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Hephaestus: The Greek God of Fire

Hephaestus is a part of the ancient Greek pantheon. He was worshiped and honored as the god of technology and fire. This made him the natural patron of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans and sculptors. He was also associated with phenomena like volcanoes and wildfires.

Hephaestus: The Greek God of Fire

Hephaestus was lame and had a rather grotesque appearance. The cult that was established on the propagation of mythology surrounding him was based in the ancient Greek city of Lemnos. Hephaestus was symbolized by an anvil, a hammer and a pair of tongs, the equipment that is a common sight at any smithy. He is usually portrayed holding an axe. Hephaestus is commonly shown alongside his consort, a sea nymph called Cabeiro. Hephaestus and Cabeiro are believed to be the parents of two blacksmith demigods or the Cabeiri. Another consort of Hephaestus was the nymph Aetna. From Aetna, Hephaestus is believed to have fathered two gods of Sicilian geysers, also referred to as the Palici.

The common myth associated with Hephaestus is that of his attraction to Athena. Hephaestus was known for his ugly appearance throughout the pantheon. When Athena refused union with Hephaestus, he became angry and tried to use force to win her over. However, Athena used her celestial powers and disappeared from the bed, escaping rape. The god of fire could not control his ejaculation and it impregnated Gaia, a demigod on Earth. Gaia subsequently gave birth to Erichthonius and handed over the child to Athena. In this form, Hephaestus is depicted as an infant who is guarded by a serpent. This myth and other stories about Hephaestus are engraved and depicted at the Temple of Hephaestus, in Athens.

Hephaestus is believed to be the celestial craftsman. He designed the equipment of the gods. His fiery nature associated his name with any metalwork and equipment that was believed to be magical. This is mainly due to the Greek belief that weapons designed and forged by Hephaestus are imbued with powers. He is believed to have designed:

  • The winged helmet and sandals sported by Hermes.
  • The breastplate donned by Aegis.
  • The famous girdle of Aphrodite.
  • Agamemnon’s staff.
  • The armor of Achilles.
  • The bronze clappers associated with Heracles.
  • Helios’ chariot.
  • The bow and arrows of Eros.

Hephaestus is also sometimes depicted with his assistants, the chthonic Cyclopes. Together they are believed to have built automatons of metal and designed all the thrones in the Olympian palaces. The lame smith, as Hephaestus is also referred to, is believed to be the only Olympian god to have ever been exiled from Olympus and successfully returned. Depictions of the god of fire include:

  • His fall from Olympia.
  • Elaborated forms of his halting, misshapen, crippled feet.
  • A smith bent over his anvil, working on a metal creation.
  • Hephaestus the charioteer, on a specially designed wheel-chair to move around.

In ancient Greece, Hephaestus was commonly associated with arsenicosis or low arsenic poisoning and various skin cancers. In some stories and depictions, Hephaestus is also referred to as the son of Zeus and Hera. Yet some other myths propagate that Hera gave birth to Hephaestus alone, without the participation of Zeus, since he had done the same to father Athena. Hephaestus was considered the most unfaltering of the gods, and in this capacity, he earned a mention in classics such as Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Iliad’. The Greek god of fire is also immortalized in the name of a minor planet ‘2212 Hephaistos’, discovered by Lyudmila Chernykh, a Soviet astronomer, in 1978.

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