In the Ancient Greek religion, Hestia (/ˈhɛstiə, ˈhɛsə/; Greek: Ἑστία, "hearth" or "fireside") is the virgin goddess of the hearth, the right ordering of domesticity, the family, the home, and the state. In Greek mythology, she is the firstborn child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea.[1]

Goddess of the hearth, home, domesticity, virginity, family, and the state
Member of the Twelve Olympians
Hestia Giustiniani.jpg
AbodeDelphi or Mount Olympus
Planet46 Hestia, 4 Vesta
SymbolThe hearth and its fire
Personal information
ParentsCronus and Rhea
SiblingsChiron, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Zeus
Roman equivalentVesta

Customarily, in Greek culture, Hestia received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household. In the public domain, the hearth of the prytaneum functioned as her official sanctuary, and, when a new colony was established, a flame from Hestia's public hearth in the mother city would be carried to the new settlement. The goddess Vesta is her Roman equivalent.


Hestia's name means "hearth, fireplace, altar",[2] This stems from the PIE root *wes, "burn" (ult. from *h₂wes- "dwell, pass the night, stay").[3][4][5] It thus refers to the oikos: the domestic, home, household, house, or family. "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".[6] The Mycenaean great hall (megaron), like Homer's hall of Odysseus at Ithaca, had a central hearth. Likewise, the hearth of the later Greek prytaneum was the community and government's ritual and secular focus.[citation needed]


Part of a marble altar with inscription ESTIAS ISTHMIAS, 5th – 4th century BC. The altar was dedicated to the goddess Hestia with the epithet Isthmia. Archaeological Museum of Paros.
Dedication of an altar to Hestia in Karneades, Taormina (undated). The inscription states: "Beside these walls of Serapis the warden of the temple Karneades of Barke, son of Eukritos, o foreigner, and his spouse Pythias and his daughter Eraso placed to Hestia a pure altar, as a reward for this, o you that governs the marvelous dwellings of Zeus, grant to them a lovely auspiciousness of life."

The worship of Hestia was centered around the hearth. The hearth was essential for warmth, food preparation, and the completion of sacrificial offerings to deities. It was a common practice that she was respected by being offered the first and last libations of wine at feasts.[7] Pausanias writes that the Eleans sacrifice first to Hestia and then to other gods.[8] Xenophon in Cyropaedia wrote that Cyrus the Great sacrificed first to Hestia, then to sovereign Zeus, and then to any other god that the magi suggested.[9]

The accidental or negligent extinction of a domestic hearth-fire represented a failure of domestic and religious care for the family; failure to maintain Hestia's public fire in her temple or shrine was a breach of duty to the broad community. A hearth fire might be deliberately, ritually extinguished at need, and its lighting or relighting should be accompanied by rituals of completion, purification, and renewal, comparable with the rituals and connotations of an eternal flame and of sanctuary lamps. At the level of the polis, the hearths of Greek colonies and their mother cities were allied and sanctified through Hestia's cult. Athenaeus, in the Deipnosophistae, writes that in Naucratis the people dined in the Prytaneion on the natal day of Hestia Prytanitis (Ancient Greek: Ἑστίας Πρυτανίτιδος).[10]

Responsibility for Hestia's domestic cult usually fell to the leading woman of the household, although sometimes to a man. Hestia's rites at the hearths of public buildings were usually led by holders of civil office; Dionysius of Halicarnassus testifies that the prytaneum of a Greek state or community was sacred to Hestia, who was served by the most powerful state officials.[11] However, evidence of her priesthood is extremely rare. Most stems from the early Roman Imperial era, when Sparta offers several examples of women with the priestly title "Hestia"; Chalcis offers one, a daughter of the local elite. Existing civic cults to Hestia probably served as stock for the grafting of Greek ruler-cult to the Roman emperor, the Imperial family, and Rome itself. In Athens, a small seating section at the Theatre of Dionysus was reserved for priesthoods of "Hestia on the Acropolis, Livia, and Julia", and of "Hestia Romain" ("Roman Hestia", thus "The Roman Hearth" or Vesta). At Delos, a priest served "Hestia the Athenian Demos" (the people or state) "and Roma". An eminent citizen of Carian Stratoniceia described himself as a priest of Hestia and several other deities, as well as holding several civic offices. Hestia's political and civic functions are further evidenced by her very numerous privately funded dedications at civic sites, and the administrative rather than religious titles used by the lay-officials involved in her civic cults.[12]


Every private and public hearth or prytaneum was regarded as a sanctuary of the goddess, and a portion of the sacrifices, to whatever divinity they were offered, belonged to her. A statue of her reportedly existed in the Athenian Prytaneum:

"Hard by is the Prytaneon (Prytaneum) [the town-hall of Athens] . . . and figures are placed off the goddesses Eirene and Hestia."[13]

Diodorus Siculus, wrote that Theramenes leaped up to the altar of Hestia at the Council Chamber, yelling:

"I flee for refuge to the gods, not with the thought that I shall be saved, but to make sure that my slayers will involve themselves in an act of impiety against the gods."[14]

However, there were very few temples dedicated to Hestia. Pausanias mention only two, in Ermioni and in Sparta:

"[At Hermione in Argolis :] Passing into the sanctuary of Hestia, we see no image, but only an altar and they sacrifice to Hestia upon it.[15] [...] The Lacedaemonians (Lacedaemonians) also have a sanctuary of Hestia [at Sparta]."[16]

Xenophon at Hellenica mention a temple of Hestia at the Olympia:

When, however, they had pursued the enemy to the space between the senate-house and the temple of Hestia and the theatre which adjoins these buildings, although they fought no less stoutly and kept pushing the enemy towards the altar, still, since they were pelted from the roofs of the porticoes, the senate-house, and the great temple, and were themselves fighting on the ground-level, some of the Eleans were killed, among them Stratolas himself, the leader of the Three Hundred.[17]

Hymns, odes and oathsEdit

Homeric Hymn 24, To Hestia, is a brief invocation of five lines:

Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise: draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.[18]

Homeric Hymn 29, To Hestia, is another invocation for the goddess and to Hermes:

Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet, -- where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. And you, slayer of Argus (Hermes's epithet), Son of Zeus and Maia, the messenger of the blessed gods, bearer of the goldenrod, the giver of good, be favorable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear. Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together; for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid on their wisdom and their strength. Hail, Daughter of Cronos, and you also, Hermes, bearer of the goldenrod! Now I will remember you and another song also.[19]

There is also an Orphic Hymn dedicated to Hestia.[20] And, the 11th Nemean ode of Pindar writes about Hestia.[21][22]

Dedication with military oaths, found at Acharnai, from the Sanctuary of Ares and Athena Areia, dated 350-325 BC. In one of these oaths, the Hestia is mentioned.[23][24]

Hestia tapestryEdit

Hestia full of Blessings, Egypt, 6th century tapestry (Dumbarton Oaks Collection)

The Hestia tapestry is a Byzantine tapestry, made in Egypt during the 6th century AD. It is a late representation of the goddess, whom it identifies in Greek as Hestia Polyolbos; (Greek: Ἑστία Πολύολβος "Hestia full of Blessings"). Its history and symbolism are discussed in Friedlander (1945).[25]


Statue of Hestia (Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA)


Hestia is a goddess of the first Olympian generation. She is the eldest daughter of the Titans Rhea and Cronus, and sister to Chiron, Demeter, Hades, Hera, Poseidon, and Zeus. Immediately after their birth, Cronus swallowed all his children (Hestia was the first who was swallowed) except the last and youngest, Zeus. Instead, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge his siblings and led them in a war against their father and the other Titans.[26] As "first to be devoured . . . and the last to be yielded up again", Hestia is thus both the eldest and youngest daughter; this mythic inversion is found in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (700 BC).[27]

Virgin goddessEdit

The gods Poseidon and Apollo both (her brother and nephew respectively) fell in love with Hestia and vied for her hand in marriage. But Hestia would have neither of them, and went to Zeus instead, and swore a great oath, that she would remain a virgin for all time and never marry. Thus Aphrodite has no power over her.[28]


Zeus assigned Hestia a duty to feed and maintain the fires of the Olympian hearth with the fatty, combustible portions of animal sacrifices to the gods.[29] Wherever food was cooked, or an offering was burnt, she thus had her share of honor; also, in all the temples of the gods, she has a share of honor. "Among all mortals she was chief of the goddesses".[30]


Hestia, along with many other goddesses, nymphs and satyrs were invited to Cybele's feast. After much feasting and wine, Hestia lied down and took a quiet nap. Priapus then spotted her, and approached her, walking on tiptoe, with the aim to force her. But then a donkey, belonging to Silenus, left out a bray. Hestia was startled, and the whole crowd flew at her defense. Priapus then fled.[31]

Status and attributesEdit

Hestia's Olympian status is equivocal to her status among men. However, at Athens, "in Plato's time," notes Kenneth Dorter[32] "there was a discrepancy in the list of the twelve chief gods, as to whether Hestia or Dionysus was included with the other eleven. The altar to them at the agora, for example, included Hestia, but the east frieze of the Parthenon had Dionysus instead." Hestia's omission from some lists of the Twelve Olympians is sometimes taken as an illustration of her passive, non-confrontational nature – by giving her Olympian seat to the more forceful Dionysus she prevents heavenly conflict – but no ancient source or myth describes such a surrender or removal.[33] "Since the hearth is immovable Hestia is unable to take part even in the procession of the gods, let alone the other antics of the Olympians", Burkert remarks.[34] Her mythographic status as firstborn of Rhea and Cronus seems to justify the tradition in which a small offering is made to Hestia before any sacrifice ("Hestia comes first").

There was a tradition where Hestia received a small offering before any sacrifice, however this was not universal among the Greeks. In Odyssey 14, 432–436, the loyal swineherd Eumaeus begins the feast for his master Odysseus by plucking tufts from a boar's head and throwing them into the fire with a prayer addressed to all the powers, then carved the meat into seven equal portions: "one he set aside, lifting up a prayer to the forest nymphs and Hermes, Maia's son."[35]

Hestia is identified with the hearth as a physical object, and the abstractions of community and domesticity, but portrayals of her are rare and seldom secure.[36] In classical Greek art, she is occasionally depicted as a woman, simply and modestly cloaked in a head veil. At times, it shows her with a staff in hand or by a large fire. She sits on a plain wooden throne with a white woolen cushion and did not trouble to choose an emblem for herself.[1] Her associated sacrificial animal was a domestic pig.[37]


Votive relief dedicated to Vesta. From Rome, Italy. 140-150 CE. Marble. Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany. The inscription mentions that a man and his wife dedicated this statue to the goddess Vesta.

Her Roman equivalent is Vesta;[38] Vesta has similar functions as a divine personification of Rome's "public", domestic, and colonial hearths, binding Romans together within a form of extended family. The similarity of names between Hestia and Vesta is, however, misleading: "The relationship hestia-histie-Vesta cannot be explained in terms of Indo-European linguistics; borrowings from a third language must also be involved," according to Walter Burkert.[39] Other mythology and religion show similar goddesses or figures. Herodotus equates the Scythian Tabiti with Hestia. And, the Zoroastrian holy fire (atar) of the Sasanians in Adhur Gushnasp was also equated with Hestia by Procopius.[40]


Hestia's family tree [41]
Uranus' genitalsCronusRhea
    a[45]     b[46]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Graves, Robert. "The Palace of Olympus". Greek Gods and Heroes.
  2. ^ R. S. P. Beekes. Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 471.
  3. ^ Calvert Watkins, "wes-", in: The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston 1985 (web archive).
  4. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q. (2006-08-24). The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. OUP Oxford. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-19-928791-8.
  5. ^ West, M. L. (2007-05-24). Indo-European Poetry and Myth. OUP Oxford. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-19-928075-9.
  6. ^ Burkert, p. 61.
  7. ^ Homeric Hymn 29, tr. Evelyn-White, Hugh G.
  8. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.14.4
  9. ^ Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 7.5.57
  10. ^ Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, 4.149
  11. ^ Kajava, p. 5.
  12. ^ Kajava, pp. 1, 3, 5.
  13. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 18. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.)
  14. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library, 14.4
  15. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 35. 1
  16. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 11. 11
  17. ^ Xenophon, Hellenika, 7.4.31
  18. ^ Hymn 24 to Hestia.
  19. ^ Homeric Hymn to Hestia 29.1   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  21. ^ Pindar, Nemean Odes, 11.1, EN
  22. ^ Pindar, Nemean Odes, 11.1, GR
  23. ^ topostext, 2.1"...Witnesses the gods Aglauros, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalios, Ares and Athena Areia, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Herakles, and the boundaries of my fatherland, wheat, barley, vines, olives, figs."
  24. ^ Attic Inscriptions Online, 17
  25. ^ Friedlander, Paul. (1945). Documents of Dying Paganism. University of California Press.
  26. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 453 ff.
  27. ^ Kerenyi, p. 91
  28. ^ Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 21-32
  29. ^ Kajava, pp. 1–2.
  30. ^ "Homeric Hymns, To Aphrodite".
  31. ^ Ovid, Fasti 6.319-344
  32. ^ Dorter, K. (1971). "Imagery and Philosophy in Plato's Phaedrus". Journal of the History of Philosophy, 9 (3), 279–288 (July 1971).
  33. ^ Kereny, p. 92: "There is no story of Hestia's ever having taken a husband or ever having been removed from her fixed abode."
  34. ^ Burkert, p. 170.
  35. ^ Robert Fagles' translation
  36. ^ Kajava, p. 2.
  37. ^ , Bremmer, Jan. N., in Ogden, D. (ed.). (2010). A Companion to Greek Religion, Wiley-Blackwell, Google Books preview, p. 134, ISBN 978-1-4443-3417-3.
  38. ^ Hughes, James. (1995). Larousse Desk Reference Encyclopedia, p. 215. Larousse/The Book People.
  39. ^ Burkert, p. 415, 3.3.1 n. 2.
  40. ^ Procopius, History of the Wars, Book II, XXIV
  41. ^ This chart is based upon Hesiod's Theogony, unless otherwise noted.
  42. ^ According to Homer, Iliad 1.570–579, 14.338, Odyssey 8.312, Hephaestus was apparently the son of Hera and Zeus, see Gantz, p. 74.
  43. ^ According to Hesiod, Theogony 927–929, Hephaestus was produced by Hera alone, with no father, see Gantz, p. 74.
  44. ^ According to Hesiod, Theogony 886–890, of Zeus' children by his seven wives, Athena was the first to be conceived, but the last to be born; Zeus impregnated Metis then swallowed her, later Zeus himself gave birth to Athena "from his head", see Gantz, pp. 51–52, 83–84.
  45. ^ According to Hesiod, Theogony 183–200, Aphrodite was born from Uranus' severed genitals, see Gantz, pp. 99–100.
  46. ^ According to Homer, Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus (Iliad 3.374, 20.105; Odyssey 8.308, 320) and Dione (Iliad 5.370–71), see Gantz, pp. 99–100.

General referencesEdit

  • Homer, The Iliad with an English Translation by A. T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Homer; The Odyssey with an English Translation by A. T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Evelyn-White, Hugh, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
  • Pindar, Odes, Diane Arnson Svarlien. 1990. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica. Vol 1-2. Immanel Bekker. Ludwig Dindorf. Friedrich Vogel. in aedibus B. G. Teubneri. Leipzig. 1888-1890. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Ovid, Ovid's Fasti: With an English translation by Sir James George Frazer, London: W. Heinemann LTD; Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1959. Internet Archive.
  • Pausanias, Pausanias Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Burkert, Walter (1985). Greek Religion. Harvard University Press.
  • "Cave of Hestia". Legendary Journeys. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  • Friedlander, Paul. (1945). Documents of Dying Paganism. University of California Press.
  • Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes: ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3 (Vol. 2).
  • "Hestia". Riordan Wiki. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  • Kajava, Mika. "Hestia Hearth, Goddess, and Cult", Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 102 (2004): 1–20.
  • Kerenyi, Karl. (1951). The Gods of the Greeks.
  • Stephenson, Hamish. (1985). The Gods of the Romans and Greeks. NYT Writer.

External linksEdit