Heracles and Hera

Why does Hera Dislike Herakles?
There is animosity between Hera and Herakles throughout his entire life.  Hera's enmity is actually seen even before he is born.  Her anger is supposed to be aroused by Zeus' affair with Alcmene.  Zeus has fathered numerous children and engaged in adultery often.  For some reason, Hera decided to focus all of her anger on Herakles alone.

Hera attacks Herakles while he is still inside Alcmene's womb.  Zeus had stated that the next child born "this day shall Eileiuthuia . . . bring a man child in to the world who shall be lord over all that dwell about him who are of my blood and lineage."

Hera ensures that Herakles will not be that child by delaying his birth.  She then goes to the wife of Sthenelos son of Perseus.  Hera brought the child to birth a month early. She then went to Zeus and told him that Eurystheus was born and will reign over the Argives. Herakles was forced to serve a weak and cowardly prince because of Hera's trickery  (Iliad  XIX 95).    

Hera's Malevolence 
When Herakles is still a baby, Hera sends two serpents to destroy him.  Herakles, with strength obviously unusual for a baby, strangles the snakes  (Pindar: Nemean Odes. I.38.ff; Diodorus Siculus: iv.10; Apollodorus: ii. 4.8).

Hera drives Herakles mad and he consequently kills his family.  Some show that he kills Megara too, and that he even kills 2 sons of Iphicles  (Apollodorus: 2.4.12; Euripides : Heracles 922 ff.).

Hera is also said to have sent a gadfly to break up the herd of Geryon's cattle.  Another instance of her interference is when she sent a violent storm towards Herakles when he was sailing from Troy.  Zeus gets mad at Hera for doing this and punishes her by hanging her off of the edge of Mount Olympus. 

Heracles getting along with Hera
Herakles and Hera did not always work against one another.  There are several instances of them actually helping each other and also of Herakles praising her.  Some believe that positive stories such as these can exist because they eventually become reconciled on Olympus after the hero's apotheosis.  He even marries her daughter Hebe (Apollodorus: 2. 7.7).

Heracles even built a shrine to Hera at Sparta and sacrificed to her.  He did this because he was grateful that she had not thwarted him in his campaign against the sons of Hippocoon (Pausanias: iii.19.9).

Apollodorus describes a battle between Porphyrion and Heracles and Hera.  When Porphyrion attacks Hera and attempts to rape her,  Zeus smote him with a thunderbolt and Herakles "shot him dead with an arrow"  (Apollodorus: 1.6.1-2).

There are numerous sources that show him marrying Hera's daughter, Hebe, after he ascends to Mount Olympus. (Homer: Odyssey xi. 602ff; Hesiod: Theogeny 950ff; Pindar: Isthmian Odes iv. 59 and Nemean Odes i. 69 and x. 17; Euripides: Heracleidae 915 ff.)

Some scholars believe that Hebe is just an extension of Hera.  This would mean that Herakles is actually marrying Hera.  Some extend this even further by saying that since Hera is a maternal figure to him at points in his life, he is symbolically marrying his mother.

After Herakles and Hebe are married, Hera is said to have performed adoption ceremonies (Diodorus Siculus: iv. 39).

The Maternal Threat

Philip Slater feels that Heracles “exemplifies every mode of response to maternal threat (1968: 338).”  He displays through his actions that he is scared of his mother. Heracles attacks his mother directly “the very breast that suckled him (339).”  Even the twelve labors are an expression of maternal malevolence against him.  Hera is the one that is responsible for these twelve labors to be placed upon him.

There are several versions of a myth that show Heracles suckling Hera’s milk when he was a baby, which consequently makes him immortal (Diodourus Siculus: iv.9; Pausanias: ix.25.2).  

Even though she ultimately plays a part in his death, she has also saved his life.  This is an interesting contradiction.  Slater believes that this indicates a “depriving mother and a deprived, devouring child”.  Hera appears to be malevolent and persecuting.