Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
Form: Hephaistos.
In Greek mythology, the god of fire, and of the arts which need fire in the execution. He was said to be the son of Zeus and Hera, or (according to Hesiod) of the latter only. The boy was ugly, and lame in both feet, and his mother was ashamed of him. She threw him from Olympus into the ocean, where he was taken up by Eurynome and Thetis, and concealed in a subterranean cavern. Here he remained for nine years, and fashioned a number of exquisite works of art, among them a golden throne with invisible chains, which he sent to his mother by way of revenge. She sat down in it, and was chained to the seat, so fast that no one could release her. On this it was resolved to call Hephaestus back to Olympus. Ares wished to force him back, but was scared off by his brother with fire-brands. Dionysus at length succeeded in making him drunk, and bringing him back, in this condition, to Olympus. But he was destined to meet with his old mishap a second time. There was a quarrel between Zeus and Hera, and Hephaestus took his mother's part; whereupon Zeus seized him by the leg and hurled him down from Olympus. He fell upon the island of Lemnos, where the Sintians, who then inhabited the island, took care of him and brought him to himself. From this time Lemnos was his favourite abode. His lameness was, in the later story, attributed to this fall. The whole story, the sojourn of Hephaestus in the cavern under the sea, and his fondness for Lemnos, is, in all probability, based upon volcanic phenomena; the submarine activity of volcanic fires, and the natural features of the island of Lemnos. Here there was a volcano called Mosychlos, which was in activity down to the time of Alexander the Great. The friendship existing between Dionysus and Hephaestus may be explained by the fact that the best and finest wines are grown in the volcanic regions of the South. As a master in the production of beautiful and fascinating works of art, Hephaestus is in Homer the husband of Charis, and in Hesiod of Aglaia, the youngest of the Graces. (See CHARITES.) The story of his marriage with Aphrodite was not, apparently, widely known in early antiquity. Through his artistic genius he appears, and most especially in the Athenian story, as the intimate friend of Athene. In Homer he lives and works on Olympus, where he makes palaces of brass for himself and the other deities. But he has a forge also on Mount Mosychlos in Lemnos; the later story gives him one under Aetna in Sicily, and on the sacred island, or island of Hephaestus, in the Lipari Islands, where he is heard at work with his companions the Cyclopes. All the masterpieces of metal which appear in the stories of gods and heroes, the aeagis of Zeus, the arms of Achilles, the sceptre of Agamemnon, the necklace of Harmonia, and others, were attributed to the art of Hephaestus. To help his lameness he made, according to Homer, two golden maidens, with the power of motion, to lean upon when he walked. He was much worshipped in Lemnos, where there was an annual festival in his honour All fires were put out for nine days, during which rites of atonement and purification were performed. Then fresh fire was brought on a sacred ship from Delos, the fires were kindled again, and a new life, as the saying went, began. At Athens he was worshipped in the Academy, in connexion with Athene and Prometheus (see PROMETHEUS). In October the smiths and smelters celebrated the Chalkeia, a feast of metal-workers, in his honour and that of Athene; at the Apaturia sacrifices were offered to him, among other gods, as the giver of fire, and torches were kindled, and hymns were sung; at the Hephaestia, finally, there was a torch-race in his honour. In works of art he is represented as a vigorous man with a beard, equipped, like a smith, with hammer and tongs; his left leg is shortened, to show his lameness (see engraving). The Romans identified him with their Vulcanus (see VULCANUS).

Pictures and Media
HEPHAeSTUS. (Bronze statue in British Museum.)
Type: Standard
gutter splint
gutter splint
gutter splint