HEPHAISTOS was the Olympian god of fire, smiths, craftsmen, metalworking and stonemasonry.
This page contains stories of Hephaistos from the saga of the gods including his birth, casting from and return to Olympos, the birthing of Athena, creation of Pandora, War of the Giants, and his role in the Trojan War.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
BIRTH OF HEPHAESTUS
Hesiod, Theogony 924 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"[Theogony text version 1 :] Zeus himself gave birth from his own head to bright-eyed Tritogeneia [Athene] . . . But Hera without union with Zeus--for she was very angry and quarrelled with her mate--bare famous Hephaistos, who is skilled in crafts more than all the sons of Heaven."
Hesiod, Theogony 929a ff :
"[Theogony text version 2 :] But Hera was very angry and quarrelled with her mate. And because of this strife she bare without union with Zeus who holds the aegis a glorious son, Hephaistos, who excelled all the sons of Heaven in crafts. But Zeus lay with the fair-cheeked daughter of Okeanos and Tethys apart from Hera [and from this union Athene was born]."
Homer, Odyssey 8. 267 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos speaks :] ‘I am a cripple from my birth.’"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 19 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Hera bore Hephaistos without benefit of sexual intercourse, although Homer says that Zeus was his father."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 53. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Kinaithon [Greek poet C8th B.C.] too in his poem represents Rhadamanthys as the son of Hephaistos, Hephaistos as a son of Talos, and Talos as a son of Kres. The legends of Greece generally have different forms, and this is particularly true of genealogy."
[N.B. Talos is the Kretan sun-god, and Kres is the island of Krete.]
Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Born] from Juno [Hera] without father, Volcanus [Hephaistos]."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 22 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos] is the son of Jupiter [Zeus] and of Juno [Hera]."
HEPHAESTUS CAST FROM HEAVEN BY HERA
Homer, Iliad 18. 136 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos addresses his wife Kharis :] ‘She [Thetis] saved me when I suffered much at the time of my great fall through the will of my own brazen-faced mother [Hera], who wanted to hide me for being lame. Then my soul would have taken much suffering had not Eurynome and Thetis caught me and held me, Eurynome, daughter of Okeanos, whose stream bends back in a circle. With them I worked nine years as a smith, and wrought many intricate things; pins that bend back, curved clasps, cups, necklaces, working there in the hollow of the cave, and the stream of Okeanos around us went on forever with its foam and its murmur. No other among the gods or among mortal men knew about us except Eurynome and Thetis. They knew since they saved me.’"
Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 310 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"Hera was angry and spoke thus among the assembled gods : ‘. . . See now, apart from me he [Zeus] has given birth to bright-eyed Athene who is foremost among all the blessed gods. But my son Hephaistos whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and a disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods!’"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E2. 9 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Pelops went to Okeanos, where he was purified by Hephaistos [for the murder of Oinomaos], then returned to Pisa in Elis."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 41. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Eurynome was a daughter of Okeanos, whom Homer mentions in the Iliad, saying that along with Thetis she received Hephaistos."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 2. 549 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"The cunning God-smith [Hephaistos] she [Thetis] welcomed within her mansion, when from heaven he fell."
HEPHAESTUS CAST FROM HEAVEN BY ZEUS
Hera attempted to destroy Herakles with a storm after putting Zeus to sleep, but the god woke and was furious and hung the goddess in fetters from heaven. When Hephaistos attempted to free her from these bonds, Zeus threw him out of heaven. He fell to earth landing severely wounded on the island of Lemnos. The story was an alternate version of the story (above) in which Hera cast him from the threshold of heaven.
Homer, Iliad 1. 568 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos addresses his mother Hera :] ‘There was a time once before now I was minded to help you, and he caught me by the foot and threw me from the magic threshold, and all day long I dropped helpless, and about sunset I landed in Lemnos, and there was not much life left in me. After that fall it was the Sintian men who took care of me.’"
Plato, Republic 378d (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"But Hera's fetterings by her son and the hurling out of heaven of Hephaistos by his father [Zeus] when he was trying to save his mother from a beating, and the battles of the gods in Homer's verse are things that we must not admit into our city either wrought in allegory or without allegory. For the young are not able to distinguish what is and what is not allegory."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 19 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus threw him [Hephaistos] from the sky for helping Hera when she was in chains. Zeus had hung her from Olympos as punishment for setting a storm on Herakles as he was sailing back from his conquest of Troy. Hephaistos landed on Lemnos, crippled in both legs, but saved by Thetis."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 17. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In the bronze temple of Athena at Sparta:] On the bronze are wrought in relief . . . Hephaistos releasing his mother [Hera] from the fetters."
THE RETURN OF HEPHAESTUS
Plato, Republic 378d (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"But Hera's fetterings by her son [Hephaistos] . . . we must not admit into our city either wrought in allegory or without allegory. For the young are not able to distinguish what is and what is not allegory."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 20. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In the temple of Dionysos at Athens :] There are paintings here--Dionysos bringing Hephaistos up to heaven. One of the Greek legends is that Hephaistos, when he was born, was thrown down by Hera. In revenge he sent as a gift a golden chair with invisible fetters. When Hera sat down she was held fast, and Hephaistos refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysos--in him he reposed the fullest trust--and after making him drunk Dionysos brought him to heaven."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 18. 16 :
"[Amongst the scenes depicted on the throne of Apollon at Amyklai near Sparta :] There are also represented . . . the fabled binding of Hera by Hephaistos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 166 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Volcanus [Hephaistos] had made golden thrones for Jove [Zeus] and the other gods, he made one of adamant for Juno [Hera], and as soon as she sat down she suddenly found herself hanging in the air. When Volcanus was summoned to free his mother whom he had bound, in anger because he had been thrown from Heaven, he denied that he had a mother. When Father Liber [Dionysos] had brought him back drunk to the council of the gods, he could not refuse this filial duty. Then he obtained freedom of choice from Jove [Zeus], to gain whatever he sought from them. Therefore Neptunus [Poseidon], because he was hostile to Minerva [Athene], urged Volcanus [Hephaistos] to ask for Minerva in marriage [see Hephaistos and the attempted rape of Athene below]."
[N.B. Hyginus probably obtained this version of the story from the Corastae "The Revellers" of Epicharmus, a Greek poet of the C6th to 5th B.C.]
Suidas s.v. Heras de desmous hupo huieos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Heras de desmous hupo huieos (the binding of Hera by her son) : Plato [in book] 2 of Republic [uses the phrase]. It should be written thus; for in Pindar [it is written] ‘she is bound by Hephaistos in the chair built by him’; which some ignorantly write as ‘[she is bound] by Zeus.’ And they say that she was bound for plotting against Herakles. Klemes. The story [is found] also in Epikharmos, in [his] Revellers or Hephaistos." [N.B. Epicharmus was a Greek poet of the C6th to 5th B.C.]
Suidas s.v. Deimos :
"Deimos (Fear) and Phobos (Fright) and Kydoimos (Din of War), attendants of Ares, the sons of war; they too experienced what Ares did, after Hephaistos had not been frightened by them [when Ares went to fetch Hephaistos back to Olympos to release Hera from the golden throne]."
Libanius, Narrations 7 (not currently quoted here) recounts that Hephaistos built a chair to bind his mother Hera in return for her having hurled him from heaven. Ares tried to release her and failed. Then Dionysos made Hephaistos drunk, compelled him to release his mother, and thus became one of the Olympian gods.
On the Francois Vase (Athenian black figure vase C6th B.C.) Hera is depicted trapped on the throne with her hands raised helplessly, as Ares, who has failed, sits in a humble pose with Athena looking scornfully at him. Meanwhile Dionysos, enters, leading the mule on which Hephaistos is seated, to Aphrodite who stands waiting as the prize of marriage.
For the REST of this story describing the marriage of Aphrodite and Hephaistos see Hephaestus Loves: Aphrodite
HEPHAESTUS & THE BIRTH OF ATHENA
Pindar, Olympian Ode 7. 33 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The land circled by the sea [Rhodes], where once the great king of the gods [Zeus] showered upon the city snowflakes of gold; in the day when the skilled hand of Hephaistos wrought with his craft the axe, bronze-bladed, whence from the cleft summit of her father's brow Athene sprang aloft, and pealed the broad sky her clarion cry of war."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 20 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When it came time for the birth [of Athene], Prometheus (or Hephaistos, according to some) by the river Triton struck the head of Zeus with an axe, and from his crown Athene sprang up, clad in her armour."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 27 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] The Birth of Athena . . . Athena, at this moment has just burst forth fully armed from the head of Zeus, through the devices of Hephaistos, as the axe tells us. As for the material of her panoply, no one could guess it . . . Hephaistos seems at a loss to know by what gift he may gain the favour of the goddess; for his lure is spent in advance because her armour was born with her."
HEPHAESTUS & THE CREATION OF PANDORA
Hesiod, Theogony 560 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"[Prometheus] outwitted him [Zeus] and stole the far-seen gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk. And Zeus who thunders on high was stung in spirit . . . and he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very famous (periklytos) Amphigueeis (Limping God) [Hephaistos] formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Kronos willed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athene girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and down from her head she spread with her hands an embroidered veil."
Hesiod, Works and Days 60 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"He [Zeus] told glorious (klytos) Hephaistos to make haste, and plaster earth with water, and to infuse it with a human voice and vigour, and make the face like the immortal goddesses, the bewitching features of a young girl . . . [and other gods were instructed to bestow their gifts upon her.]
And all obeyed Lord Zeus, the son of Kronos. The renowned strong smith modelled her figure of earth, in the likeness of a decorous young girl, as the son of Kronos had wished . . . and [Hermes] put a voice inside her, and gave her the name of woman, Pandora, because all the gods who have their homes on Olympos had given her each a gift, to be a sorrow to men who eat bread."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 142 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Prometheus, son of Iapetus, first fashioned men from clay. Later Vulcanus [Hephaistos], at Jove's [Zeus; ] command, made a woman's form from clay. Minerva [Athena] gave it life, and the rest of the gods each gave some other gift. Because of this they named her Pandora. She was given in marriage to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 15 :
"In return for this deed [Prometheus' theft of fire], Jupiter [Zeus], to confer a like favour on men, gave a woman to them, fashioned by Vulcanos [Hephaistos], and endowed with all kinds of gifts by the will of the gods. For this reason she was called Pandora."
For more information on the first woman see PANDORA
HEPHAESTUS & THE CHAINING OF PROMETHEUS
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 45 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Zeus] ordered Hephaistos to rivet the body of Prometheus to Mount Kaukasos, a Skythian mountain, where he was kept fastened and bound for many years."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 1 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Enter Kratos (Power) and Bia (Force), bringing with them Prometheus captive; and also Hephaistos.]
Kratos : To earth's remotest limit we come, to the Skythian land, an untrodden solitude. And now, Hephaistos, yours is the charge to observe the mandates laid upon you by the Father [Zeus]--to clamp this miscreant upon the high craggy rocks in shackles of binding adamant that cannot be broken. For your own flower, flashing fire, source of all arts, he has purloined and bestowed upon mortal creatures. Such is his offence; for this he is bound to make requital to the gods, so that he may learn to bear with the sovereignty of Zeus and cease his man-loving ways.
Hephaistos : Kratos and Bia, for you indeed the behest of Zeus is now fulfilled, and nothing remains to stop you. But for me--I do not have the nerve myself to bind with force a kindred god upon this rocky cleft assailed by cruel winter. Yet, come what may, I am constrained to summon courage to this deed; for it is perilous to disregard the commandments of the Father. Lofty-minded son of Themis who counsels straight, against my will, no less than yours, I must rivet you with brazen bonds no hand can loose to this desolate crag. . . . And many a groan and unavailing lament you shall utter; for the heart of Zeus is hard, and everyone is harsh whose power is new.
Kratos : Well, why delay and excite pity in vain? Why do you not detest a god most hateful to the gods, since he has betrayed your prerogative to mortals?
Hephaistos : A strangely potent tie is kinship, and companionship as well.
Kratos : I agree; yet to refuse to obey the commands of the Father; is this possible? Do you not fear that more?
Hephaistos : Yes, you are ever pitiless and steeped in insolence.
Kratos : Yes, for it does not good to bemoan this fellow. Stop wasting your labor at an unprofitable task.
Hephaistos : Oh handicraft that I hate so much!
Kratos : Why hate it? Since in truth your craft is in no way to blame for these present troubles.
Hephaistos : Nevertheless, i wish it had fallen to another's lot!
Kratos : Every job is troublesome except to be the commander of gods; no one is free except Zeus.
Hephaistos : I know it by this task; I cannot deny it.
Kratos : Hurry then to cast the fetters about him, so that the Father does not see you loitering.
Hephaistos : Well, there then! The bands are ready, as you may see.
Kratos : Cast them about his wrists and with might strike with your hammer; rivet him to the rocks.
Hephaistos : There! The work is getting done and not improperly.
Kratos : Strike harder, clamp him tight, leave nothing loose; for he is wondrously clever at finding a way even out of desperate straits.
Hephaistos : This arm, at least, is fixed permanently.
Kratos: Now rivet this one too and securely, so that he may learn, for all his cleverness, that he is a fool compared to Zeus.
Hephaistos : None but he could justly blame my work.
Kratos : Now drive the adamantine wedge's stubborn edge straight through his chest with your full force.
Hephaistos : Alas, Prometheus, I groan for your sufferings.
Kratos : What! Shrinking again and groaning over the enemies of Zeus? Take care, so that the day does not come when you shall grieve for yourself.
Hephaistos : You see a spectacle grievous for eyes to behold.
Kratos : I see this man getting his deserts. Come, cast the girths about his sides.
Hephaistos : I must do this; spare me your needless ordering.
Kratos : Indeed, I'll order you, yes and more--I'll hound you on. Get down below, and ring his legs by force.
Hephaistos : There now! The work's done and without much labor.
Kratos : Now hammer the piercing fetters with your full force; for the appraiser of our work is severe.
Hephaistos : The utterance of your tongue matches your looks.
Kratos : Be softhearted then, but do not attack my stubborn will and my harsh mood.
Hephaistos : Let us be gone, since he has got the fetters on his limbs. [Exit.]"
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 612 ff :
"Prometheus : I whom you see am Prometheus, who gave fire to mankind. . . .
Io : Tell me who has bound you fast in this ravine.
Prometheus : Zeus by his will, Hephaistos by his hand."
Aeschylus, Fragment 107 Prometheus Unbound (from Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 2. 10. 23-25) (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Prometheus laments :] Behold me fettered, clamped to these rough rocks . . . Thus hath Zeus, the son of Kronos, fastened me, and to the will of Zeus hath Hephaistos lent his hand. With cruel art hath he riven my limbs by driving in these bolts. Ah, unhappy that I am! By his skill transfixed, I tenant this stronghold of the Erinyes (Furies) . . . the rocks of Kaukasos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 15 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Zeus] sent an eagle to him [Prometheus chained on Mount Kaukasos] to eat out his liver which was constantly renewed at night . . . many point out it [the eagle] was made by the hands of Volcanus [Hephaistos] and given life by Jove [Zeus]."
For MORE information on this Titan see PROMETHEUS
HEPHAESTUS & THE WAR OF THE GIANTS
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 37 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[In the war of the gods and giants :] Hephaistos killed Mimas by throwing molten iron at him."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 236 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Helios, who had taken him [Hephaistos] up in his chariot when he sank exhausted on the battlefield of Phlegra [in the battle of gods and the Gigantes]."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2.23 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"According to Eratosthenes [Greek writer C3rd B.C.], another story is told about the Asses. After Jupiter [Zeus] had declared war on the Gigantes, he summoned all the gods to combat them, and Father Liber [Dionysos], Vulcanus [Hephaistos], the Satyri, and the Sileni came riding on asses. Since they were not far from the enemy, the asses were terrified, and individually let out a braying such as the Gigantes had never heard. At the noise the enemy took hastily to flight, and thus were defeated."
For MORE information on the War of the Giants see GIGANTES
HEPHAESTUS & THE GIANT TYPHOEUS
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 28 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Typhon . . . felt an urge to usurp the rule of Zeus and not one of the gods could withstand him as he attacked. In panic they fled to Aigyptos (Egypt), all except Athena and Zeus, who alone were left. Typhon hunted after them, on their track. When they fled they had changed themselves in anticipation into animal forms . . . Hephaistos [became] an ox [Ptah] . . . When Zeus struck Typhon with a thunderbolt, Typhon, aflame hid himself and quenched the blaze in the sea.
Zeus did not desist but piled the highest mountain, Aitna, on Typon and set Hephaistos on the peak as a guard. Having set up his anvils, he works his red hot blooms on Typhon's neck."
For MORE information on this gant see TYPHOEUS
HEPHAESTUS & THE DIVINE LOTS
After the War of the Titanes or Gigantes, the gods gathered at Mekone where Zeus distributed their privileges by lot. Hephaistos received dominion over Athens (along with Athena), Lemnos and others.
Plato, Critias (trans Jowett) (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."
HEPHAESTUS & THE WEDDING OF PELEUS AND THETIS
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 5 (from Scholiast on Homer's Iliad 17. 140) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"At the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the gods gathered together on Pelion to feast and brought Peleus gifts. Kheiron gave him a stout ashen shaft which he had cut for a spear, and Athena, it is said, polished it, and Hephaistos fitted it with a head. The story is given by the author of the Cypria."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 4. 160 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"[The Mousai (Muses)] sang how the silver tables were set forth [at the wedding of Thetis] in haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang how breathed Hephaistos purest flame of fire [for the cooking of the feast]; sang how the Nymphai in golden chalices mingled ambrosia."
For MORE information on this sea-goddess see THETIS
HEPHAESTUS & THE TROJAN WAR
I. HEPHAESTUS SOOTHES HERA IN HER ARGUMENT WITH ZEUS
Homer, Iliad 1. 568 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Zeus and Hera argue about the god's secret counsel with the goddess Thetis, and in his anger he threatens her with violence :]
He [Zeus] spoke, and the goddess the ox-eyed lady Hera was frightened and went and sat down in silence wrenching her heart to obedience, and all the Ouranian gods in the house of Zeus were troubled. Hephaistos the renowned smith (klytotekhnes) rose up to speak among them, to bring comfort to his beloved mother, Hera of the white arms : ‘This will be a disastrous matter and not endurable if you two are to quarrel thus for the sake of mortals and bring brawling among the gods. There will be no pleasure in the stately feast at all, since vile things will be uppermost. And I entreat my mother, though she herself understands it, to be ingratiating toward our father Zeus, that no longer our father may scold her and break up the quiet of our feasting. For if the Olympian [Zeus] who handles the lightning should be minded to hurl us out of our places , he is far to strong for any. Do you therefore approach him again with words made gentle, and at once the Olympion will be gracious again to us.’
He spoke, and springing to his feet put a two-handed goblet into his mother's hands and spoke again to her once more : ‘Have patience, my mother, and endure it, though you be saddened, for fear that, dear as you are, I see you before my own eyes struck down, and then sorry though I be I shall not be able to do anything. It is too hard to fight against the Olympian. There was a time once before now I was minded to help you, and he caught me by the foot and threw me from the magic threshold, and all day long I dropped helpless, and about sunset I landed in Lemnos, and there was not much life left in me. After that fall it was the Sintian men who took care of me.’
He spoke, and the goddess of the white arms Hera smiled at him, and smiling accepted the goblet out of her son's hand. Thereafter beginning from the left he poured drinks for the other gods, dipping up from the mixing bowl the sweet nectar. But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace."
II. HEPHAESTUS RESCUES THE SON OF HIS TROJAN PRIEST
Homer, Iliad 5. 9 ff :
"There was a man among the Trojans, Dares, blameless and bountiful, priest consecrated to Hephaistos, and he had two sons, Phegeus and Idaios, well skilled both in fighting . . . [the Greek hero] Diomedes threw with the bronze, and the weapon cast from his hand flew not in vain but stuck the chest [of Phegeus] between the nipples and hurled him from behind his horses. And Idaios leaping left the fair-wrought chariot nor had he the courage to stand over his stricken brother. Even so he could not have escaped the black Ker (Death-Spirit) but Hephaistos caught him away and rescued him, shrouded him in darkness, that the aged man [his priest] might not be left altogether desolate."
III. HEPHAESTUS FORGES ARMOUR FOR ACHILLES
Homer, Iliad 18. 136 & 18. 368 - 19. 23 :
"[Thetis addresses her son Akhilleus at Troy :] ‘I am coming to you at dawn and as the sun rises bringing armour to you from lord (anax) Hephaistos.'
So she spoke, and turned, and went away from her son, and turning now to her sisters of the sea she spoke to them : ‘Do you now go back into the wide fold of the water to visit the ancient of the sea and the house of our father, and tell him everything. I am going to tall Olympos and to Hephaistos the glorious smith (klytotekhnes), if he might be willing to give me for my son renowned and radiant armour.’
She spoke, and they plunged back beneath the wave of the water, while she the goddess Thetis of the silver feet went onward to Olympos, to bring back to her son the glorious armour . . . Thetis of the silver feet came to the house of Hephaistos imperishable, starry, and shining among the immortals, built in bronze for himself by the god of the dragging footsteps. She found him sweating as he turned here and there to his bellows busily . . . Kharis of the shining veil saw her as she came forward, she, the lovely goddess the renowned strong-armed one had married. She came, and caught her hand and called her by name and spoke to her : ‘Why is it, Thetis of the light robes, you have come to our house now? We honour you and love you; but you have not come much before this. But come in with me so I may put entertainment before you.’
She spoke, and, shining among divinities, led the way forward and made Thetis sit down in a chair that was wrought elaborately and splendid with silver nails, and under it was a footstool. She called to Hephaistos the renowned smith (klytotekhnes) and spoke a word to him : ‘Hephaistos, come this way; here is Thetis, who has need of you.’
Hearing her the renowned smith of the strong arms answered her : ‘Then there is a goddess we honour and respect in our house. She saved me when I suffered much at the time of my great fall through the will of my own brazen-faced mother, who wanted to hide me for being lame. Then my soul would have taken much suffering had not Eurynome and Thetis caught me and held me . . . Therefore set out before her fair entertainment while I am putting away my bellows and all my instruments.’
He spoke, and took the huge blower off from the block of the anvil limping; and yet his shrunken legs moved lightly beneath him. He set the bellows away from the fire, and gathered and put away all the tools with which he worked in a silver strongbox. Then with a sponge he wiped clean his forehead, and both hands, and his massive neck and hairy chest, and put on a tunic, and took up a heavy stick in his hand, and went to the doorway limping. And in support of their master moved his attendants. These are golden, and in appearance like living young women. There is intelligence in their hearts, and there is speech in them and strength, and from the immortal gods they have learned how to do things. These stirred nimbly in support of their master, and moving near to where Thetis sat in her shining chair, Hephaistos caught her [Thetis] by the hand and called her by name and spoke a word to her : ‘Why is it, Thetis of the light robes, you have come to our house now? We honour you and love you; but you have not come much before this. Speak forth what is in your mind. My heart is urgent to do it if I can, and if it is a thing that can be accomplished.’
Then in turn Thetis answered him, letting the tears fall : ‘Hephaistos, is there among all the goddesses on Olympos one who in her heart has endured so many grim sorrows as the griefs Zeus, son of Kronos, has given me beyond others? Of all the other sisters of the sea he gave me to a mortal, to Peleus, Aiakos' son, and I had to endure mortal marriage though much against my will. And now he, broken by mournful old age, lies away in his halls. Yet I have other troubles. For since he has given me a son to bear and to raise up . . . Now I come to your knees; so might you be willing to give me for my short-lived son a shield and a helmet and two beautiful greaves fitted with clasps for the ankles and a corselet. What he had was lost with his steadfast companion [Patroklos] when the Trojans killed him. Now my son lies on the ground, heart sorrowing.’
Hearing her the renowned smith (periklytos) of the strong arms, the lame one (amphigyeeis) answered her : ‘Do not fear. Let not these things be a thought in you mind. And I wish that I could hide him away from death and its sorrow at that time when his hard fate comes upon him, as surely as there shall be fine armour for him, such as another man out of many men shall wonder at, when he looks on it.’
So he spoke, and left her there, and went to his bellows. He turned these toward the fire and gave them their orders for working. And the bellows, all twenty of them, blew on the crucibles, from all directions blasting forth wind to blow the flames high now as he hurried to be at this place and now at another, wherever Hephaistos might wish them to blow, and the work went forward. He cast on the fire bronze which is weariless, and tin with it and valuable gold, and silver, and thereafter set forth upon its standard the great anvil, and gripped in one hand the ponderous hammer, while in the other he grasped the pincers.
First of all he forged a shield that was huge and heavy, elaborating it about, and threw around it a shining triple rim that glittered, and the shield strap was cast of silver. There were five folds composing the shield itself, and upon it he elaborated many things in his skill and craftsmanship . . . [an elaborate description of the scenes depicted on the shield follows.]
Then after he had wrought this shield, which was huge and heavy, he wrought for him a corselet brighter than fire in its shining, and wrought him a helmet, massive and fitting close to his temples, lovely and intricate work, and laid a gold top-ridge along it, and out of pliable tin wrought him leg-armour. Thereafter when the renowned smith of the strong arms had finished the armour he lifted it and laid it before the mother of Akhilleus. And she like a hawk came sweeping down from the snows of Olympos and carried with her the shining armour, the gift of Hephaistos.
Now Eos (Dawn) the yellow-robed arose from the river Okeanos to carry her light to men and to immortals. And Thetis came to the ships and carried with her the gifts of Hephaistos. She found her beloved son [Akhilleus] lying in the arms of Patroklos crying shrill . . . She clung to her son's hand and called him by name and spoke to him : ‘My child . . . accept from me the glorious arms of Hephaistos, so splendid, and such as no man has ever worn on his shoulders.’
The goddess spoke so, and set down the armour on the ground before Akhilleus, and all its elaboration clashed loudly. Trembling took hold of all the Myrmidones. None had the courage to look straight at it. They were afraid of it. Only Akhilleus looked, and as he looked the anger came harder upon him and his eyes glittered terribly under his lids, like sunflare. He was glad, holding in his hands the shining gifts of Hephaistos. But when he had satisfied his heart with looking at the intricate armour, he spoke to his mother and addressed her in winged words : ‘My mother, the god has given me these weapons; they are such as are the work of immortals. No mortal man could have made them. Therefore now I shall arm myself in them.’"
Aeschylus, Bassarae (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
The subject of this lost play is summarised by Weir Smyth (L.C.L.): "Thetis, accompanied by her sister Nereïdes, comes from the depths of the sea to enquire the cause of the lamentations of her son. She finds Akhilleus by the dead body of Patroklos and promises to procure from Hephaistos new armour that he may take vengeance on Hector, who has been exulting over the death of Patroklos. The play probably contained a description of Akhilleus' new armour, his reconciliation with Agamemnon, and his combat with Hektor, whose corpse was dragged in at the close."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 106 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Achilles was reconciled to Agamemnon . . . since he was going out against Hector unarmed, Thetis his mother secured armour for him from Vulcanus [Hephaistos], and the Nereides brought it to him over the sea. Wearing this he slew Hector."
For DESCRIPTIONS of the shield see Hephaestus Works: Armour of Achilles
IV. HEPHAESTUS BATTLES THE RIVER-GOD SCAMANDER
Homer, Iliad 15. 214 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Poseidon gives Iris a message for Zeus on behalf of the divine allies of the Greeks :] ‘If ever, acting apart from me and Athene the spoiler, apart from Hera and Hermes and the lord Hephaistos, he [Zeus] shall spare Ilion, and shall not be willing to take it by storm, and bestow great victory on the Argives, let him be sure, there will be no more healing of our anger.’"
Homer, Iliad 20. 37 & 66 ff :
"[Akhilleus returned to the fighting and the gods came down from Olympos to join the battle :] The gods went down to enter the fighting, with purposes opposed. Hera went to the assembled ships [in support of the Greeks] with Pallas Athene and with Poseidon who embraces the earth, and with generous Hermes, who within the heart is armed with astute thoughts. Hephaistos went the way of these in the pride of his great strength limping, and yet his shrunken legs moved lightly beneath him . . . The gods [divided into two camps, those who supported the Greeks and those who supported the Trojans] came driving together in wrath . . . against Hephaistos stood the great deep-eddying river who is called Xanthos by the gods, but by mortals Skamandros. Thus gods went on to encounter gods."
Homer, Iliad 21. 328 - 384 :
"[The river-god Skamandros tries to drown Akhilleus in his stream :] Hera, greatly fearing for Akhilleus, cried in a loud voice lest he be swept away in the huge deep-eddying River, and at once thereafter appealed to her own dear son, Hephaistos : ‘Rise up god of the dragging feet (kyllopodion), my child; for we believe that whirling Xanthos [i.e. Skamandros] would be fit antagonist for you in battle. Go now quickly to the help of Akhilleus, make shine a great flame while I raise up and bring in out of the sea a troublesome storm of the West Wind (Zephyros) and the whitening South Wind (Notos), a storm that will burn the heads of the Trojans and burn their armour carrying the evil flame, while you be the banks of Xanthos set fire to the trees and throw fire on the River himself, and do not by any means let him turn you with winning words or revilements. Do not let your fury be stopped until such time as I lift my voice and cry to you. Then stay your weariless burning.’
Hera spoke, and Hephaistos set on them an inhuman fire. First he kindled a fire in the plain and burned the numerous corpses that lay there in abundance, slain by Akhilleus, and all the plain was parched and the shining water was straitened . . . So the entire lat land was dried up with Hephaistos burning the dead bodies. Then he turned his flame in its shining into the river. The elms burned, the willows and tamarisks, the clover burned and the rushed and the galingale, all those plants that grew in abundance by the lovely stream of the River. The eels were suffering and the fish in the whirl of the water who leaped out along the lovely waters in every direction in affliction under the hot blast of resourceful Hephaistos. The strength of the River was burning away; he gave voice and called out by name : ‘Hephaistos, not one of the gods could stand up against you. I for one could not fight the flame of a fire like this one. Leave your attack. Brilliant Akhilleus can capture the city, now, for me. What have I to do with this quarrel?’
He spoke, blazing with fire, and his lovely waters were seething. And as a cauldron that is propped over a great fire boils up dancing on its whole circle with dry sticks burning beneath it as it melts down the fat of wine made tender, so Xanthos' lovely streams were burned with the fire, and the water was boiling and would not flow but stopped under stress of the hot blast strongly blown by resourceful (polymetis) Hephaistos. And now the River cried out to Hera in the winged words of strong supplication : ‘Hera, why did your son assault me to trouble my waters beyond others? It is not so much I who have done anything against you as all the rest of the gods who stand by to help the Trojans. Now indeed I will leave off, if such is your order, but let him leave off too, I will swear you a promise not ever to drive the day of evil away from the Trojans, not even when all the city of Troy is burned in the ravening fire, on that day when the warlike sons of the Akhaians burn it.’
Now when the goddess of the white arms, Hera, had heard this immediately she spoke to her own dear son, Hephaistos : ‘Hephaistos, hold, my glorious child, since it is not fitting to batter thus an immortal god for the sake of mortals.’
So she spoke, and Hephaistos quenched his inhuman fire. Now the lovely waters ran their ripples back in the channel. But when the strength of Xanthos had been beaten, these two gods rested, since Hera, for all she was still angry, restrained them."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E4. 7 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Akhilleus set aside his wrath and was given Briseis back. He put on a full suit of armour brought him from Hephaistos and went out to war, driving the Trojans in a body to the [river] Skamandros, where he destroyed many . . . In fury the River rose up against him. But Hephaistos chased the River with a great flame and dried up his stream."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 1 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[A description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] Have you noticed, my boy, that the painting here is based on Homeros, or have you failed to do so because you are lost in wonder as to how in the world the fire could live in the midst of water? Well then, let us try to get at he meaning of it. Turn your eyes away from the painting itself so as to look only at the events on which it is based. Surely you are familiar with the passage in the Iliad where Homer makes Akhilleus rise up to avenge Patroklos, and the gods are moved to make battle with each other. Now of this battle of the gods the painting ignores all the rest, but it tells how Hephaistos fell upon Skamandros with might and main. Now look again at the painting; it is all from Homeros. Here is the lofty citadel, and here the battlements of Ilion; here is the great plain, large enough for marshalling the forces of Asia against he forces of Europe; here fire rolls mightily like a flood over the plain and mightily it creeps along the banks of the River so that no trees are left there. The fire which envelops Hephaistos flows out on the surface of the water and the River is suffering and in person begs Hephaistos for mercy. But the River is not painted with long hair, for the hair has been burnt off; nor is Hephaistos painted as lame, for he is running; and the flames of the fire are not ruddy nor yet of the usual appearance, but they shine like gold and sunbeams. In this Homeros is no longer followed."
For MORE information on this river-god see SKAMANDROS
V. HEPHAESTUS FORGES ARMOUR FOR AENEAS UPON HIS ARRIVAL IN ITALY
For the MYTH of the forging of Aeneas' armour see
Hephaestus Works: Armour of Heroes
HEPHAESTUS & THE INDIAN WAR OF DIONYSUS
I. HEPHAESTUS RESCUES THE CABEIRI IN BATTLE
For the MYTH of the rescue of his sons see Hephaestus Favour: Cabeiri
II. HEPHAESTUS BATTLES THE RIVER-GOD HYDASPES
In a battle of divine factions, echoing that of the Iliad, Hephaistos stands against the Indian River God Hydaspes in the Indian Wars.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 5 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[During Dionysos' war against the Indians:] The gods who dwell in Olympos ranged themselves in two parties to direct the warfare on both sides, these supporting Deriades [king of the Indians], those Lyaios [Dionysos] . . . Hephaistos [challenged] Hydaspes [the Indian River-god]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 129 ff :
"[When the gods take sides in the Indian War of Dionysos, Hermes warns the river Hydaspes :] ‘And you, horned one father of great Deriades, beware of the fire of Hephaistos after the torch of Bakkhos, or he may consume you with his firepronged thunderbolt.’"
For MORE information on this river-god see HYDASPES
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Hesiod, Works and Days - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th - 4th B.C.
- Epic Cycle, The Cypria Fragments - Greek Epic C7th - 6th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Plato, Critias - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Republic - 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.
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.