Sunday, March 7, 2010

A volcanic myth

The word 'volcano' comes from the little island of Vulcano in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily. Centuries ago, the people living in this area believed that Vulcano was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan - the blacksmith of the Roman gods. They thought that the hot lava fragments and clouds of dust erupting form Vulcano came from Vulcan's forge as he beat out thunderbolts for Jupiter, king of the gods, and weapons for Mars, the god of war.

In Roman mythology, Vulcan, the god of fire, was said to have made tools and weapons for the other gods in his workshop at Olympus. Throughout history, volcanoes have frequently been identified with Vulcan and other mythological figures. Scientists now know that the "smoke" from volcanoes, once attributed by poets to be from Vulcan's forge, is actually volcanic gas naturally released from both active and many inactive volcanoes.

Volcan was Hephaistos - the Greek god of fire and craftsmanship, named Vulcan by the Romans.

He was the son of Zeus and Hera - although some versions of his story state that he had no father, with Hera bearing him alone in retaliation for Zeus having brought forth Athena - Hephaestus was born lame and ugly, and his mother Hera hated him on first sight.

In one version of the myth, Hera herself, after seeing that he was born deformed, casts him from Olympus. In another version Zeus hurls him from heaven because he tried to defend Hera when they were having a quarrel. Upon landing on Lemnos - after falling for a full day - Hephaestus brakes his legs and becomes lame. In any case, the sea-goddess Thetis then finds the crippled infant on the beach, and takes him to her underwater grotto where she raises him with the help of Eurynome, mother of the Graces.

To regain his rightful place among the gods, Hephaestus used a clever ruse. He built a golden throne and sent it to Hera as a gift. Upon sitting on it, Hera got imprisoned by its golden arms, which promptly clamped her. To reclaim her freedom Hera had to extract a promise from all the gods that Hephaestus would be accepted into the Pantheon.

Hephaestus became the smith and manufacturer of art, arms and armor for gods and heroes, using a volcano as his forge. According to the Iliad he is married to Aglaia, one of the Graces, but in the Odyssey he is said to be married to Aphrodite.

(Borrowed from:

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