Hephaestus

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Image:Hephaestus (Greek Mythology).jpg
Hephaestus, Greek god of forging, riding a Donkey; Greek drinking cup (skyphos) made in the 5th century B.C.

Hephaestus (IPA pronunciation: [hɪfiːstəs]; Greek Ἥφαιστος Hêphaistos) is the Greek god whose approximate Roman equivalent is Vulcan; he is the god of technology including, specifically blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals and metallurgy, and fire. He was worshipped in all the manufacturing and industrial centers of Greece, especially Athens.

Though his forge traditionally lay in the heart of Lemnos, Hephaestus was quickly identified by Greek colonists in southern Italy with the volcano gods Adranus of Mount Etna and Vulcanus of the Lipara islands and his forge moved here by the poets; the first-century sage Apollonius of Tyana is said to have observed, "there are many other mountains all over the earth that are on fire, and yet we should never be done with it if we assigned to them giants and gods like Hephaestus" (Life of Apollonius of Tyana, book v.16).

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[edit] Family

Hephaestus and his brother Ares are sons of Hera, with or without the cooperation of Zeus. In classic and late interpretations, Hera bore him alone, in jealousy for Zeus's solo birth of Athena, but as Hera is older than Zeus in terms of human history, the myth may be an inversion. Indeed, in some versions of Athena's birth, the goddess only enters the world after Zeus' head is split open by a hammer-wielding Hephaestus. Either way, in Greek thought, the fates of the goddess of wisdom and war (Athena) and the god of the forge that makes the weapons of war were linked. In Attica, Hephaestus and Athena Ergane (Athena as patroness of craftsman and artisans), were honored at a festival called Chalceia on the thirtieth day of Pyanepsion. Hephaestus crafted much of Athena's weaponry, along with those of the rest of the gods and even of a few mortals who received their special favor.

Image:Ac.hephaestus2.jpg
The Doric Temple of Hephaestus, Athens: western face.

An Athenian founding myth tells that Athena refused a union with Hephaestus, and that when he tried to force her she disappeared from the bed. Hephaestus ejaculated on the earth, impregnating Gaia, who subsequently gave birth to Erichthonius of Athens; then the surrogate mother gave the child to Athena to foster, guarded by a serpent. Hyginus made an etymology of strife ("Eri-") between Athena and Hephaestus and the Earth-child ("chthonios"). Some readers may have the sense that an earlier, non-virginal Athene is disguised in a convoluted re-making of the myth-element. At any rate, there is a Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaesteum or the so-called "Theseum") located near the Athens agora, or marketplace. (illustration, right).

On the island of Lemnos, his consort was the sea nymph Cabeiro, by whom he was the father of two metalworking gods named the Cabeiri.

In Sicily, his consort was the nymph Aetna, and his sons two gods of Sicilian geysers called Palici.

[edit] Hephaestus' craft

Hephaestus also crafted much of the other magnificent equipment of the gods, and almost any finely-wrought metalwork imbued with powers that appears in Greek myth is said to have been forged by Hephaestus: Hermes's winged helmet and sandals, the Aegis breastplate, Aphrodite's famed girdle, Agamemnon's staff of office—its provenance recounted in Iliad II— Achilles's armor, Heracles's bronze clappers, Helios's chariot, the shoulder of Pelops, Eros's bow and arrows and Hades's helmet of invisibility. Hephaestus worked with the help of the chthonic Cyclopes, his assistants in the forge. He also built automatons of metal to work for him. He gave to blinded Orion his apprentice Cedalion as a guide. In one version of the myth, Prometheus stole the fire that he gave to man from Hephaestus' forge. Hephaestus also created the gift that the gods gave man, the woman Pandora and her infamous box.

In Iliad i.590, Zeus threw Hephaestus from Olympus because he released his mother Hera who was suspended by a golden chain between earth and sky, after an argument she had with Zeus. Hephaestus fell for nine days and nights before landing on the island of Lemnos where he grew to be a master craftsman and was allowed back into Olympus when his ability and usefulness became known to the gods.

Hephaestus was quite ugly; he was crippled and misshapen at birth (though some believe it was a result of his fall): in the vase-paintings, his feet are sometimes back-to-front. In art, Hephaestus was shown lame and bent over his anvil. He walked with the aid of a stick. A non-Homeric version of Hephaestus' myth has that Hera, mortified to have brought forth such grotesque offspring, promptly threw him from Mount Olympus. He fell, as he tells it himself in the Iliad (xviii.395) many days and nights and landed in the Ocean where he was brought up by the Oceanids Thetis (mother of Achilles) and Eurynome. (Hephaestus’s physical appearance indicates arsenicosis, low levels of arsenic poisoning, resulting in lameness and skin cancers. Arsenic was added to bronze to harden it and most smiths of the Bronze Age would have suffered from chronic workplace poisoning.)

Greek deities
series
Primordial deities
Titans
Aquatic deities
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Olympians
Zeus and Hera,
Poseidon, Hades,
Hestia, Demeter,
Aphrodite, Athena,
Apollo, Artemis,
Ares, Hephaestus,
Hermes, Dionysus

Hephaestus gained revenge against Hera for rejecting him by making her a magical golden throne which, when she sat on it, did not allow her to leave it. The other gods begged Hephaestus to return to Olympus to let her go but he repeatedly refused. Dionysus got him drunk and took him back to Olympus on the back of a mule. Hephaestus released Hera after being given Aphrodite, the goddess of love, as his wife.

In another version of the myth, Hephaestus, being the most unfaltering of the gods, was given Aphrodite’s hand in marriage by Zeus in order to prevent conflict over her between the other gods.

In either case, Hephaestus and Aphrodite had an arranged marriage and Aphrodite, disliking the idea of being married to unsightly Hephaestus, began an affair with Ares, the god of war. Eventually, Hephaestus found out about Aphrodite’s promiscuity from Helios, the all-seeing Sun, and planned a trap for them during one of their trysts. While Aphrodite and Ares lay together in bed, Hephaestus ensnared them in an unbreakable, chain-link net and dragged them to Mount Olympus to shame them in front of the other gods for retribution. However, the gods laughed at the sight of these naked lovers and Poseidon persuaded Hephaestus to free them in return for a guarantee that Ares would pay the adulterer's fine. The couple may also have been divorced, as suggested by Hephaestus' statement in Homer that he would return Aphrodite to her father and demand back his bride price.

[edit] Additional information

The Thebans told that the union with Ares and Aphrodite produced Harmonia, as lovely as a second Aphrodite. But of her union with Hephaestus, there was no issue, unless Virgil was serious when he said that Eros was their child (Aeneid i.664). Although later authors might explain this statement when they say the love-god was sired by Ares but passed off to Hephaestus as his own son. In Homer's Illiad the consort of Hephaestus is a lesser Aphrodite, Charis "the grace" or Aglaia "the glorious", the youngest of the Graces as Hesiod calls her in his (Theogony 945). Hephaestus fathered several children with mortals and immortals alike. One of those children was the robber Periphetes. With Thalia, Hephaestus was sometimes considered the father of the Palici.

Hephaestus' symbols are a smith's hammer, an anvil and a pair of tongs. Sometimes he holds an axe.

Hephaestus was somehow connected with the archaic, pre-Greek Phrygian and Thracian mystery cult of the Kabeiroi, who were also called the Hephaistoi, "the Hephaestus-men," in Lemnos. One of the three Lemnian tribes also called themselves Hephaestion and claimed direct descent from the god.

[edit] External Links


[edit] See also

Greek deities series
Primordial deities | Titans | Aquatic deities | Chthonic deities
Twelve Olympians
Zeus | Hera | Poseidon | Hades | Hestia | Demeter | Aphrodite
Athena | Apollo | Artemis | Ares | Hephaestus | Hermes | Dionysus
bg:Хефест

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Hephaestus

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