Orb-Eyed (kyklos, ops)
THE ELDER KYKLOPES (Cyclopes) were three, orb-eyed, immortal giants who forged the lightning-bolts of Zeus. As soon as they were born, their father Ouranos (Uranus, the Sky) locked them away inside the belly of Earth, along with their stormy brothers, the hundred-handed Hekatonkheires (Hecatoncheires). When the Titanes overthrew Ouranos, they drove the giants into the pit of Tartaros. Zeus and his brothers later released them and in return they provided the god with his thunderbolts, Poseidon with his storm-raising trident, and Haides with a helm of invisibility.
Some say there were a total of seven forging Kyklopes. The lesser four, sons of the first, were slain by Apollon to avenge the death of his son Asklepios (Asclepius), who had been slain by Zeus with a Kyklops-forged lightning-bolt.
The tribe of younger Kyklopes which Odysseus encountered on his travels were a different breed.
FAMILY OF THE CYCLOPES
[1.1] OURANOS & GAIA (Hesiod Theogony 139, Titanomachia Frag 1, Apollodorus 1.1, Hyginus Pref)
[1.1] BRONTES, STEROPES, ARGES (Hesiod Theogony139, Apollodorus 1.1 Callimachus Hymn to Artemis)
[1.2] BRONTES, STEROPES, AKMONIDES (Ovid Fasti 4.287)
[1.3] BRONTES, STEROPES, PYRAKMON (Virgil Aeneid 8.414)
[1.4] BRONTES, STEROPES (Statius Silvae 1.1.3)
[2.1] Seven (unnamed) (Strabo 8.6.11)
[2.2] BRONTES, STEROPES, ARGES, EURYALOS, ELATREUS, TRAKHIOS, HALIMEDES (Nonnus Dionysiaca 14.52)
CYCLO′PES (Kuklôpes), that is, creatures with round or circular eyes. The tradition about these beings has undergone several changes and modifications in its development in Greek mythology, though some traces of their identity remain visible throughout. According to the ancient cosmogonies, the Cyclopes were the sons of Uranus and Ge; they belonged to the Titans, and were three in number, whose names were Arges, Steropes, and Brontes, and each of them had only one eye on his forehead. Together with the other Titans, they were cast by their father into Tartarus, but, instigated by their mother, they assisted Cronus in usurping the government. But Cronus again threw them into Tartarus, and as Zeus released them in his war against Cronus and the Titans, the Cyclopes provided Zeus with thunderbolts and lightning, Pluto with a helmet, and Poseidon with a trident. (Apollod. i. 1; Hes. Theog. 503.) Henceforth they remained the ministers of Zeus, but were afterwards killed by Apollo for having furnished Zeus with the thunderbolts to kill Asclepius. (Apollod. iii. 10. § 4.) According to others, however, it was not the Cyclopes themselves that were killed, but their sons. (Schol. ad Eurip. Alcest. 1.)
In the Homeric poems the Cyclopes are a gigantic, insolent, and lawless race of shepherds, who lived in the south-western part of Sicily, and devoured human beings. They neglected agriculture, and the fruits of the field were reaped by them without labour. They had no laws or political institutions, and each lived with his wives and children in a cave of a mountain, and ruled over them with arbitrary power. (Hom. Od. vi. 5, ix. 106, &c., 190, &c., 240, &c., x. 200.) Homer does not distinctly state that all of the Cyclopes were one-eyed, but Polyphemus, the principal among them, is described as having only one eye on his forehead. (Od. i. 69, ix. 383, &c.; comp. Polyphemus.) The Homeric Cyclopes are no longer the servants of Zeus, but they disregard him. (Od. ix. 275; comp. Virg. Aen. vi. 636 ; Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 53.)
A still later tradition regarded the Cyclopes as the assistants of Hephaestus. Volcanoes were the workshops of that god, and mount Aetna in Sicily and the neighbouring isles were accordingly considered as their abodes. As the assistants of Hephaestus they are no longer shepherds, but make the metal armour and ornaments for gods and heroes; they work with such might that Sicily and all the neighbouring islands resound with their hammering. Their number is, like that in the Homeric poems, no longer confined to three, but their residence is removed from the south-western to the eastern part of Sicily (Virg. Georg. iv. 170, Aen. viii. 433; Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 56, &c.; Eurip. Cycl. 599; Val. Flacc. ii. 420.) Two of their names are the same as in the cosmogonic tradition, but new names also were invented, for we find one Cyclops bearing the name of Pyracmon, and another that of Acamas. (Calim. Hymn. in Dian. 68; Virg. Aen. viii. 425; Val. Place. i. 583.)
The Cyclopes, who were regarded as skilful architects in later accounts, were a race of men who appear to be different from the Cyclopes whom we have considered hitherto, for they are described as a Thracian tribe, which derived its name from a king Cyclops. They were expelled from their homes in Thrace, and went to the Curetes (Crete) and to Lycia. Thence they followed Proetus to protect him, by the gigantic walls which they constructed, against Acrisius. The grand fortifications of Argos, Tiryns, and Mycenae, were in later times regarded as their works. (Apollod. ii. 1. § 2; Strab. viii. p. 373; Paus. ii. 16. § 4; Schol.ad Eurip. Orest. 953.) Such walls, commonly known by the name of Cyclopean walls, still exist in various parts of ancient Greece and Italy, and consist of unhewn polygones, which are sometimes 20 or 30 feet in breadth. The story of the Cyclopes having built them seems to be a mere invention, and admits neither of an historical nor geographical explanation. Homer, for instance, knows nothing of Cyclopean walls, and he calls Tiryns merely a polis teichioessa. (Il. ii. 559.) The Cyclopean walls were probably constructed by an ancient race of men--perhaps the Pelasgians--who occupied the countries in which they occur before the nations of which we have historical records; and later generations, being struck by their grandeur as much as ourselves, ascribed their building to a fabulous race of Cyclopes.
In works of art the Cyclopes are represented as sturdy men with one eye on their forehead, and the place which in other human beings is occupied by the eyes, is marked in figures of the Cyclopes by a line. According to the explanation of Plato (ap. Strab. xiii. p. 592), the Cyclopes were beings typical of the original condition of uncivilized men ; but this explanation is not satisfactory, and the cosmogonic Cyclopes at least must be regarded as personifications of certain powers manifested in nature, which is sufficiently indicated by their names.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
NAMES OF THE CYCLOPES
NAMES OF THE THREE ELDER CYCLOPES
Son of the Anvil (akmôn)
Flashing Radiance (argês, lipaô)
Fiery Anvil (pyra, akmôn)
N.B. Argilipos, Pyrakmon and Akmonides are alternate names for the three.
NAMES OF THE YOUNGER FOUR CYCLOPES
Forged Iron (elatreus)
Sea-Ruling (hals, medô)
Rugged (trakhus), Fast-Moving (trekhô)
* The prefix of the name Euryalos is derived from the Greek word eurys, "wide." The suffix comes from either alê, "stepping" "roaming" or hals, "the brine" "the sea."
ALTERNATIVE NAMES AND EPITHETS
Sons of the Anvil (akmôn)
Belly Hands (gastêr, kheir)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
THE BIRTH & IMPRISONMENT OF THE CYCLOPES
Hesiod, Theogony 139 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And again, she [Gaia (Gaea) the Earth] bare [to Ouranos (Uranus) the Sky] the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), overbearing in spirit, Brontes, and Steropes and stubborn-hearted Arges, who gave Zeus the thunder and made the thunderbolt : in all else they were like the gods, but one eye only was set in the midst of their fore-heads. And they were surnamed Kyklopes (Orb-eyed) because one orbed eye was set in their foreheads. Strength and might and craft were in their works. And again, three other sons [the Hekatonkheires (Hecatoncheires) were born of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky) . . .
For of all the children that were born of Gaia and Ouranos, these [the Hekatonkheires and Kyklopes] were the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first [i.e. Father Sky hates the Storm-Giants]. And he used to hide them all away in a secret place of Gaia (Earth) so soon as each was born, and would not suffer them to come up into the light: and Ouranos rejoiced in his evil doing. But vast Gaia (Earth) groaned within, being straitened, and she made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle, and told her plan to her dear sons [the Titanes]. And she spoke, cheering them, while she was vexed in her dear heart : ‘My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you mwill obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.’
So she said; but fear seized them all, and none of them uttered a word. But great Kronos (Cronus) the wily took courage and answered his dear mother : ‘Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our father of evil name, for he first thought of doing shameful things.’
So he said : and vast Gaia rejoiced greatly in spirit, and set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands a jagged sickle, and revealed to him the whole plot [i.e. to castrate and dethrone Ouranos and free her sons from their bondage]."
Eumelus or Arctinus, Titanomachia Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathy) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The Epic Cycle begins with the fabled union of Ouranos (Uranus, Sky) and Ge (Gaea, Earth), by which they make three Hekatontacheiroi (Hecatoncheires, Hundred-Handed) sons and three Kyklopes (Cyclopes) to be born to him."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 1 - 4 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Ouranos (Uranus, Sky) was the first to rule over the entire world. He married Ge (Gaea, Earth) and sired first the Hekatonkheires (Hecatoncheires), who were names Briareos (Briareus), Gyes and Kottos (Cottus) . . . After these he sired the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), by name Arges (Flash), Steropes (Lightning), and Brontes (Thunder), each of whom had one eye in his forehead. But Ouranos (Uranus, Sky) bound these and threw them into Tartaros (Tartarus), a place in Haides' realm as dark as Erebos, and as far away from the earth as the earth is from the sky. Now Ge (Earth), distressed by the loss of her children into Tartaros, persuaded the Titanes (TItans) to attack their father, and she gave Kronos (Cronus) a sickle made of adamant. So all of them except Okeanos (Oceanus) set upon Ouranos (Sky), and Kronos cut off his genitals, tossing them into the sea . . . Thus having overthrown Ouranos' rule the Titanes retrieved their brothers from Tartaros and gave the power to Kronos. But Kronos once again bound the Kyklopes and confined them in Tartaros."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Aether and Terra (Earth) [Gaia] [were born various abstractions] . . .
[From Caelum (Ouranos) and Terra (Gaia) were born ?] Oceanus, Themis, Tartarus, Pontus; the Titanes : Briareus, Gyes, Steropes, Atlas, Hyperion, and Polus [Koios (Coeus)], Saturnus [Kronos (Cronus)], Ops [Rhea], Moneta [Mnemosyne], Dione."
[N.B. Hyginus' Preface survives only in summary. The Titanes, Kyklopes (Cyclopes) and Hekatonkheires (Hecatoncheires) should be listed as children of Ouranos (Caelum) and Gaia (Terra) not Aither and Gaia, but this detail appears to have been lost in the rough transcription.]
CYCLOPES, THE TITAN-WAR & THE CONSTELLATION ALTAR
Hesiod, Theogony 492 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And he [Zeus] set free from their deadly bonds the brothers of his father [Kyklopes (Cyclopes)], sons of Ouranos (Uranus) whom his father in his foolishness had bound. And they remembered to be grateful to him for his kindness, and gave him thunder and the glowing thunderbolt and lightening: for before that, huge Earth (had hidden these. In them he trusts and rules over mortals and immortals."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 6 - 7 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"After ten years of fighting Ge (Gaea, Earth) prophesied a victory for Zeus if he were to secure the prisoners down in Tartaros (Tartarus) as his allies. He thereupon slew their jail-keeper Kampe (Campe), and freed them from their bonds. In return the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) gave Zeus thunder, lightning, and a thunderbolt, as well as a helmet for Plouton (Pluton) [Haides] and a trident for Poseidon. Armed with these the three gods overpowered the Titanes, confined them in Tartaros, and put the Hekatonkheires in charge of guarding them."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 14. 445 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"All mine [Zeus'] armoury [lightning] which the Kyklopes' (Cyclopes') might to win my favour wrought with tireless hands."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 4. 550 ff :
"Wild as the blasts of roaring Boreas (North Wind) or shouting Notos (South Wind), when with hurricane-swoop he heaves the wide sea high, when in the east uprises the disastrous Altar-star bringing calamity to seafarers." [N.B. The Constellation Altar was forged by the Kyklopes (Cyclopes). Cf. Hyginus below.]
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 39 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Constellation] Altar. On this altar the gods are thought to have first made offerings and formed an alliance when they were about to oppose the Titanes. The Cyclopes made it. From this observance men established the custom that when they plan to do something, they make sacrifices before beginning the undertaking."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 2. 336 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
“[The giant Typhoeus boasts of what he intends to do after he seizes control of the cosmos from Zeus :] ‘And cannibal Kronos (Cronus) I will drag up once more to the light . . . and bring back the Titanes to heaven, and settle under the same roof in the sky the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), sons of Gaia (Gaea, Earth).’"
NOTES : The beginning of the stormy season of late autumn, early winter was marked in Greece by the rise of the constellation Ara (the Altar). This altar was said to have been forged by the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) when the gods swore oaths of allegiance to Zeus for the coming war against the Titanes. The eastern rising of the constellation probably represented the annual release of the storms of the Hekatonkheires (Giants of Storm-Clouds and Hurricane-Winds) and Kyklopes (Giants of Lightning and Thunder) from the pit of Tartaros.
THE FORGE OF THE CYCLOPES
The Kyklopes (Cyclopes) were the storm-giant forgers of thunder and lightning.
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 731 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Here were the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) sitting at work on an imperishable thunderbolt for Zeus the King. One ray was lacking to complete its splendour, and this lay spurting flame as they beat it out with their iron hammers."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 498 ff :
"The earthborn Kyklopes (Cyclopes) had given him [Zeus] the bolt, the thunder and lightning that form his glorious armament today."
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 10 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"[Artemis, still a young child, addresses her father Zeus :] ‘Father, I ask thee not for quiver or for mighty bow : for me the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) will straightway fashion arrows and fashion for me a well-bent bow.’"
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 46 ff :
"And straightway she [Artemis] went to visit the Kyklopes (Cyclopes). Then she found in the isle of Lipara--Lipara in later days, but at that time its name was Meligounis--at the anvils of Hephaistos (Hephaestus), standing round a molten mass of iron. For a great work was being hastened on: they fashioned a shores-trough for Poseidon. And the Nymphai (Nymphs) [handmaidens of Artemis] were affrighted when they saw the terrible monsters like unto the crags of Ossa: all had single eyes beneath their brows, like a shield of fourfold hide for size, glaring terribly from under; and when they heard the din of the anvil echoing loudly, and the great blast of the bellows and the heavy groaning of the Kyklopes themselves. For Aitna (Etna) cried aloud, and Trinakie (Trinacia) [Sicily] cried, the seat of the Sikanians (Sicanians), cried too their neighbour Italie, and Kyrnos therewithal uttered a mighty noise, when they lifted their hammers above their shoulders and smote with rhythmic swing the bronze glowing from the furnace or iron, labouring greatly. Wherefore the Okeaninai (Oceanids) [handmaidens of Artemis] could not untroubled look upon them to face nor endure the din in their ears. No shame to them! On those not even the daughters of the Blessed look without shuddering, though long past childhood's years. But when any of the maidens doth disobedience to her mother, the mother calls the Kyklopes to her child--Arges or Steropes; and from within the house comes Hermes stained with burnt ashes. And straightway he plays bogey to the child and she runs into her mother's lap, with her hands upon her eyes. But thou, Maiden [Artemis], even earlier, while yet but three years old, when Leto came bearing thee in her arms at the bidding of Hephaistos that he might give thee handsel [i.e. gifts which were given when seeing a new born child for the first time] and Brontes set thee on his stout knees--thou didst pluck the shaggy hair of his great breast and tear it out by force. And even unto this day the mid part of his breast remains hairless, even as when mange settles on a man's temples and eats away the hair. Therefore right boldly didst thou address them then : ‘Kyklopes, for me too fashion ye a Kydonian bow and arrows and a hollow casket for my shafts; for I also am a child of Leto, even as Apollon. And if I with my bow shall slay some wild creature of monstrous beast, that shall the Kyklopes eat.’ So didst thou speak and they fulfilled thy words. Straightway didst thou array thee, O Goddess."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 302 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Zeus] soared ascending to the ethereal sky, and by his nod called up the trailing clouds and massed a storm, with lightnings in the squalls, and thunder and the bolts that never miss . . . he tried, as far as he had power, to curb his might, and would not wield [against his love Semele] the fire with which he's felled hundred-handed Typhoeus. That was too fierce. There is another bolt, a lighter one, in which the Cyclopes forged a flame less savage and a lesser wrath, called by the gods his second armament. With this in hand he went to Semele in Cadmus' palace."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 287 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Trinacrian [Sicilian] sea, where Brontes, Steropes and Acmonides dip the white iron."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 473 ff :
"And the Cyclops' caverns [in Sicily] scorched by fixed forges."
Virgil, Aeneid 8. 418 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"The Fire-lord [Hephaistos (Hephaestus)] rose from his downy bed and go to his ironworkds. Between the Sicilian coast and Aeolian Lipare there's an island, whose cliffs, sheer-rising, jet out smoke from their crannies : deep within it are vaults, a rumbling volcanic cavern scooped out by the action of the Cyclopes' fires; you can hear the clang of hard blows on the anvils, the roaring when masses of ore are smelted within, and a throbbing blast of flame form the furnaces. Here is Volcanos' (Vulcan's) [Hephaistos'] place; the island is called Volcania. Hither now the Fire-god repaired form heaven above. The Cyclopes were hard at work in this underground iron-foundry--Brontes and Steropes, Pyracmon stripped to the buff. They manufactured a thunderbolt, such as the Father of heaven [Zeus] shoots down in such great numbers at earth from all over the sky : part of it was already streamlined, part unfinished. They had given it three fins of twirling sleet, and three of cloudburst, three of russet fire and three of stormwind. Now they were putting in as components frightening flashes, the noise that creates panic, the piercing flames of wrath. Elsewhere, a job was being hurried on for Mars [Ares]--a chariot with swift wheels, such as he rides in to rouse up men and nations. Some busily burnished the aegis Athene wears in her angry moods--a fearsome thing with a surface of gold like scaly snake-skin, and he linked serpents and the Gorgon herself upon the goddess' breast--a severed head rolling its eyes. ‘Put all that work aside, pack in the jobs you're engaged on, you Cyclopes of Mount Aetna, and turn your attention to this--the making of arms for a hot-blooded hero! Now there is need for your strength, your speediest work and your master-craftmanship. Get bustling on it at once!’
That was all Vulcanos [Hephaistos] said : quickly they set to the business, shared out the tasks among them equally. Rivers of molten bronze and gold are flowing; the deadly steel is smelted in an immense furnace. They fashion a shield of heroic size, to withstand by itself every missile the Latins can use, welding seven round of metal one on another to make it. Some pump away at the bellows, drawing in air and expelling it; some dip the hissing metal in troughs. The cavern groans under the stress of anvils. They raise their arms with the powerful alternate rhythm of cranks, they keep the iron-ore turning in the close grip of their tongs."
Virgil, Georgics 1. 471 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"How oft before our eyes did Etna deluge the fields of the Cyclopes with a torrent from her burst furnaces, hurling thereon balls of fire and molten rocks."
Virgil, Georgics 4. 171 ff :
"The Cyclopes in haste forge bolts from tough ore, some with oxhide bellows make the blasts come and go, others dip the hissing brass in the lake, while Aetna (Etna) groans under the anvils laid upon her; they, with mighty force, now one, now another, raise their arms in measured cadence, and turn the iron with gripping tongs."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 197 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"[On inventions :] Manufactures of bronze some ascribe to the Chalybes [an Anatolian tribe] and others to the Cyclopes."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 198 :
"Working in iron was invented by the Cyclopes."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4. 286 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"In nightly vigil the master [Hephaistos] marks the labours of his workmen and the Cyclops prepares the metal for the thunderbolt, while cities echo the clang of stricken anvils."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 7. 648 ff :
"A Cyclops all black from the hot furnaces where the glowing bolts are forged finds respite and refuge in the Sicilian sea."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 574 ff :
"There stand in the Sicilian Sea on the side of retreating Pelorum a crag, the terror of the straits . . . and hard by may one see another land with rocks and caverns no less terrible; in the former dwell [the Kyklopes (Cyclopes)] Acamas and naked Pyragmon."
Statius, Thebaid 1. 216 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"I [Jove-Zeus] am wearing of venting my anger with flashing brand, long since are the busy arms of the Cyclopes failing, and the fires droop that serve Aeolian anvils."
Statius, Thebaid 2. 265 ff :
"[The Kyklopes (Cyclopes) assist Hephaistos (Hephaestus) in the forging of the cursed necklace of Harmonia :] Thereat, though taught mightier tasks, the Cyclopes labour, and the Telchines famed for their handiwork helped in friendly rivalry of their skill; but for himself [Hephaistos] the sweat of toil was heaviest."
Statius, Silvae 1. 1. 3 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Was the effigy moulded in Sicilian furnaces, leaving [the Cyclopes] Brontes and Steropes weary?"
Statius, Silvae 3. 1. 130 ff :
"Not so loud is Aetna's (Etna's) din, when the anvils are busy and [the Cyclopes] Brontes and Steropes ply the hammer, nor greater noise from the Lemnian caves when Mulciber [Hephaistos (Hephaestus)] amid his flames forges the aegis and makes chaste gifts for Pallas [Athena]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 29. 348 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Set foot in Sikelia (Sicily), put your prayer, if you please, to the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) standing by their forge. They are in the secrets of Hephaistos (Hephaestus) the master craftsman, they can rival his clever work."
For MORE myths of the Cyclopes as forgers of lightning see:
Cyclopes & the War of the Titans
Cyclopes Slain by Apollo
Cyclopes & the Indian War of Dionysus
CYCLOPES BUILDERS OF FORTIFICATIONS
Bacchylides, Fragment 11 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"Zeus Kronides (Cronides) was willing to honour the race of Danaus [i.e. the Argives] . . . by relieving them from their hateful distress [i.e. the conflict between the brothers Akrisios (Acrisius) and Proitos (Proetus)]. The Kyklopes (Cyclopes) came in their might and toiled to build a most beautiful wall for the famous city [of Tiryns]."
Aeschylus, Doubtul Fragment 244 (from Hesychius, Lexicon s.v. Kyklôpôn edos) (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Walled Tiryns, the Kyklopes' (Cyclopes') seat."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 25 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Proitos (Proetus)] seized Tiryns, which had been walled for him by the Kyklopes (Cyclopes)."
Strabo, Geography 8. 6. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"After Nauplia [in the Argolis] one comes to the caverns and the labyrinths built in them, which are called Kyklopeian (Cyclopean)."
Strabo, Geography 8. 6. 11 :
"Now it seems that Tiryns [in the Argolis] was used as a base of operations by Proitos (Proetus), and was walled by him through the aid of the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), who were seven in number, and were called Gasterokheirai (Gasterochirae, Bellyhands) because they got their food from their handicraft, and they came by invitation from Lykia (Lycia). And perhaps the caverns near Nauplia [in Argolis] and the works therein are named after them."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 16. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There still remain, however, parts of the city wall [of Mykenai (Mycenae) in Argolis], including the gate, upon which stand lions. These, too, are said to be the work of the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), who made for Proitos (Proetus) the wall at Tiryns."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 20. 7 :
"Beside the sanctuary of Kephisos (Cephisus) [at Argos] is a head of Medousa (Medusa) made of stone, which is said to be another of the works of the Kyklopes (Cyclopes)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 25. 8 :
"The wall [of Tiryns in Argolis], which is the only part of the ruins still remaining, is a work of the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) made of unwrought stones, each stone being so big that a pair of mules could not move the smallest from its place to the slightest degree. Long ago small stones were so inserted that each of them binds the large blocks firmly together."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 25. 5 :
"But the Argives could not take the wall of Mykenai built as it was like the wall of Tiryns by the Kyklopes (Cyclopes)."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 195 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"[On inventions :] Towers [were invented] by the Cyclopes according to Aristotle [Greek philosopher C4th B.C.]."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 996 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"A greater struggle awaits me at Mycenae, that there, by these hands overthrown, the Cyclopean rocks may fall."
Statius, Thebaid 4. 150 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The dweller in her [Tiryns] empty fields points out the towers raised by the sweat of the Cyclopean brows."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 263 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Mykene (Mycenae) girt about with a garland of walls by the Kyklopian (Cyclopean) masons."
CYCLOPES SLAIN BY APOLLO
Zeus slew Apollon's son Asklepios (Asclepius) with a lightning bolt. In retalion Apollon slew the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) who had forged the god's weapon. According to Pherecydes (as cited by the Scholiast on Euripides' Alcestis) these were not the three immortal Kyklopes but rather their sons. They were probably the four named Euryalos, Elatreus, Trakhios, and Halimedes by Strabo and Nonnus. The sons of Ouranos (Uranus)--Gyes, Brontes and Sterope--were immortal and continued to forge lightning-bolts for Zeus.
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 64 (from Scholiast on Hesiod's Theogony) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"For how does he [Hesiod] say that the same persons [the Kyklopes (Cyclopes)] were like the gods, and yet represent them as being destroyed by Apollon in the Catalogue of the Daughters of Leukippos."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 118 - 122 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus was afraid that men might learn the art of medicine from Asklepios (Asclepius) and help each other out, so he hit him with a thunderbolt. This angered Apollon, who slew the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), for they designed the thunderbolt for Zeus. Zeus was about to throw Apollon into Tartaros, but at the request of Leto he ordered him instead to be some man's servant for a year."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 71. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Zeus slew Asklepios (Asclepius) with his thunderbolt, but Apollon, indignant at the slaying of Asklepios, murdered the Kyklopes (Cyclopes) who had forged the thunderbolt for Zeus; but at the death of the Kyklopes Zeus was again indignant and laid a command upon Apollon that he should serve as a labourer for a human being and that this should be the punishment he should receive from him for his crimes."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 49 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aesculapius [Asklepios], son of Apollo, is daid to have restored livfe either to Glaucus, son of Minos, or to Hippolytus, and Jupiter [Zeus] because of this truck him with a thunderbolt. Apollo, not being able to injure Jupiter, killed the ones who had made the thunderbolt, that is the Cyclopes. On account of this deed Apollo was given in servitude to Admetus, King of Thessaly."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 15 :
"Eratoshtenes [Greek wrtier C3rd B.C.] says about the [constellation] Arrow, that with this Apollo killed the Cyclopes who forged the thunderbolt by which Aesculapius [Asklepios] died. Apollo had buried this arrow in the Hyperborean mountain, but when Jupiter [Zeus] pardoned his son, it was borne by the wind and brought to Apollo along with the grain which at that time was growing. Many point out that for this reason it is among the constellations."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 445 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Admetus, blessed in so glorious a shepherd, for it is in thy fields that the god of Delos [Apollon] pays for having struck down [the Cylcops] Steropes with his thankless bow."
CYCLOPES & THE INDIAN-WAR OF DIONYSUS
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 52 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Rhea summoned the rustic gods and spirits to join the army of Dionysos for a campaign against the Indians :] Battalions of Kyklopes (Cyclopes) came like a flood. In battle, these with weaponless hands cast hills for their stony spears, and their shields were cliffs; a peak from some mountain-ravine was their crested helmet, Sikeloi (Sicilian) sparks were their fiery arrows [i.e. sparks from Mount Etna]. They went into battle holding burning brands and blazing with light form the forge they knew so well--Brontes and Steropes, Euryalos (Euryalus) and Elatreus, Arges and Trakhios (Trachius) and proud Halimedes."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 27. 85 ff :
"[King Deriades addresses his Indian troops during the Dionysian war :] ‘Do not kill the Gegenees (Earthborn) Kyklopes (Cyclopes) who touch Olympos with their long limbs, do not transfix them with a spearpoint in belly or neck, let the heavy stroke of bronze pierce their one round eye. No, kill not the Kyklopes of the earth, for I want them too: they shall sit in an Indian smithy! Brontes shall make me a heavyrumbling trumpet to mock the thunder's roar, that I may be an earthly Zeus; Steropes shall make here on earth a new rival lightning: I will try it in fighting against the Satyroi (Satyrs), that Kronides (Cronides) [Zeus] may be jealous, and tear his heart yet more to see Deriades thundering and lightening--he shall fear the Indian chieftain hurling a newmade fiery thunderbolt.’"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 28. 172 ff :
"[In the course of a battle during Dionysos' Indian War :] Now the grim Kyklopes (Cyclopes), allies of Zeus, surrounded the fighters. Argilipos (Vivid-Flashing-Eye) lifted a shining torch and shed light on the throng through the dark clouds. He was armed with a firebarbed thunderbolt from the underworld, and fought with firebrands : the swarthy Indians trembled, amazed at that fire so like the heavenly fireburst. A champion all of fire he was, and he sparks of earthborn lightning showered upon the enemies' heads. The Kyklops (Cyclops) conquered ash-pikes and countless swords, shaking his hot missiles and his flashing points, with brands for his arrows: one upon another, countless, he burnt the Indian men with the blazing shafts, slaying not only one enemy of God . . .
Steropes (Lightning) also was armed with a mimic lightning, which he brandished like the lightningflash of the sky, but an extinguishable brand, the child of Western flame, seed of Sikelian (Sicilian) fire and that smoky forge; a dark pall covered it like a cloud, and beneath it he now hid the light, now showed it, in alternating movements, just like the flashes in the sky; for the lightning comes in flashes and goes again.
Brontes (Thunder) also was in the battle, rattling a noisy tune with a din like rolling thunderclaps : he poured an earthborn shower of his own with strange drops falling through the air, and lasting but a moment--an unreal Zeus he was, with imitated raindrops and no clouds. Then leaving the artificial noise of this mock thunder, he armed himself with Sicilian steel against the enemy; swinging the iron hammer high over his shoulders he smashed many an enemy head, and struck the dusky ranks right and left, with a clang like blows as it he were ever striking on the hammerbeaten anvil of Aitna (Mount Etna). Next he broke off a crag from a farspreading rock, and rushed upon Deriades [the Indian king] with this stony spear. He hurled the huge rock with merciless hand against the blackskin king who stood ready, and struck his hairy chest with its rocky point. The king was wholly staggered with the heavy blow of this huge millstone full on his chest, like a drunken man; but Hydaspes [a local River-God] rescued his stricken son from death. The bold king, crushed by the blow, dropt the furious spear from his never-tiring hands, the twentycubit spear of bronze, and threw his shield on the ground out of his shamed grasp, with little breath left in him; struck on the round of his breast by the pointed stone, he fell down headlong out of his lofty car . . . The Indians crowded round him and lifted him into the car, fearing that the ugly Kyklops might get another crag of some lofty hill and throw again, and slay their king with a rough missile--for he [the Kyklops Brontes] was as tall as highcrested Polyphemos. In the middle of this grim champion's forehead glared the light of one single round eye; the blackskin Indians shook with wonder and fear when they saw the eye of the grim Kyklops; they thought Olympian Selene (the Moon) must have come down from the sky and risen in the earth-born Kyklops' face, shining with her full orb, to defend Lyaios (Lyaeus) [Dionysos].
Father Zeus, seeing how the Kyklops imitated his own noise, laughed on high in the clouds that the earth was then flooded with a strange kind of shoer from earthclouds upon its bosom, a new experience, while the thirsty air had no downpour through its bare dry expanse.
Trakhios (Trachius) [the Kyklops] also reared his head: and Elatreus, marching beside his brother, held and shook a shield like a towering crag, and held a long firtree high in the clouds, sweeping off the enemies' heads with his treespear.
Euryalos (Euryalus) [another Kyklops] reared his head. He cut off a large body of fugitives in the battle, away from the plain and down towards the sea, shutting the Indian companies into the fishgiving gulf; so he conquered his foes over the lancebearing main as he thrust his twenty-cubit blade through the water. Then with long poleaxe he split off a rock near the brine, and threw it at his adversaries; many then felt the threads of Fate in double fashion without burial, struck with the jagged missile, and brinedrowned in watery strife.
Another Kyklops of the tribe went raging and scattering his foes, the prime warrior Halimedes, a monster with towering limbs; guarding himself he held before his great round eye a bossy oxhide shield. Then [the Indian] Phlogios the avenger of the slain Indians saw him; he rounded his bow, and drew back the windswift shaft to pierce the eye in that forehead--and he would have done it, but as he aimed, the high-headed Kyklops saw the coming attack, and dodged the blow of the flying arrow by shifting aside. Then the other poised a rock and threw the rough missile at Phlogios; but he retreated and stood by the car of oxhorned Deriades, and thus just evaded the sharp stone flying through the air, and there he remained. But Halimedes, angry that Phlogios had retreated, opened his deadly throat, and with one loud roar slew twelve men by pouring out one man-destroying boom of his furious voice. The warcries of the Kyklopes made Olympos ring with their terrible sounds."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 37. 111 ff :
"[At the funeral games of Opheltes, a companion of Dionysos in the Indian War :] A giant Kyklops (Cyclops) lifted this [a statue of Dionysos] in his hands and set it in the earth for a stone turning-post, and fixed another like it at the opposite end."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 39. 218 ff :
"[During a sea-battle of Dionysos' Indian War :] Troops of Kyklopes (Cyclopes) navigated by the sea, showering rocks from the shore upon the ships; Euryalos (Euryalus) shouted the warcry, and Halimedes high as sky dashed raging into battle with brine-blustering tumult."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 39. 340 ff :
"[During a battle of the Indian War of Dionysos :] [The Kyklops (Cyclops)] Steropes also fought in the forefront; Halimedes high uplifted upon his feet grasped the craf of a seabron cliff and threw it at the foe--a stray ship sank, struck by the rounded mass of hard stone."
Kyklops (Cyclops) was a nick-name sometimes applied to those who had lost an eye.
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 12. 43 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Antigonos (Antigonus) the son of Philippos (Philip), who had one eye and consequently was known as Kyklops (Cyclops), was a peasant."
CULT OF THE CYCLOPES
I. CORINTH (KORINTHOS) Chief City of Corinthia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 2. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is also an ancient sanctuary [at Korinthos (Corinth)] called the altar of the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), and they sacrifice to the Kyklopes upon it."
II. MEGARA Chief Town of Megaris (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 42. 2 :
"The Megarians have another citadel, which is named after Alkathous (Alcathous) . . . There is also shown a hearth of the gods called Prodomeis (Builders-Before) [probably the Kyklopes (Cyclopes)]. They say that Alkathous was the first to sacrifice to them, at the time when he was about to begin the building of the wall."
ANCIENT GREEK & ROMAN ART
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Epic Cycle, Titanomachia Fragments - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd - 3rd 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.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Encyclopedia C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.