Hephaestus was the Olympian god of fire and metallurgy. According to legend, he was a skilled craftsman who created exquisite works of art and weapons for the other gods, and he even constructed the magnificent palaces where they lived on Mount Olympus. However, as talented as Hephaestus was, he was shunned and looked upon with disdain by most of the other gods, because he was lame and unattractive. Even his own mother, Hera, was repulsed by her son. Although treated cruelly, Hephaestus was a kind and gentle god.
The Birth of Hephaestus
According to Greek legend, Hephaestus was the son of Hera. In one version of the myth, Hera gave birth to Hephaestus alone, without the help of her husband, Zeus. Hera was jealous because Zeus had conceived Athena with the goddess Metis, and so Hera prayed to Mother Earth, Gaia, to have a child on her own. Gaia granted her request, and Hera gave birth to Hephaestus. Hera, however, was disappointed with her unattractive and lame son, and so she threw him from Mount Olympus. Hephaestus was rescued by the Nereid Thetis and the Oceanid Eurynome. He lived on the island of Lemnos. In another account, Hephaestus became lame after breaking his leg when Hera threw him from Mount Olympus, and he fell for nine days before landing on Lemnos. Still another version of the tale says Hephaestus was the son of both Hera and Zeus, and that Zeus threw him from Mount Olympus after Hephaestus sided with his mother during an argument.
The Golden Throne
Hephaestus fashioned a magnificent golden throne that he presented to his mother, Hera. However, the chair had secret springs, so that when Hera sat in it, she was unable to move. Several of the gods tried to extricate her from the throne, but could not. Dionysus, the god of wine, got Hephaestus intoxicated and took him back to Mount Olympus to free Hera. Although Hephaestus refused at first, he later agreed to free her after he was promised Aphrodite as his wife and a place on the Olympian council.
The Lover's Net
Aphrodite was not pleased with her unattractive, lame husband, and was drawn to Ares, the god of war, instead. Hephaestus suspected that Aphrodite was being unfaithful and set a trap for his adulterous wife and her lover. Hephaestus created a net with invisible links and suspended it from the ceiling. Ares came to visit Aphrodite when Hephaestus pretended to go to Lemnos. The net enveloped the couple in the throes of passion, and they could not move. Hephaestus then presented the amorous pair to the other Olympian gods and asked Zeus that he be divorced from Aphrodite.
Zeus wanted revenge against the Titan Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mankind. He commanded Hephaestus to create the first human woman. Hephaestus obeyed and created the woman from clay, giving her beautiful features. She was infused with a human voice and endowed with various gifts by the other gods. The woman, Pandora, meaning all gifts, was given a jar as her dowry. Some accounts say she was given a box with a key. However, the container held many evils. Pandora was given to Prometheus's brother Epimetheus as a wife. Pandora was told never to open the container, but her curiosity overtook her. She opened it, allowing the many evils to escape into the world. Only hope remained as a blessing to mankind in a world filled with evils.
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