(Vulcan in Roman mythology and Mulciber in Homeric accounts)

In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the God of Fire and the only immortal who was ugly. He was the son of Zeus and Hera, although some say that he is only Hera's son who bore him in revenge for Zeus bringing forth Athena. Two different accounts tell of why Hephaestus was lame. The first one says that Hera, digusted for bearing an ugly child, cast him out of Mount Olympus and it was this action that broke his legs. Another account states that Zeus threw him to Lemnos, the Aegean Island, in retaliation for defending Hera.

Later on, Hephaestus was no longer in danger of being thrown out of Mount Olympus. He became respected as the workman of the immortals, as he made their armor, homes, furnishings, and weapons. Within his workshop, Hephaestus had handmaidens forged from gold who aided him in his work. His forge was under a certain volcano that was known to erupt from time to time.

Hephaestus, kind and peaceful, was the husband of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. Along with Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, they were the patrons of handicrafts in Athens. Hephaestus was protector of smiths and Athena was that of weavers.


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Greek and Roman Mythology

The fact that Hephaestus was lame is one of the more interesting points of Greek mythology. The main reason why, according to some theorists, is that he was the craftsman of the gods. The word metos, or "craft", in itself has many meanings- on one hand it may refer to skill; on the other, it may mean "guile". Ancient Greeks respected craftsmen, but did not trust them. There was something inherently wrong with the idea of one man with that much, for lack of a better word, talent. Therefore, to break down that image of power, they made Hephaestus, the skilled god, a cripple. While I'm sure Freudians could (and would) go to town on this, I'll leave that up to those of us with a better grasp (real or imagined) on psychology.

(A sidenote on the craft issue: Odysseus is addressed in the Iliad and the Odyssey as polymetos, or, literally, "many-crafted". Most translators, however, give this as "many means". I bring this up only because Odysseus, was, without a doubt, the the most brilliant (not to mention the most shifty) of all the Homeric Heroes. Make of it what you will.)

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