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Hebe: Goddess of Youth

             Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Legend has it that she was born not of their union, but of a very strange conception: when Hera, having been invited to dinner by Apollo, ate of some wild lettuce and in this manner became pregnant. Hebe above all others symbolized youth and beauty, which characterize the tender period of human life.
             Her chief duty was to offer nectar and ambrosia to the gods. Ambrosia was the food that kept the gods eternally young and protected them from the attrition of time. Thus, the gods remained strong and beautiful. However, she later lost her position as cupbearer of the gods, as the result of a fall, which exposed her in a rather indecent posture. Her nakedness shocked the gods. This slip of posture was considered ill-matched to the manners of the Olympians, and deemed her unfit to perform her former duties. Ganymede, who was distinguished among mortals for his extraordinary beauty, soon replaced her. Ganymede was said to have even charmed Zeus himself who, as legend goes, either ordered an eagle to seize Ganymede and bring him to Olympus, or else to have carried the youth off himself, in order to take him into his service.
             Hebe, of course, continued to live with the gods after being replaced. She, together with Ganymede, the Graces, Harmony, Aphrodite and possibly Artemis, was one of the Olympian dancers. The dances they performed were accompanied by the music of the Muses and Apollo's lyre. .
             Hebe's relationship with her mother was very strong; indeed, she helped Hera with all her chores. When her mother had to depart, Hebe prepared her chariot. She also attended to her brother, the warlike Ares, whenever he returned from battle.
             Hebe also marked the reconciliation between Hera and Hercules, who was of course Zeus' son by another woman. On his death, Hercules was admitted to Olympus as a god; Hebe was first betrothed to him and later married him. From this union were born two children, Alexiares and Anicetus.

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