- Pronunciation: HA-fes-tus
- Origin: Greek
- Role: God of fire and blacksmith
- Symbols: Hammer, Anvil, Tongs
- Wife: Aphrodite
- Children: Euklela, Euthenia, Eupheme, Philophrosyne
- Other Name: Vulcan
Who Is Hephaestus?
In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the blacksmith god. He is often found in the background of myths. Though he is often portrayed as a supporting god, he was responsible for several important elements, such as fire and volcanoes.
He lived on Mouth Olympus. He would spend his days in his studio where he would make different items using his blacksmith tools. He always had a fire burning, which would play a part in how mankind was able to use it. He made gifts for humans and the gods but he also built himself lavish items. For example, his palace was made of gold and could not be duplicated by even the most talented artisans. The interior sparkled with sapphires and diamonds. Though many felt sorry for the god because of his poor appearance and lame foot, he led a lavish life and was content.
Hephaestus was often called upon to help other gods with their tasks. For example, he helped Zeus in the War with the Giants by making weapons and armor. He also made Pandora, the first mortal woman. When an item needed to be constructed, Hephaestus was always the first to be approached by gods and humans.
Zeus and Hera were Hephaestus’ parents. There is some debate regarding how he was conceived though. Some myths say that Hera gave birth to him before she was Zeus’ wife while others say that she conceived Hephaestus alone. According to one myth, he was born on Lemnos Island, where he was left in the care of a blacksmith named Kidalionas. Hephaestus learned the blacksmith trade from his caretaker.
Legends and Stories
As previously mentioned, Hephaestus is normally found in a supporting role in Greek myths. But there are some that focus more on his life and purpose. Here are some of the myths surrounding the blacksmith god.
It is unknown how Hephaestus’ leg was injured but it is assumed it was in his early years of life. In one variation, Hera rejected him at birth. Just after giving birth to her son on Mount Olympus, she became appalled at her baby’s appearance and lame leg. She became angry and couldn’t understand how she could have given birth to such an ugly child. She worried that the other gods would laugh at her and her son. So she took the baby and threw him over the mountain. The baby dropped into the ocean, where Thetis and Eurynome found him. They cared for him for nine years, where he learned to make jewelry with pearls and coral.
In another variation, Hephaestus was born with two functional legs. But one day, his parents found themselves in the middle of a terrible fight. Hera was upset that Zeus had engaged in an affair with a mortal named Alcmene. Together, they had conceived a son named Hercules.
Because of his father’s unfaithfulness, Hephaestus sided with his mother. This only made Zeus angrier. In a fit of rage, he picked up the child and threw him down Mount Olympus. He flew in the air for an entire day before he smashed into Lemnos Island. He landed on several large rocks and his foot was severely injured, leaving him crippled. He remained on the island, where he learned to become a blacksmith.
Hephaestus and Aphrodite
How did Hephaestus, cursed with a lame foot and unattractive features, win the heart of the most beautiful goddess? He deceived his father to win Aphrodite’s hand. On a day of celebration for Hera, Hephaestus gifted her with a golden throne. He had built the throne himself and Hera was thrilled with the gift. She sat down and admired her new throne. But when she tried to get up, she realized that Hephaestus had placed her in invisible shackles, holding her captive in her seat.
Hephaestus was seeking revenge against his parents for abandoning him as a child. Hera immediately felt guilty, began to cry, and begged her son for forgiveness. The gods were angry with Hephaestus and demanded that he let his mother go. But he refused. Dionysus, a close friend of Hephaestus, stepped in. He asked Hephaestus to have dinner with him and discuss the situation. During dinner, Dionysus got his friend drunk and convinced him to release his mother. But just before he was about to release Hera, Zeus appeared and expressed his disappointment with his son. Hephaestus took advantage of the situation, since his father didn’t know he was going to release Hera anyway. He told his father that he would only release the shackles if he was promised Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, as his wife. The gods were appalled but Zeus felt he didn’t have a choice. Hephaestus released Hera and then took his new bride.
Hephaestus was married to Aphrodite. Even though they had a rocky relationship due to Aphrodite’s many love affairs, they still had several children who had important roles. Euklela was the goddess of good repute and glory. Euthenia was the goddess of prosperity and plenty. Eupheme was the goddess of being well spoken. Philophrosyne was the goddess of friendliness.
Hephaestus was not known for being very attractive. He is often portrayed as an older man with broad shoulders and an intimidating physique. He usually has a white beard. He is typically wearing a short tunic, which was the clothing of choices for craftsmen.
Because he was the god of blacksmiths, Hephaestus’ symbols are masculine in nature. He is associated with acts of nature, like fire and volcanoes. Other symbols include a hammer, an anvil, and tongs.