Gods and goddesses were created to explain the unexplainable and to pay tribute to what was meaningful to a civilization. The goddess Hestia honored the importance of hearth and home in Greek society.
In Greek mythology, the earth was governed by the Olympian gods and goddesses. These mythological beings ruled the land, sea, and underworld. They also had dominion over the more practical aspects of everyday Greek life, including marriage, handicrafts, love, agriculture, and hunting. Hestia was the most revered goddess because her domain had the greatest significance in the day-to-day life of the people. Fun facts about the Greek goddess Hestia include her origins, her importance, and how she is represented in Greek society.
Hestia is the eldest daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Cronus was a Titan. The Titans were considered to be the original, elder gods, formed by heaven and earth. Cronus was the most important of the Titans, and ruled them until he was overthrown by his Zeus, his son. Besides Zeus, Hestia’s siblings are Poseidon, Hades, Hera, and Demeter.
Hestia is the goddess of the hearth and home. She is a virgin goddess, as are Athena and Artemis. She remained a virgin even though gods such as Apollo and Poseidon vied for her hand. Hestia is considered the gentlest of the immortal beings.
The hearth is the sacred symbol of the home. Along with hearths in the homes of individual citizens, each city would have a public hearth in which the fire was not allowed to be extinguished. These hearths were sacred to Hestia.
Rituals Associated with Hestia
A newborn child would be carried around a hearth before being accepted as a member of the family. Household meals would begin and end with an offering given to the goddess. If colonists wished to travel and establish a new city, they would take embers from their city's public hearth and use those to establish a fire in the hearth of their new city.
Hestia's Roman Equivalent
Her Roman counterpart is known as Vesta. In Rome, a temple to honor the goddess contained a perpetual fire and was attended by six vestal virgin priestesses. Because the health and wellbeing of the city was thought to be tied to the fire, there were severe penalties for any attendant who let the flame die. If the fire did die, it had to be rekindled by the sun’s rays.
References in Greek Myths
Another of the fun facts about the Greek goddess Hestia is how little she is represented in Greek literature. Because it was not acceptable to discuss or gossip about a chaste goddess who symbolized the home, Hestia is not given a part in the Greek myths and therefore has no distinctive personality.
Bullfinch, Thomas. The Golden Age of Myth and Legend. Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1993.
Encyclopedia Mythica: Hestia-http://www.pantheon.org/articles/h/hestia.html
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1942.
Zimmerman, J.E. Dictionary of Classical Mythology. New York, Bantam Books: 1964.