Greek fertility deities. Their origin can be traced
back to Asia Minor, and they were proberbly imported
in Greece in the Hellenistic and Roman era. There
is some mysterious cult connected to them and the
god of fire Hephaestus. There were sanctuaries on
the islands of Lemnos, Imbros and especially Samothrace,
where traces of those mysteries can still be fount.
Some sources mention that originally there were only
two of them, but that the number varied over the sebsequent
centuries. The male deities were Axiocersus, Cadmilus
(his son), and the female deities Axierus and Axiocersa.
Later, they became protectors against misfortune and
Originally, the Cabiri were Phrygian chthonic and
fertility deities, and protectors of sailors, who
were imported into Greece. They are mysterious demons
whose mystery cults were connected to that of Hephaestus.
In Classical times they numbered two, although their
numbers seem to have varied over time. Two gods included
were Axiocersus and his son Cadmilus. Also mentioned
is a female pair, namely Axierus and Axiocersa. Their
role, however, was of secondary importance. There
were Cabiri sanctuaries on Thebes, Boeotia, Lemnos,
Imbros, and especially on Samothrace. On this particular
island important remains of the mysteries can be found:
the Anaktoron (500 BC), the center of the Cabiri-cult;
; the Sacristy, where the lists of the adepts were
kept; the Tenemos, the plaza where feasts were celebrated,
with its ancient temple; the new temple (ca. 275 BC)
where the famous statue of Nike was excavated. The
Cabiri are identified with the Dioscuri, the Curetes,
Corybantes, and with the Roman Penates.
The herald's staff or wand of Hermes. It is usually
depicted as a winged rod with two serpents intertwined
about it. As a group of fertility symbols, it is emblematic
of the magic potency of the deity, and of the prosperity
The Greek personification of the favorable moment,
represented bald-headed, with only one lock of hear
(meaning: one should seize the opportunity when it
The eldest and most distinguished of the nine Muses.
She is the Muse of eloquence and epic or heroic poetry.
Calliope ("beautiful voice") is the mother of Orpheus
and Linus with Apollo. She was the arbitress in the
argument over Adonis between Persephone and Aphrodite.
Her emblems are a stylus and wax tablets.
1. The daughter of Oceanus and mother of Echidna.
2. The daughter of Achelous. She married Alcmaeon.
3. A girl from Calydon who scorned the love of a priest
of Dionysus. The god then threatened to inflict all
the women of Calydon with madness. An oracle ordered
the priest to sacrifice Callirhoë, but in desperation
the man killed himself. The girl threw herself in
a well, which from that moment on carried her name.
Callisto was a nymph (or, according to some sources,
the daughter of Lycaon) who was associated with the
goddess of the hunt, Artemis. Young women who were
devoted to the goddess hunted with her regularly,
and remained virgins, like Artemis herself. Callisto
had upheld these ideals faithfully, and she quickly
became Artemis' favorite. While Callisto spent her
days and nights with Artemis' other followers, she
caught the eye of Zeus. Knowing that the maiden had
taken a vow of chastity, Zeus resorted to deception
to get at Callisto. He came to her disguised as Artemis,
and the young huntress let down her guard. Seizing
the opportunity Zeus raped her. Callisto became pregnant,
and tried desperately to conceal her condition form
the goddess. After all, she had, in a way, broken
her vow to the goddess and she feared her anger. Callisto
had been successful for a time, but then a day came
when all of the young women who followed Artemis disrobed
to bathe together in a spring. By now Callisto was
beginning to show, and once she was naked her secret
was revealed. Artemis was furious and she banished
the young woman from her fold. Callisto wandered off
to have her child alone. Hera decided that this was
the time to exact her revenge. She gripped Callisto's
hair and threw her to the ground where the new mother
was transformed into a bear. The hunter became the
hunted. The child that Callisto had by Zeus was spirited
away by Hermes to be raised by his mother, Maia. He
was named Arcas, meaning "bear," and he grew up to
be a fine hunter himself. Some sources have the bear
captured and taken to Callisto's own father, Lycaon.
According to some sources Artemis herself killed the
bear that was once Callisto, but it is usually accepted
that when Arcas was out hunting as a young man he
encountered the bear. Callisto recognized the handsome
youth as the son she could not raise herself. Forgetting
her present form, she tried to come near him, but
her loving mother's arms were now strong, furry paws,
and her once soothing voice was now a rumbling growl.
The bear scared Arcas, and he took aim at her with
his spear. Zeus took pity on his former victim and
intervened. He placed Callisto in the sky as the constellation
Ursa Major, or "great bear," and then took Arcas and
placed him in the sky near his mother as Ursa Minor,
the "little bear." Hera was not pleased with this
arrangement, especially since Callisto was another
of her husband's infidelities. She went to her nurse,
Tethys, the wife of Oceanus, and beseeched her to
punish Callisto and Arcas. Tethys decided to deprive
the pair of water, and so the great bear and the little
bear are cursed to circle in the skies, never to dip
below the horizon for a refreshing bath or a cool
drink. Here the peoples of ancient Greece explained
why the two constellations are circumpolar, visible
all year round.
Calypso was a nymph, the daughter of the Titan
Campe was a female monster sent by Cronus to guard
the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires in the underworld.
Zeus killed it because he believed that he would be
able to defeat Cronus with the help of the Cyclopes.
The daughter of Aeolus and Enarete, and beloved of
Poseidon. She was killed by her father because she
fell in love with her own brother Macar (or Macareus).
"Fruit". A son of Zephyrus and Chloris
In pre-classical mythology, Carya was a Greek goddess
of the walnut tree. She was later assimilated into
the Artemis myth, as Caryatis in this form
In Greek myth, Cassiopeia is the wife of Cepheus,
king of Ethiopia, and mother of Andromeda. She boasted
of being more beautiful than the Nereids, and in retaliation
Poseidon first sent a flood and then a sea-monster
to ravage the country. Andromeda was chained to a
rock to serve as sacrifice for the sea-monster, but
was rescued by Perseus.
A Greek wood-nymph of the sacred temple spring at
A Greek nymph loved by Apollo. She fled from him and
jumped in the spring at Delphi, at the base of mount
Parnassos, which was then named after her. The water
of this spring was sacred and served for the cleansing
of the Delphian temple and inspired poets.
Catreus was one of the four sons of Minos and Pasiphae.
In due time he became king of all Crete. One dark
day, an oracle envisaged that Catreus would be slain
by his son, Althaemenes. When the son learned of this,
he left Crete for Rhodes with his younger sister,
Apemosyne, by his side. As time passed, Catreus became
despondent and traveled the seas in search of his
children. His ship docked at Rhodes in the dead of
night and they were mistaken for pirates by the defenders
of Rhodes. In the battle that followed, Althaemenes
drove his blade deep into his father's heart and the
prophecy came to pass. Though the son never forgave
himself for what he had done, to the people of Rhodes
he was their hero.
The Caucasus, a mountain range north of Armenia, was
believed in the Greek world to be one of the pillars
of the world. It is there that Prometheus was chained
by Zeus' order.
A half man and half snake, born from the soil, legendary
ancestor of the Greeks. He was the founder (and first
king) of Athens. He taught the inhabitants to bury
the dead, get married and how to read and write. In
his reign Poseidon and Athena contended for the lordship
of Attica, and Cecrops decided in the favor of Athena.
The citadel, or Acropolis, of Athens was named Cecropia
in his honor.
The servant of Hephaestus.
Celaeno ("the Dark"), also Podarge ("fleet foot"),
is one of the Harpies. She was the lover of Zephyrus
and mother of Xanthus and Balius, the supernatural
horses of Achilles.
One of the Pleiades. She was the lover of Poseidon
and had Lycus with him. According to some sources
she was the mother of Deucalion with Prometheus.
A divinity who was one of the companions of Zeus when
he was a child, but he offended Rhea and as a result
was changed into a lump of diamond (or steel) by Zeus.
An epithet of Zeus after the temple on Cape Canaeum
The centaurs of Greek mythology are creatures that
are part human and part horse. They are usually portrayed
with the torso and head of a human, and the body of
a horse. Centaurs are the followers of the wine god
Dionysus and are well known for drunkenness and carrying
off helpless young maidens. They inhabited Mount Pelion
in Thessaly, northern Greece. According to one myth,
they are the offspring of Ixion, the king of Lapithae
(Thessaly), and a cloud. He had arranged a tryst with
Hera, but Zeus got wind of it and fashioned a cloud
into Hera's shape. Therefore, the Centaurs are sometimes
called Ixionidae. Notorious is their bestial behavior
on the wedding of Pirithous, king of the Lapiths.
They violated the female guests and attempted to abduct
the bride. What followed was a bloody battle, after
which they were driven from Thessaly. An exception
was the kind and wise centaur Chiron, the teacher
of the Greek heroes Jason and Achilles.
Three giants with a hundred arms each. See Hecatonchires.
In Greek mythology, the son of Hermes and Herse. He
was married to Procris, a daughter of Erechtheus.
While hunting he was kidnapped by Eos, but she could
not diminish his love for Procris. However, when Procris,
out of jealousy, spied on her husband during one of
his hunts, he mistook her for an animal and accidentally
killed her. Cephalus was banned for this. Later he
helped Amphitryon in a war, and for his assistance
he was awarded with the island of Cephallenia.
One meaning of the name Cephissus is a Greek river
god, the father of Narcissus. Another meaning of the
name Cephissus is a man who was changed into a sea
monster by Apollo. A third meaning for the name Cephissus
is three famous rivers in Greece: in Attica near Eleusis;
in Attica near Athens; in Boeotia and in Phocis near
the sacred shrine of Delphi and Mount Parnassus. The
three graces were particularly fond of the river near
the sacred shrine. The final and fourth meaning of
the name Cephissus is a Boeotian river god. He was
the son of Oceanus and Tethys, brother of the other
river gods, and father of Narcissus by the nymph,
Liriope. Other children are ascribed to him, but in
those cases parentage is disputed.
In Greek mythology, the three-headed watchdog who
guards the entrance to the lower world, the Hades.
It is a child of the giant Typhon and Echidna, a monstrous
creature herself, being half woman and half snake.
Originally, the dog was portrayed having fifty or
hundred heads but was later pictured with only three
heads (and sometimes with the tail of a serpent).
Cerberus permitted new spirits to enter the realm
of dead, but allowed none of them to leave. Only a
few ever managed to sneak past the creature, among
which Orpheus, who lulled it to sleep by playing his
lyre, and Heracles, who brought it to the land of
the living for a while (being the last of his Twelve
Labors). In Roman mythology, the Trojan prince Aeneas
and Psyche were able to pacify it with honey cake.
Mischievous wood spirits from Greek folklore. One
time they stole the weapons of Heracles and were punished
by him. He tied them to a stick, face downwards. The
Greeks believed they lived near the Thermopylae or
A son of Hermes and Pandrosus. He became the ancestor
of a family of priests in Athens (the Kerukes).
Ceto is the daughter of Gaia and Pontus. She is the
sister of Phorcys, who was also her husband, Thaumas
and Eurybia. She is the personification of the dangers
and horrors of the sea. Her name eventually became
a name for any generic sea monster. Ceto is regarded
as the mother of the Gorgons and many other monsters
In Greek mythology, the son of Eosphorus and the king
of Thessaly. He was married to the demi-goddess Alcyone
(Halcyone). When he perished at sea, his wife threw
herself from the rocks. Out of compassion, the gods
changed them into the halcyon birds.
Chaos is from the Greek word Khaos, meaning "gaping
void". There are many explanations as to who or what
Chaos is, but most theories state that it was the
void from which all things developed into a distinctive
entity, or in which they existed in a confused and
amorphous shape before they were separated into genera.
In other words, Chaos is or was "nothingness." Though
some ancient writers thought it was the primary source
of all things, other writers tell of Gaia (Earth)
being born from Chaos without a mate, along with Eros
and Tartarus. Then from Gaia came Uranus (Heaven or
Sky) which gave us Heaven and Earth. Chaos has been
described as the great void of emptiness within the
universe from which Eros came and it was he who gave
divine order and also perfected all things. In later
times it was written that Chaos was a confused shapeless
mass from which the universe was developed into a
cosmos, or harmonious order. For instance, Hesiod's
Theogony says that Erebus and Black Night (Nyx) were
born of Chaos, and Ovid the Roman writer described
Chaos as an unordered and formless primordial mass.
The first Metomorphoses reads, "rather a crude and
indigested mass, a lifeless lump, unfashioned and
unframed, of jarring seeds and justly Chaos named."
The Charites, or Graces, are the personifications
of charm and beauty in nature and in human life. They
love all things beautiful and bestow talent upon mortals.
Together with the Muses they serve as sources of inspiration
in poetry and the arts. Originally, they were goddesses
of fertility and nature, closely associated with the
underworld and the Eleusinian mysteries. Aglaea ("Splendor")
is the youngest of the Graces and is sometimes represented
as the wife of Hephaestus. The other Graces are Euphrosyne
("Mirth") and Thalia ("Good Cheer"). They are usually
considered the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, or
Dionysus and Aphrodite. According to Homer the Graces
belonged to the retinue of Aphrodite. The Romans knew
them under the collective name of the Gratiae (qv).
Charon, in Greek mythology, is the ferryman of the
dead. The souls of the deceased are brought to him
by Hermes, and Charon ferries them across the river
Acheron. He only accepts the dead which are buried
or burned with the proper rites, and if they pay him
an obolus (coin) for their passage. For that reason
a corpse had always an obolus placed under the tongue.
Those who cannot afford the passage, or are not admitted
by Charon, are doomed to wander on the banks of the
Styx for a hundred years. Living persons who wish
to go to the underworld need a golden bough obtained
from the Cumaean Sibyl. Charon is the son of Erebus
and Nyx. He is depicted as an sulky old man, or as
a winged demon carrying a double hammer. He is similar
to the Etruscan (Charun).
Charybdis was once a nymph-daughter of Poseidon and
Gaia who flooded lands for her father's underwater
kingdom until Zeus turned her into a monster and have
her suck in and out water three times an day. She
lived in a cave at one side of the Strait of Messina,
opposite the monster Scylla, the two of them forming
a dangerous threat to passing ships.
A nymph who was turned into a turtle because she ridiculed
or refused to attend the wedding of Zeus and Hera.
For her insulting words the gods condemned her to
In Greek mythology, the Chimera is a monster, depicted
as an animal with the head of a lion, the body of
a she-goat, and the tail of a dragon (sometimes it
has multiple heads). It is a child of Typhon and Echidna.
It terrorized Lycia (in Asia Minor), but was eventually
killed by the Corinthian hero Bellerophon
1. The daughter of Boreas and Orithya, mother of Eumolphus.
2. The daughter of Daedelion. She was so beautiful
that even the gods fell in love with her. Because
her beauty led to vanity and pride, Artemis killed
Originally, Chiron was a Thessalian god of healing,
but in later Greek mythology he survived as one of
the centaurs. Unlike the others of his race, Chiron
was wise and had an extensive knowledge of the healing
arts. He had been the tutor of, among others, Asclepius,
Theseus, and Achilles. When he was accidentally hit
by a poisonous arrow shot by Heracles, Chiron relinquished
his immortality (in favor of Prometheus) in order
to escape the pain by dying. After his death he became
the constellation of Sagittarius. Chiron is regarded
as a son of Cronus and Philyra.
An epithet for Demeter, meaning 'the young green'.
The Greek goddess of flowers, and the personification
of spring. She is the spouse of Zephyrus. Her Roman
equivalent is Flora. Chloris is also the name of a
daughter of Niobe. She was the only child that was
saved when Apollo and Artemis took their vengeance
on Niobes children.
In the ancient Greek literature, Chronos is the personification
of time. He is usually portrayed as an wise, old man
with a long, gray beard (Father Time). Chronos is
often mistaken for the Titan Cronus
"Golden Falchion". A giant, the son of Medusa. When
her head was cut off by Perseus, Chrysaor sprang forth
from her decapitated body.
Cilix was the son of Agenor. His father sent him to
search for Europa, his lost sister. During his adventurous
journey, Cilix settled down in a location in Asia
Minor. This land was called Cilicia, named after him.
A mythical tribe who lived at the end of the world
in a place of mists and darkness, where the sun never
arrived. These people were popular in Greece and many
stories were crafted. They ware believed to be the
ancestors of the Scythians or the Celts.
An epithet of Apollo. The name is derived from Clarus
near Colophon where Apollo had a temple.
The son of Cydippe, a priestess of Hera on Argos,
and brother of Biton. One day when their mother was
going to a festival in Hera's honor, the oxen which
would pull the cart were overdue. The brothers decided
to pull the wagon themselves to the sanctuary which
was 45 stadien (8km) from their home. The grateful
mother requested the goddess to grant her children
the best thing a human being can become in life. Hera
let the brothers die in their sleep.
With the Spartans, one of the Charites.
The Muse of historical and heroic poetry. With Pierus,
the king of Macedonia, she is the mother of Hyacinth.
She was credited for introducing the Phoenician alphabet
into Greece. Her attribute is usually a parchment
scroll or a set of tablets.
Clotho, a goddess from Greek mythology, is the youngest
of the three Fates, but one of the oldest goddesses
in Greek mythology. She is a daughter of Zeus and
Themis. Each fate has a certain job, whether it be
measuring thread, spinning it on a spinning wheel,
or cutting the thread at the right length. Clotho
is the spinner, and she spins the thread of human
life with her distaff. The length of the string will
determine how long a certain person's life will be.
She is also known to be the daughter of Night, to
indicate the darkness and obscurity of human destiny.
No one knows for sure how much power Clotho and her
sisters have, however, they often disobey the ruler,
Zeus, and other gods. For some reason, the gods seem
to obey them, whether because the fates do possess
greater power, or as some sources suggest, their existence
is part of the order of the Universe, and this the
gods cannot disturb.
1. The daughter of Oceanus and Tethys and wife of
Iapetus. Her sons are Atlas, Epimetheus, Prometheus,
and Menoetius. 2. Wife of Helios and mother of Phaeton.
3. Mother of Atalanta. 4. Granddaughter of King Minos
of Crete and mother of Palamedes
In Greek mythology, an ocean nymph who was in love
with Apollo. When Apollo fell in love for Leucothoe,
the jealous Clytia betrayed her to her father. In
anger, he buried Leucothoe alive. The sad Apollo turned
away from Clytia and she languished and finally died.
After her death she changed into the heliotrope or
sunflower, which, traditionally, still turns to the
sun, following him through his daily course.
One of the Gigantes.
One of the five rivers of Hades, which flows into
the Acheron. The name means "river of lamentation."
The unburied were doomed to wander about its banks
for hundred years. Coeus One of the Titans, Coeus
was the father of Leto, husband of Phoebe and the
grandfather of Apollo, Artemis and Asteria
The mother of Asclepius by Apollo. Even before she
gave birth to Asclepius she cheated on Apollo. Raven
informed Apollo of her infidelity and the god killed
her (according to others it was Artemis). Before her
body was consumed on a funeral pyre, Apollo saved
the life of his son. Since then, raven have black
feathers where before they were white. Coronis is
also the name of the daughter of Coronaeus, King of
Phocis, changed by Athena into a crow to enable her
to escape from Neptune.
Priests of the goddess Cybele of Asia Minor. They
served the goddess by wild rituals that resulted in
an exceptional state of extacy that went so far they
they unmanned themselves. The cult spread through
Greece and later also to Rome, where they were called
A cave on Mount Parnassos named after the nymph Corycia.
The Muses are sometimes in poetry called Corycides
or the Corycian nymphs.
The son of Paris and Oenone. To disturb the happiness
between Paris and Helen, Oenone send her son to Helen.
Paris did not recognize Corythus and killed him.
One of the three monsters with a hundred hands, the
Hecatonchires. They were Briareus, also called Aegaeon;
Cottus; and Gyges also called Gyes. Cottus and the
other two monsters had fifty heads with fifty fire
breathing mouths. The three monsters lived durin the
The Thracian goddess of immodesty and debauchery,
worshipped at Athens with licentious rites. Her priests
were called Baptes, from the Greek verb bapto, to
wash, because of the so-called ceremonies of purification
connected with her rites. However, their midnight
orgies were so obscene that they disgusted even the
goddess herself. Cratos
Cratos ("strength") is the personification of strength
and power. He is the brother of Nike, Zelus and Bia.
Like his other siblings, he is a constant companion
One of the many Greek river gods.
Crius was one of the Greek Titans. The Titans were
the principal gods of early Greek mythology. Crius
and his siblings were the children of Uranus (Sky)
and Gaia (Earth). He had five brothers; Coeus, Cronus,
Hyperion, Lapetus, Oceanus; and six sisters; Mnemosyne,
Phoebe, Rhea, Tethys, Theia, and Themis. The Titans
were best known for their war against the Olympian
gods. Many of these gods were captive within the stomach
of their father, Cronus. After Zeus, king of the Olympian
gods, freed his siblings the war with the Titans began.
After ten long years of battle Zeus asked Gaia for
help. She told him to release the Cyclopes and the
hundred-handed ones. This led to Crius and the other
Titans losing the long war.
Cronus, the son of Uranus and Gaia and the youngest
of the twelve Titans. His wife was also one of the
Titans, since he married his sister Rhea. Their offspring
were Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus.
It is written that Uranus, who in one version, hid
his children away in the bowels of the earth (Tartarus)
as he was aghast at the sight of them, in reality
he was fearful of their great strength and power.
Gaia found her offspring uncomfortable and also painful
and when she found the discomfort too much to bear
she hatched a plan, which was to end the passions
of Uranus, so no more offspring could be produced
and that would be the ending of her hurt. But to achieve
this she required the help from one of her children.
She asked them all, but only her youngest child Cronus
would heed her call. To help Cronus accomplish his
task Gaia gave him a adamantine sickle to serve as
his weapon. Cronus lay in wait hidden from view, and
when Uranus came to lay with Gaia Cronus struck. With
one mighty blow from the sickle Cronus severed the
genitals from Uranus' body. From the blood which fell
to the earth (Gaia) where born the Erinyes (Furies),
the Giants and also the Meliae (Nymphs of the manna
ash trees). In other versions Aphrodite was born from
the foam created from the sex organs of Uranus, after
they had been thrown into the sea by Cronus. Once
Cronus had castrated Uranus, he and his wife Rhea
took the throne. Under their power a time of harmony
and prosperity began, which became known as the "Golden
Age"; a time when it was said that people lived without
greed or violence, and without toil or the need for
laws. But not all was well for Cronus, as it was fated
that he would be overthrown by one of his own children.
To prevent this from happening he began to swallow
his newborn, taking them at birth then swallowing
them whole, retaining them inside his own body where
they could do him no harm. Rhea did not like the thoughts
of loosing all her children, and with the help of
Gaia she saved Zeus from this fate. Rhea wrapped a
stone in Zeus' swaddling clothes which Cronus took
and immediately swallowed thinking it was the child.
Gaia and Rhea's plan worked well and the baby Zeus
was taken to Crete, and there, in a cave on Mount
Dicte, the divine goat Amaltheia suckled and raised
the infant Zeus. When Zeus had grown into a young
man he returned to his fathers domain, and with the
help of Gaia, compelled Cronus to regurgitate the
five children he had previously swallowed. (In some
versions Zeus received help from Metis who gave Cronus
an emetic potion, which made him vomit up Zeus' brothers
and sisters). Zeus led the revolt against his father
and the dynasty of the Titans, defeated and then banished
them. The Romans compared Cronus with their Saturn,
who was to the Romans a corn god. This is from the
association of the "Golden Age". In Athens on the
12th day of the month Hekatombaion a festival was
held in honour of Cronus, which was known as the "Kronia".
It was a celebration of the harvest. In art, Cronus
was depicted carrying a sickle used to gather the
harvest, but this was also the weapon he used to castrate
When Rhea gave birth to Zeus he was hidden on a mountain
in Crete. Rhea was frightened that Cronus would hear
him crying so she had the Curetes wait outside the
mountain and bang their shields together, a sound
which drowned out all others. Originally, the Curetes
were vegetation demons who lived on Crete in the pre-Grecian
The Cyclopes were giant beings with a single, round
eye in the middle of their foreheads. According to
Hesiod, they were strong, stubborn, and "abrupt of
emotion." Their every action ebbed with violence and
power. There are actually two generations of Cyclopes
in Greek myth. The first generation consisted of three
brothers, Brontes ("thunderer"), Steropes ("flasher"),
and Arges ("brightener"), who came from the union
of Gaia (earth) and Uranus (sky). The second generation
descended from Poseidon, and the most famous of these
was Polyphemus from Homer's Odyssey. Brontes, Steropes,
and Arges (the three descended from Gaia and Uranus)
were the inventive blacksmiths of the Olympian gods.
They were skilled metal workers and created Zeus'
thunderbolts, Poseidon's trident, and Hades' Helmet
of Darkness that was later used by Perseus while on
his quest to decapitate Medusa. However, they spent
the majority of their early existence imprisoned.
Their father Uranus (sky) hated all of his offspring
(the Titans, Cyclopes, and Hecatonchires or hundred-handers)
and kept them confined deep within Gaia (earth). The
defeat of Uranus by his son Cronus (a Titan) freed
the Cyclopes for a time, but Cronus was a paranoid
ruler. He feared the Cyclopes' power and cast them
into Tartarus (the place of punishment in the underworld)
where they remained imprisoned until Zeus (an Olympian
and son of Cronus) released them, requiring their
aid in the Titanomachy (battle of the Titans). With
the assistance of the Cyclopes and their thunderbolts,
Zeus overthrew Cronus and the Titans and became ruler
of the cosmos. He was grateful for the Cyclopes' help
and allowed them to stay in Olympus as his armorers
and helpers to Hephaestus, god of smiths. The Greeks
also credited them with building the massive fortifications
at Tiryns and Mycenae in the Peloponnese. Brontes,
Steropes, and Arges are mainly mentioned in passing
in most of the myths to convey strength in heroes
and the fine quality of weapons but are major characters
in one other event - their deaths at the hands of
Apollo. Zeus struck Asclepius, Apollo's son, down
with a thunderbolt for having risen a person from
the dead. Apollo was outraged and killed the Cyclopes
who had forged the deadly thunderbolt. It appears
that Apollo's rage was misplaced, yet by killing the
Cyclopes, he was indirectly punishing Zeus. The ghosts
of Brontes, Steropes, and Arges are said to dwell
in Mt. Aetna, an active volcano that smokes as a result
of their burning forges. The second generation of
Cyclopes was a band of lawless shepherds living in
Sicily who had lost the skill of metallurgy. Polyphemus,
son of Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa, is the only
notable individual of the lot and figures prominently
in Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus and his crew landed on
Sicily, realm of the Cyclopes. He and a few of his
best men became trapped in Polyphemus' cave when Polyphemus
rolled a large boulder in front of the entrance to
corral his sheep while Odysseus was still inside.
Polyphemus was fond of human flesh and devoured many
of the men for dinner. On the second night, Odysseus
told Polyphemus that his name was "Nobody," and tricked
him into drinking enough wine to pass out. While he
was incapacitated, Odysseus/Nobody blinded him with
a red hot poker. Polyphemus shouted in pain to the
other Cyclopes on the island that "Nobody" was trying
to kill him, so no one came to his rescue. Eventually,
he had to roll away the stone to allow his sheep to
graze. Odysseus and the remaining crew clung to the
bellies of the exiting sheep where Polyphemus could
not feel them as they passed him on their way to pasture
and escaped. As Odysseus sailed away from the island,
he shouted to Polyphemus that it was Odysseus who
had blinded him. Enraged, the Cyclops threw huge boulders
at the ship and shouted to his father, Poseidon, to
avenge him. Recent scholars have hypothesized about
the origin of the Cyclopes' single eye. One possibility
is that in ancient times, smiths could have worn an
eye patch over one eye to prevent being blinded in
both eyes from flying sparks. Also, smiths sometimes
tattooed themselves with concentric circles which
could have been in honor of the sun which provided
the fire for their furnaces. Concentric rings were
also part of the pattern for making bowls, helmets,
masks, and other metal objects. Notice that the first
generation Cyclopes were associated with metal-working
while the second generation was not. Apparently, the
lawless band of Cyclopes is a later addition to the
myths. The incidence with Polyphemus seems to have
had an independent existence from the Odyssey before
Homer added it to his epic adventure. It was probably
told as a separate myth at certain functions. It is
uncertain why the Cyclopes were demoted from the smiths
of the gods to a lawless group of monsters with no
reverence for the gods. When the universe came into
being, there were many monsters and vague forms that
were gradually replaced with beings with more human
forms. Order was replacing chaos. The monsters were
phased out, and this could have lead to the transformation
of the "good" Cyclopes to the "evil" Cyclopes that
were destined to be fought and defeated by the divine
A mountain in the Peloponnesus, on the border of Achaia
and Arcadia. It is the birthplace of Hermes
Another name for Hermes. So called from Mount Cyllene,
in Peloponnesus, where he was born
A nymph from the Ida Mountains on Crete. She was a
wet-nurse of Zeus and upon her death placed among
Cynthia is an epithet of Artemis, referring to her
and Apollo's place of birth on Mount Cynthus on the
island of Delos. For the same reason, Apollo was called
Raped by her father, she forced him into a nearby
temple and sacrificed him on the altar.
The daughter of the naiad Creusa and the mortal Hypseus,
king of the Lapiths, and granddaughter of the river
god Peneus. This myth has Cyrene wrestling a lion
which was attacking her father's sheep. The god Apollo,
passing by, saw this and immediately fell in love
with her. He carried her off to Africa, where he built
her a city (called Cyrene, on the coast of North Africa).
The region Cyrenaica is also named after her. Aristaeus
is her son by Apollo.
An epithet of Aphrodite, referring to the fact that
she rose from the sea near the island of Cythera,
and where she was particularly worshipped.
An epithet of Aphrodite, referring to the fact that
she rose from the sea near the island of Cythera,
and where she was particularly worshipped.