Hephaestus (/hɪˈfiːstəs, həˈfɛstəs, hɪˈfɛstəs/; eight
spellings; Greek: Ἥφαιστος Hēphaistos) is the
Greek god of
blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors,
metallurgy, fire, and volcanoes. Hephaestus' Roman equivalent is
Vulcan. In Greek mythology,
Hephaestus was the son of
Zeus and Hera,
the king and queen of the gods. In another version, he was Hera's
parthenogenous child, rejected by his mother because of his deformity
and thrown off
Mount Olympus and down to earth.
As a smithing god,
Hephaestus made all the weapons of the gods in
Olympus. He served as the blacksmith of the gods, and was worshipped
in the manufacturing and industrial centers of Greece, particularly
Athens. The cult of
Hephaestus was based in Lemnos. Hephaestus'
symbols are a smith's hammer, anvil, and a pair of tongs.
Craft of Hephaestus
3.3 Fall from Olympus
3.4 Return to Olympus
3.5 Consorts and children
Hephaestus and Aphrodite
Hephaestus and Athena
3.9 Other mythology
5 Comparative mythology
6 Minor planet
7 See also
10 External links
Hephaestus is probably associated with the
Linear B (Mycenean Greek)
inscription 𐀀𐀞𐀂𐀴𐀍, A-pa-i-ti-jo, found at Knossos; the
inscription indirectly attests his worship at that time because it is
believed that it reads the theophoric name Haphaistios or
Haphaistion. The name of the god in Greek (Hēphaistos) has a
root which can be observed in names of places of
like Phaistos (Pa-i-to in Linear B).
Hephaestus is given many epithets. The meaning of each epithet is:
Amphigúeis "the lame one" (Ἀμφιγύεις)
Kullopodíōn "the halting" (Κυλλοποδίων)
Khalkeús "coppersmith" (Χαλκεύς)
Klutotékhnēs "renowned artificer" (Κλυτοτέχνης)
Polúmētis "shrewd, crafty" or "of many devices" (Πολύμητις)
Aitnaîos "Aetnaean" (Αἰτναῖος), owing to his workshop being
supposedly located below Mount Aetna.
Craft of Hephaestus
Vulcan Presenting the Arms of
Thetis by Peter Paul Rubens.
Thetis Receiving the Weapons of
Hephaestus by Anthony
van Dyck (1630-1632)
Hephaestus had his own palace on Olympus, containing his workshop with
anvil and twenty bellows that worked at his bidding. Hephaestus
crafted much of the magnificent equipment of the gods, and almost any
finely wrought metalwork imbued with powers that appears in Greek myth
is said to have been forged by Hephaestus. He designed Hermes' winged
helmet and sandals, the
Aegis breastplate, Aphrodite's famed girdle,
Agamemnon's staff of office, Achilles' armor, Heracles' bronze
clappers, Helios's chariot, the shoulder of Pelops, and Eros's bow and
arrows. In later accounts,
Hephaestus worked with the help of the
chthonic Cyclopes—among them his assistants in the forge, Brontes,
Steropes and Pyracmon.
Hephaestus built automatons of metal to work for him. This included
tripods that walked to and from Mount Olympus. He gave to the blinded
Orion his apprentice
Cedalion as a guide. In some versions of the
Prometheus stole the fire that he gave to man from
Hephaestus also created the gift that the gods
gave to man, the woman
Pandora and her pithos. Being a skilled
Hephaestus created all the thrones in the Palace of
The Greek myths and the
Homeric poems sanctified in stories that
Hephaestus had a special power to produce motion. He made the
golden and silver lions and dogs at the entrance of the palace of
Alkinoos in such a way that they could bite the invaders. The
Greeks maintained in their civilization an animistic idea that statues
are in some sense alive. This kind of art and the animistic belief
goes back to the Minoan period, when Daedalus, the builder of the
labyrinth, made images which moved of their own accord. A statue
of the god was somehow the god himself, and the image on a man's tomb
indicated somehow his presence.
Hesiod (Theogony, 927-928)
Hera gave birth to Hephaestus
on her own as revenge for
Zeus giving birth to
Athena without her
Zeus laid with Metis).
Homer (Iliad, I 571-577])
Hera is mentioned as the mother
Hephaestus but there is not sufficient evidence to say that Zeus
was his father (although he refers to him in such way).
Homer (Odyssey, VIII 306) there is not sufficient
evidence to say that
Zeus was the father of
Hephaestus (although he
refers to him in such way).
Hera is not mentioned as the mother.
According to Pseudo-Apollodorus (Bibliotheca, 1.3.6)
Hera gave birth
Hephaestus alone. Pseudo-Apollodorus also relates that, according
Hephaestus is one of the children of
Zeus and Hera
Hesiod and Homer).
Several later texts follow Hesiod's account, including
Hyginus and the
preface to Fabulae.
In the account of Attic vase painters,
Hephaestus was present at the
Athena and wields the axe with which he split Zeus' head to
free her. In the latter account,
Hephaestus is there represented as
older than Athena, so the mythology of
Hephaestus is inconsistent in
Fall from Olympus
In one branch of Greek mythology,
Hephaestus from the
heavens because he was "shrivelled of foot". He fell into the ocean
and was raised by
Thetis (mother of Achilles) and the Oceanid
In another account, Hephaestus, attempting to rescue his mother from
Zeus' advances, was flung down from the heavens by Zeus. He fell for
an entire day and landed on the island of Lemnos, where he was cared
for and taught to be a master craftsman by the
Sintians – an ancient
tribe native to that island. Later writers describe his lameness
as the consequence of his second fall, while
Homer makes him lame and
weak from his birth.
Return to Olympus
Hephaestus was the only Olympian to have returned to Olympus after
In an archaic story,[a]
Hephaestus gained revenge against Hera
for rejecting him by making her a magical golden throne, which, when
she sat on it, did not allow her to stand up.[b] The other gods begged
Hephaestus to return to Olympus to let her go, but he refused, saying
"I have no mother".
The western face of the Doric temple of Hephaestus,
Agora of Athens.
Dionysus fetched him, intoxicated him with wine, and took the
subdued smith back to Olympus on the back of a mule accompanied by
revelers – a scene that sometimes appears on painted pottery of
Attica and of Corinth. In the painted scenes, the padded
dancers and phallic figures of the Dionysan throng leading the mule
show that the procession was a part of the dithyrambic celebrations
that were the forerunners of the satyr plays of fifth century
The theme of the return of Hephaestus, popular among the Attic
vase-painters whose wares were favored among the Etruscans, may have
introduced this theme to Etruria.[c] In the vase-painters'
portrayal of the procession,
Hephaestus was mounted on a mule or a
Dionysus holding the bridle and carrying Hephaestus' tools
(including a double-headed axe).
The traveller Pausanias reported seeing a painting in the temple of
Dionysus in Athens, which had been built in the 5th century but
may have been decorated at any time before the 2nd century CE. When
Pausanias saw it, he said:
There are paintings here –
Hephaestus up to
heaven. One of the Greek legends is that Hephaestus, 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
Hephaestus refused to listen to any other of the gods except Dionysus
– in him he reposed the fullest trust – and after making him drunk
Dionysus brought him to heaven.
— Pausanias, 1.20.3
Consorts and children
According to most versions, Hephaestus's consort is Aphrodite, who is
Hephaestus with a number of gods and mortals, including
Ares. However, in Book XVIII of Homer's Iliad, the consort of
Hephaestus is a lesser Aphrodite,
Charis ("the grace") or Aglaia ("the
glorious") – the youngest of the Graces, as
Hesiod calls her.
Athena Scorning the Advances of
Paris Bordone (between
c. 1555 and c. 1560)
In Athens, there is a Temple of Hephaestus, the Hephaesteum (miscalled
the "Theseum") near the agora. An Athenian founding myth tells that
the city's patron goddess, Athena, refused a union with Hephaestus.
Pseudo-Apollodorus records an archaic legend, which claims that
Hephaestus once attempted to rape Athena, but she pushed him away,
causing him to ejaculate on her thigh.
Athena wiped the semen
off using a tuft of wool, which she tossed into the dust, impregnating
Gaia and causing her to give birth to Erichthonius, whom
Athena adopted as her own child. The Roman mythographer
Hyginus records a similar story in which
Hephaestus demanded Zeus
to let him marry
Athena since he was the one who had smashed open
Zeus's skull, allowing
Athena to be born.
Zeus agreed to this and
Athena were married, but, when
Hephaestus was about
to consummate the union,
Athena vanished from the bridal bed, causing
him to ejaculate on the floor, thus impregnating Gaia with
On the island of Lemnos, Hephaestus' consort was the sea nymph
Cabeiro, by whom he was the father of two metalworking gods named the
Cabeiri. In Sicily, his consort was the nymph Aetna, and his sons were
two gods of Sicilian geysers called Palici. With Thalia, Hephaestus
was sometimes considered the father of the Palici.
Hephaestus fathered several children with mortals and immortals alike.
One of those children was the robber Periphetes.
This is the full list of his consorts and children according to the
by unknown mothers
In addition, the Romans claim their equivalent god, Vulcan, to have
produced the following children:
Hephaestus and Aphrodite
Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan by Alexandre Charles Guillemot
Though married to Hephaestus,
Aphrodite had an affair with Ares, the
god of war. Eventually,
Hephaestus discovered Aphrodite’s affair
through Helios, the all-seeing Sun, and planned a trap during one of
their trysts. While
Ares lay together in bed, Hephaestus
ensnared them in an unbreakable chain-link net so small as to be
invisible and dragged them to
Mount Olympus to shame them in front of
the other gods for retribution.
The gods laughed at the sight of these naked lovers, and Poseidon
Hephaestus to free them in return for a guarantee that Ares
would pay the adulterer's fine.
Hephaestus states in The
he would return
Aphrodite to her father and demand back his bride
The Thebans told that the union of
Harmonia. However, of the union of
Hephaestus with Aphrodite, there
was no issue unless
Virgil was serious when he said that
their child. Later authors explain this statement by saying that
Eros was sired by
Ares but passed off to
Hephaestus as his own son.
Hephaestus was somehow connected with the archaic, pre-Greek Phrygian
and Thracian mystery cult of the Kabeiroi, who were also called the
Hephaistoi, "the Hephaestus-men", in Lemnos. One of the three Lemnian
tribes also called themselves Hephaestion and claimed direct descent
from the god.
Hephaestus and Athena
Hephaestus is to the male gods as
Athena is to the females, for he
gives skill to mortal artists and was believed to have taught men the
arts alongside Athena. He was nevertheless believed to be far
inferior to the sublime character of Athena. At
Athens they had
temples and festivals in common.[d] Both were believed to have great
healing powers, and Lemnian earth (terra Lemnia) from the spot on
Hephaestus had fallen was believed to cure madness, the bites of
snakes, and haemorrhage, and priests of
Hephaestus knew how to cure
wounds inflicted by snakes.
He was represented in the temple of
Athena Chalcioecus (
Athena of the
Bronze House) at Sparta, in the act of delivering his mother;
on the chest of Cypselus, giving Achilles's armour to Thetis; and
Athens there was the famous statue of
Hephaestus by Alcamenes, in
which his lameness was only subtly portrayed. The Greeks
frequently placed small dwarf-like statues of
Hephaestus near their
hearths, and these figures are the oldest of all his
representations. During the best period of Grecian art he was
represented as a vigorous man with a beard, and is characterized by
his hammer or some other crafting tool, his oval cap, and the chiton.
Athena is sometimes thought to be "the ‘soul-mate’ of
[Hephaestus]. Yet a kind of cloudy mysteriousness shrouds their
relationship; no single tradition was ever clearly established on this
subject, and so what confronts us is a blurred image based on rumors
and conflicting reports." Nonetheless, he "seeks impetuously and
passionately to make love to Athena: at the moment of climax she
pushes him aside, and his semen falls to the earth where it
Hephaestus was associated by Greek colonists in southern
the volcano gods
Adranus (of Mount Etna) and Vulcanus of the Lipari
islands. The first-century sage
Apollonius of Tyana
Apollonius of Tyana is said to have
observed, "there are many other mountains all over the earth that are
on fire, and yet we should never be done with it if we assigned to
them giants and gods like Hephaestus".
In the Trojan war,
Hephaestus sided with the Greeks, but was also
worshiped by the Trojans and saved one of their men from being killed
by Diomedes. Hephaestus’ favourite place in the mortal world was
the island of Lemnos, where he liked to dwell among the
Sintians, but he also frequented other volcanic islands
such as Lipara, Hiera,
Imbros and Sicily, which were called his abodes
The epithets and surnames by which
Hephaestus is known by the poets
generally allude to his skill in the plastic arts or to his figure or
lameness. The Greeks frequently placed small dwarf-like statues of
Hephaestus near their hearths, and these figures are the oldest of all
Hephaestus was sometimes portrayed as a vigorous man with a beard and
was characterized by his hammer or some other crafting tool, his oval
cap, and the chiton.
Hephaestus is described in mythological sources as "lame" (cholōs),
and "halting" (ēpedanos). He was depicted with crippled feet and
as misshapen, either from birth or as a result of his fall from
Olympus. In vase paintings,
Hephaestus is usually shown lame and bent
over his anvil, hard at work on a metal creation, and sometimes with
his feet back-to-front: Hephaistos amphigyēeis. He walked with the
aid of a stick. The Argonaut Palaimonius, "son of Hephaestus" (i.e. a
bronze-smith) was also lame.
Other "sons of Hephaestus" were the
Cabeiri on the island of
Samothrace, who were identified with the crab (karkinos) by the
lexicographer Hesychius. The adjective karkinopous ("crab-footed")
signified "lame", according to Detienne and Vernant. The Cabeiri
were also lame.
In some myths,
Hephaestus built himself a "wheeled chair" or chariot
with which to move around, thus helping him overcome his lameness
while demonstrating his skill to the other gods. In the Iliad
18.371, it is stated that
Hephaestus built twenty bronze wheeled
tripods in order assist him in moving around.
Hephaestus’s ugly appearance and lameness is taken by some to
represent arsenicosis, an effect of high levels of arsenic exposure
that would result in lameness and skin cancers. In place of less
easily available tin, arsenic was added to copper in the
Bronze Age to
harden it; like the hatters, crazed by their exposure to mercury, who
inspired Lewis Carroll's famous character of the Mad Hatter, most
smiths of the
Bronze Age would have suffered from chronic poisoning as
a result of their livelihood. Consequently, the mythic image of the
lame smith is widespread. As
Hephaestus was an iron-age smith, not a
bronze-age smith, the connection is one from ancient folk memory.
Parallels in other mythological systems for Hephaestus's symbolism
Ugarit craftsman-god Kothar-wa-Khasis, who is identified from afar
by his distinctive walk – possibly suggesting that he limps.
Herodotus was given to understand, the Egyptian craftsman-god Ptah
was a dwarf, naked, and deformed.
In Norse mythology, Weyland the Smith was a lame bronzeworker.
The minor planet
2212 Hephaistos discovered in 1978 by Soviet
Lyudmila Chernykh was named in Hephaestus' honour.
Greek mythology portal
Hephaestus in popular culture
^ Features within the narrative suggest to Kerenyi and others that it
is archaic; the most complete literary account, however, is a late
one, in the Roman rhetorician Libanios, according to Hedreen (2004).
^ A section "The Binding of Hera" is devoted to this archaic theme in
Kerenyi (1951, pp 156–158), who refers to this "ancient story",
which is one of the "tales of guileful deeds performed by cunning
gods, mostly at a time when they had not joined the family on
^ The return of
Hephaestus was painted on the Etruscan tomb at the
"Grotta Campana" near
Veii was identified by Petersen (1902); the
"well-known subject" was doubted in this instance by Harmon (1912).
^ See Dict of Ant. s. v. Hêphaisteia, Chalkeia.
^ a b Walter Burkert, Greek Religion 1985: III.2.ii; see coverage of
Lemnos-based traditions and legends at Mythic Lemnos
^ Graves, Robert (1955). The Greek Myths:1. Harmondsworth, Middlesex,
England: Penguin Books. p. 51.
^ Chadwick, John (1976). The Mycenaean World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press. p. 99. ISBN 0-521-29037-6. At Google
^ Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in translation. Hackett
Publishing. 2004. p. 443. ISBN 0-87220-721-8. At
^ "a-pa-i-ti-jo". Deaditerranean: Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean
^ Probably Phaistos, like Athēnā. Chadwick (1976), p. 87.
^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p.
^ "pa-i-to". Deaditerranean: Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear
^ Autenrieth, Georg (1891). "Hephaestus". A
Homeric Dictionary for
Schools and Colleges. United States of America: Harper and
^ Aelian, Hist. An. xi. 3, referenced under
Aetnaeus in William
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
^ Il. xviii. 370, &c.
^ The provenance of the staff of office is recounted in
^ a b Graves, Robert (1960). "The Palace of Olympus". Greek Gods and
Heroes. United States of America: Dell Laurel-Leaf. p. 150.
^ Virg. Aen. viii. 416, &c.
^ West (1979). "The
Prometheus Trilogy. The Journal of Hellenic
Studies" (99): 130–148. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Iliad, XVIII 372ff
^ Iliad, VIII: Nigel Spivey (1997): The Greek art. Phaidon Press
^ Diodorus Siculus, LV 76
^ C.M.Bowra (1957).The Greek experience. The World Publishing company.
Homeric Hymn to
Apollo 316–321; Homer,
Iliad 1.590–594; Valerius Flaccus, ii, 8.5; Apollodorus, i,
3 § 5. Apollodorus confounds the two occasions on which Hephaestus
was thrown from Olympus.
^ Guy Hedreen (2004) The Return of Hephaistos, Dionysiac Processional
Ritual and the Creation of a Visual Narrative. The Journal of Hellenic
Studies, 124 (2004:38–64) p. 38 and note.
^ a b Kerényi 1951, p. 156–158.
^ Axel Seeberg (1965) Hephaistos Rides Again. The Journal of Hellenic
Studies, 85, pp. 102–109, describes and illustrates four pieces
of Corinthian painted pottery with the theme
^ A black red-figure calpis in the collection of Marsden J. Perry was
painted with the return of
Hephaestus (Eldridge, 1917,
^ L. G. Eldridge (1917) An Unpublished Calpis. American Journal of
Archaeology, 21.1, pp 38–54 (January–March 1917).
^ The significance of the subject for the pre-history of Greek drama
is argued by Webster (1958, pp 43 [[wikt:ff.]]) and more
recently by Hedreen (2004, pp 38–64).
^ T.B.L. Webster (1958) Some thoughts on the pre-history of Greek
drama. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 5,
pp 43 [[wikt:ff.]]
^ Petersen (1902) Über die älteste etruskische Wandmälerei,
pp 149 [[wikt:ff.]]. Rome.
^ A. M. Harmon (1912) The Paintings of the Grotta Campana. American
Journal of Archaeology, 16.1, 1–10 (January–March 1912);
^ Hesiod, Theogony, 945
^ a b Kerényi 1951, p. 281.
^ a b c d e f Kerényi 1951, p. 123.
^ a b Burkert, Walter (1985), Greek Religion, Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, p. 143,
Hyginus made an imaginative etymology for Erichthonius, of strife
Hephaestus and the Earth-child (chthonios).
^ Od. vi. 233, xxiii. 160. Hymn. in Vaulc. 2. &c.
^ Philostr. Heroic. v. 2; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 330; Dict. Cret.
^ The Museum of Goddess Athena, Sanctuary of
Athena Chalkiokos at
^ Paus. iii. 17. § 3
^ v. 19. § 2
^ Cic. de Nat. Deor. i. 30; Val. Max. viii. 11. § 3
^ Herod. iii. 37; Aristoph. Av. 436; Callim. Hymnn. in Dian. 60
^ Hillman, James (1980). Facing the Gods. Spring Pubns.
^ Life of Apollonius of Tyana, book v.16.
^ Homer, Iliad, v, 9 [[wikt:ff.]]
^ Od. viii. 283 [[wikt:ff.]]
^ Homer, Iliad, i, 593.
^ Ovid, Fasti, viii, 82.
^ Apollonius of Rhodes, iii. 41.
^ Callimachus, Hymn. in Dian. 47
^ Serv. ad Aen, viii, 416.
^ Strabo, p. 275.
^ Pliny, Naturalis Historia, iii, 9.
^ Valerius Flaccus, ii, 96.
^ Heroditus, iii, 37
^ Aristophanes, Av., 436.
^ Callimachus, Hymn. in Dian., 60.
Iliad 18.397, etc.
^ Apollonius of Rhodes,
^ Detienne, Marcel; Vernant, Jean-Pierre (1978). Cunning Intelligence
in Greek Culture and Society. Janet Lloyd, translator. Atlantic
Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. pp. 269–272.
ISBN 0-391-00740-8. Cited by Silver, Morris (1992). Taking
Mythology Economically. New York: Brill. p. 35 note 5.
^ Dolmage, Jay (2006). "'Breathe Upon Us an Even Flame': Hephaestus,
History, and the Body of Rhetoric". Rhetoric Review. 25 (2): 119–140
[p. 120]. doi:10.1207/s15327981rr2502_1.
^ Murray, A.T. "The
Iliad 18.371". Perseus. Tufts University.
Retrieved 21 March 2017.
^ Saggs, H. W. F. (1989). Civilization Before Greece and Rome. New
Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 200–201.
^ Baruch Margalit, Aqhat Epic 1989:289.
^ Herodotus, iii.36.
^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th
ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. p. 180.
Kerényi, Karl (1951), The Gods of the Greeks, London, England: Thames
and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-27048-1
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