In Greek mythology the Horae (/ˈhɔːriː/ or /ˈhɔːraɪ/) or Hours (Greek: Ὧραι, Hōrai, pronounced [hɔ̂ːraj], "seasons") were the goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time. 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'." 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. Similarly Aphrodite, emerging from the sea and coming ashore at Cyprus, is dressed and adorned by the Horai, and, according to a surviving fragment of the epic Cypria, Aphrodite wore clothing made for her by the Charites and Horai, dyed with spring flowers, such as the Horai themselves wear.
The number of Horae varied according to different sources, but was most commonly three, either the trio of Thallo, Auxo and Carpo, who were goddesses of the order of nature; or Eunomia, Diké, and Eirene, who were law-and-order goddesses.
In Argos two, rather than three Horae 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
The earliest written mention of Horai is in the Iliad where they appear as keepers of Zeus's cloud gates. "Hardly any traces of that function are found in the subsequent tradition," Karl Galinsky remarked in passing. They were daughters of Zeus and Themis, half-sisters to the Moirai.
in one variant emphasizing their fruitful aspect, Thallo, Auxo, and Carpo—the goddesses of the three seasons the Greeks recognized: spring, summer and autumn—were worshipped primarily amongst rural farmers throughout Greece;
in the other variant, emphasising the "right order" aspect of the Horai, Hesiod says that Zeus wedded "bright Themis" who bore Diké, Eunomia, and Eirene, who were law-and-order goddesses that maintained the stability of society; they were worshipped primarily in the cities of Athens, Argos and Olympia.
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):
Thallo (Θαλλώ, literally "The one who brings blossoms"; or Flora for Romans) or Thalatte was the goddess of spring, buds and blooms, a protector of youth.
Auxo (Αὐξώ. "Increaser" as in plant growth) or Auxesia was worshipped (alongside Hegemone) in Athens as one of their two Charites.
Thallo and Carpo also appear in rites of Attica noted by Pausanias in the 2nd century AD.
Of the second triad associated to Themis and Zeus for the law-and-order:
Diké (Δίκη, "Justice" ; Iustitia for Romans) was the goddess of moral justice: she ruled over human justice, as her mother Themis ruled over divine justice. The anthropomorphisation of Diké as an ever-young woman dwelling in the cities of men was so ancient and strong that in the 3rd century BCE Aratus in Phaenomena 96 asserted that she was born a mortal and that, though Zeus placed her on earth to keep mankind just, he quickly learned this was impossible and placed her next to him on Olympus, as the Greek astronomical/astrological constellation The Maiden.
Eunomia (Εὐνομία, "Order", governance according to good laws) was the goddess of law and legislation. The same or a different goddess may have been a daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite.
Eirene or Irene (Εἰρήνη. "Peace"; the Roman equivalent was Pax), was the personification of peace and wealth, and was depicted in art as a beautiful young woman carrying a cornucopia, scepter and a torch or rhyton.
Hyginus (Fabulae 183) identifies a third set of Horae:
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
According to Hyginus, the list is only of nine, borrowed from the three classical triads alternated:
Auco, or perhaps Auxo (Growth, from the 1st triad),
Eunomia (Order, from the 2nd triad),
Pherusa (Substance, from the 3rd triad),
Carpo (Fruit, from the 1st triad),
Diké (Justice, from the 2nd triad),
Euporie or Euporia (Abondance, from the 3rd triad),