Hephaestus (hĕfĕsˈtəs) [key], in Greek religion and mythology, Olympian god. According to Homer he was the son of Hera and Zeus, but Hesiod states that he was conceived and borne by Hera alone. Originally an Asian fire god, in Greece he became the divine smith and god of craftsmen. He was worshiped primarily in cities such as Athens, where he had a temple. It was said that he was either born lame or was lamed by Zeus, who threw him down from Olympus when Hephaestus took Hera's side in a dispute. He was represented as bearded, with mighty shoulders, but crippled legs. At huge furnaces, worked by Cyclopes, he fashioned ornaments, weapons, and magical contrivances for the gods and heroes (e.g., Achilles' shield). But in mythology he was usually a comic figure. Most scholars agree that he was the husband of Aphrodite, who was unfaithful to him. The Romans identified Hephaestus with Vulcan.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient Religion