HORAE (Lat. hora, hour), the Hours, in Greek mythology 'fipai, originally the personification of a series of natural phenomena. In the Iliad (v. 749) they are the custodians of the gates of Olympus, which they open or shut by scattering or condensing the clouds; that is, they are weather goddesses, who send down or withhold the fertilizing dews and rain. In the Odyssey, where they are represented as bringing round the seasons in regular order, they are an abstraction rather than a concrete personification. The brief notice in Hesiod (Theog. 901), where they are called the children of Zeus and Themis, who superintend the operations of agriculture, indicates by the names assigned to them (Eunomia, Dike, Eirene, i.e. Good Order, Justice, Peace) the extension of their functions as goddesses of order from nature to the events of human life, and at the same time invests them with moral attributes. Like the Moerae (Fates), they regulate the destinies of man, watch over the newly born, secure good laws and the administration of justice. The selection of three as their number has been supposed to refer to the most ancient division of the year into spring, summer and winter, but it is probably only another instance of the Greek liking for that particular number or its multiples in such connexions (three Moerae, Charites, Gorgons, nine Muses). Order and regularity being indispensable conditions of beauty, it was easy to conceive of the Horae as the goddesses of youthful bloom and grace, inseparably associated with the idea of springtime. As such they are companions of the Nymphs and Graces, with whom they are often confounded, and of other superior deities connected with the spring growth of vegetation (Demeter, Dionysus). At Athens they were two (or three) in number:. Thallo and Carpo, the goddesses of the flowers of spring and of the fruits of summer, to whom Auxo, the goddess of the growth of plants, may be added, although some authorities make her only one of the Graces. In honour of the Horae a yearly festival (Horaea) was celebrated, at which protection was sought against the scorching heat and drought, and offerings were made of boiled meat as less insipid and more nutritious than roast. In later mythology, under Alexandrian influence, the Horae become the four seasons, daughters of Helios and Selene, each represented with the conventional attributes. Subsequently, when the day was divided into twelve equal parts, each of them took the name of Hora. Ovid (Melam. ii. 26) describes them as placed at equal intervals on the throne of Phoebus, with whom are also associated the four seasons. Nonnus (5th century A.D.) in the Dionysiaca also unites the twelve Horae as representing the day and the four Horae as the seasons in the palace of Helios.
See C. Lehrs, Populare Aufsatze (1856); J. H. Krause, Die Musen, Grazien, Horen, und Nymphen (1871) ; and the articles in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquites, J. A. Hild; and in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie, W. Rapp.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)