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Hephaestus was the smith, or smithy, god of the Greeks. No doubt his origin was not entirely different from the innumerable spirits of metallurgy found in the various parts of the Hellenic world, such as the Dactyls of Ida, the Cabeiri of Samothrace, the Telchines Rhodes, and the Cyclopes who forge the first thunderbolts. However, Hephaestus became the god of the fire of the forge, a creative flame, which serves as the foundation of all metallurgy.

Besides being the smith god, Hephaestus also was lame. Legends surround the cause for his impediment. One is that he interfered in a quarrel between his parents Zeus and Hera, which angered Zeus so terribly that he flung his son out of Olympus and let him fall onto the island of Lemnos. Another legend is the Hephaestus was lame from birth, a fact that so disgusted Hara that she herself chased him from the sky. He sought his revenge by creating a golden throne, which he sent to his mother. Hara accepted it; not knowing the throne was design to hold anyone sitting on it a prisoner. Before Hephaestus released his mother from the throne she agreed to his demand that he would have a place on Olympus and be seated among the gods.

He fought with the combatants of the gigantomarchy, killing the giant Clytius with a branding iron. In the Trojan War, he appeared as fire and flame, but, nevertheless, did not scorn working with his hands, and when requested by Thetis he made armor for Achilles. Some located his workshop with Mount Aetna, near Sicily, a volcanic region, where he worked with the help of the Cyclopes. From this, speculation is, that the Rome god Vulcan sprang.

Even though impeded, Hepaestus won amorous favors from some of the most beautiful goddesses. There were Aglaia, the youngest of the Graces; Charis, grace personified; and he married Aphrodite, who was unfaithful to him. As told in the Odyssey, Hephaestus trapped she and her lover Ares in the bed for all the gods to see.

The several sons of Hephaestus included the Argonaut Palaemon, the legendary Ardalus, and the brigand Periphetes, who was killed by Theseus.

Hephaestus' Roman counterpart was Vulcan. A.G.H.


Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 129
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman's Sons, 1980, p. 143

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