Heracles and Hera had a difficult relationship. In fact, the queen of the Gods tremendously hated the half-man known for his strength and hero status, and really went out her way to make his life as difficult as possible. Snubbing Heracles publicly would just not do… Hera wanted to make him suffer.
It all started before Heracles (Hercules
in latin) was born. The bastard was the result of one of Zeus’ many affairs, this time with a mortal woman named Alcmene. The God of the sky disguised himself as this poor woman’s husband in order to make love to her and consequently impregnate her. In fact, her actual groom came home later that night, and Alcmene also became pregnant with his son at the same time. (It was technically a case of heteropaternal superfecundation
, where a woman carries twins sired by different fathers.)
Zeus’ adultery was the sole reason for Hera’s
unending wrath against the unfortunate Heracles.
Heracles and Hera and the Creation of the Milky Way – by Tintoretto [1518-1594]
Hera did everything she could to stop Heracles and his brother from even existing. She forced Ilithyia
, goddess of childbirth, to sit cross legged, with knotted clothing to hinder their very entry into the world. Hera might have permanently denied the children’s lives if the mother’s servant hadn’t fooled the Goddess of childbirth. The quick witted help convinced Ilithyia that the babies had already been born. Seeing her task as pointless, the goddess jumped up, undid the knots and allowed the birth of the twins to proceed.