Cyclopes, literally “one-eyed,” were one-eyed giants in Greek mythology, the single eye was in their foreheads. According to the poet Hesiod, in his famous poem, Theogony, written in the eight century BC, Uranus and Gaea (Gaia) brought many other beings into the world, among these were the Cyclopes (Ardes, Steropes, and Brontes, three storm-spirits, whose names indicate lightning, thunder-clouds, and thunder respectively).
Cronus and his sister Rhea had six children. But there was a curse upon Cronus, being of a violent and vindictive nature, who after dethroning his father Uranus had refused to grant Gaea’s request to free his brothers that his father had imprisoned. As a revenge for not granting her request, Gaea vowed that Cronus would receive the identical punishment that he rendered his father.
This punishment Cronus received from Zeus, his son. Zeus attacked Cronus, and his comrades, the Titans. The oracle of Gaea promised Zeus victory if he would accept help from the monsters that Cronus had imprisoned in Tartarus. When Zeus agreed, Gaea’s requested was granted that Cronus had disregarded, and he was victorious. During his struggle against Cronus and the Titans the monsters gave Zeus and the young gods powerful weapons, which in the future were to become their emblems.
The Cyclopes forged the thunderbolt and lightning for Zeus, and they continued doing so even after he was regarded god of the stormy sky. They also gave Hades his magic helmet.
In Homer’s description of the Cyclopes in the Odyssey, at least 150 years earlier, they were “overbearing and lawless,” as well being ferocious pastoralists, and given to cannibalism. Odysseus came against their brutish leader Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, in his cave on Mount Aetna in Sicily. By blinding the one-eyed giant in his drunken sleep with a brand, Odysseus and his surviving men were able to escape, though they earned the undying hatred of the sea god.
Later legend has it that the Cyclopes were workers at Vulcan’s forge in Mount Aetna. A.G.H.
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980, pp. 136-137
Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, pp. 106, 108
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 285