Hephaestus

Olympian God of the Forge and Fire

Hephaestus was the god of fire, metalworking, stone masonry, forges and the art of sculpture.

Role

Hephaestus ruled over the forge and represented blacksmiths, artisans and sculptors. He displayed his role by building palaces for the gods and creating masterpieces such as the bronze robot Talos, Achilles’s armour and the golden and Apollo’s and Artemis’s arrows, among many others. He also created Pandora, the first woman, out of clay and water.

Physical Features, Symbols and Character

Hephaestus is often depicted as a bearded, stocky and muscled man, sometimes wearing a round cap associated with artisans. He is the only ugly god among the Olympians. His upper body is strong from working in the forge but his lower body is weak and he is often described as having a limp.

His attributes are the blacksmith’s tools, such as the hammer and the mallet, and his forge is located under a volcano which erupts when he is working.

Despite his lack of glamour and the fact that he is connected with fire and volcanoes, he is a good-natured god and isn’t associated with gruesome myths.

Mythology

Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera. According to one popular version of the myth, he was born deformed, which appalled Hera, who cast him to the sea to drown. However, he was rescued by two sea goddesses who raised him for nine years. Hephaestus then returned to Olympus and, in order to punish his mother, made an exquisite golden throne and gave it to her as a present, pretending not to hold a grudge against her. Once she sat on it, she got entangled to a net Hephaestus had attached to the throne and none of the gods was able to free her. Finally, the gods decided to give Hephaestus Aphrodite as his wife in order to appease him, and he agreed to release Hera from her bounds.


Hephaestus at a Glance
Roman nameVulcan
GenderMale
TypeDeity
Rules over - Patron ofFire, Metalworking, Stone Masonry, Forges and the Art of Sculpture.
SymbolsAnvil, Hammer, Quail, Tongs
ParentsHera and Zeus, or only Hera
SpouceAphrodite or Aglaia, one of the three Graces
Notable SiblingsAres, Eileithyia, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Helen of Troy, Perseus, Minos, the Muses, the Graces
ChildrenThalia, Eucleia, Eupheme, Euthenia, Philophrosyne, Cabeiri

Another version of the myth relates that Hephaestus tried to intervene during a squabble Zeus and Hera were having in order to protect his mother, whereupon Zeus grabbed him by the leg and threw him down from Olympus. Hephaestus fell for an entire day, thus becoming crippled.

Hephaestus, Aphrodite and Ares

Some time after Aphrodite was given to Hephaestus as his wife, she engaged in an affair with Ares. When Hephaestus left their mansion, Ares would come to see Aphrodite. However, Helios (the sun), saw them and informed Hephaestus, who created a transparent net which he attached to the bed. The two lovers were trapped and Hephaestus invited all the gods to come and make fun of the caught lovers. Eventually he agreed to release them in return for ransom that Ares would pay, which Poseidon vouched to pay otherwise.

Etymology

The name Hephaestus is related to fire and is possibly of pre-Greek origin.

Classical Sources

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Homeric Hymn to Hephaestus, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Apollodorus’s Library, Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argonauts, Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History, Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, Hyginus’s Fabulae, Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods, Pausanias’s Description of Greece, Pindar’s Olympian Odes, Euripides’ Alcestis and Heracles, Sophocles’ Trachiniae, Virgil’s Aeneid.