Vulcan. Marble, reception piece for the French...
Hephaestus/Vulcan. Marble, reception piece for the French Royal Academy, 1742 via Wikipedia

Hephaestus was a Greek Olympian god and the son of Zeus and Hera. He’s often equated the Roman fire god Vulcan.

Hephaestus was a master blacksmith. In his giant forge at Mount Olympus he fashioned the armor and shield of Achilles, as well as Cupid’s arrows and Jupiter’s thunderbolts. He is the only Greek god depicted as lame and his offspring were usually ugly.

The reasons for his lameness might be related to the ancient belief that certain gifts were bestowed on those with disabilities.

To add to his woes, his consort Aphrodite often cheated on him (with gods and men), but Hephaestus is also depicted with another consort.

According to most versions, Hephaestus’s consort is Aphrodite, who cheats on him with a number of gods and mortals, including the god Ares. However, in Homer’s Iliad, the consort of Hephaestus is a lesser Aphrodite, Charis “the grace” or Aglaia “the glorious”, the youngest of the Graces, as Hesiod calls her.¹

Hephaestus is also interesting as a figure who undergoes a massive fall from and subsequent return to grace. Hera flung him from Olympus but he won his return by fashioning a giant golden throne which, when she sat on it, couldn’t get out of.

Some stories say that the act of Hera throwing him out of Olympus caused his lameness, others say he was rejected because of it. In any case, Hephaestus was eventually asked back in order to free Hera from being stuck on her throne. His triumphant return is depicted in pottery paintings in Attica and Corinth.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephaestus

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  1. “…outgrowth of the Roman fire god Vulcan”??

    Hephaistos was certainly sometimes *equated* with Vulcan (at least by the Romans), as He was sometimes equated with the Egyptian Ptah… but hardly an “outgrowth”!


  2. Thanks for calling me on that. Acc. to the Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition, eds. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (2000):

    “He was very early identified with Roman Volcanus (F. Coarelli, Il foro romano: periodo arcaico (1983), 177) and with Etruscan Sethlans (see RELIGION, ETRUSCAN).”

    So I probably read some other account that confused the earliness of their association with the idea that Vulcan came before. Can’t remember, though, where exactly as I started writing this in 1997!


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