sons' affection, that, as she knelt
before the altar, she fervently prayed Juno to bestow upon them the
greatest boon in her power. At the conclusion of the services the
ex-priestess went into the portico, where her sons had thrown
themselves to rest after their unwonted exertions; but instead of
finding them merely asleep, as she expected, she found them dead. The
Queen of Heaven had transported them while asleep to the Elysian
Fields, the place of endless bliss, where such as they enjoyed eternal

life.