HEPHAISTOS (Hephaestus) was the Olympian god of fire, metalworking and crafts.
He possessed relatively few public shrines and temples in ancient Greek but was probably widely honoured with torch-race festivals and small scale rites performed by craftsmen. His two main cult centres were the island of Lemnos and the city-state of Athens.
In classical sculpture Hephaistos was depicted as a bearded man wearing a craftsman's cap and holding tools.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Herodotus, Histories 8. 98. 2 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"The first rider delivers his charge to the second, the second to the third, and thence it passes on from hand to hand, even as in the Greek torch-bearers' race in honor of Hephaistos." [Herodotus does not specify a locale for this festival. It may have been widely celebrated in Greece.]
CULT IN ATTICA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ATHENS (ATHENAI) Main City of Attica (Attika)
Plato, Critias (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment . . . Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order. Hephaistos and Athene, who were brother and sister, and sprang from the same father, having a common nature, and being united also in the love of philosophy and art, both obtained as their common portion this land [Athens], which was naturally adapted for wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave children of the soil, and put into their minds the order of government; their names are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of the destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of ages."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 14. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Above the Kerameikos [in Athens] and the portico called the King's Portico is a temple of Hephaistos. I was not surprised that by it stands a statue of Athena, because I knew the story about Erikhthonios [i.e. the first king of Athens, a son of Hephaistos and Athena, birthed by Gaia the Earth]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 26. 5 :
"There is also a building [in Athens] called the Erekhtheion. Before the entrance is an altar of Zeus the Most High . . . Inside the entrance are altars, one to Poseidon, on which in obedience to an oracle they sacrifice also to Erekhtheus, the second to the hero Boutes, and the third to Hephaistos."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 1. 24 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"At Athens there is a much-praised statue of Volcanus [Hephaistos] by Alcamenes, a standing figure, draped, which displays a slight lameness, though not enough to be unsightly. We shall therefore deem god to be lame, since tradition represents Volcanus so."
Suidas s.v. Khalkeia (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Khalkeia (Bronzes) : An ancient and popular festival long ago, but subsequently observed by the craftsmen only, because Hephaistos worked bronze in Attika. It is on the last day of [the] month Pyanepsion; the day when priestesses, together with the arrephoroi, preserve the peplos [of Athene]."
Suidas s.v. Khalkeia :
"Khalkeia (Bronzes) : A festival at Athens, which some call Athenaia; but others [call it] Pandemos (All the People), because it is observed by all."
Suidas s.v. Khalkeia :
"Khalkeia (Bronzes) : An Athenian festival, celebrated on the last day of [the month] Pyanepsion, for craftsmen in general and bronze-smiths in particular, as Apollonios says. But Phanodemos maintains that the festival is celebrated not for Athena but for Hephaistos."
Suidas s.v. Lampados :
"Lampados (Of a torch). And with torches. Athenians celebrate three torch-festivals, at [the] Panathenaia, Hephaistia and Promethia. Istros says that having a torch-race was something [the] Athenians first did when sacrificing to Hephaistos, to commemorate him who grasped the use of fire and taught it to others."
CULT IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. OLYMPIA Village & Sanctuary in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[At Olympia] stands another altar of Alpheios, and by it one of Hephaistos. This altar of Hephaistos some Eleans call the altar of Warlike Zeus."
CULT IN LEMNOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
The main cult centre of Hephaistos was on the island of Lemnos, where he was also believed to have his forge. His sons, the Kabeiroi, were also worshipped in Lemnos as well as the neighbouring island of Samothrake.
Homer, Odyssey 8. 267 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Lemnos, the pleasant-sited town, which he [Hephaistos] loved more than any place on earth."
Herodotus, Histories 6. 140. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Miltiades son of Cimon [C6th B.C.] accomplished the voyage . . . to Lemnos . . . he proclaimed that the Pelasgians must leave their island, reminding them of the oracle which the Pelasgians thought would never be fulfilled. The Hephaistians [the tribe named for Hephaistos] obeyed, but the Myrinaioi would not agree that the Khersonese was Attika and were besieged, until they too submitted. Thus did Miltiades and the Athenians take possession of Lemnos."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 857 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"The whole city [of Lemnos] was alive with dance and banquet. The scent of burnt-offerings filled the air; and of all the immortals, it was Hera's glorious son Hephaistos and Kypris [Aphrodite] herself whom their songs and sacrifices were designed to please."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 9. 365 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Lemnos, land of stately mansions . . . Hephaistos' city."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 314 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Lemnos, Vulcanus' [Hephaistos'] isle."
Ovid, Fasti 3. 81 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Hypsipyle's land [Lemnos] worships Volcanus [Hephaistos] [i.e. as their patron god]."
CULT IN SICILY (SOUTHERN ITALY)
I. ERYX Town in Sicily (Sikelia) (Greek Colony)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 111 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Herakles left the cattle [of Geryon] in the cave of Hephaistos [in Sicily] and went off on a search for the bull [of the herd of Geryon, which had wandered off] . . . he found it among the herds of Eryx."
II. MT. ETNA (AITNA) Mountain in Sicily
Aelian, On Animals 11. 3 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"At Aitna in Sikelia (Sicily) honour is paid to a temple of Hephaistos, and there are a precinct, sacred trees, and a fire that is never extinguished, never sleeps. And about the temple and the grove there are sacred Hounds which greet and fawn upon such as pass into the temple and the grove with honest hearts in seemly fashion as is their duty, as though the animals had a kindness for them and presumably recognised them. If however a man has his hands stained with crime, they bite and tear him, whereas those who only come from the bed of debauchery they simply chase away."
III. LIPARI ISLANDS Islands near Sicily
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 22 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The fourth [god Volcanos] is the son of Memalius [a Latin god], and lord of the islands near Sicily which used to be named the Isles of Volcanus [the Lipari islands]."
CULT TERMS OF HEPHAESTUS
Temple of Hephaestus
Festival of Hephaestus
Festival of Bronzes
POETIC TITLES OF HEPHAESTUS
Renowed, Famed, Glorious
Very Famous, Glorious
Very Famous, Glorious
Famed for Skill, Crafts
Famed Worker, for Crafts
Of Many Crafts
Resourceful, Of Many Crafts
Crooked-Foot, Dragging Feet
Lame One, Halting in Both Feet
Suidas s.v. Aithaloeis theosi (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Aithaloeis theos (Sooty god): Hephaistos, since [he is a] blacksmith. The same [god] is called Klytotekhnes (famed-for-craft), since his skill at smithy-work is renowned."
Suidas s.v. Amphigueeis :
"Amphigueeis (Doubly-lame, lame in both legs) : [epithet of] Hephaistos."
ENCYCLOPEDIA HEPHAESTUS TITLES
AETNAEUS (Aitnaios), an epithet given to several gods and mythical beings connected with Mount Aetna, such as Zeus, of whom there was a statue on mount Aetna, and to whom a festival was celebrated there, called Aetnaea (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vi. 162), Hephaestus, who had his workshop in the mountain, and a temple near it (Aelian. Hist. An. xi. 3; Spanheim, ad Callim. hymn. in Dian. 56), and the Cyclops. (Virg. Acn. viii. 440, xi. 263, iii. 768; Ov. Ex Pont. ii. 2. 115.)
AMPHIGYEEIS (Amphiguêeis), lame or limping on both feet, a surname of Hephaestus, given him because Zeus threw him from Olympus upon the earth for having wished to support Hera. (Hom. Il. i. 599; comp. Apollod. i. 3. § 5.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Plato, Critias - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.