Hestia  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In Greek mythology Hestia (Roman Vesta), daughter of Cronus and Rhea (ancient Greek {Ἑστία, "hearth" or "fireside"), is the virgin goddess of the hearth and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family. She received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household. In the public domain, the hearth of the prytaneum functioned as her official sanctuary. With the establishment of a new colony, flame from Hestia's public hearth in the mother city would be carried to the new settlement. She sat on a plain wooden throne with a white woolen cushion and did not trouble to choose an emblem for herself.

In Roman mythology, her more specifically civic approximate equivalent was Vesta, who personified the public hearth, and whose cult of the ever-burning hearth bound Romans together in the form of an extended family. The similarity of names between Hestia and Vesta, is misleading: "The relationship hestia-histie-Vesta cannot be explained in terms of Indo-European linguistics; borrowings from a third language must also be involved," scholar Walter Burkert has written. At some primitive level her name means "home and hearth", the oikos, the household and its inhabitants. "An early form of the temple is the hearth house; the early temples at Dreros and Prinias on Crete are of this type as indeed is the temple of Apollo at Delphi which always had its inner hestia" Among classical Greeks the altar was always in the open air with no roof but the sky, and that of the oracle at Delphi was the shrine of the Goddess before it was assumed by Apollo. The Mycenaean great hall, such as the hall of Odysseus at Ithaca was a megaron, with a central hearth fire.

The hearth fire of a Greek or a Roman household was not allowed to go out, unless it was ritually extinguished and ritually renewed, accompanied by impressive rituals of completion, purification and renewal. Compare the rituals and connotations of an eternal flame and of sanctuary lamps. At the more developed level of the polis, Hestia symbolizes the alliance between the colonies and their mother cities.

Account from Ovid

In his account of the Fasti of the Roman year, Ovid twice recounted an anecdote of Priapus's foiled attempt on a sleeping nymph: once he told it of the nymph Lotis and then again, calling it a "very playful little tale", he retold it of Vesta, the Roman equivalent of Hestia. In the anecdote, after a great feast, when the immortals were all either passed out drunk or asleep, Priapus—who had grotesquely large genitalia—spied Lotis/Vesta and was filled with lust for her. He quietly approached the nymph, but the braying of an ass awoke her just in time. She screamed at the sight and Priapus ran away.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hestia" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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