Temple of Hera, Goddess of Marriage

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The Temple of Hera (which in the Roman era was known as the Temple of Juno) is a 5th century BC temple dedicated to the Greek goddess of marriage, childbirth, and families. One of the many magnificent ruins at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Valley of the Temples, the Temple of Hera possesses an altar where weddings and other related rites were practiced. For example, during a celebration of engagement after a couple took a purification bath, the two would process through town in a donkey-led cart to the altar, where, at the public ceremony, brides would be dressed in long tunics requiring a belt to be worn. A “virginity belt” would be ceremoniously tied around the bride’s waist by the groom in a strong knot called a “Hercules’ Knot.” With this gesture, the couple formally sought Hera’s blessing of their engagement. Guests would then shower the couple with wheat, barley, and pomegranates–symbols of fertility–and send them to their new home, where the cart’s axle would be burnt so they couldn’t leave. Once the couple expected a child, as demonstrated by the belt, now too tight for the bride’s swollen belly, they would return to the Temple to express their thanks to the Goddess Hera for their blessing. At that point, in another public ceremony, the Hercules’ Knot would be loosened (or cut) by the husband in the presence of friends and family. The belt would then be offered to the Goddess. When the woman gave birth to a child, at that point, the couple would be considered husband and wife.

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