Infobox Greek deity

Caption = Hephaestus in his forge, by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506).
Name = Hephaestus
God_of = God of Technology, Blacksmiths, Craftsmen, Artisans and Volcanoes
Abode =
Symbol =
Parents = Hera and Zeus
Consort = Aphrodite or Charis
Children= Erichthonius of Athens
Mount =
Roman_equivalent = Vulcan

Hephaestus (pronEng|hɨˈfiːstəs or IPA|/hɨˈfɛstəs/; Greek polytonic|Ἥφαιστος "Hēphaistos") was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. Matching this, he was unlike most other gods because of his grotesque appearance and lameness. He served as the blacksmith of the gods. The center of his cult was Lemnos, [Walter Burkert, "Greek Religion" 1985: III.2.ii.] but he was worshipped in all of the manufacturing and industrial centers of Greece, especially Athens. 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". ["Life of Apollonius of Tyana", book v.16.]

An Athenian founding myth tells that Athena refused a union with Hephaestus because of his unsightly appearance, and that when he became angry and forceful with her, she disappeared from the bed. Hephaestus 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 etymology of strife ("Eri-") between Athena and Hephaestus and the Earth-child ("chthonios"). Some readers may have the sense that an earlier, non-virginal Athena 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.

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 against him with Ares.

Hephaestus's 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' winged helmet and sandals, the Aegis breastplate, Aphrodite's famed girdle, Agamemnon's staff of office, [its provenance recounted in "Iliad" II] 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. 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.

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.

The lame smith

In a Homeric version of Hephaestus's myth, Hera, mortified to have brought forth such grotesque offspring, promptly threw him from Mount Olympus. He fell many days and nights and landed in the ocean, [as he tells it himself in the "Iliad" (xviii.395)] where he was brought up by the Oceanids Thetis (mother of Achilles) and Eurynome.

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. At last Dionysus shared his wine, intoxicating the smith, and took him back to Olympus on the back of a mule.

Hephaestus was reported in myth as "cholōs", "lame", ["Odyssey" viii.308; "Iliad" xviii.397, etc.] crippled, halting ("ēpedanos") and misshapen, either from birth or as a result of his fall: in the vase-paintings, Hephaestus was shown lame and bent over his anvil, his feet sometimes back-to-front: "Hephaistos amphigyēeis". He walked with the aid of a stick. The Argonaut Palaimonius, "son of Hephaestus"— which is to say a bronze-smith— was also lame. [Apollonius of Rhodes, "Argonautica" i.204.] Other "sons of Hephaestus" were the Kabeiroi on the island of Samothrace; they were identified with the crab ("karkinos") by the lexicographer Hesychius, and the adjective "karkinopous", "crab-footed" signified "lame", Detienne and Vernant [Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, "Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society", trans. Janet Lloyd (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press), 1978:269-72, cited by Morris Silver, "Taking Ancient Mythology Economically" 1992:35 note 5.] have observed: the Kabeiroi were seen as lame too. [Hephaestus' Roman counterpart Vulcan was seen as lame also. In Ugarit, among other parallels with Greek myth, the craftsman-god Kothar Hasis limps about (Baruch Margalit, "Aqhat Epic" 1989:289); in Egypt, Herodotus (iii.36) was given to understand, the craftsman-god Ptah was club-footed. Compare the Nordic lame bronzeworker Weyland the Smith.]

Hephaestus’s physical appearance indicates arsenicosis, low levels of arsenic poisoning, resulting in lameness and skin cancers. In place of less available tin, arsenic was added to copper in the Bronze Age to harden it; most smiths of the Bronze Age would have suffered from chronic workplace poisoning, and the mythic image of the lame smith is widespread. [H. W. F. Saggs, "Civilization Before Greece and Rome", (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989:p200-2001.]

Hephaestus and Aphrodite

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. Hephaestus states in "the Odyssey" that he would return Aphrodite to her father and demand back his bride price: this is the one episode that links them.

In Homer's "Iliad" 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.

Additional information

The Thebans told that the union of Ares and Aphrodite produced Harmonia, as lovely as a second Aphrodite.Fact|date=March 2007 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] 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.

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

In some myths, Hephaestus built himself a "wheeled chair" or charioteer with which to move around, thus helping him overcome his lameness while showing the other gods his skill. [Jay Dolmage, "'Breathe Upon Us an Even Flame': Hephaestus, History, and the Body of Rhetoric," "Rhetoric Review" Vol. 25, No. 2 (2006), 119-140. 120.]

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. He had a follower who named himself Hephacules after him.

Hephaestus had comparatively few epithets. One was Hephaestus Aetnaeus, owing to his workshop supposedly being located below Mount Aetna. [Aelian, "Hist. An." xi. 3]


* The minor planet 2212 Hephaistos discovered in 1978 by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh is named in his honor. [cite book | last = Schmadel | first = Lutz D. | coauthors = | title = Dictionary of Minor Planet Names | pages = p. 180 | edition = 5th | year = 2003 | publisher = Springer Verlag | location = New York | url =http://books.google.com/books?q=2212+Hephaistos+SB+1978+5849 | id = ISBN 3540002383]


External links

* [http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Hephaistos.html Theoi Project, Hephaestus] in classical literature and art
* [http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Hephaestus.html Greek Mythology Link, Hephaestus] summary of the myths of Hephaestus

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