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God of Fire and the Forge

The most important aspect of Hephaestus’ identity is his association with craftsmanship. His skills in metal working earned him a place among the Olympians and a cult following on Earth. The works of Hephaestus are described in great detail by Homer and Hesiod. Students should examine Hephaestus’ works and his teachings in the art of metal working and craftsmanship.

A list of Hephaestus’ work appears below. This list should be added to by students each time they do this assignment.

His Role as the Greatest Craftsman

Dewing 968 - This the only coin on which Hephaestus appears. He sits on a chair with a hammer. The image is dark.

Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 368 - Hephaestus sits and hammers the molten ore on top of Mount Aetna.

Apollodorus 1.4.3 - This is a reference to Hephaestus’ “smithy.”

Hesiod, Theogony 865 - Hephaestus’ strength melts iron ore into the earth.

Hesiod, Theogony 928a - Despite his handicap, Hesiod describes Hephaestus as the one more skilled in crafts than any of the other gods.

Homeric Hymn 20: To Hephaestus, et alia - This short hymn calls upon Hephaestus who is “famed for invention.” He, along with Athena, teach men crafts thus bringing them out of their caves to live in a civilized manner.

Homer Iliad Book 18.144 - Thetis describes Hephaestus as the “famed-craftsman.”

Homer Iliad Book 18.370-376 - This passage describes the house of Hephaestus that is the preeminent house of the gods. The house is wrought with bronze and covered in stars. In the house Hephaestus is making tripods at his forge.

Homer Odyssey Book 6.333 - When a man is skilled in metal working he is said to have been taught his craft by Athena and Hephaestus themselves.

Pausanias 5.19.8 - Hephaestus is depicted in a piece of art on which he appears to have weak legs. A slave must walk behind him holding a pair of fire-tongs.

Plato, Laws 920d - Hephaestus and Athena are responsible for providing craftsmen with their skills to make crafts that society could not do without.

Plato, The Statesman, 274c- Socrates says that according to tradition, the gods gave man what he need, i.e., fire from Prometheus, crafts from Hephaestus and grain from Demeter.

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 3.88.3 - Thucydides says that people believe that Hephaestus has his forge in Hiera because of the quantity of flame that they saw at night and the smoke they saw during the day.

Works he has created

Apollodorus 1.4.4 - In this passage, Apollodorus makes reference to a house under the earth constructed by Hephaestus for Poseidon’s son, Orion.

Apollodorus 2.4.11 - Herakles received a golden breastplate from Hephaestus.

Apollodorus 2.5.6 - “Brazen castanets” received from Hephaestus.

Apollodorus 3.4.2 - Hephaestus made a necklace said to have been to Cadmus by Hephaestus.

Apollodorus Note 3.13.3.b - Peleus receives a magic sword made by Hephaestus as a reward for chastity.

Apollodorus Epitome 4.7 - Achilles’ suit of armor was made for him by Hephaestus.

Aristotle, Politics, 1253b - Hephaestus created tripods that ‘enter self-moved the company divine.’ Aristotle includes this remark in a discussion of the need for assistance to craftsmen whose tools, unlike Hephaestus’ tripods, would not work on their own.

Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis line 1072 - The chorus retells a prophecy of the coming of Achilles. The prophecy says that Achilles will arrive dress in golden mail forged by Hephaestus.

Hesiod, Shield of Herakles 123 - Herakles received a gift of bronze grieves made by Hephaestus.

Hesiod, Shield of Herakles 241-244 - The women on top of the towers in the scene on the shield of Herakles looked alive. Hephaestus made this shield for Herakles.

Hesiod, Works and Days 60-63 - Hephaestus mixed earth and water, gave it strength and a voice and shaped it into the first woman, Pandora.

Homer Iliad Book 1.605 - Homer uses an epithet for Hephaestus that describes him as the “limping god” who has built a house for each of the gods.

Homer Iliad Book 2.103 - Hephaestus made a scepter for Zeus that Zeus gave to Hermes who gave it to Atreus and finally the scepter ended up in the hands of Agamemnon marking him as the lord of the many Greek islands.

Homer Iliad Book 8.195 - Hephaestus wrought the breastplate of Diomedes.

Homer Iliad Book 14.166-169 - The doors and door-post of Hera’s chamber were made by Hephaestus so that when locked no one could open them.

Homer Iliad Book 14.238-241 - “And gifts will I give thee [to Aphrodite from Hera], a fair throne, ever imperishable, wrought of gold, that Hephaestus, mine own son, [240] the god of the two strong arms, shall fashion thee with skill and beneath it shall he set a foot-stool for the feet gift.”

Homer Iliad Book 15.309-310 - Hephaestus created the dreadful aegis for Zeus.

Homer Iliad Book 18.144, Pausanias 9.27.7 - Hephaestus made the armor of Achilles.

Homer Iliad Book 18.370-376 - This passage describes the house of Hephaestus that is the preeminent house of the gods. The house is wrought with bronze and covered in stars. In the house Hephaestus is making tripods as his forge.

Homer Iliad Book 18.400 - In the nine years he spent with Thetis, Hephaestus made brooches, spiral arm-bands, rosettes and necklaces

Homer Iliad Book 18.470-569 - This passage describes the creation of the shield of Achilles

Homer Iliad Book 18.609 - To go along with the shield, Hephaestus also wrought a corset, a heavy helmet and greaves of pliant tin.

Homer Iliad Book 20.10-12 - Hephaestus built polished colonnades for Zeus.

Homer Odyssey Book 4.615 - Telemachus is offered a mixing bowl of silver with gold rims made by Hephaestus.

Homer Odyssey Book 7.89-95 - Gold and silver dogs made by Hephaestus guard the palace of Alcinous.

Homer Odyssey Book 8.266-369 - This is the story of Ares and Aphrodite’s affair, when Hephaestus traps the lovers in bonds that no one can break.

Pausanias 1.20.3 - Hera threw Hephaestus down from Olympus so he made a golden throne with hidden fetters in which to bind her. Hephaestus would not release his mother until Dionysos got him drunk and brought him to Olympus.

Pausanias 9.41.1-2 - This is a list of items Hephaestus presumably made.

Association with Fire

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 281 - Clytemnestra sees the flaming signal that announces the arrival of Agamemnon. In the metaphor she uses, she refers to fire as Hephaestus.

Apollodorus 1.6.2 - Hephaestus helped kill the Giants using “missiles of red-hot metal.”

Apollodorus Epitome 4.7 - Hephaestus dried up the rivers using his flames.

Euripides, Cyclops line 600 - Before thrusting the glowing stick into the Cyclops’ eye, Odysseus calls on Hephaestus in the form of the burning end of the stick to burn the eye of the enemy.

Homeric Hymn 4: To Hermes, line 115 - The hymn says that Hermes created fire and firesticks. Starting a fire to prepare a sacrifice to the gods, Hermes built a fire the hymn says, “ the strength of glorious Hephaestus was beginning to kindle.”

Homer Iliad Book 2.427, 9.469, 23.33 - The fire used to cook the flesh of a sacrificial victim is referred to as Hephaestus’ fire.

Homer Iliad Book 17.92-93 - The flame of Hephaestus may not be quenched.

Homer Iliad Book 21.343-358 - Hephaestus made a fire that burned all the bodies of men slain by Achilles.

Homer Odyssey Book 24.71-78 - The sacrificial flame used to burn the meat left for the gods is referred to as the “flame of Hephaestus.”

Pindar, Pythian Ode 3.41 - Apollo snatches Aesclepius from his mother whose body is on the funeral pyre. The flames of Hephaestus are about to consume mother and child.

Sophocles Antigone 1005 - The flames of Hephaestus do not burn an offering set out by Teiresias.

Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.5.22 - The generals tell their army that Hephaestus is on their side. Hephaestus means fire in this case as fire can be used to burn down the houses of their enemy. Therefore the soldiers should not be afraid of people going onto their roofs and hurling projectiles at them because the soldier can just use Hephaestus to burn the houses down.

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