The Greeks were highly skilled artists who used various forms of art to honor the gods of Mount Olympus. They built gigantic sculptures, beautiful statues, and ornaments out of precious metals to woo the high and mighty.
History displays Greek gods as aesthetically perfect beings worthy of the highest form of worship and pleasing.
But, what if we introduce you to a unique chapter in Greek mythology? The one where the god of design and creativity himself is cast off his throne for supposedly being physically displeasing!
A shocking irony or an intended satire?
Read along as we introduce you to the god who personifies art.
Who Is the Greek God of Art?
Greek mythology regards Hephaestus as the god of art.
He was born congenitally impaired, and he grew up to be physically lame. Zeus once banished him to live among mortals for being too ugly to hold the status of a Greek god from heaven.
Since he was skilled in forging and designing, Hephaestus worked as a blacksmith for the other gods. The whole of Athens, the manufacturing capital of Greece, worshipped him. He constructed weapons for Mount Olympus while also being a patron of art.
To think that he didn’t grow hateful of gods for discriminating against him, we call convincingly call him a man of patience.
Even though Hephaestus lacked visual appeal, his skills earned him many names. He was called the god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, artisans, and craftsmen.
How was Hephaestus Born?
Hephaestus lived a complicated life, and the series of events that led to his birth was no exception. Hera consumed a magical herb to impregnate herself without the help of her husband, Zeus, when she found out about him impregnating Metis, the goddess of wisdom and prudence, with Athena.
Hence, as a result of revenge and jealousy, Hephaestus was born. In a way, he served the purpose of his birth since Zeus could never consider him as his son and was ashamed to be associated with an utterly disfigured god.
Even the Greek gods couldn’t escape their karma!
Fall from Olympus
When Hera birthed Hephaestus, she was so disgusted by his crippled foot that she ended up throwing him from heaven, hoping he’d die.
He kept falling for several days until he landed in the ocean, where Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and the Oceanid Eurynome rescued him. Thankfully, the fall didn’t kill him, but it crippled him further.
As a result, Hephaestus grew spiteful of his mother.
Further on, he was taken to the island of Lemnos and brought up. Also, the Sintians, an ancient tribe native to Lemnos, taught Hephaestus to be a master craftsman.
Rise to Olympus
Hephaestus was one of the few gods who were called back to Mount Olympus after being exiled.
Though, is an immortal Greek family immune to drama? Not at all.
To exact revenge from his mother for rejecting him, Hephaestus built a magical golden throne with fetters and gave it to her. When Hera sat on it, she couldn’t stand up. As a result, the other gods came down from heaven to convince him to return to Olympus and release her.
But, Hephaestus denied even having a mother.
However, Dionysus, the Greek god of winemaking and fertility, intoxicated him with wine and took him to heaven.
Various Epithets of Hephaestus
Hephaestus had a wide range of epithets, otherwise known as aliases:
- He was associated with ‘Amphigyeis,’ which translated into ‘lame’ or ‘lame on both sides.’
- His Greek epithet was Khalkeus, which meant blacksmith. He was arguably the best blacksmith Greece had ever seen, and probably why he received the title of the god of design.
- He was called ‘Polymetis,’ which meant crafty in multiple ways. Hence, he was known as the god of creativity.
- Another epithet belonging to Hephaestus was Aitnaios which means Aetnaean, owing to his workshop at the base of Mount Aetna.
Attributes of Hephaestus
Owing to his lameness, Hephaestus was one of the least graceful beings in ancient Greece. He was bearded and wore a short sleeveless tunic with a round cap on his dirty hair.
Although to be fair, he did work in the forge throughout the day, inhaled the toxic fumes, and lay his hands on poisonous metals, which only served to worsen his condition.
But, if you think he was terrifying, you’re wrong.
He was a kind, peace-loving man and patron of art. Even better, he spent a significant amount of his time passing his knowledge of peace and art down to the mortals. Still, ironically, he was also an expert weapon crafter of Mount Olympus.
Hephaestus crafted various items for the gods and mortals, with help from his workmen, Cyclopes. Following is a list of some of his creations:
- He built palaces and thrones for gods in heaven.
- Upon Zeus’ command, he created the first woman made of clay, Pandora, and her box.
- He made a chariot pulled by four fire-breathing horses for Helios, the sun god. Helios used it to carry the sun across the sky every day.
- Hephaestus also crafted the adamantine chains that imprisoned the titan Prometheus, the god of fire, to a mountain.
- Along with the Cyclopes, Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, the sons of Uranus and Gaea, Hephaestus made the thunderbolts that Zeus wields.
- He also made the golden arrows for Apollo, the god of light, and Artemis, the goddess of wild animals. What’s best, Apollo used it to save his mother, Leto, from the Python.
- Additionally, he’s also responsible for crafting the legendary shield of Zeus, Aegis. It was socketed with the head of a Gorgon and roared during battle. He lent it to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war.
- The armors of Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene, and Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior, were built by Hephaestus.
- He constructed the arrows of Eros, the god of passionate love and desire. One could make someone fall madly in love while the other could cause them to run away.
- Upon hearing of the engagement of his wife, Aphrodite, and Ares’ daughter Harmonia, he gifted her the handmade necklace of Eriphyle. Hephaestus intended it to bring great misfortune upon her.
- The golden and silver lions and dogs at the entrance of the Alkinoos palace, which had the power to bite invaders, were built by him.
Owing to these inventions, Hephaestus earned the title of the Greek god of art.
Hephaestus got married to Aphrodite, the goddess of sexual love and beauty, on the command of Zeus because he wanted other gods to stop fighting over her.
As it turns out, Aphrodite’s desires outweighed her marriage.
Helios, the all-seeing god, informed Hephaestus about Aphrodite’s affair with Ares, the god of war. With the plan to catch them red-handed, he created an invisible and unbreakable chain link and trapped them in it while they lay in bed together.
For the next part of his revenge, he dragged them out in front of the gods.
Ridiculed by the created scene, Poseidon, the god of the sea, persuaded Hephaestus to free them in return for a promise that Ares would pay the adulterer’s penalty. He also demanded Zeus to return the price he paid while marrying Aphrodite. But, Zeus refused to return the dowry.
Eventually, she just charmed her way back into her husband’s life.
Though embarrassing, this is just a glimpse into Aphrodite’s character.
Bonus Read: Deep-dive into the story of the goddess of fertility.
Athena and Other Lovers
Athena, the goddess of art and methodology, and Hephaestus were considered soul mates. Her love for art and desire to help mortals was enough to attract him.
But, Athena wasn’t in favor of the union.
In a moment of weakness, Hephaestus attempted to rape her. But, before he could reach his climax, she pushed him away. Eventually, Hephaestus ended up ejaculating, and his semen fell to the ground. As a result, Gaia, the goddess of Earth, got impregnated and gave birth to Erichthonius, who Athena later adopted.
While growing up on the island of Lemnos, he fathered two metalworking gods called the Cabeiri, with a sea nymph, Cabeiro. According to rumors, Hephaestus had birthed two Sicilian gods with Aetna, a Sicilian damsel, Geysers, and Palici.
For an unattractive immortal, he consorted more than you’d expect.
5 Symbols of Greek God of Art and Design
Here are certain common symbols related to Hephaestus:
A hammer signifies Hephaestus’ mastery of craftsmanship and his passion for building items.
The hammer he wielded wasn’t made for battle and was used to build Pandora’s box and Pandora herself. Zeus eventually destroyed it.
An anvil is the symbol of Hephaestus’ hard work and passion.
Legend says that Hephaestus’ anvil contained a never-ending supply of energy. The metals shaped on it required no heat for forging. Additionally, the fires caused by the sparks that came from his anvil burned indefinitely.
At times, in Greek paintings, he’s shown bent over his anvil, busy beating a piece of metal into shape.
Hephaestus built himself a chariot similar to a wheeled chair, which he used for moving around in front of the other gods. He ended up making twenty of such bronze-wheeled tripods to help him move conveniently.
The chariot symbolized his willpower and self-respect. It meant that he didn’t let his physical disability overpower him. On the contrary, he put himself on the same level as the rest of the gods through his resolve.
Mule is the animal Hephaestus is associated with the most. It represents his submissive nature.
When he refuses to return to Olympus to uncage his mother, Hera, Dionysus intoxicates him and carries him to Olympus on the back of a mule, signifying Hephaestus’ total surrender.
In ancient paintings and vases, he’s often shown traveling on a saddle attached to a mule.
The crane has started to be associated with the Greek god of art from the day he visited the banks of the river Okeanos. The bird migrated to the river during winters.
It’s a long-necked bird, often depicted decorating the mule-saddle and chariot of Hephaestus.
The God of Volcanoes and Fire
Hephaestus’ workshop, which he used as a forge, was situated underneath a volcano. Volcanoes started erupting when he hit his hammer on the anvil, and hence, he came to be known as the god of volcanoes.
In another instance, during the Trojan war, Achilles was on the verge of getting drowned by Scamander, son of Oceanus and Tethys, when Hera sent Hephaestus to assist him. He dried up the waters of Scamander and was on the verge of killing him until Hera stopped him.
Thus, earning the throne of the god of fire. As a result, he’s also referred to as Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.
Worship and Celebration
Although it’s rare for people to worship Greek gods in modern times, mythological beliefs and interests have stood the test of time.
- Citizens of Lemnos and Athens in the northeastern region of Aegean worshipped Hephaestus. He and Athena shared a temple in Athens, which still stands in the present-day area of excavated Agora. Currently known as the Doric temple, it’s one of the best-preserved sites in the world.
Note: Built-in 449 BC, it’s also known as Hephaisteion or Thesium.
- During the Chalkeia festival, blacksmiths used to carry their tools around the whole city to honor both the deities.
- Another form of honoring the god included sacrifices and torchlight parades during the festival of Hephaestia, held once every five years.
- In Lemnos, the Bay of Mudros, meaning the mass of molten metal, was named in remembrance of Hephaestus.
- People of Lycia and Caria worshipped him at the sight of wildfires since he’s the god of fire.
- Built in 430 BC, there was once a temple dedicated to him in the Greek-founded city of Agrigento in Sicily.
Hephaestus and Dreams
Has the ancient Greek god of art, design, and creativity ever visited you in dreams?
If yes, then you might wonder what it means to have Hephaestus in your dream. It could mean anything from the following:
● You’ll have difficult times ahead.
● An accident or breakdown of some sort will occur, and it’ll act as a motivation for you to work harder.
● The arrival of a beautiful companion because Hephaestus was married to an equally attractive goddess.
Mythology isn’t merely a subject, but it’s a culmination of events that offer lessons and inspiration when looked at with the right approach.
Hephaestus is a reminder of the power a strong and determined mind has. It is also about the hard work possess in breaking through a life full of struggle and finding the one purpose that ignites our soul, which in his case was crafting.
For the time being, the tale of Hephaestus, the ultimate underdog, is coming to an end. But, we’ve more in store for you mythology geeks.
An enthusiastic dream journaler who has connected sleep-time visions with real-life occurrences in the past and present, Karandeep believes in tapping into the subconscious and demystifying strengths, insecurities, and deep-rooted desires. Besides identifying the interconnectedness of dreams in his personalized dream journal, he continues to study the significance of celestial objects and their relation to mythological tales that keep modern society intrigued about past civilizations.