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 Hephaestus

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PostSubject: Hephaestus   Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:15 pm



Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera (the King and Queen of the Gods). He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. Like other mythic smiths but unlike most other gods, Hephaestus was lame, which gave him a grotesque appearance in Greek eyes. He served as the blacksmith of the gods, and he was worshiped in the manufacturing and industrial centers of Greece, particularly in Athens. The center of his cult was in Lemnos.[1] Hephaestus's symbols are a smith's hammer, an anvil and a pair of tongs, although sometimes he is portrayed holding an axe.

In one tradition clearly attested in Homer's Odyssey and perhaps also in the Iliad, Hephaestus was born of the union of Zeus and Hera.[2] In another tradition, which is only unambiguously recorded in late texts[3] but which may be an archaic survival of an autonomous Hera, she bore Hephaestus parthenogenetically; she is given the motivation in Hesiod's Zeus-centered cosmology[4] that she was engaged in a competitive quarrel with Zeus for his "birthing" of Athena, but Attic vase-painters illustrated the mainstream tradition that Hephaestus was already present at the birth of Athena, seen to be wielding the hammer with which he had split Zeus head to free her.

Because he was lame, Hera threw him out of heaven in disgust;[5] alternatively, he was lamed by the fall. Or, he was flung by Zeus, because he came to his mother’s rescue when Zeus had her in fetters for opposing him. He fell into the sea, where Thetis and the Oceanid Eurynome cared for him in a sea cave.[6] Or he fell for an entire day and landed on the island of Lemnos, where he was cared for by the Sintians, an ancient Lemnian tribe.[7] In every case, he remained forever lame.

Hephaestus was identified by Greek colonists in southern Italy with the volcano gods Adranus of Mount Etna and Vulcanus of the Lipari islands. His forge was moved there 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".[8]

An Athenian founding myth tells that Athena refused a union with Hephaestus because of his unsightly appearance and crippled nature, and that when he became angry and forceful with her, she disappeared from the bed. His ejaculation landed 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 imaginative etymology for Erichthonius, of strife (Eris) between Athena and Hephaestus and the Earth-child (chthonios). There is a Temple of Hephaestus, the Hephaesteum miscalled the "Theseum", located near the Athenian agora, or marketplace.



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.

Homer makes Charis the wife of Hephaestus. However, according to most myths, Hephaestus is a husband of Aphrodite, who commits adultery with Ares.

Hephaestus 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' winged helmet and sandals, the Aegis breastplate, Aphrodite's famed girdle, Agamemnon's staff of office,[9] Achilles' armor, Heracles' bronze clappers, Helios' chariot as well as his own due to his lameness, the shoulder of Pelops, Eros' bow and arrows. Hephaestus worked with the help of the chthonic Cyclopes, his assistants in the forge. He also built automatons of metal to work for him. This included tripods that walked to and from the Mount Olympus. 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's forge. Hephaestus also created the gift that the gods gave to man, the woman Pandora and her pithos. Being a skilled blacksmith, Hephaestus created all the thrones in the Palace of Olympus.[10]

In Iliad i.590, Hephaestus refers to the occasion when Zeus threw him from Olympus. Hephaestus had released his mother Hera, who Zeus, after an argument, had suspended by a golden chain between earth and sky. Hephaestus fell all day before landing on the island of Lemnos, where the resident Sintians nursed him back to health; there he grew to be a master craftsman.
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