Hephaestus

Hephaestus was the god of fire, smiths, craftsmen, metalworking, stone masonry and sculpture. He was depicted as a bearded man holding a hammer and tongs, the tools of a smith, and sometimes riding a donkey.

Residence: Mount Olympus
Symbols: Hammer, anvil, tongs and volcano
Parents: Zeus and Hera
Consort: Aphrodite and Aglaea
Siblings: Aeacus, Angelos, AphroditeApolloAresArtemisAthenaDionysusIlithyiaEnyoEris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, HeraclesHermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses and the Moirae
Children: Thalia, Eucleia, Eupheme, Philophrosyne, Cabeiri and Euthenia
Roman equivalent: Vulcan

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Hephaestus at the Forge by Guillaume Coustou the Younger. Louvre.

Birth

On giving birth to Hephaestus, Hera was appalled by her first son’s appearance and hurled him from Mount Olympus. He bounced off the mountain, giving him a permanent limp, and landed in the Sea. He was perhaps raised by Thetis, mother to Achilles and one of the fifty Nereids. He spent his infancy on the island of Lemnos, where he learnt his trade as a blacksmith and craftsman.

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Hera casting Hephaestus out of Olympus.

The Blacksmith

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’ armour, Diomedes’ cuirass, Heracles‘ bronze clappers, Helius‘ chariot, the shoulder of Pelops and Eros‘ bow and arrows. In later accounts, Hephaestus worked with the help of the Cyclops, among them his assistants in the forge, Brontes, Steropes and Pyracmon.

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Ares and Aphrodite

The Sun-god Helius once spied Ares and Aphrodite enjoying each other secretly in the hall of Hephaestus, her husband. He reported the incident to Hephaestus. Contriving to catch the illicit couple in the act, Hephaestus fashioned a finely-knitted and nearly invisible net with which to snare them. At the appropriate time, this net was sprung, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite locked in a very private embrace.

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Ares and Aphrodite snared by Hephaestus.

But Hephaestus was not satisfied with his revenge, so he invited the Olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair. For the sake of modesty, the goddesses demurred, but the male gods went to witness the sight. Some commented on the beauty of Aphrodite, others remarked that they would eagerly trade places with Ares, but all who were present mocked the two. Once the couple was released, the embarrassed Ares returned to his homeland, Thrace, and Aphrodite went to Paphos.

Athena and Erichthonius

Athena visited Hephaestus to request some weapons, but Hephaestus was so overcome by desire that he tried to seduce her in his workshop. Determined to maintain her virginity, Athena fled, pursued by Hephaestus. He caught Athena and tried to seduce her again, but she fought him off. During the struggle, his seed fell on her thigh, and Athena, in disgust, wiped it away with a scrap of wool and flung it to the earth. As she fled, Erichthonius was born from the seed that fell to the earth. Athena, wishing to raise the child in secret.

Athena Scorning the Advances of Hephaestus, Paris Bordone, between c. 1555-1560.