Hebe the Greek Goddess – The Ultimate Guide

When it comes to the Greek pantheon, the gods that would first come to our minds would be someone like Zeus or Hera, or Athena. The truth, however, is that more gods lived in Olympus than most people know and they served comparatively minor but important roles. Such Olympian was Hebe the Greek Goddess.

The cupbearer of the gods, Hebe lived a rather uneventful life even by Olympian standards. Even the different myths surrounding Hebe would eventually mirror the different phases that many mortal women would go through in their own lives.

But who is this Goddess exactly? What did she symbolize in the pantheon of the gods? A look at the youngest of the Olympians would reveal that Hebe had one of the most important roles in Greek Mythology.

Who Was Hebe?

Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera and the youngest of her generation of Olympians. While her siblings took on more active duties as administrators and guardians of the mortal world, Hebe’s job was comparatively safer and more mundane.

Hebe the Handmaiden

In the myths, Hebe took on the role of a handmaiden which was not unlike the role that many unmarried young women took in mortal Greek households. Essentially, Hebe took care of her siblings and parents by keeping everything in Olympus in order while they attended to the world.

Hebe the Greek goddess was the chief handmaiden for Hera, which means she was always by her mother’s side. She assisted her mother whenever she had to alight from her chariot and attended to her every need.

In return, Hera doted on her youngest daughter frequently. One account even had Hera setting up a competition among the gods to determine who had the best gift for the infant Hebe a week after she was born.

Hebe the Cupbearer

Aside from being Hera’s handmaiden, Hebe was also the chief cupbearer of the gods as she regularly served them ambrosia. Hebe was also a constant companion to Aphrodite as her messenger and herald.

This might look a bit demeaning to modern mortals as Hebe looked like she was a slave of the gods when she should be their equal. However, in ancient Greek culture, the role of a cupbearer is reserved only for the most trustworthy of individuals.

As she took care of her family as handmaiden and cupbearer, Hebe’s position was at the very center of Olympian culture. She had first-hand experience in godly politics and was an etiquette expert. This means that she could weave through the intricacies of her family’s strange dynamics without bringing attention to herself.

Thus, the role of Hebe the Greek Goddess in Olympus was familiar to many young women in ancient Greece. While the elders got themselves embroiled in many conflicts and scandals, the humble handmaiden maintained her silence and dignity while keeping everything in working order for everybody else.

The most notable story involving Hebe the Greek Goddess would be her marriage to the famous Heracles, the son of Zeus and Alcmene. This was momentous as Hebe’s marriage to Heracles would end Hera’s long-standing resentment against the champion of her husband. 

However, Hebe’s marriage would also signify the end of her role as her mother’s handmaiden and cupbearer to the gods. She would be replaced by Ganymede as the official cupbearer of Olympus while minor goddesses filled her role as Hera’s handmaiden.

Hebe’s marriage to Heracles was peaceful and loving, a stark contrast to the marriage of Zeus and Hera. With Heracles, Hebe would become the mother of Alexiares and Anicetus.

Where Was Hebe Born?

Like most Olympians, Hebe was born on Olympus and spent her formative years there. As the youngest of the children of Zeus and Hera, Hebe lived a rather comfortable yet sheltered life. When she was ready, Hebe received the proper training and instruction to become a handmaiden of Olympus.

Who Were Hebe’s Parents?

Most myths would refer to Hebe as the daughter of Zeus and Hera. However, some myths would imply that she was the daughter of Hera alone as she was the result of Parthenogenesis.

Legends say that Hebe was conceived when Hera ate a piece of lettuce while having dinner with another god, Apollo. In some accounts, it was stated that Hera traveled to the edge of the world to where Oceanus and Tethys lived. There, she found the garden of the goddess Flora where she found a strange plant which became known as lettuce.

Regardless of the detail, there is a prevailing myth that Hebe the Greek goddess was the product of Hera’s parthenogenesis. This is not uncommon, however, as Olympians had been conceived by one parent alone. For instance, Athena was birthed by Zeus’s thoughts while Hera conceived Hephaestus on her own. Aphrodite was also a product of this unique birthing process as she was born from Uranus’s severed genitals combined with the foam of the sea.

Did Hebe Have Any Siblings?

As the youngest of the Olympians and the daughter of Zeus and Hera, it is apparent that Hebe the Greek Goddess would have several siblings among the Gods. Some of her famous siblings included Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysus, Artemis, Athena, Persephone, and Ares.

She was also the sister to many minor gods. This would include Eileithyia the Goddess of Childbirth, Ersa the Goddess of the Dew, the War Goddess Enyo, Eris the Goddess of Discord, and Pandia. Hebe also had mortal siblings which included Helen of Troy, Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Perseus. Finally, Hebe was the sister to several minor divine beings such as the Muses, the Horae, the Litae, the Moirai, and the Graces.

What Were Hebe’s Powers?

Like many Olympians, Hebe the Greek goddess was blessed with immortality. She was also granted a level of wisdom and knowledge far beyond any mortal by way of her Olympian lineage.

However, Hebe was also the Goddess of Eternal Youth. This granted Hebe the ability to restore youth to the gods by offering them ambrosia.

This is why she was heavily favored and protected by Olympians as it was her ability that kept them from becoming frail with age. Through her power, the Olympians remained at the prime of their lives for thousands of years.

Mortals could also be the recipient of her life-extending gift. A notable recipient of this gift was Iolaus, the cousin of Heracles. When Heracles died and ascended to godhood, he tasked his cousin to continue protecting his children and mother Alcmene on earth.

However, the task was becoming harder for Iolaus as he grew older. Eurystheus, an enemy of Heracles, also continued to harass his children and mother. This prompted him to beg Hebe to restore Iolaus to youthfulness. With his strength restored and his life extended for a day, Iolaus was able to fulfill his promise to his cousin.

What Were Hebe’s Symbols?

eagle symbol of hebe

As the cupbearer of the gods and the goddess holding dominion over eternal youth, several items and symbols are attributed to Hebe. These include the following:

  • A Pitcher and a Cup – These were the primary tools of her former position as a cupbearer to her family.
  • The Fountain of Youth – A sought-after fixture in many legends in Greece and beyond, it is said that fountains of youth flow with water infused with Hebe’s ambrosia. Any person who drank from these waters would find themselves restored to a younger and healthier form.
  • Eagle – This bird of prey was often associated with Hebe’s father, Zeus. However, Hebe would also take the form of an eagle as depicted in some artworks. It is also said that Hebe would offer Zeus a cup in this form.
  • Ivy – The ivy is quite known for maintaining an evergreen appearance all year round. Thus, it has been associated with Hebe the Greek goddess, and her life-giving powers.

Facts about Hebe the Greek Goddess

hebe fountain of youth

There are still several interesting facts about Hebe and her role in Olympus. Here are some of the more notable bits of trivia about this goddess.

Her Last Day of Work

On Hebe’s last day of work as a cupbearer, she tripped and her dress became undone. As she accidentally exposed herself, Apollo had her replaced with Ganymede. Surprisingly, the Church of England would use Hebe’s story as a warning for women to dress modestly in public to avoid such an unfortunate accident.

The Goddess of Brides

Due to her marriage to Heracles, Hebe the Greek goddess also became associated with brides. Specifically, she is the patron of young women who are excited and expecting their marriages.

The marriage of Hebe and Heracles is known to be loving and peaceful which further solidified her role as a patron for brides. Hebe was also one of the few gods to be married in their youth and never had affairs during her marriage.

Hebe’s patronage of brides means she shares an association with other goddesses of marriage. This includes Aphrodite, the Horae, Harmonia, and the Graces.

Roman Counterpart

Like her siblings, Hebe has a counterpart goddess in Roman mythology. There, she is known as Juventus which also means “youth” from which the word “juvenile” comes.

Aphrodite’s Friend

Most artworks have Hebe dance or play side by side with the goddess Aphrodite. She is also seen acting as her herald and attendant from time to time. This can be linked to the usual association of Beauty and Youth. In some myths, Aphrodite and Hebe would be later joined by a now-immortal Helen of Troy.

A Reluctant Giver

Hebe the Greek goddess was not exactly known for willingly imparting her gift, especially to mortals. When she heard of the request to restore Iolaus to a more youthful form, Hebe initially refused. She was later convinced by Themis, Goddess of Justice, to grant the request. This was considered as the fair choice given the predicament faced by the children of Heracles.

Her Temples

Like the other Olympians, there were temples in Ancient Greece dedicated to the worship of Hebe. One temple, which Hebe shared with Hecate, was where the witch Medea restored Aeson to a younger age.

The Ascension of Heracles

It is widely believed the Hebe herself was the one that brought Heracles to Olympus upon his death on Mount Oeta. Legends state that Hebe drove a chariot to retrieve her future husband’s spirit. They would be shortly wed on Olympus after Heracles completed his ascension to godhood.

In Classical Art

Hebe the Greek Goddess was a widely popular art subject from 1750 to 1880. Painters like Charles Picque and Gavin Hamilton along with sculptors like Johan Niclas Bystrom were commissioned to produce works of art depicting the goddess.

Also, she was a popular costume theme for royalty like Marie-Antoinette and Louise Henriette of Bourbon. The costume formally known as “En Hebe” included a light and flowing white dress, flowers on the head, and an ornate cup.