10/13/2008

Goddess of the week - Hestia

Name: Hestia (Ἑστία)
Sphere of influence: The hearth
Location: Greece
Famous portraits: None - she was rarely shown in pictures and made into sculptures, though it did happen.

Hestia was a goddess of the hearth in ancient Greek religion. She was supposed to be the daughter of Kronos and Rhea, though the stories differ on the point of whether she was the oldest or youngest of their children. She never did have the distinction of many other of the Greek gods and was just a minor deity, in spite of her role. The hearth was very important to the classical Greek household - the source of warmth, where they did their cooking and an offering place for libations (pouring liquids as an offer to the gods).

The hearth is connected to the household, and so was Hestia. She is even said, in Plato's Phaedo, to have stayed away from the gods' processions, bound as she was to the hearth. Of course she was then neither a part of the scandalous stories of the gods. Several of the gods still wanted to have her as their bride, but she remained a virgin, unmarried of course.

But she still was very important to the Greeks in her own way. In the Platonic polis (Plato's version of the ideal order of the world) the acropolis has a sanctuary to Hestia, next to Zeus and Athena, showing the importance of the hearth in the Platonic mind - as Vesta in the Roman religion, who had a significance that Hestia never had in the Greek world. Vesta and Hestia were both goddesses of the hearth - but they were not the same goddess and must be kept apart.

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