Hestia: Goddess of the hearth, home, domesticity, family, and the state
In Ancient Greek religion, Hestia (Greek: ‘hearth’ or ‘fireside’) is a virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and the right ordering of domesticity, the family, the home, and the state. In Greek mythology, she is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea.
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. With the establishment of a new colony, flame from Hestia’s public hearth in the mother city would be carried to the new settlement.
Hestia’s name means ‘hearth, fireplace, altar’, the oikos, the household, house, or family. An early form of the temple is the hearth house. Hestia’s name and functions show the hearth’s importance in the social, religious, and political life of ancient Greece. It was essential for warmth, food preparation, and the completion of sacrificial offerings to deities. She was also offered the first and last libations of wine at feasts. Her own sacrificial animal was a domestic pig.
Responsibility for Hestia’s domestic cult usually fell to the leading woman of the household, sometimes to a man. Hestia rejects the marriage suits of Poseidon and Apollo, and swears herself to perpetual virginity. She thus rejects Aphrodite’s values and becomes, to some extent, her chaste, domestic complementary, or antithesis. Aphrodite could not bend or ensnare her heart.
Zeus assigns Hestia a duty to feed and maintain the fires of the Olympian hearth with the fatty, combustible portions of animal sacrifices to the gods. Wherever food was cooked, or an offering was burnt, she thus had her share of honour; also, in all the temples of the gods she has a share of honour. Among all mortals she was chief of the goddesses.