A cyclops (// SY-klops; Ancient Greek: Κύκλωψ, Kýklōps; plural cyclopes // sy-KLOH-peez; Κύκλωπες, Kýklōpes), in Greek mythology and later Roman mythology, is a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the center of his forehead. The word cyclops literally means "round-eyed" or "circle-eyed".
Hesiod described three one-eyed cyclopes: Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, the sons of Uranus and Gaia, brothers of the Titans. Homer described another group of mortal herdsmen or shepherd cyclopes, the sons of Poseidon. Other accounts were written by the playwright Euripides, poet Theocritus and Roman epic poet Virgil. In Hesiod's Theogony, Zeus releases three cyclopes from the dark pit of Tartarus. They provide Zeus' thunderbolt, Hades' "helmet of darkness", and Poseidon's trident, and the gods use these weapons to defeat the Titans.
In an episode of Homer's Odyssey, the hero Odysseus encounters the cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon and Thoosa, who lives with his fellow cyclopes in a distant country. The connection between the two groups has been debated in antiquity and by modern scholars. It is upon Homer's account that Euripides and Virgil based their accounts of the mythical creatures. The ancient Greek geographer Strabo describes another group of seven Lycian cyclopes, also known as "Bellyhands" because they earned from their handicraft. They had built the walls of Tiryns and perhaps the caverns and the labyrinths near Nauplia, which are called cyclopean.
Writing eight centuries after Homer, Ovid includes Polyphemus in his story of Acis and Galatea, a story found in Metamorphoses. Ovid draws on both Homer and Sicilian-born Theocritus for his tale. Following Theocritus, Ovid locates the cyclops’ cave on the island of Sicily in a prophecy of Polyphemus’ blinding. In the fictional time-line, the prophecy in Ovid occurs before the events in Homer’s story. Then in Homer’s tale, Polyphemus, after being blinded, remembers the prophecy. In this way Ovid intertwines his own tale with Homer’s, and contributes to a widely held understanding not specifically found in the Odyssey — that Homer locates Polyphemus in Sicily.
Homer's Odyssey indicates that Polyphemus resides in a "land" somewhere farther on from the Lotus-Eaters, in a place that is not close or distant from an uninhabited, wooded and unexploited island, where Odysseus arrives. The map location that can be drawn from this episode and the surrounding episodes in the Odyssey is variously described and discussed divergently by scholars.
Euripides in his satyr-drama, Cyclops, appears at times to follow closely the story found in Homer, and at other times contributes variations. In Euripides' play there is no mention of the unexploited island, and Euripides keeps the action of the play in one location – the place where the cyclopes live, and where Odysseus' ship landed. Euripides also makes a significant variation from Homer to the setting: he imagines the location to be Mount Etna "where the one-eyed sons of the sea god, the man-slaying Cyclopes, live in their desolate caves".
Another source for the story of Polyphemus is Idyll XI. The Cyclops by Theocritus (circa 270 BC), in which the cyclopes' home is, following Euripides, near Mount Etna in Sicily. Since Euripides and Theocritus, the Sicilian location has become attached to the cyclops story.
Collectively they eventually became synonyms for brute strength and power, and their name was invoked in connection with massive masonry or blacksmithery. They were often pictured at their forge.
It is estimated that Homer's Odyssey was composed sometime in the 50-year period from 725 to 675 BC, and it is thought that it shows the influence of earlier oral poetic traditions of different peoples. In the Odyssey the episodes that are placed on the Black Sea, which would include the cyclops story, appear to incorporate parts of the Gilgamesh tradition, as well as the Caucasian myths of a one-eyed monster. There are striking parallels between Homer's story and the Caucasian stories of Urzmaeg, where the hero outwits a one-eyed giant, and blinds him with a torch. It is thought that the Caucasian myths probably came to the Greeks through the epic Anatolian song tradition.
Homer never specifically states that Polyphemus has only one eye. One interpretation is that "one eye" is implied in passages that (in some translations) use the singular to refer to an eye or a brow, for example when Odysseus asks his men to cast lots to select a group that will join with him "to lift the stake and grind it into his eye when sweet sleep should come upon him". It is alternately suggested that such an interpretation is an unsupported assumption, and that Homer’s not mentioning the one-eyed condition, if it were truly part of the story, in places in the story seems like a lapse.
Other interpretations suggest that Homer's Polyphemus may have had two eyes. It is pointed out that in the Odyssey when the actual blinding occurs there is a reference to plural brows and lids. Also Homer describes in some detail the entire race of cyclopes, critiquing their agricultural techniques, in what may be literature's first anthropological study, and never mentions their monocularity. It is also noted that the first artistic or graphic depiction of the blinding episode appears on an amphora that was created by the Polyphemos Painter c. 680–650 B.C, and the artist shows the blinding stake has two prongs, as though two eyes are being targeted.
Then [Gaia] bore the Cyclopes, who have very violent hearts, Brontes (Thunder) and Steropes (Lightning) and strong-spirited Arges (Bright), those who gave thunder to Zeus and fashioned the thunderbolt. These were like the gods in other regards, but only one eye was set in the middle of their foreheads; and they were called Cyclopes (Circle-eyed) by name, since a single circle-shaped eye was set in their foreheads. Strength and force and contrivances were in their works.
Following the Cyclopes, Gaia next gave birth to three more monstrous brothers, the Hundred-Handers. Uranus hated his children, including the Cyclopes, and as soon as each was born, he imprisoned them underground, somewhere deep inside Gaia. Eventually Uranus' son, the Titan Cronus, castrated Uranus, freeing his fellow Titans (but not, apparently, the Cyclopes), and Cronus became the new ruler of the cosmos.
Cronus swallowed each of his children as they were born, except for Zeus who was hidden away by his mother Rhea. When Zeus was grown, after recovering his siblings, he released the Cyclopes, and in their gratitude they repaid Zeus by giving him the thunderbolt (previously hidden by Gaia), and with the help of this weapon, Zeus was eventually able to overthrow Cronus, and establish himself as the final and permanent ruler of the cosmos.
The mythographer Apollodorus, gives an account of the Cyclopes similar to that of Hesiod's, but with some differences, and additional details. According to Apollodorus, the Cyclopes were born after the Hundred-Handers, but before the Titans (unlike Hesiod who makes the Titans the eldest and the Hundred-Handers the youngest).
Uranus bound the Hundred-Handers and the Cyclopes, and cast them all into Tartarus, "a gloomy place in Hades as far distant from earth as earth is distant from the sky." But the Titans are, apparently, allowed to remain free (unlike in Hesiod). When the Titans overthrew Uranus, they freed the Hundred-Handers and Cyclopes (unlike in Hesiod, where they apparently remained imprisoned), and made Cronus their sovereign. But Cronus once again bound the six brothers, and reimprisoned them in Tartarus.
As in Hesiod's account, Rhea saved Zeus from being swallowed by Cronus, and Zeus was eventually able to free his siblings, and together they waged war against the Titans. According to Apollodorus, in the tenth year of that war, Zeus learned from Gaia, that he would be victorious if he had the Hundred-Handers and the Cyclopes as allies. So Zeus slew their warder Campe (a detail not found in Hesiod) and released them, and in addition to giving Zeus his thunderbolt (as in Hesiod), the Cyclopes also gave Poseidon his trident, and Hades a helmet (presumably the same cap of invisibility which Athena borrowed in the Iliad), and "with these weapons the gods overcame the Titans".
According to a hymn of Callimachus, 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.
Euripides' only extant comedy is his play Cyclops, which was written in 408 B.C. It is the only complete satyr play of ancient Greece that has survived. It is based on a story that occurs in book nine of Homer's Odyssey. It takes place on the island of Sicily near the volcano Mount Etna, and the cyclops is portrayed as a cave-dwelling, violent, cannibalistic, oafish character. This depiction is similar to Homer’s cyclops, though it differs from the cyclops of Hesiod. Euripides’ version may have been influenced by the comic handling of the cyclops found in Cratinus' play Odysseuses, which is one of many plays of ancient Greece that are known to have lampooned Homer's cyclops story.
According to Euripides' play Alcestis, Apollo killed the cyclopes, in retaliation for Asclepius' murder at the hands of Zeus. For this crime, Apollo was then forced into the servitude of Admetus for one year. Other stories after Euripides tell that Zeus later revived Asclepius and the cyclopes. This was after the year of Apollo's servitude had passed. Zeus pardoned the cyclopes and Asclepius from the underworld, despite them being dead, even though Hades is lord of the dead and they are his prisoners. Hades as well does not ever allow any of his souls to leave the Underworld. Zeus could not bear the loss of the cyclopes, for they were the biggest reason the Olympians assumed power. Also, Zeus resurrected Asclepius at the request of Apollo so that their feud would end.
Virgil, the Roman epic poet, wrote, in book three of The Aeneid, of how Aeneas and his crew landed on the island of the cyclops after escaping from Troy at the end of the Trojan War. Aeneas and his crew land on the island, when they are approached by a desperate Greek man from Ithaca, Achaemenides, who was stranded on the island a few years previously with Odysseus' expedition (as depicted in The Odyssey).
The ancient Greek epic DionysiacaEdit
Dionysiaca, composed in the 4th or 5th century BC, is the longest surviving poem from antiquity – 20,426 lines. It is written by the poet Nonnus in the Homeric dialect, and its main subject is the life of Dionysus. It describes a war that occurred between Dionysus' troops and those of the Indian king Deriades. In book 28 of the Dionysiaca the cyclops join with Dionysian troops, and the prove to be great warriors and crush most of the Indian king's troops.
Walter Burkert suggests that the archaic groups or societies of lesser gods mirror real cult associations: "It may be surmised that smith guilds lie behind Cabeiri, Idaian Dactyloi, Telchines, and Cyclopes." Burkert also suggests that because cyclops are at times portrayed as blacksmiths, the legend of their single eye may have arisen from the practice of blacksmiths wearing an eyepatch over one eye to prevent flying sparks from blinding them in both eyes. The cyclopes seen in Homer's Odyssey are of a different type from those in the Theogony and they have no connection to blacksmithing. It is possible that independent legends associated with Polyphemus did not make him a cyclops before Homer's Odyssey; Polyphemus may have been some sort of local daemon or monster in original stories.
Another possible origin for the cyclops legend was first advanced by the paleontologist Othenio Abel in 1914. Abel proposed that fossil skulls of prehistoric mammoths – and dwarf mammoths – may have been found by the Greeks in island cave on Cyprus, Crete, Malta, Sicily and other Aegean islands. Notably, in Homer's epic poem, Odysseus and his sailors encountered the Cyclops in a cave. Abel suggested that the large, central nasal cavity (for the trunk) in the skull might have been interpreted as a large single eye-socket. Given the inexperience of the locals with living elephants until the fourth century BC, they were unlikely to recognize the skull for what it actually was.
Veratrum album, or white hellebore, an herbal medicine used by Ancient Greeks and described by Hippocrates before 400 BC, contains the alkaloids cyclopamine and jervine, which are teratogens capable of causing cyclopia and holoprosencephaly, severe birth defects in which a fetus can be born with a single eye. Students of teratology have raised the possibility of a link between this developmental deformity in Ancient Greek infants and the myth for which it was named. Regardless of the connection between the herb and the birth abnormalities, it is possible these rare birth defects may have contributed to the myth. However, a study of deformed humans born with a single eye all have a nose above the single eye, not below.
After the "Dark Age", when Hellenes looked with awe at the vast dressed blocks, known as Cyclopean structures, which had been used in Mycenaean masonry (at sites such as Mycenae and Tiryns or on Cyprus), they concluded that only the cyclopes had the combination of skill and strength to build in such a monumental manner.
Legends of the CaucasusEdit
The Caucasus region near the Black Sea is rich in a folk literature that contains stories seen as variations of the myths of the ancient Greeks, including the Cyclops stories. In the Caucasus these tales have been handed down as songs and narrative poems by a strong oral tradition – which is also the tradition of Homer. One reason the oral tradition is strong is that for most of the languages spoken in this mountainous region there was no written alphabet until relatively recently. The stories are not well known to the English speaking world. They began to be written down and collected in the 1890s, as the Nart saga and the Uryzmaeg stories.
In the cyclops stories of the Caucasus, the cyclops is almost always a shepherd, and he is also variously presented as a one-eyed, rock-throwing, cannibalistic giant, who says his name is "nobody", who lives in a cave, whose door is blocked by a large stone, who is a threat to the hero of the story, who is blinded by a hot stake, and whose flock of sheep is stolen by the hero and his men. These motifs are also found in the cyclops stories of Homer, Euripides, and Hesiod.
- Female cyclopes do not occur in any classical sources.
- Entry: Κύκλωψ at LSJ
- As with many Greek mythic names, however, this might be a folk etymology. Another proposal holds that the word is derived from PIE pḱu-klōps "sheep thief". See: Paul Thieme, "Etymologische Vexierbilder", Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 69 (1951): 177-78; Burkert (1982), p. 157; J.P.S. Beekes, Indo-European Etymological Project, s.v. Cyclops."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2008-01-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Note that this would mean that the Cyclopes were regular giants, and the depictions with a singular eye, secondarily motivated by the folk etymology.
- Gantz, p. 10; Hesiod, Theogony, 139–146; cf. Apollodorus, 1.1.2.
- Gantz, pp. 12–13. These Homeric cyclopes are all presumably the sons of Poseidon, though, only the cyclops Polyphemus is explicitly said to be.
- Gantz, p. 12: "the Kyclopes [of Hesiod] could scarcely be more different from those encountered by Odysseus in Book 9 of the Odyssey"; Mondi, pp. 17–18: "Why is there such a discrepancy between the nature of the Homeric Cyclopes and the nature of those found in Hesiod's Theogony? Ancient commentators were so exercised by this problem that they supposed there to be more than one type of Cyclops, and we must agree that, on the surface at least, these two groups could hardly have less in common."
- Strabo, Geography, 373
- Dated before 1905, possibly a replica of a pastel, according to Klaus Berger, "The Pastels of Odilon Redon", College Art Journal 16.1 (Autumn 1956:23-33) pp. 30ff; dated 1898-1900 by David H. Porter, "Metamorphoses and Metamorphosis: A Brief Response", American Journal of Philology 124.3 (Fall 2003:473–76); illus. in Sven Sandström, Le Monde imaginaire d'Odilon Redon: étude iconologique,1955:69.
- Metamorphoses. "Galatea and Polyphemus". 13.750-13.897
- Griffin, Alan H.F. "Unrequited Love: Polyphemus and Galatea in Ovid's Metamorphoses". Greece & Rome. Vol. 30, No. 2 (Oct., 1983), pp. 190-197
- Tissol, Garth. The Face of Nature: Wit, Narrative, and Cosmic Origins in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Princeton University Press, 2014. ISBN 9781400864614pp. 109-13
- Walbank, F. W. A Historical Commentary on Polybius, Vol III. Oxford (1979). ISBN 978-0198140115. p. 577.
- Hawes, Greta, editor. Myths on the Map: The Storied Landscapes of Ancient Greece. Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0191062209. pp. 56–61.
- "Theocritus". Emonds, John Maxwell, editor and translator. The Greek Bucolic Poets, Volume 28 of Loeb classical library. Publisher W. Heinemann, 1912. ASIN: B000J32Z2O
- Homer. The Odyssey. "Introduction" and translation by Fagles, Robert. Penguin, 1997. ISBN 978-0140268867. pp. 3–32.
- Bachvarova, Mary R. From Hittite to Homer: The Anatolian Background of Ancient Greek Epic. Cambridge University Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0521509794. pp. 99–106, 299
- Homer, Odyssey 9.331-333.
- Heubeck, Alfred; Hainsworth, J.B.; West, Stephanie; editors. A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey: Introduction, Books 1-8. Oxford University Press (1990) ISBN 9780198147473 p. 84
- Bremmer, J.N. Odysseus versus the Cyclops, in Myth and Symbol. Ed. S. des Bouvrie. The Norwegian Institute. (1987) pp. 135–52.
- Bremmer, J.N. Odysseus versus the Cyclops, in Myth and Symbol. Ed. S. des Bouvrie. The Norwegian Institute. (1987) pp. 135–52.
- Hard, pp. 65–66; Gantz, p. 10; Hesiod, Theogony 126–153. Compare with Apollodorus, 1.1.1–3
- Hesiod, Theogony 139–146.
- Hesiod, Theogony 154–155. Exactly which of these eighteen children Hesiod meant that Uranus hated is not entirely clear, all eighteen, or perhaps just the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handers. Hard, p. 67, West 1988, p. 7, and Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 154–160, make it all eighteen, while Gantz, p. 10, says "likely all eighteen", and Most, p. 15 n. 8, says "apparently only the ... Cyclopes and Hundred-Handers are meant" and not the twelve Titans. See also West 1966, p. 206 on lines 139–53, p. 213 line 154 γὰρ. Why Uranus hated his children is also not clear. Gantz, p. 10 says: "The reason for [Uranus'] hatred may be [his children's] horrible appearance, though Hesiod does not quite say this"; while Hard, p. 67 says: "Although Hesiod is vague about the cause of his hatred, it would seem that he took a dislike to them because they were terrible to behold". However, West 1966, p. 213 on line 155, says that Uranus hated his children because of their "fearsome nature". According to Acusilaus fr. 8 Fowler pp. 8–9 [= FGrHist 2 8], Uranus imprisoned the Hundred-Handers because he was afraid that they would rise up against him, see Fowler 2013, p. 26.
- Hesiod, Theogony 156–158. The hiding place inside Gaia is presumably her womb, see West 1966, p. 214 on line 158; Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 154–160; Gantz, p. 10. This place seems also to be the same place as Tartarus, see West 1966, p. 338 on line 618, and Caldwell, p. 37 on lines 154–160.
- Hesiod, Theogony 173–182. Although the castration of Uranus results in the release of the Titans, it did not, apparently, also result in the release of the Cyclopes or the Hundred-Handers, see Fowler 2013, p. 26; Hard, p. 67; West 1966, p. 206 on lines on lines 139–53.
- Gantz, p. 44; Hesiod, Theogony 501–506.
- Hard, pp. 68–69, which says that Apollodorus' version "perhaps derived from the lost Titanomachia, or from the Orphic literature". See also Gantz, p. 45.
- Apollodorus, 1.1.1–3.
- Hard, p. 68; Apollodorus, 1.1.2.
- Apollodorus, 1.1.4.
- Apollodorus, 1.1.5. The release and reimprisonment of the Hundred-Handers and Cyclopes, was perhaps a way to solve the problem in Hesiod's account of why the castration of Uranus, which released the Titans, did not also apparently release the six brothers, see Fowler 2013, p. 26; West 1966, p. 206 on lines on lines 139–53.
- Apollodorus, 1.1.5–1.2.1.
- Apollodorus, 1.2.1.
- To Artemis, 46f. See also Virgil's Georgics 4.173 and Aeneid 8.416ff.
- Euripides. The Cyclops. Text online. Translated by E.P. Coleridge. Digireads. (2012) ISBN 978-1420904154
- Euripides. Preface by Patterson, John Letcher. The Cyclops of Euripides. Macmillan (1900).
- Graves, Robert (1960). The Greek Myths. London: Penguin Books. p. 31. ISBN 978-0140171990.
- "Nonnus, of Panopolis". Rouse, W.H.D., translator. Dionysiaca, Volume II, Books XVI - XXXV. Harvard University Press (1940) ISBN 978-0434993543 p. 346-369.
- Grimal, p. 119 s.v. Cyclopes.
- Burkert (1991), p. 173.
- Robson, David. Cyclops; Monsters and mythical creatures. Capstone (2011) ISBN 978-1601523570. p. 17
- Abel's plausible surmise was recovered from obscurity by Adrienne Mayor in 2000, The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times (Princeton University Press) 2000, rev. ed 2009 ISBN 1400838444.
- The smaller, actual eye-sockets are on the sides and, being very shallow, were hardly noticeable as such
- "Meet the original Cyclops". Retrieved 18 May 2007.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 236. — citing Codronchius (Comm.... de elleb., 1610), Castellus (De helleb. epistola, 1622), Horace (Sat. ii. 3.80–83, Ep. ad Pis. 300) .
- Armand Marie Leroi, Mutants; On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body, 2005:68.
- Nelson, Edward. 1958. The One-Eyed Ones. Journal of American Folklore Vol. 71, No. 280: 159–61.
- Hunt, David. Legends of the Caucasus. London: Saqi Books. (2012). ISBN 978-0863568237. p. 13
- Ratcliffe, Jonathan. Arimaspians and Cyclopes: The Mythos of the One-Eyed Man in Greek and Inner Asian Thought. Editor: Mair, Victor. Sino-Platonic Papers, no. 249. University of Pennsylvania Publications. (2014)
- Bachvarova, Mary R. From Hittite to Homer: The Anatolian Background of Ancient Greek Epic. Cambridge University Press (2016). ISBN 978-0521509794. p. 106
- Rashidvash, Vahid. "The Caucasus, Its Peoples, and Its History". International Research Journal of Interdisciplinary & Multidisciplinary Studies (IRJIMS). Vol I, Is. IV, February 2015, Scholar Publications. pp.. 30–36. ISSN 2394-7950
- Colarusso, John. Nart Sagas from the Caucasus: Myths and Legends from the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs. Princeton University Press (2002) ISBN 978-0691026473
- Hunt, David. Legends of the Caucasus. London: Saqi Books. (2012) p. 220
- Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
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- Burkert, Walter (1991). Greek Religion. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-15624-6.
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- Hard, Robin, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology", Psychology Press, 2004, ISBN 9780415186360. Google Books.
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