Cyclopes

Cyclopes

The Cyclopes (singular: Cyclops) were gigantic, one-eyed monsters. Probably the most famous of them is Polyphemus, the Cyclops that was blinded by Odysseus. The Cyclopes were generally considered the sons of Titans Uranus and Gaea, but according to Homer, Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon, and the other Cyclopes were his brothers. Based on their description, they were a wild race of gigantic growth, similar in nature to the earth-born Giants, and had a single eye in the middle of their foreheads. They led a lawless life, possessing neither social manners nor fear for the gods, and were the workmen of Hephaestus, whose workshop was supposed to be in the heart of the volcanic mountain Etna.

In this case, one may identify another striking instance of the manner in which the Greeks personified the powers of nature, which they saw in active operation around them. They observed the fire, rocks, and ash pouring from Etna and other volcanic mountains with awe and astonishment, and, with their vivacious imagination, found an explanation to the mystery; the god of Fire must be busy at work with his men in the depths of the earth, and the mighty flames coming from the depths of the earth must be a result of this.

The chief representative of the Cyclops was the man-eating monster Polyphemus, described by Homer as having been blinded and outwitted by Odysseus. This monster fell in love with a beautiful nymph called Galatea; but, as may be supposed, his actions were not graceful nor acceptable to the fair maiden, who rejected them in favour of a youth named Acis; Polyphemus, enraged and with his usual barbarity, killed his rival by throwing upon him a gigantic rock. The blood of the murdered Acis, gushing out of the rock, formed a stream which still bears his name.

Hesiod mentioned only three Cyclopes (not considering them a race or tribe): Arges (thunderbolt), Steropes (lightning), and Brontes (thunder), obviously storm gods. They were also the first smiths. When Cronus came to power, he imprisoned them in Tartarus. They were later released by Zeus and fought for him against the Titans. As a reward for their release, the Cyclopes gave Zeus his weapons of lighting and thunder. They continued as his workers at Mount Olympus forging his thunderbolts. Arges was killed by Hermes while he guarded Io for Hera; Apollo killed at least one of them as vengeance for the death of his son Aesculapius by Zeus.

More: Uranus, Gaea, Poseidon, Giants, Zeus