Redeeming Hera: Myth, Archeology, and Politics in the Archaic and Classical Argolid

Jessica Plotkin, “Redeeming Hera: Myth, Archeology, and Politics in the Archaic and Classical Argolid”
Mentor: Renee Calkins, Foreign Languages & Literature
Oral Presentation Block 2

The goddess Hera received cult worship in mainland Greece and beyond from the Bronze Age until the Christian conquests of the fourth century CE. Hera’s sanctuaries are among the most magnificent temples and her festivals among the most well-documented in all of Greece. However, in the mythology that flourished from the Classical Period until the first century CE, Hera is depicted as a jealous, impotent goddess who expends constant futile effort to thwart her husband. I questioned whether these depictions corresponded accurately to the worship of the goddess, especially before the domination of the mythology that came from a later period. For this project, I focus on the Argive Heraion as the seat of worship to the goddess in the Argolid Plain of mainland Greece. I analyzed archeologic, epigraphic, and literary evidence to form my arguments of the changes in worship from the 11th until 4th centuries BCE. My most significant result is that the worship of Hera evolved gradually throughout the Archaic Period (~750-450 BCE) culminating in a complete reorganization of the cult at the start of the 4th century by the city of Argos. These religious changes coincide with drastic political and social developments in the region. I conclude that the city of Argos reorganized the cult of Hera to legitimize their domination of the Argolid Plain, incorporating the new myths to form a new Classical identity for the sanctuary that honored Argos alone instead of sharing it amongst the cities of the Plain.