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Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?

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Author Topic: Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?  (Read 2630 times)
Moira Kelliey
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« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2007, 09:23:21 pm »

Hesiod's Cyclops
 
In the Theogony, the CyclopesóBrontes (thunderer), Steropes (flasher) and Arges (brightener)ówere the sons of Uranus ("Sky") and Gaia ("Earth"). Like their brothers, the Hecatonchires ("hundred-handed ones"), they were primordial sons of Sky and Earth. They were giants with a single eye in the middle of their forehead and a foul disposition. According to Hesiod, they were strong, stubborn, and "abrupt of emotion". Collectively they eventually became synonyms for brute strength and power, and their name was invoked in connection with massive masonry and especially well-crafted weapons.

Uranus, fearing their strength, locked them in Tartarus. Cronus, another son of Uranus and Gaia, later freed the Cyclopes, along with the Hecatonchires, after he had castrated and overthrown Uranus. But Cronus then placed them back in Tartarus, where they remained, guarded by the she-dragon Campe, until freed by Zeus. They fashioned thunderbolts for Zeus to use as weapons, and helped him overthrow Cronus and the other Titans. The thunderbolts, which became Zeus' signature weapons, were forged by all three Cyclopes: Arges added brightness, Brontes added thunder, and Steropes added lightning.

These Cyclopes also created Poseidon's trident, Artemis' bow and arrow, and the helmet that Hades gave to Perseus on his quest to kill Medusa. According to a hymn of Callimachus,[2] they were Hephaestus' helpers at the forge. The Cyclopes were said to have built the "cyclopean" fortifications at Tiryns and Mycenae in the Peloponnese. The noises proceeding from the heart of volcanoes were attributed to their operations.

It is said[citation needed] that these Cyclopes were later killed by Apollo after Zeus killed his son, Asclepius, with a Cyclopes-forged thunderbolt.


Homer's Cyclopes

The Cyclopes were huge one-eyed monsters that resided on an island with the same name. Commonly, the term "Cyclops" refers to a particular son of Poseidon and Thoosa named Polyphemus who was a Cyclops. Another member of this group of Cyclopes was Telemus, a seer.


Polyphemus


In Book 9 of Homer's Odyssey, a scouting party led by Odysseus lands on the Island of the Cyclopes and discovers a large cave. They enter into the cave and feast on food they find there. This cave is the home of Polyphemus, who soon returns and traps the trespassers in the cave. He proceeds to eat several crew members, but Odysseus devises a cunning plan for escape.

To make Polyphemus unwary, Odysseus gives him a skin of very strong, unwatered wine. When Polyphemus asks for Odysseus' name, he tells him that it is 'Outis', Greek for 'no man' or 'nobody'. Once the giant falls asleep drunk, Odysseus and his men take the spit from the fire and drive it through Polyphemus' only eye. Polyphemus' cries of help are answered by the others of his race; however, they turn away from aiding him when they hear that "Nobody" is the cause of his woes.

In the morning, Odysseus ties his men and himself to the undersides of Polyphemus' sheep. When the Cyclops lets the sheep out to graze, the men are carried out. Since Polyphemus has been blinded, he doesn't see the men, but feels the tops of his sheep to make sure the men aren't riding them. As he sailed away, Odysseus shouts "Cyclops, when your father asks who took your eye, tell him that it was Odysseus, Sacker of Cities, Destroyer of Troy, son of Laertes, and King of Ithaca," which proves to be a catastrophic example of hubris. Now knowing his attacker's name, Polyphemus asks his father Poseidon to prevent Odysseus from returning home to Ithaca, or to at least deprive him of his ship and crew.

This tale from the Odyssey is more humorously told in the only surviving satyr play, entitled Cyclops by Euripides.

The Sicilian Greek poet Theocritus wrote two poems circa 275 BC concerning Polyphemus' desire for Galatea, a sea nymph. When Galatea instead was with Acis, a Sicilian mortal, a jealous Polyphemus killed him with a boulder. Galatea turned Acis' blood into a river of the same name in Sicily.

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