1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hebe

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HEBE, in Greek mythology, daughter of Zeus and Hera, the goddess of youth. In the Homeric poems she is the female counterpart of Ganymede, and acts as cupbearer to the gods (Iliad, iv. 2). She was the special attendant of her mother, whose horses she harnessed (Iliad, v. 722). When Heracles was received amongst the gods, Hebe was bestowed upon him in marriage (Odyssey, xi. 603). When the custom of the heroic age, which permitted female cupbearers, fell into disuse, Hebe was replaced by Ganymede in the popular mythology. To account for her retirement from her office, it was said that she fell down in the presence of the gods while handing the wine, and was so ashamed that she refused to appear before them again. Hebe exhibits many striking points of resemblance with the pure Greek goddess Aphrodite. She is the daughter of Zeus and Hera, Aphrodite of Zeus and Dione; but Dione and Hera are often identified. Hebe is called Dia, a regular epithet of Aphrodite; at Phlius, a festival called Κισσοτόμοι (the days of ivy-cutting) was annually celebrated in her honour (Pausanias, ii. 13); and ivy was sacred also to Aphrodite. The apotheosis of Heracles and his marriage with Hebe became a favourite subject with poets and painters, and many instances occur on vases. In later art she is often represented, like Ganymede, caressing the eagle.

See R. Kekulé, Hebe (1867), mainly dealing with the representations of Hebe in art; and P. Decharme in Daremberg and Saglio’s Dictionnaire des antiquités.

The meaning of the word Hebe tended to transform the goddess into a mere personification of the eternal youth that belongs to the gods, and this conception is frequently met with. Then she becomes identical with the Roman Juventas, who is simply an abstraction of an attribute of Jupiter Juventus, the god of increase and blessing and youth. To Juventas, as personifying the eternal youth of the Roman state, a chapel was dedicated in very early times in the cella of Minerva in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. With this temple is connected the legend of Juventas and Terminus, who alone of all the gods refused to give way when it was being built—an indication of the eternal solidity and youth of Rome. The cult of Juventas did not, however, become firmly established until the time of the second Punic war. In 218 the Sibylline books ordered a lectisternium in honour of Juventas and a supplicatio in honour of Hercules, and in 191 a temple was dedicated in her honour in the Circus Maximus. In later times Juventas became the personification, not of the Roman youth, but of the emperor, who assumed the attributes of a god (Livy v. 54, xxi. 62, xxxvi. 36; Dion. Halic. iii. 69; G. Wissowa in Roscher’s Lexikon der Mythologie).