Hemera – The Bright Goddess of Day

Hemera is the goddess of Day. She is an old deity, born from the union between Erebus and Nyx (Night). Along with her brother and also consort Aether she brings the day to the land. She resides in Tartarus during the night waiting for her turn to come back to the surface of the earth. Her symbols are the sunflower and the bright mists of day.

Key Facts

Family tree

ParentsErebus and Nyx
Partner(s)Aether
SiblingsAether
OffspringThalassa (Sea)

Names & Others

Roman NameDies
Other NamesHemera
Ancient GreekἩμέρα
The Goddess ofDay
SymbolsBright mists of day, sunflower

Hemera’s Origins

Hemera
Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After the creation of the world, Erebus and Nyx mated and brought forth Aether and Hemera. Representing cheerfulness and light – in contrast to the sadness and darkness of their parents – Aether and Hemera took on and climbed to the top of the sky. There they both assumed the great responsibility of carrying the light and issuing it to the world of mortals. Other sources speak of Hemera as the daughter of Chronus (Time) and Nyx or the progeny of Helios (the Sun).

Hemera in the Greek mythology

Hemera’s significance

Hemera was an important deity. After the establishment of the world, she made an arrangement with her mother, Nyx, to take turns in the sky. Hemera would remain in Tartarus until she saw Nyx approaching. She would then leave the gloomy pit, met her mother only for a few moments on the bronze threshold of the house they both shared and promptly fly up to the sky. Every dawn, Hemera scattered Nyx’s dark mists and let Aether shine its radiant, blue light upon the earth. Day came then and Hemera enjoyed the company of Aether until her mother would rise again and spread her black veils all over the land.

Hesiod describes it best in his work, Theogony:

Νύξ τε καὶ Ἡμέρη ἆσσον ἰοῦσαι
ἀλλήλας προσέειπον ἀμειβόμεναι μέγαν οὐδὸν
χάλκεον· ἡ μὲν ἔσω καταβήσεται, ἡ δὲ θύραζε
ἔρχεται, οὐδέ ποτ᾽ ἀμφοτέρας δόμος ἐντὸς ἐέργει,
ἀλλ᾽ αἰεὶ ἑτέρη γε δόμων ἔκτοσθεν ἐοῦσα
γαῖαν ἐπιστρέφεται, ἡ δ᾽ αὖ δόμου ἐντὸς ἐοῦσα
μίμνει τὴν αὐτῆς ὥρην ὁδοῦ, ἔστ᾽ ἂν ἵκηται·
ἡ μὲν ἐπιχθονίοισι φάος πολυδερκὲς ἔχουσα,
ἡ δ᾽ Ὕπνον μετὰ χερσί, κασίγνητον Θανάτοιο,
Νὺξ ὀλοή, νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμένη ἠεροειδεῖ.

Night and Day greet each other
As they pass over the great threshold of bronze.
One goes down inside while the other goes out,
And the house never holds both inside together,
But one of them is always outside the house
And traverses the earth while the other remains
Inside the house until her journey’s hour has come.
One holds for earthlings the far-seeing light;
The other holds Death’s brother, Sleep, in her arms:
Night the destroyer, shrouded in fog and mist.

Hemera’s offspring

Despite her magnitude regarding life itself, Hemera doesn’t have any stories inside the Greek mythos. The only things known about her, apart from her vital role of delivering the day, are her offspring with Aether. Hemera is said to have given birth to Thalassa (Sea) and according to later sources to Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky). Some even suggest that the Titans were Hemera’s children.

Connection with Eos

Hemera was often confused and sometimes mentioned interchangeably with Eos, the goddess of the dawn. Eos however, the personification of Dawn, is a separate deity. She is the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. Eos is responsible for the dawn and the beginning of the day, much like Hemera is. This connection suggests that Hemera and Eos were the same and at the same time different goddesses, charged with summoning the day consistently.

Hemera’s worship

Hemera wasn’t revered as much as her mother, Nyx, was. In fact, she wasn’t known to have any temples of statues unto her. Yet, archaeological research on the island of Kos revealed an ancient shrine dedicated to Hemera and Helios.

Etymology

In Greek, Hemera (Ἡμέρα) means Day. It derives from the ancient word êmar (ἦμαρ) meaning the same thing, which in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European form of h-eh-mr, standing for ‘heat’. As the sky was brightened before sunrise it gave out a vivid image of heavenly burning hence the word.

Roles and Responsibilities

Hemera basic role, and a really great one, was to clear the sky of Nyx’s dark mists and to let Aether shine his blue light upon the earth. Depicted as a young woman wearing a bright tunic, Hemera was a kind and benevolent deity, inspiring hope and happiness in the hearts of mortals.

In the old texts

Hemera by Lesley
Lesley Newey via Pinterest

Greek

Hemera is mentioned in Hesiod’s Theogony exchanging places with her mother Nyx.

In his Victory Odes, the lyric poet Bacchylides refers to her as the daughter of Chronus and Nyx.

Another lyric poet, Pindar, alludes to Hemera in his work Olympian Odes.

Pausanias also mentions Hemera.

Roman

In Hyginus’ Fabulae, Dies (Hemera – Day), Nox (Nyx – Night), Erebus and Aether are the offspring of Chaos and Caligio (Mist). Aether and Dies are the parents of Caelus (Sky), Terra (Earth) and Mare (Sea).

Cicero in his work De Natura Deorum says that Dies is the mother of Caelus and Mercury (Hermes). 

FAQs

Was Hemera an actual goddess?

Being of the first generation of divine entities, Hemera wasn’t an anthropomorphic goddess as the Olympians were. Her nature was similar to that of her parents and brother, an intangible personification of a great force. She was more of a wide-aspect deity than a figure walking about and blessing people.

What is the connection between Hemera and Eos?

In the old days, Hemera and Eos were pretty much the same thing. They were both bringers of light and day, ancient hope-giver deities.

Featured Image Credit: Henry Fuseli, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Vasilis Megas

Vasilis Megas (a.k.a. Vasil Meg) was born in Athens, Greece where he still resides writing epic fantasy and sci-fi books. He is a Greek - and Norse Mythology enthusiast, and he is currently working as a creative/content writer, journalist, photographer and translator.