Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, 7 July 2012

HERMES was the great Olympian God of animal husbandry, roads, travel, hospitality, heralds, diplomacy, trade, thievery, language, writing, persuasion, cunning wiles, athletic contests, gymnasiums, astronomy, and astrology. He was also the personal agent and herald of Zeus, the king of the gods. Hermes was depicted as either a handsome and athletic, beardless youth, or as an older bearded man.

 Hermes, messenger of the gods, flies on winged boots. He holds his kerykeion or herald's wand in hand, and wears a petasos (traveller's cap) and chlamys (cloak) ca 500 - 450 BC 

 Hermes with winged feet, fragment of caduceus (herald's staff), and robe draped across his arm and shoulders. C1st AD

HERMES , a son of Zeus and Maia, the daughter of Atlas, was born in a cave of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia (Hom. Od. viii. 335, xiv. 435, xxiv. 1; Hymn. in Merc. 1, &c.; Ov. Met. i. 682, xiv. 291), whence he is called Atlantiades or Cyllenius; but Philostratus (Icon. i. 26) places his birth in Olympus.  

In the Iliad and Odyssey  Hermes is characterized as a cunning thief. (Il. v. 390, xxiv. 24.)

As the herald of the gods, he is the god of skill in the use of speech and of eloquence in general, for the heralds are the public speakers in the assemblies and on other occasions. Hence the tongues of sacrificial animals were offered to him.

Hermes was also the god of prudence and skill in all the relations of social intercourse. (Il. xx. 35, xxiv. 282, Od. ii. 38.) These qualities were combined with similar ones, such as cunning both in words and actions, and even fraud, perjury, and the inclination to steal; but acts of this kind were committed by Hermes always with a certain skill, dexterity, and even gracefulness. Examples occur in the Homeric hymn on Hermes (66, 260, 383; comp. Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1337; Hom. Il. v. 390, xxiv. 24; Apollod. i. 6. § 3).

Being endowed with this shrewdness and sagacity, he was regarded as the author of a variety of inventions, and, besides the lyre and syrinx, he is said to have invented the alphabet, numbers, astronomy, music, the art of fighting, gymnastics, the cultivation of the olive tree, measures, weights, and many other things. (Plut. Sympos. ix. 3; Diod. l.c. and v. 75; Hygin. Fab. 277.) The powers which he possessed himself he conferred upon those mortals and heroes who enjoyed his favor, and all who had them were under his especial protection, or are called his sons. (Od. x. 277, &c., xv. 318, &c., xix. 397; Soph. Philoct. 133; Hes. Op. 67; Eustath. ad Hom. pp. 18, 1053.)

Another important function of Hermes was to conduct the shades of the dead from the upper into the lower world, whence he is called psuchopompos, nekropomtos, psuchagôgos, &c. (Hom. Od. xxiv. 1, 9, Hymn. in Cer. 379, &c.; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 561; Diog. Laërt. viii. 31; Hygin. Fab. 251.)

We have already observed that Hermes was considered as the inventor of sacrifices, and hence he not only acts the part of a herald at sacrifices (Aristoph. Pax, 433), but is also the protector of sacrificial animals, and was believed in particular to increase the fertility of sheep. (Hom. Hymn. in Merc. 567, &c., Il. xiv. 490, xvi. 180, &c; Hes. Theog. 444.) For this reason he was especially worshiped by shepherds, and is mentioned in connection with Pan and the Nymphs. This feature in the character of Hermes is a remnant of the ancient Arcadian religion, in which he was the fertilizing god of the earth, who conferred his blessings on man; and some other traces of this character occur in the Homeric poems. (Il. xxiv. 360, Od. viii. 335, xvi. 185, Hymn. in Merc. 27.)

Bronze figurine with phalluses (Naples Museum, Italy). The Pompeian Mercurius tintinnabulum. It has an attachment for a bell on his phallus, and also attachments on the two long phallic ‘antlers’ on his head.

The principal attributes of Hermes are:--

1. A traveling hat, with a broad brim, which in later times was adorned with two little wings; the latter, however, are sometimes seen arising from his locks, his head not being covered with the hat.

2. The staff (rhabdos or skêptron): it is frequently mentioned in the Homeric poems as the magic staff by means of which he closes and opens the eyes of mortals, but no mention is made of the person or god from whom he received it, nor of the entwining serpents which appear in late works of art. According to the Homeric hymn and Apollodorus, he received it from Apollo; and it appears that we must distinguish two staves, which were afterwards united into one: first, the ordinary herald's staff (Il. vii. 277, xviii. 505), and secondly, a magic staff, such as other divinities also possessed. (Lucian, Dial. Deor. vii. 5; Virg. Aen. iv. 242, &c.) The white ribbons with which the herald's staff was originally surrounded were changed by later artists into two serpents (Schol. ad Thuc. i. 53; Macrob. Sat. i. 19; comp. Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 7; Serv. ad Aen. iv. 242, viii. 138), though the ancients themselves accounted for them either by tracing them to some feat of the god, or by regarding them as symbolical representations of prudence, life, health, and the like. The staff, in later times, is further adorned with a pair of wings, expressing the rapidity with which the messenger of the gods moved from place to place.

3. The sandals (pedila.) They were beautiful and golden, and carried the god across land and sea with the rapidity of wind; but Homer no where says or suggests that they were provided with wings. The plastic art, on the other hand, required some outward sign to express this quality of the god's sandals, and therefore formed wings at his ancles, whence he is called ptênopedilos, or alipes. (Orph. Hymn. xxvii. 4; Ov. Met. xi. 312.)
In addition to these attributes, Hermes sometimes holds a purse in his hands. Several representations of the god at different periods of his life, as well as in the discharge of his different functions, have come down to us.

Hermes delivers the infant god Dionysus to the foster care of Silenus and the Nympha Nysiad.  ca 440 - 435 BC

 Johann Baptist Zimmermann, Helios in the sun charriot  accompanied by Phosphorus (torch),  and Hermes 

The fourth day of the month was sacred to Hermes, for that was his day of birth.
Likewise the fourth day of the week (Wednesday) was named after him (in Greek it was called Hermes' day, in Latin Mercurius' day, and in Germanic Woden's day - the Norse god Woden-Odin being identified with Hermes-Mercurius). The seven days of the week correspond to the seven heavenly bodies (the five visible planets, the sun and the moon); but the ordering was based on mythic tradition.

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 20 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"On the fourth day of the month queenly Maia bare him [Hermes]."

 Hermes-Mercurius represents Wednesday in a mosaic depicting the seven days of the week. He rides on the back of a ram, holding a messenger's wand (caduceus) and set of keys (?) in his hands. He is crowned with a winged cap. C3rd AD

Dosso Dossi, Jupiter, Mercury and the Virtue


Dreams of omen were messages sent by the gods and the ghosts of the dead. Hermes presided over these, both in his role as the Herald of the Gods (the agent of all divine messages), the God of Sleep, and as Guide of the Dead, who traversed the paths between the lands of the living and the dead.

"Dreams (Oneiroi) are beyond our unravelling - who can be sure what tale they tell? Not all that men look for comes to pass. Two gates there are that give passage to fleeting Oneiroi; one is made of horn, one of ivory. The Oneiroi that pass through sawn ivory are deceitful, bearing a message that will not be fulfilled; those that come out through polished horn have truth behind them, to be accomplished for men who see them." - Homer, Odyssey 19.562

Hermes presided over the rustic art of divination by pebbles, practiced in the highlands of shepherds and cattle-herders.He was said to have learned the art from certain Nymph known as Thriai, given to him by Apollo in a trade for the music of the pipe.


Hermes was the god of guile in its many aspects: including deception, crafty words, persuasion, and the wiles of thieves and merchants. He also employed the sleep to maze the minds of men.

"May Maia's son [Hermes], as he rightfully should, lend his aid [to Orestes in the slaying of the murderers of his father, using a false identity and guile to gain access], for no one can better sail a deed on a favoring course, when he would do so. But by his mysterious utterance he brings darkness over men's eyes by night, and by day he is no more clear at all." - Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 811


Another role of Hermes, derived from his function as the god of cattle, was thievery. A major form of banditry in ancient Greece was cattle-hustling.
Autolykos ... excelled all mankind in thieving and subtlety of oaths, having won this mastery from the god Hermes himself." - Homer, Odyssey 19.396

She [Maia] bare a son [Hermes], of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle rustler, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates." - Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes
Hermes ... to rejoice is thine ... in fraud divine." - Orphic Hymn 28 to Hermes

"[Apollo to Hermes:] `O rogue, deceiver, crafty in heart ... I most surely believe that you have broken into many a well-built house and stripped more than one poor wretch bare this night, gathering his goods together all over the house without noise. You will plague many a lonely herdsman in mountain glades, when you come on herds and thick-fleeced sheep, and have a hankering after flesh ... you comrade of dark night. Surely hereafter this shall be your title amongst the deathless gods, to be called the Arkhos Pheleteon (prince of robbers) continually." - Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 282

Aesop, Fables 521 (from Babrius, Fabulae 57) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"Hermes filled a cart with lies and dishonesty and all sorts of wicked tricks, and he journeyed in this cart throughout the land, going hither and thither from one tribe to another, dispensing to each nation a small portion of his wares. When he reached the land of the Arabs, so the story goes, his cart suddenly broke down along the way and was stuck there. The Arabs seized the contents of the cart as if it were a merchant's valuable cargo, stripping the cart bare and preventing Hermes from continuing on his journey, although there were still some people he had not yet visited. As a result, Arabs are liars and charlatans, as I myself have learned from experience. There is not a word of truth that springs from their lips."

 RYCKAERT, David the Younger, Philemon and Baucis Giving Hospitality to Jupiter and Mercury 


Aesop, Fables 519 (from Chambry 111) :
"Zeus ordered Hermes to instill a dose of deceit in every craftsman. With a pestle and mortar, Hermes ground the drug into a fine powder and after dividing it into equal portions he began to apply it to each of the craftsmen. In the end, only the cobbler was left and a great deal of the drug was still left over, so Hermes poured the entire contents of the mortar onto the cobbler. As a result, all craftsmen are liars, but cobblers are the worst of all."


"Also the Guide, Argeiphontes [Hermes], contrived within her [Pandora, the first woman] lies and crafty words and a deceitful nature at the will of loud thundering Zeus, and the Herald of the gods [Hermes] put speech in her." - Hesiod, Works and Days 80


"To Hermes ... are attached traditions from the poems of Homer: that Hermes is the minister of Zeus and leads the souls of the departed down to Haides." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.32.4
Those who, by permission of the Parcae [Moirai], returned from the lower world ... Mercurius [Hermes], son of Maia , in constant trips." - Hyginus, Fabulae 251

Hades returns Persephone to the upper world in his chariot, accompanied by Hermes and Hecate. The gods have their usual attributes: Hades a bird-tipped staff, Hermes a herald's wand, winged boots and petasos cap, and Hecate a four-headed Eleusinian torch. ca 350 BC


Hermes was often described as the bringer of sleep and dreams. The Daimones who personified these were Hypnos (Sleep) and the Oneiroi (Dreams). Although Hermes and Hypnos are distinct entities in Homer, they may have originally been regarded as one and the same.

"He [Hermes] caught up the staff (rhabdos), with which he mazes the eyes of those mortals whose eyes he would maze, or wakes again the sleepers. Holding this in his hands, Kratus (strong) Argeiphontes winged his way onward." - Homer, Iliad 24.339

 Popmeo Batoni, Mercury Crowning Philosophy, Mother of the Arts


Aesop, Fables 520 (from Chambry 120) :
"After Zeus had fashioned the human race, he ordered Hermes to give them intelligence. Hermes divided intelligence into equal portions and then applied it to each person. The result was that short people became wise, since they were more completely suffused with the standard dose of intelligence, while the tall people turned out stupid, since the potion that was poured into their bodies did not even reach as high as their knees."


 Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Olymp,

 Veronese,  Mercury and the Graces

Some of the more famous myths featuring the god include:
 Hendrik Goltzius, Mercury

 Hans Thoma, Mercury


When Zeus commissioned that the first woman, Pandora, be crafted by the gods, Hermes bestowed upon her guile and deceitfulness, and delivered her to mankind.

Hesiod, Works and Days 60 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"He [Zeus] bade famous Hephaestus make haste and mix earth with water and to put in it the voice and strength of human kind, and fashion a sweet, lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face [the first woman Pandora]; and Athene to teach her needlework and the weaving of the varied web; and golden Aphrodite to shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs. And he charged Hermes the guide, Argeiphontes, to put in her a shameless mind and a deceitful nature.
So he ordered. And they obeyed the lord Zeus the son of Cronos. Forthwith the famous Lame God [Hephaistos] molded clay in the likeness of a modest maid, as [Zeus] the son of Cronos purposed . . . and the Guide Argeiphontes [Hermes] contrived within her lies and crafty words and a deceitful nature at the will of loud thundering Zeus, and the Herald of the gods put speech in her. And he called this woman Pandora (All-gifts), because all they who dwelt on Olympus gave each a gift, a plague to men who eat bread.
But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the Father sent glorious Argeiphontes [Hermes], the swift messenger of the gods, to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood."

Pandora is born out of the earth, molded by the craftsman god Hephaistos. She is depicted crowned and veiled, with hands raised. Above her flies an Eros (winged love god). The god beside her is either Hephaistos, molding her with his sculptor's mallet, or Epimetheus, who receives her as a bride as he tills the earth. Two other gods, Zeus and Hermes, one holding a royal sceptre and wearing an olive wreath, the other with a herald's wand (kerykeion), winged cap and boots, witness the scene ca 475 - 425 BC

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 200 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Apollo and Mercurius [Hermes] are said to have slept the same night with Chione, or, as other poets say, with Philonis [an alternative name for Chione], daughter of Daedalion. By Apollo she bore Philammon, and by Mercurius [Hermes], Autolycus. Later on she spoke too haughtily against Diana [Artemis] in the hunt, and so was slain by her arrows. But the father Daedalion, because of his grief for his only daughter, was changed by Apollo into the bird daedalion, that is, the hawk."

Correggio, Mercury with Venus and Cupid

Homeric Hymn 19 to Pan (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"Pan, the dear son of Hermes, with his goat's feet and two horns . . . 

Plato, Cratylus 408b (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Pan . . . is rightly called goat-herd (aipolos), being the double-natured son of Hermes, smooth in his upper parts, rough and goat-like in his lower parts."

 Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Mercury Appearing to Aeneas


I) TORTOISE (Greek "khelone")
Hermes created a lyre from its shell, and transformed the lazy nymphe Khelone into one. The fable of the tortoise and hare perhaps demonstrates why this, and not the seemingly faster beast, was his animal.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 19. 6-7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Within the temple is a statue of . . . Hermes with a tortoise which he has caught to make a lyre."

 Hermes with winged cap seated on a rock, his hand resting on a tortoise. C1st AD

RAM (Greek "krios")
Hermes was often depicted in classical art carrying a ram in his arms.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 3. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"We see a bronze image of a seated Hermes. By him stands a ram, for Hermes is the god who is thought most to care for and to increase flocks . . . The story told at the mysteries of the Mother [Demeter] about Hermes and the ram I know but do not relate."

HAWK (Greek "hierax")
Aelian, On Animals 12. 4 (trans. Schofield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"There are in fact several species of Hawks . . . They are allotted separately to many gods . . . the ocypterus is a servant of Apollon . . . [and] the dove-killer is said to be the darling of Hermes."

 Hermes with a mantle draped over his arm, and a winged cap

 A portrait of Hermes (Mercury) portrays him as a youthful god with winged cap and caduceus wand. Imperial Roman


Hermes wielded a golden herald's staff as a symbol of his role as the herald of the gods. It was called kerykeion by the Greeks and caduceus by the Romans.

Homer, Iliad 24. 339 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"He [Hermes] caught up the staff (rhabdos), with which he mazes the eyes of those mortals whose eyes he would maze, or wakes again the sleepers. Holding this in his hands, Kratus (strong) Argeiphontes winged his way onward."

Homer, Odyssey 24. 1 ff :
"Hermes Kyllenios (of Mt Kyllene) began to summon the suitors' ghosts [at dawn's first light]; he held in his hand the golden rod that he uses to lull men's eyes asleep when he so wills, or again to wake others from their slumber; with this he roused them and led them on [to the underworld], and they followed him, thinly gibbering."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 708 ff :

"The god with his wand, his magic wand, opened the door."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 301 ff :
"Mercurius [Hermes] with his wand that soothes to slumber touched her [Khione] on the lips; touch-tranced she lay and suffered his assault [he lay with her]."

Hermes - Ornament from the decoration of the facade of then Sofia Bank, now DSK Bank central administration.Sculptor: Marin Vasilev (1867-1931).    

 Hermes of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil


                                     Mainz Hauptbahnhof in Mainz. Central Station, Mainz, Germany


Jean-Baptiste Tuby, Château de Versailles, France. Stone. In background right, the Chapel Royal.
Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720), Mercury riding Pegasus. Carrara marble, 1701-1702. Commissioned in 1699 for the decoration of the park of Marly, transfered in 1719 to the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens, replaced in 1986 by copies


 Werkstattperspektive Haber & Brandner

 Sculpted corbel showing a caduceus. Detail of the façade of a building at 9th Calle de Antonio Maura (street) in Madrid

Inscription and symbols of Commerce at the right side of the base of the monument to politician and industrialist Lorenzo Cobianchi (1805-1881), in Piazza Màrtiri di Tràrego square at Verbania-Intra (Italy), inaugurated on August 30 1903. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto, September 8 2007.


Biblioteca civica Queriniana (Brescia)

 World War I memorial, Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Sculpture is entitled Hygeia by sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. Created in 1922, and dedicated to medical personnel in the war.

                                   Russell A. Dixon Building Caduceus (Washington, DC)

Terracotta detail, trident and caduceus Cristalla condominium apartment building, 2033 2nd Ave, Seattle, Washington. The building incorporates two outer walls of the 1915 Crystal Pool (later Bethel Temple) designed by B. Marcus Priteca, with its ornate terracotta. 

Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercurius, the Thracian Zalmoxis and the Egyptian ibis-headed god Thoth.

Herodotus, Histories 5. 7 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Threikoi or Thracians] worship no gods but Ares, Dionysos, and Artemis [the Thrakian gods Ares, Sabazios and Bendis]. Their princes, however, unlike the rest of their countrymen, worship Hermes [probably the Thracian god Zalmoxis] above all gods and swear only by him, claiming him for their ancestor."

Herodotus, Histories 2. 138 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"[In the city of Bubastis is a] temple of Hermes [i.e. the Egyptian god Thoth]."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 319 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Typhoeus, issuing from earth's lowest depths, struck terror in those heavenly hearts, and they all turned their backs and fled, until they found refuge in Aegyptus and the seven-mouthed Nilus . . . Typhoeus Terrigena (Earthborn) even there pursued them and the gods concealed themselves in spurious shapes . . . Cyllenius [Hermes] [as] an ibis [i.e. the ibis-headed Egyptian god Thoth]."

The Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetica, writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which survive. During the Renaissance it was accepted that Hermes Trismegistus was a contemporary of Moses, however after Casaubon’s dating of the Hermetic writings as no earlier than the second or third century CE, the whole of Renaissance Hermeticism collapsed. As to their actual authorship:

.....they were certainly not written in remotest antiquity by an all wise Egyptian priest, as the Renaissance believed, but by various unknown authors, all probably Greeks, and they contain popular Greek philosophy of the period, a mixture of Platonism and Stoicism, combined with some Jewish and probably some Persian influences.

"Though cast in a pseudo-Egyptian framework,these works have been thought by many scholars to contain very few  genuine Egyptian elements. they were certainly not written in remotest antiquity by an all-wise Egyptian priest, as the Renaissance believed, but by various unknown authors, all probably Greeks, and they contain popular Greek philosophy of the period, a mixture of Platonism and Stoicism, combined with some Jewish and probably some Persian influences.

The content of the Hermetic writings fostered the illusion of the Renaissance Magus that he had in them a mysterious and precious account of most ancient Egyptian wisdom, philosophy, and magic. Hermes Trismegistus, a mythical name  associated with a certain class  of  Gnostic  philosophical revelations or with magical treatises and recipes, was, for the Renaissance, a real person, an Egyptian priest who had lived in times of remote antiquity and who had himself written all these works.
It was on excellent authority that the Renaissance accepted Hermes Trismegistus as a real person of great antiquity and as the author of the Hermetic writings, for this was implicitly believed by leading Fathers of the Church, particularly Lactantius and Augustine. "
 Francis Yates,  Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition


Friday, 6 July 2012

Hephaestus ( Roman Vulcan)

Hephaestus ( Roman Vulcan) was the great Olympian god of fire, metalworking, stonemasonry and the art of sculpture. He was usually depicted as a bearded man holding hammer and tongs--the tools of a smith--and riding a donkey.

                                              Hephaestus, ca 430 - 420 BC

Hephaestus (Hêphaistos), the god of fire, was, according to the Homeric account, the son of Zeus and Hera. (Il. i. 578, xiv. 338, xviii. 396, xxi. 332, Od. viii. 312.) Later traditions state that he had no father, and that Hera gave birth to him independent of Zeus, as she was jealous of Zeus having given birth to Athena independent of her. (Apollod. i. 3. § 5; Hygin. Fab. Praef.) This, however, is opposed to the common story, that Hephaestus split the head of Zeus, and thus assisted him in giving birth to Athena, for Hephaestus is there represented as older than Athena.

Hesiod, Theogony 924 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"[Theogony text version 1:] Zeus himself gave birth from his own head to bright-eyed Tritogeneia [Athene] . . . But Hera without union with Zeus--for she was very angry and quarrelled with her mate - bare famous Hephaistos, who is skilled in crafts more than all the sons of Heaven."

Classical literature offers only a few, brief descriptions of the physical characteristics of the gods.

Homer, Iliad 20. 37 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Hephaistos ( Hephaestsu) went the way of these in the pride of his great strength limping, and yet his shrunken legs moved lightly beneath him."

Homer, Odyssey 8. 267 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos:] ‘I am a cripple from my birth.’"

Hephaistos was the god of fire, and often his name was used as a synonym for the element. 

Homer, Iliad 23. 33 ff :
"[Sacrificial animals were] stretched out across the flame of Hephaistos."
Homer, Odyssey 24. 71 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"When the flame of Hephaistos had consumed you [the dead man on the funeral pyre]."

                                                   Andrea Mantegna

Some of the more famous myths featuring the god include:--

Homer, Iliad 18. 136 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos addresses his wife Kharis:] ‘She [Thetis] saved me when I suffered much at the time of my great fall through the will of my own brazen-faced mother [Hera], who wanted to hide me for being lame. Then my soul would have taken much suffering had not Eurynome and Thetis caught me and held me, Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus, whose stream bends back in a circle. With them I worked nine years as a smith, and wrought many intricate things; pins that bend back, curved clasps, cups, necklaces, working there in the hollow of the cave, and the stream of Oceanus around us went on forever with its foam and its murmur. No other among the gods or among mortal men knew about us except Eurynome and Thetis. They knew since they saved me.’


Hera attempted to destroy Herakles with a storm after putting Zeus to sleep, but the god woke and was furious and hung the goddess in fetters from heaven. When Hephaistos attempted to free her from these bonds, Zeus threw him out of heaven. He fell to earth landing severely wounded on the island of Lemnos. The story was an alternate version of the story (above) in which Hera cast him from the threshold of heaven.

Homer, Iliad 1. 568 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos addresses his mother Hera:] ‘There was a time once before now I was minded to help you, and he caught me by the foot and threw me from the magic threshold, and all day long I dropped helpless, and about sunset I landed in Lemnos, and there was not much life left in me. After that fall it was the Sintian men who took care of me.’"


Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 20. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In the tempel of Dionysus at Athens:] There are paintings here--Dionysus bringing Hephaistos up to heaven. One of the Greek legends is that Hephaistos, when he was born, was thrown down by Hera. In revenge he sent as a gift a golden chair with invisible fetters. When Hera sat down she was held fast, and Hephaistos refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysus--in him he reposed the fullest trust--and after making him drunk Dionysus brought him to heaven."

Hephaistos rides back to Olympus on the back of a donkey in the company of the god Dionysus.

 Hephaistos is led back to heaven by the god Dionysus. The drunken Hephaistos, holding a pair of tongs, is supported a Satyr. Beside him walks Dionysus, holding a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) and drinking cup. A tambourine playing Mainas Nymph and dancing Satyr lead the procession. ca 430 BC


Pindar, Olympian Ode 7. 33 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The land circled by the sea [Rhodes], where once the great king of the gods [Zeus] showered upon the city snowflakes of gold; in the day when the skilled hand of Hephaistos wrought with his craft the axe, bronze-bladed, whence from the cleft summit of her father's brow Athene sprang aloft, and pealed the broad sky her clarion cry of war."

 The Birth of Athena ca 570 - 565 BC


Hesiod, Theogony 560 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"[Prometheus] outwitted him [Zeus] and stole the far-seen gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk. And Zeus who thunders on high was stung in spirit . . . and he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very famous (periklytos) Amphigueeis (Limping God) [Hephaistos] formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Kronos willed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athene girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and down from her head she spread with her hands an embroidered veil."
Hesiod, Works and Days 60 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"He [Zeus] told glorious (klytos) Hephaistos to make haste, and plaster earth with water, and to infuse it with a human voice and vigour, and make the face like the immortal goddesses, the bewitching features of a young girl . . . [and other gods were instructed to bestow their gifts upon her.]
And all obeyed Lord Zeus, the son of Kronos. The renowned strong smith modelled her figure of earth, in the likeness of a decorous young girl, as the son of Kronos had wished . . . and [Hermes] put a voice inside her, and gave her the name of woman, Pandora, because all the gods who have their homes on Olympos had given her each a gift, to be a sorrow to men who eat bread."
Creation of Pandora by Hephaestus, with Hermes & Zeus | Greek vase, Athenian red figure volute krater

 The Creation of Pandora


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 45 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Zeus] ordered Hephaistos to rivet the body of Prometheus to Mount Kaukasos, a Skythian mountain, where he was kept fastened and bound for many years."

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 28 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Typhon . . . felt an urge to usurp the rule of Zeus and not one of the gods could withstand him as he attacked. In panic they fled to Aigyptos (Egypt), all except Athena and Zeus, who alone were left. Typhon hunted after them, on their track. When they fled they had changed themselves in anticipation into animal forms . . . Hephaistos [became] an ox [Ptah] . . . When Zeus struck Typhon with a thunderbolt, Typhon, aflame hid himself and quenched the blaze in the sea.
Zeus did not desist but piled the highest mountain, Aitna, on Typon and set Hephaistos on the peak as a guard. Having set up his anvils, he works his red hot blooms on Typhon's neck."

 Apotheosis of Washington


Homer, Iliad 1. 605 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"When the light of the flaming sun went under they [the Olympian gods] went away each one to sleep in his home where for each one the far-renowned strong-handed (periklytos amphigueeis) Hephaistos had built a house by means of his craftsmanship and cunning."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 20. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Hephaistos, when he was born, was thrown down by Hera. In revenge he sent as a gift a golden chair with invisible fetters. When Hera sat down she was held fast."

Homer, Iliad 18. 136 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos] was working on twenty tripods which were to stand against the wall of his strong-founded dwelling. And he had set golden wheels underneath the base of each one so that of their own motion they could wheel into the immortal gathering, and return to his house: a wonder to look at. These were so far finished, but the elaborate ear handles were not yet on. He was forging these, and beating the chains out."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 104 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The high chariot [of Helios the Sun], Vulcanus' [Hephaistos'] masterwork. Gold was the axle, gold the shaft, and gold the rolling circles of the tyres; the spokes in silver order stood, and on the harness patterns of gorgeous gems and chrysolites shone gleaming in the glory of Sol [Helios]."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 6 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"Venus [Aphrodite] now despaired of a successful search for her by earthly means, and she made for heaven. She ordered her carriage to be prepared; Vulcanus [Hephaistos] had lovingly applied the finishing touches to it with elaborate workmanship, and had given it to her as a wedding-present before her initiation into marriage. The thinning motion of his file had made the metal gleam; the coach's value was measured by the gold it had lost. Four white doves . . . submitted to the jewelled yoke."

Virgil, Aeneid 8. 372 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"A job was being hurried on [by the Cyclopes in the service of Hephaistos] for Mars [Ares]--a chariot with swift wheels, such as he rides in to rouse up men and nations.


Homer, Odyssey 8. 267 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos learnt of his wife Aphrodite's adultery:] He laid the great anvil on its base and set himself to forge chains that could not be broken or torn asunder, being fashioned to bind lovers fast. Such was the device that he made in his indignation against Ares, and having made it he went to the room where his bed lay; all round the bed-posts he dropped the chains, while others in plenty hung from the roof-beams, gossamer-light and invisible to the blessed gods themselves, so cunning had been the workmanship . . . Once he had seen Hephaistos go, he himself approached the great craftman’s dwelling, pining for love of Kytherea [Aphrodite] . . . So they went to the bed and there lay down, but the cunning chains of crafty Hephaistos enveloped them, and they could neither raise their limbs nor shift them at all; so they saw the truth when there was no escaping."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 148 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Volcan [Hephaistos] knew that Venus [Aphrodite] was secretly lying with Mars [Ares], and that he could not oppose his strength, he made a chain of adamant and put it around the bed to catch Mars by cleverness. When Mars came to the rendezvous, the together with Venus fell into the snare so that he could not extricate himself."

 Vulcan forging the armor of Achilles (fresco) Julio Romano


Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 140 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Latona [Leto], clinging to an olive tree, bore Apollo and Diana [Artemis], to whom Vulcanus [Hephaistos] gave arrows as gifts [i.e. on the day of their birth].  Four days after they were born, Apollo exacted vengeance for his mother. For he went to Parnassus and slew Python with his arrows."

Seneca, Phaedra 189 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"That god [Hephaistos] . . . who fashions the three-forked thunderbolts, yea, he who tends the hot furnaces ever raging 'neath Aetna's peaks."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 187 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Athene went to Hephaistos because she wanted to make some weapons. But he, deserted by Aphrodite, let himself become aroused by Athene, and started chasing her as she ran from him."

 Luca Giordano, The Forge of Vulcan


Homer, Iliad 15. 310 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"In front of him went Phoibos Apollo wearing a mist about his shoulders, and held the tempestuous terrible aegis, shaggy, conspicuous, that the bronze-smith (khalkeus) Hephaistos had given Zeus to wear to the terror of mortals."


Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 12 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Perseus] is said to have received from Volcun [Hephaistos] a knife made out of adamant, with which he killed Medusa the Gorgon."

 Carle van Loo - Venus requesting Vulcan to make arms for Aeneas


Hesiod, Shield of Heracles 122 - 327 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :

"[Herakles] put upon his legs greaves of shining bronze, the splendid gift of Hephaistos. Next he fastened about his breast a fine golden breast-plate, curiously wrought, which Pallas Athene the daughter of Zeus had given him when first he was about to set out upon his grievous labours.
"Over his shoulders the fierce warrior put the steel that saves men from doom, and across his breast he slung behind him a hollow quiver. Within it were many chilling arrows, dealers of death which makes speech forgotten: in front they had death, and trickled with tears; their shafts were smooth and very long; and their butts were covered with feathers of a brown eagle.
"And he took his strong spear, pointed with shining bronze, and on his valiant head set a well-made helm of adamant, cunningly wrought, which fitted closely on the temples; and that guarded the head of god-like Herakles.
"In his hands he took his shield, all glittering: no one ever broke it with a blow or crushed it. And a wonder it was to see; for its whole orb was a-shimmer with enamel and white ivory and electrum, and it glowed with shining gold; and there were zones of cyanus [i.e. a glass paste of deep-blue color] drawn upon it. In the center was Phobos (Fear) worked in adamant, unspeakable, staring backwards with eyes that glowed with fire. His mouth was full of teeth in a white row, fearful and daunting,

 Paulo Veronese, Vulcan's Forge

The story of the Marriage of Hephaistos and Aphrodite can be reconstructed from text fragments and ancient Greek vase paintings, such as the Francois Vase:-
Hephaistos was cast from heaven by his mother Hera at birth, for she was ashamed to bear a crippled son. He was rescued by the goddesses Thetis and Eurynome who cared for him in a cave on the shores of the River Oceanus where he grew up to become a skilled smith. Angry at his mother's treatment, Hephaistos sent gifts to to the gods of Olympus including a Golden Throne for Hera. When the goddess sat upon this cursed seat she was bound fast.
Zeus petitioned the gods to help free Hera from her predicament, offering the goddess Aphrodite in marriage to whomsoever could bring Hephaistos to Olympus. Aphrodite agreed to this arrangement in the belief that her beloved Ares, the god of war, would prevail.
Ares attempted to storm the forge of Hephaistos, bearing arms, but was driven back by the Divine Smith with a shower of flaming metal (Libanius Narration 7, not currently quoted here).
Dionysos was the next to approach Hephaistos, but instead of force, he suggested that Hephaistos might himself lay claim to Aphrodite if he were to return volantarily to Olympus and release Hera. The godwas pleased with the plan and ascended to Heaven with Dionysos, released his mother and wed the reluctant Goddess of Love.

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 36 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"The palace of Aphrodite, which her lame consort Hephaistos had built for her when he took her as his bride from the hands of Zeus. They [Hera and Athene] entered the courtyard and pause

Giorgio Vasari Vulcan's Forge of Venus

 Venus At Vulcan's Forge Frans Floris De Vriendt

Paulo Veronese, Vulcan and Venus 

 Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Venus and Vulcan

Homer, Odyssey 8. 267 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Cut to the heart, he [Hephaistos] neared his house and halted inside the porch [and saw his wife Aphrodite trapped in the embrace of Ares]; savage anger had hold of him, and he roared out hideously, crying to all the gods: ‘Come, Father Zeus; come, all you blessed immortals with him; see what has happened here . . . You will see the pair of lovers now as they lie embracing in my bed; the sight of them makes me sick at heart. Yet I doubt their desire to rest there longer, fond as they are. They will soon unwish their posture there; but my cunning chains shall hold them both fast till her father Zeus has given me back all the betrothal gifts I bestowed on him for his wanton daughter; beauty she has, but no sense of shame.’ " [N.B. Homer seems to suggest that the couple were afterwards divorced. In the Iliad, Aglaia is Hephaistos' wife, and Aphrodite consorts freely with Ares.]

 Joachim Wtewael, Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan,


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 187 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Erikhthonios [king of Athens], according to some, was the son of Hephaistos and Kranaus’ daughter Atthis, while others say his parents were Hephaistos and Athene, in the following manner. Athene went to Hephaistos because she wanted to make some weapons. But he, deserted by Aphrodite, let himself become aroused by Athene, and started chasing her as she ran from him. When he caught up with her with much effort (for he was lame), he tried to enter her, but she, being the model of virginal self-control, would not let him; so as he ejaculated, his semen fell on her leg. In revulsion Athene wiped it off with some wool, which she threw on the ground. And as she was fleeing and the semen fell to the earth, Erikhthonios came into being."