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"Dionysus leading the Horae ("Neo-Attic "Roman relief, 1st century)

In "Greek mythology the Horae ("/ˈhɔːr/) or Horai ("/ˈhɔːr/) or Hours ("Greek: Ὧραι, Hōrai, pronounced "[hɔ̂ːraj], "Seasons") were the "goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time.



The word "Horae" comes from the "Proto-Indo-European stem *Hioh1-r- "year."[1]


A detail of Horae Serenae by "Edward Poynter (1894)

They were originally the personifications of nature in its different seasonal aspects, but in later times they were regarded as goddesses of order in general and natural justice. "They bring and bestow ripeness, they come and go in accordance with the firm law of the periodicities of nature and of life", "Karl Kerenyi observed: "Hora means 'the correct moment'."[2] Traditionally, they guarded the gates of Olympus, promoted the fertility of the earth, and rallied the stars and constellations. The course of the seasons was also symbolically described as the dance of the Horae, and they were accordingly given the attributes of spring flowers, fragrance and graceful freshness. For example, in Hesiod's "Works and Days, the fair-haired Horai, together with the "Charites and "Peitho crown "Pandora—she of "all gifts"—with garlands of flowers.[3] Similarly Aphrodite, emerging from the sea and coming ashore at "Cyprus, is dressed and adorned by the Horai,[4] and, according to a surviving fragment of the epic "Cypria,[5] Aphrodite wore clothing made for her by the Charites and Horai, dyed with spring flowers, such as the Horai themselves wear.

Names and numbers[edit]

The number of Horae varied according to different sources, but was most commonly three: either the trio of Thallo, Auxo and Carpo (goddesses of the order of nature) or "Eunomia (goddess of good order and lawful conduct) and her sisters "Dike (goddess of Justice) and "Eirene (goddess of Peace).[6]

The earlier Argive Horae[edit]

In "Argos, two Horae, rather than three, were recognised presumably winter and summer: "Auxesia (possibly another name for Auxo) and Damia (possibly another name for Carpo).

In late "euhemerist interpretations, they were seen as Cretan maidens who were worshipped as goddesses after they had been wrongfully stoned to death.

The classical Horae triads[edit]

The earliest written mention of Horai is in the "Iliad where they appear as keepers of "Zeus's cloud gates.[7] "Hardly any traces of that function are found in the subsequent tradition," "Karl Galinsky remarked in passing.[8] They were daughters of "Zeus and "Themis, half-sisters to the "Moirai.[9]

The Horai are mentioned in two aspects in "Hesiod and the "Homeric Hymns:

First triad[edit]

Of the first, more familiar, triad associated with "Aphrodite and Zeus is their origins as emblems of times of life, growth (and the classical three seasons of year):

At Athens, two Horae; Thallo (the Hora of spring) and Carpo (the Hora of autumn), also appear in rites of "Attica noted by "Pausanias in the 2nd century AD.[10] Thallo, Auxo and Carpo are often accompanied by "Chione, a daughter of "Boreas (the god/personification of the "North Wind) and "Orithyia/Oreithyia (originally a mortal princess, who was later "deifyied as a goddess of cold mountain winds), and the goddess/personification of "snow and "winter. Along with Chione, Thallo, Auxo and Carpo were a part of the entourage of the goddess of the turn of the seasons, "Persephone.

Allegory of peace and happiness of the state. In this picture we can see Dike (the justice), Eunomia (order) and, in the center, Eirene (the Peace)

Second triad[edit]

Of the second triad associated to Themis and Zeus for law and order:

Third triad[edit]

"Hyginus (Fabulae 183) identifies a third set of Horae:

The Four Seasons[edit]

"Nonnus in his "Dionysiaca mentions a distinct set of four Horae, the daughters of "Helios. "Quintus Smyrnaeus also attributes the Horae as the daughters of Helios and "Selene, and describes them as the four handmaidens of "Hera.[11] The Greek words for the four seasons of year:

The Hours[edit]

The Hours by "Edward Burne-Jones (1882)

Finally, a quite separate suite of Horae personified the twelve hours (originally only ten), as tutelary goddesses of the times of day. The hours run from just before sunrise to just after sunset, thus winter hours are short, summer hours are long:

The nine Hours[edit]

According to "Hyginus, the list is only of nine, borrowed from the three classical triads alternated:

The ten or twelve Hours[edit]

Apollo with the Hours by "Georg Friedrich Kersting (1822)

This last distinct set of ten or twelve Hours is much less known:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 1681.
  2. ^ References to the Horai in classical sources are credited in Karl Kerenyi's synthesis of all the mythology, The Gods of the Greeks 1951, pp 101f and passim (index, "Horai")
  3. ^ Works and Days lines 74-75.
  4. ^ "Homeric Hymn 6.5-13.
  5. ^ Cypria, fr. 4.
  6. ^ Eunomia. "Theoi Project.
  7. ^ Iliad 5. 749-51.
  8. ^ Karl Galinsky, "Venus, Polysemy, and the Ara Pacis Augustae" American Journal of Archaeology 96.3 (July 1992:457-475) p. 459.
  9. ^ G.M.A. Hanfmann, The Seasons Sarcophagus at Dumbarton Oaks (Cambridge, Massachusetts) 1951; V. Machaira, in "Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae 5.1 (1990), p 502f.
  10. ^ Pausanias, 9.35.2. Compare "Hyginus, Fabula 183.
  11. ^ Hammond, "SELENE", pp. 970–971; Quintus Smyrnaeus, 10.336 ff. pp. 442–443
  12. ^ Hyginus Fabulae 183.


External links[edit]

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