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Διόσκουροι—i. e. sons of Zeus). The horse-tamer Castor (Κάστορ) and Polydeuces (Πολυδεύκης, Pollux), the master of the art of boxing. In Homer they are represented as the sons of Leda and Tyndareos, and called in consequence Tyndaridae; as dying in the time between the rape of Helen and the Trojan War, and as buried in Lacedaemon. But even under the earth they were alive. Honoured by Zeus, they lived and died on alternate days and enjoyed the prerogatives of godhead. In the later story sometimes both, sometimes only Polydeuces is the descendant of Zeus. (See Leda.) They undertook an expedition to Attica, where they set free their sister Helen whom Theseus had carried off. They took part in the expedition of the Argonauts. (See Amycus; Argonautae.) Castor, who had been born mortal, fell in a contest with Idas and Lynceus, the sons of their paternal uncle Aphareus. The fight arose, according to one version, in a quarrel over some cattle which they had carried off; according to another, it was about the rape of two daughters of another uncle Leucippus, Phoebé and Hilaïra, who were betrothed to the sons of Aphareus. On his brother's death, Polydeuces, the immortal son of Zeus, prayed his father to let him die, too. Zeus permitted him to spend alternately one day among the gods his peers, the other in the lower world with his beloved brother. According to another story, Zeus, in reward for their brotherly love, set them in the sky as the constellation Gemini, or the morning and evening star. They are the ideal types of bravery and dexterity in fight. Thus they are the tutelary gods of warlike youth, often sharing in their contests, and honoured as the inventors of military dances and melodies. The ancient symbol of the twin gods at Lacedaemon was two parallel beams (δόκανα), joined by cross-pieces, which the Spartans took with them to war. They were worshipped at Sparta and Olympia with Heracles and other heroes. At Athens, too, they were honoured as gods under the name of Ἄνακες. At sea, as in war, they lend their aid to men. The storm-tossed mariner sees the sign of their beneficent presence in the flame at the mast-head (Hor. Carm. i. 3). He prays and vows to them the sacrifice of a white lamb, and the storm soon ceases. (See Helena.) The rites of hospitality are also under their protection. They are generally represented with their horses Xanthus and Cyllarus, as in the celebrated colossal group of the Campidoglio in Rome. Their characteristic emblem is an oval helmet crowned with a star.

Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux). (From a Coin in the British Museum.)

The worship of Castor and Pollux was from early times current among the tribes of Italy. They enjoyed especial honours in Tusculum and Rome. In the latter city a considerable temple was built to them near the Forum (B.C. 484) in gratitude for their appearance and assistance at the battle of the Lake Regillus twelve years before. In this building, generally called simply the Temple of Castor, the Senate often held its sittings. It was in their honour, too, that (after B.C. 305) the solemn review of the Roman equites was held on the 15th of July. The names of Castor and Pollux, like that of Hercules, were often in use as familiar expletives, but the name of Castor was invoked by women only (Aul. Gell. xi. 6), since man had caused his death. Both were worshipped as gods of the sea, particularly in Ostia, the harbour town of Rome. Their image is to be seen stamped on the reverse of the oldest Roman silver coins. See Numismatics.

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