previous next

[5]

Hera gave birth to Hephaestus without intercourse with the other sex,1 but according to Homer he was one of her children by Zeus.2 Him Zeus cast out of heaven, because he came to the rescue of Hera in her bonds.3 For when Hercules had taken Troy and was at sea, Hera sent a storm after him; so Zeus hung her from Olympus.4 Hephaestus fell on Lemnos and was lamed of his legs,5 but Thetis saved him.6


1 Compare Hes. Th. 927ff.; Lucian, De sacrificiis 6. So Juno is said to have conceived Mars by the help of the goddess Flora and without intercourse with Jupiter (Ovid, Fasti v.229ff.). The belief in the possible impregnation of women without sexual intercourse appears to have been common, if not universal, among men at a certain stage of social evolution, and it is still held by many savages. See Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3rd ed. i.92ff.; Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, ii.204, notes; A. et G. Grandidier, Ethnographie de Madagascar, ii. (Paris, 1914), pp. 245ff. The subject is fully discussed by Mr. E. S. Hartland in his Primitive Paternity (London, 1909-1910).

2 Compare Hom. Il. 1.571ff., Hom. Il. 1.577ff. In these lines Hephaestus plainly recognizes Hera as his mother, but it is not equally clear that he recognizes Zeus as his father; the epithet “father” which he applies to him may refer to the god's general paternity in relation to gods and men.

3 See Hom. Il. 1.590ff.

4 See Hom. Il. 15.18ff., where Zeus is said to have tied two anvils to the feet of Hera when he hung her out of heaven. Compare Apollod. 2.7.1; Nonnus, in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci (Brunswick, 1843), Appendix Narrationum, xxix, 1, pp. 371ff.

5 The significance of lameness in myth and ritual is obscure. The Yorubas of West Africa say that Shankpanna, the god of smallpox, is lame and limps along with the aid of a stick, one of his legs being withered. See A. B. Ellis, The Yoruba-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa (London, 1894), p. 73. The Ekoi of Southern Nigeria relate how the first fire on earth was stolen from heaven by a boy, whom the Creator (Obassi Osaw) punished with lameness for the theft. See P. Amaury Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush (London, 1912), pp. 370ff. This lame boy seems to play the part of a good fairy in Ekoi tales, and he is occasionally represented in a “stilt play” by an actor who has a short stilt bound round his right leg and limps like a cripple. See P. Amaury Talbot, op. cit. pp. 58, 285. Among the Edo of Benin “custom enjoined that once a year a lame man should be dragged around the city, and then as far as a place on the Enyai road, called Adaneha. This was probably a ceremony of purification.” See W. N. Thomas, Anthropological Report on the speaking peoples of Nigeria, Part 1. (London, 1910), p. 35. In a race called “the King's Race,” which used to be run by lads on Good Friday or Easter Saturday in some parts of the Mark of Brandenburg, the winner was called “the King,” and the last to come in was called “the Lame Carpenter.” One of the Carpenter's legs was bandaged with splints as if it were broken, and he had to hobble along on a crutch. Thus he was led from house to house by his comrades, who collected eggs to bake a cake. See A. Kuhn, Märkische Sagen und Marchen (Berlin, 1843), pp. 323ff.

6 As to the fall of Hephaestus on Lemnos, see Hom. Il. 1.590ff.; Lucian, De sacrificiis 6. The association of the fire-god with Lemnos is supposed to have been suggested by a volcano called Moschylus, which has disappeared—perhaps submerged in the sea. See H. F. Tozer, The Islands of the Aegean, pp. 269ff.; Jebb on Soph. Ph. 800, with the Appendix, pp. 243-245. According to another account, Hephaestus fell, not on Lemnos, but into the sea, where he was saved by Thetis. See Hom. Il. 18.394ff.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Sir James George Frazer)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Lemnos (Greece) (4)
Troy (Turkey) (1)
Olympus (Greece) (1)
Brandenburg (Brandenburg, Germany) (1)
Benin (Benin) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (5 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: