Top 10 Lesser-known Facts about Hestia

In Greek Mythology, Olympian gods and goddesses ruled the earth. These mythological beings governed the land, sea, and underworld in ancient eras. 

Besides, they also had domination over practical aspects of everyday Greek life. In ancient times, everyday Greek life included love, marriage, agriculture, handicrafts, and hunting. 

So, Greek people could easily relate to gods and goddesses and worshipped them. 

Hestia was the most revered Greek Goddess for her contribution. She had great significance in the day-to-day life of the people. However, she isn’t much known like other deities.  

Thus, it becomes necessary to know more about Hestia to pay her tribute. Let’s learn about her life with the top 10 facts.

10. Hestia is the Goddess of the hearth, home, domestic life, and hospitality.

Hestia- the Goddess of the hearth, home, domestic life, and hospitality
Hestia- the Goddess of the hearth, home, domestic life, and hospitality

After her birth, Hestia joined Zeus’ group. Zeus was the leader and the king of the gods and one of Hestia’s siblings. He, with other siblings, was on a mission to overthrow the Titans’ reign. 

When they won over Titans, Zeus distributed posts and works to his siblings. He then assigned Hestia a duty to feed the gods and maintain the fires of the Olympian hearth. 

Thus, she became the Goddess of the hearth. She used the fires of the Olympian hearth to cook the fatty, combustible portions of animal sacrifices to the gods.

As the hearth belongs to food and cooking, the goddess represents domestic life. She helped Greek people to cook food with fire. Wherever people cooked food, they made an offering to her. 

She also taught Greek people how to build a home. Besides, she helped people to keep peace in the family. So, she also was called the Goddess of home and domestic life.

The goddess received offerings in the ceremonies of the household. She had a share of offerings in marriage, birth, and the arrival of brides and slaves. 

Hestia is also the Goddess of travel and hospitality. Whenever people migrated, they carried a flame from the sacred hearth. They would think the fire of Hestia could keep them under her blessings. 

9. Hestia was the virgin Goddess.

Three virgin goddess
Three virgin goddess

Hestia didn’t marry anyone and had no children. She is frequently described as opposite to Aphrodite. Aphrodite represents the Goddess of love and fertility. 

She was among three virgin goddesses in Greek Religion. The two others were Athena, the Goddess of wisdom, and Artemis, the Goddess of the hunt. These three goddesses always preserved their purity.

When she grew in grace and beauty, Poseidon and Apollo started liking her. Poseidon was the God of sea and storm, whereas Apollo was the God of war. Both gods sought her hand in marriage. Even they vied for her hand.

But she refused to marry Poseidon and Apollo. To stop the suitors’ fight, she asked Zeus to grant her eternal virginity. Zeus also granted her eternal innocence, and she remained a maiden forever. 

Once Priapus tried to snatch her virginity. He was a minor god associated with fertility and lust. According to the story, mother Goddess Rhea had hosted a celebration. It was the celebration of the Olympians’ victory over the Titans. 

Hestia wasn’t interested in the party, so she went to the woods and fell asleep there. A drunk Priapus found Hestia and prepared to rape her. But a braying donkey in time woke her up from her slumber.

Soon other Olympians arrived at the place and confronted Priapus. After that, they forbad Priapus in any celebration. Since then, donkeys were rested and garlanded on Hestia’s feast day.

8. Hestia was the eldest and youngest daughter of Cronus.

An image of Cronus - Hestia's father
An image of Cronus – Hestia’s father

Hestia was born to Cronus and Rhea. Cronus ruled the earth as the king of the Titans and the God of time. His wife, Rhea, was associated with fruitfulness. 

She was the first child of her parents. Besides, she also saved five other siblings from her mother. They were Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hera, Zeus.

When these six siblings were born, Cronus swallowed them all except Zeus. He was saved as his mother had him hidden. Cronus feared the prophecy from his father, Uranus.

Uranus had told him that one of Cronus’ children would overthrow him from power. Cronus also did the same to his father. To save his honor, he devoured his children.

The prophecy came true. When Zeus grew up, he was determined to restore his brothers and sisters. For that, he took help from Metis. Metis was the Goddess of wisdom, thought, and skill. 

She persuaded Cronus to drink a potion that emitted out what he had swallowed. The disgorged children were hence reborn again in reverse order.

As Cronus had disgorged her first, Hestia came out last from his mouth. Thus, she was born last and became the youngest sibling. 

This way, Hestia became the eldest daughter when being born out of her mother. Also, she became the youngest when being emitted from Cronus.

7. Hestia’s sacred symbols were hearth and fire.

Hestia with her sacred symbol - fire
Hestia with her sacred symbol – fire

Hestia refers to “hearth, fireplace, and altar.” Thus, her sacred attributes are hearth and its fire. The hearth, along with its fire, was essential for warmth and food preparation. It was also necessary to complete the sacrificial offerings to deities.

Hestia also personified the fire burning in every Greek household. Her hearth-fire was a blessing for the Greek people. They kept it wherever they went. 

Also, before any work, they collected Hestia’s hearth-fire first. Her hearth fire was deeply rooted in Greek people’s life.

If there was a newborn child, the child should be carried around the hearth of the house. Children would be accepted in the family after being presented at her hearth. It ensured people that children would be under the goddess’ blessing.

Hestia’s rituals were primely important. Whenever the new colony was established, Hestia’s hearth-fire was carried to that place. There it was lit and kept other things according to the rituals. 

Also, the new settlers carried a flame from Hestia’s hearth to propagate the sacred fire in their new towns.

6. Hestia is only little known in the books.

The gentlest and mildest Greek Goddess - Hestia
The gentlest and mildest Greek Goddess – Hestia

Hestia was the gentlest and mildest Goddess in Greek Religion. Critics have often called her colorless. It is because of the little information provided regarding her character.

Though the goddess appeared in some stories, she wasn’t overly important in Greek mythology. Great poet Homer hasn’t mentioned her in the Iliad and the Odyssey. 

Only some poets such as Apollodorus, Hesiod, and Ovid have alluded to her in their works.

5. Hestia received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household.

Modern depiction of Greek Goddess Hestia
Modern depiction of Greek Goddess Hestia

Hestia remained a virgin forever to end the war between Poseidon and Apollo. She took a vow of eternal virginity by placing her hand on Zeus’ head. 

Zeus, being impressed, granted Hestia her everlasting chastity. He also granted her the central place in the house.

He granted Hestia’s hearth in every home. The first offering of every household was given to her. Each meal started and ended with an offering to her. 

Also, Zeus allowed her to have a share in worship in all the temples. She could have the first portion of humans’ divine offerings. 

To honor Hestia as the virgin Goddess, Greek people had built a temple. In that temple, six virgins were assigned to serve. The virgins had to keep their promise of everlasting chastity.

If any of chosen virgins broke the promise, they were served with great punishment. The punishment was to bury the virgins alive.

4. Hestia has Goddess Vesta as her Roman equivalent.

Goddess Hestia and her equivalent Goddess Vesta in the same frame
Goddess Hestia and her equivalent Goddess Vesta in the same frame

Greek Religion has some significant influence on Roman Religion. So, Romans also have Hestia in their version. They worship Vesta as the Goddess of the hearth, home, and family.

Goddess Vesta has similar functions as Hestia. She also has a divine personification of Rome’s public, domestic, and colonial hearths.

She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops. Her siblings were Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, and Ceres. Like Hestia, she also had attributes like the hearth, fire, and donkey.

Roman goddess rarely was depicted in human form. Rather, she was often represented by the fire of her temple in the Forum Romanum. She had her priestesses, who were called the Vestals. 

Vestals looked after the sacred fire at the hearth in her temple. They were the only persons who were permitted to enter her temple.

3. Hestia is portrayed as a modest woman wearing a veil and robe. 

The modest goddess Hestia
The modest goddess Hestia

Several statues of Hestia are in Greece, where two of her statues are in Prytaneion on the Island of Delos. A vital inscription about her can also be found on the Greek island of Chios.

Hestia is described as a gentle, stable, serene, forgiving, and dignified virgin Goddess. Her domestic duties always bound her at mount Olympus. Because of her great virtue, she was always absent from the scandalous and adventurous myths.

She is identified with a physical object, the hearth. Also, her characteristics inspire the ideas of community and domesticity. But her portrayals are rare and seldom secure.

In classical Greek art, she is usually depicted as a modest middle-aged woman. She has a veil on her head. Sometimes the goddess is depicted as standing by a large fire or carrying a staff. 

She also sits on a plain wooden throne with a white woolen cushion. But she doesn’t have an emblem for herself.

2. Hestia is an alternative among the Twelve Olympian deities.

The Twelve Olympians deities
The Twelve Olympians deities

Hestia was the habitat of Mount Olympus. As she was the elder daughter of Cronus, she had the right to preserve some more advantage. As per this rule, she was given space among members of the Twelve Olympians. But sometimes, she is out of the list.

According to Kenneth Dorter, there was a discrepancy in the list of the twelve chief Olympians. It was also a dilemma either to choose Hestia or Dionysus along with the other eleven. Dionysus was the son of Zeus. 

The Twelve Olympians were children from Cronus and Zeus. So, the list of twelve Olympians included Hestia at Arora, a gathering place. But Parthenon frieze, a marble sculpture, had Dionysus in the list.

Historians believe that Hestia is passive in demanding power and post. She was non-confrontational. Thus, it was the reason that she was removed from the list of the Twelve Olympians. 

Hestia was the gentlest Goddess in Greek Religion. She never fell into any controversy or scandal. She always wanted to keep peace in the house and society. Such generous virtue led her to be an alternative among twelve Olympian deities.

1. Hestia didn’t have a particular temple devoted to her.

Hestia's equivalent Vesta's temple
Hestia’s equivalent Vesta’s temple

Hestia has a long list of contributions to Greek Religion. Her functions show the hearth’s importance in ancient Greece’s social, religious, and political life. 

However, there were only a few temples or places solely dedicated to Hestia. Sparta and Ermioni were two places where her temple was situated.  

People worshipped Hestia in private and public hearths or “Prytaneion” in the city. Prytaneion was a place where the executive met and from where the government was run. 

These places were regarded as a sanctuary of the Goddess. The portion of the sacrifices, whatever people offered at these places, belonged to her.

The flame in these city centers or private places was always kept alive. The accidental extinction of hearth-fire at home represented a failure of domestic and religious care for the family.

 If it happened at a public hearth, it was called a breach of duty to the broad community.

However, the flames can be extinguished by rituals if needed. But if it had to be re-lite, it was done with purification, renewal, and completion rituals.

At Hestia’s domestic hearth, women were responsible for all the worship and offering. But at the public hearth, holders of civil office conduct all rites. However, the proof of Hestia’s priesthood is very rare. 

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Conclusion

Many gods and goddesses inspire people and other deities with their good deeds. Hestia, being the gentlest Goddess, also inspires others to be like her. She always looked to spread a peaceful environment all around. 

I felt bad knowing that great authors overlooked Hestia. Even Homer has missed her. What do you think about it? Have you found anything that needs to be discussed more? The comment box is all yours.

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