Hebe feeding Jupiter’s eagle by William Beechey (1753-1839)
The Fitzwilliam Museum Collection
THE AETOS DIOS was a giant, golden eagle which served as Zeus’ personal messenger and animal companion. According to some, the eagle was once a mortal king named Periphas, whose virtuous rule was so celebrated that he was came to be honoured like a god. Zeus, in anger, would have smote him with a thunderbolt, but Apollon intervened and, transforming the king into an eagle, set him beside the throne of Zeus. In other accounts, Zeus adopted the eagle as his bird when it first appeared to him before the Titan War as a sign of good omen. The eagle was later sent by Zeus to carry the handsome youth Ganymedes up to heaven to become the cupbearer of the gods (aquarius constellation).
The bird received a place amongst the stars as the constellation Aquila. Its consort was Lyra, the heavenly vulture.
HEBE was the goddess of youth and the cupbearer of the gods who served ambrosia at the heavenly feast. She was also the patron goddess of the young bride and an attendant of the goddess Aphrodite. Herakles received Hebe in marriage upon his ascension to Olympos, a wedding which reconciled the hero with Hebe’s mother Hera.
In Greek vase painting Hebe was depicted either as the bride of Herakles, or the cupbearer of the gods, pouring ambrosia from a pitcher. Sometimes she was represented with wings like the goddesses Iris and Nike.