The Romans, when speaking of the Greek Hephaestus, call him Vulcan or Vulcanus, although Vulcanus was an original Italian divinity.
This, however, is opposed to the common story, that Hephaestus split the head of Zeus, and thus assisted him in giving birth to Athena, for Hephaestus is there represented as older than Athena.
Despite of his physical unattractiveness, Hephaestus had three
Charis, the the personification of grace and beauty
Aglaia representing brilliance, was the youngest of The Graces or Charites.
Aphrodite, who proved to be an unfaithful wife preferring Ares and becoming his mistress. Helios who sees everything, reported it to Hephaestus, who decided to take revenge. He placed an invisible net around the lover's bed, which made them completely helpless.
Then Hephaestus beckoned all the gods to come and see the entrapped pair. The all laughed, except Poseidon, who promised a fitting atonement on behalf of the gods. Only then did Hephaestus release the pair.
Erichthonius: When Hephaestus wished to embrace Athena, and the goddess repulsed him, he became by Ge or by Atthis, the daughter of Cranaus, the father of a son, who had either completely or only half the form of a serpent.
Cacus: a fabulous Italian shepherd lived in a cave, and committed various kinds of robberies. Among others, he also stole a part of the cattle of Hercules and, as he dragged the animals into his cave by their tails, it was impossible to discover their traces. But when the remaining oxen passed by the cave, those within began to bellow, and were thus discovered.
Caeculus: who, after growing up to manhood, and living for a time as a robber, together with a number of comrades who were shepherds, built the town of Praeneste. He invited the neighbourhood to the celebration of public games at Praeneste, and when, they were assembled, he called upon them to settle in the newly built town, and he gave weight to his demand by declaring that he was a son of Vulcan.
Pandora: When Prometheus stole fire from the forge of Hephaestus to warm mankind, Zeus was angry and ordered Hephaestus to make a woman out of earth who, with her charm and beauty would bring misery to all humans.
The Cabeiri: These are the Cabeiri, whose office it was to torture the wicked who may be found guilt by Osiris at the great trial on the day of judgment. Their name is derived from the Egyptian word KBA, punishment, and IRI, to do.
Ardalus, who was said to have invented the flute, and to have built a sanctuary of the Muses at Troeze.
Periphetes the Club-bearer, a robber at Epidaurus, who slew the travellers he met with an iron club. Theseus at last slew him and took his club for his own use. (Apollodorus iii. Metamorphoses by Ovid VII)
STRONG, mighty Vulcan, bearing splendid light,
Unweary'd fire, with flaming torrents bright:
Strong-handed, deathless, and of art divine,
Pure element, a portion of the world is thine:
All-taming artist, all-diffusive pow'r,
'Tis thine supreme, all substance to devour:
Æther, Sun, Moon, and Stars, light pure and clear,
For these thy lucid parts to men appear.
To thee, all dwellings, cities, tribes belong,
Diffus'd thro' mortal bodies bright and strong.
Hear, blessed power, to holy rites incline,
And all propitious on the incense shine:
Suppress the rage of fires unweary'd frame,
And still preserve our nature's vital flame.
A further development of the later tradition is, that Hephaestus sprang from the thigh of Hera, and, being for a long time kept in ignorance of his parentage, he at length had recourse to a stratagem, for the purpose of finding it out. He constructed a chair, to which those who sat upon it were fastened, and having thus entrapped Hera, he refused allowing her to rise until she had told him who his parents were.
For other accounts respecting his origin, see Cicero, Pausanias and Eustathius.
Hephaestus is the god of fire, especially in so far as it manifests itself as a power of physical nature in volcanic districts, and in so far as it is the indispensable means in arts and manufactures, whence fire is called the breath of Hephaestus, and the name of the god is used both by Greek and Roman poets as synonymous with fire.
As a flame arises out of a little spark, so the god of fire was delicate and weakly from his birth, for which reason he was so much disliked by his mother, that she wished to get rid of him, and dropped him from Olympus. But the marine divinities, Thetis and Eurynome, received him, and he dwelt with them for nine years in a grotto, surrounded by Oceanus, making for them a variety of ornaments.
It was, according to some accounts, during this period that he made the golden chair by which he punished his mother for her want of affection, and from which he would not release her, till he was prevailed upon by Dionysus.
Although Hephaestus afterwards remembered the cruelty of his mother, yet he was always kind and obedient towards her, nay once, while she was quarrelling with Zeus, he took her part, and thereby offended his father so much, that he seized him by the leg, and hurled him down from Olympus. Hephaestus was a whole day falling, but in the evening he came down in the island of Lemnos, where he was kindly received by the Sintians. (Apollodorus i, who, however, confounds the two occasions on which Hephaestus was thrown from Olympus.)
Later writers describe his lameness as the consequence of his second fall, while Homer makes him lame and weak from his birth. After his second fall he returned to Olympus, and subsequently acted the part of mediator between his parents. On that occasion he offered a cup of nectar to his mother and the other gods, who burst out into immoderate laughter on seeing him busily hobbling through Olympus from one god to another, for he was ugly and slow, and, owing to the weakness of his legs, he was held up, when he walked, by artificial supports, skilfully made of gold. His neck and chest, however, were strong and muscular.
One legend says that Hephaestus wished to marry Athena but she refused because she found him ugly. Another legend says that Athena disappeared from their bridal bed but Hephaestus did not see her vanish, and spilt his seed on the floor. In a similar version the semen fell from Athena's thigh and from it was produced Erechtheus, who became a king of Athens.
In Olympus, Hephaestus had his own palace, imperishable and shining like stars: it contained his workshop, with the anvil, and twenty bellows, which worked spontaneously at his bidding. It was there that he made all his beautiful and marvellous works, utensils, and arms, both for gods and men.
The ancient poets and mythographers abound in passages describing works of exquisite workmanship which had been manufactured by Hephaestus. In later accounts, the Cyclopes, Brontes, Steropes, Pyracmon, and others, are his workmen and servants, and his workshop is no longer represented as in Olympus, but in the interior of some volcanic isle. (The Aeneid by Virgil Book VIII)
The wife of Hephaestus also lived in his palace: in the Iliad she is called a Cliaris, in the Odyssey Aphrodite ( Iliad), and in Theogony of Hesiod 945 she is named Aglaia, the youngest of the Charites.
The story of Aphrodite's faithlessness to her husband, and of the manner in which he surprised her, is exquisitely described in Odyssey of Homer viii. The Homeric poems do not mention any descendants of Hephaestus, but in later writers the number of his children is considerable.
In the Trojan war he was on the side of the Greeks, but he was also worshipped by the Trojans, and on one occasion he saved a Trojan from being killed bv Diomedes.
His favourite place on earth was the island of Lemnos, where he liked to dwell among the Sintians; but other volcanic islands also, such as Lipara, Hiera, Imbros, and Sicily, are called his abodes or workshops. (Argonautica)
Hephaestus is among the male what Athena is among the female deities, for, like her, he gave skill to mortal artists, and, conjointly with her, he was believed to have taught men the arts which embellish and adorn life. But he was, nevertheless, conceived as far inferior to the sublime character of Athena. At Athens they had temples and festivals in common.
Both also were believed to have great healing powers, and Lemnian earth (terra Lemma) from the spot on which Hephaestus had fallen was believed to cure madness, the bites of snakes, and haemorrhage, and the priests of the god knew how to cure wounds inflicted by snakes.
The epithets and surnames by which Hephaestus is designated by the poets generally allude to his skill in the plastic arts or to his figure and his lameness. He was represented in the temple of Athena Chalcioecus at Sparta, in the act of delivering his mother; on the chest of Cypselus, giving to Thetis the armour for Achilles; and at Athens there was the famous statue of Hephaestus by Alcamenes, in which his lameness was slightly indicated.
The Greeks frequently placed small dwarf-like statues of the god near the hearth, and these dwarfish figures seem to have been the most ancient. (The History of Herodotus Book III.)
During the best period of Grecian art, he was represented as a vigorous man with a beard, and is characterised by his hammer or some other instrument, his oval cap, and the chiton, which leaves the right shoulder and arm uncovered.
Came too the revel-rout of Centaurs, mounted on horses, to the
feast of the gods and the mixing-bowl of Bacchus, leaning on
fir-trees, with wreaths of green foliage round their heads; and
loudly cried the prophet Chiron, skilled in arts inspired by
Phoebus; "Daughter of Nereus, thou shalt bear a son" -whose name
he gave-" a dazzling light to Thessaly; for he shall come with an
army of spearmen to the far-famed land of Priam, to set it in a
blaze, his body cased in a suit of golden mail forged by
Hephaestus, a gift from his goddess-mother, even from Thetis who
Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis The chorus retelling a prophecy of the coming of Achilles. The prophecy says that Achilles will arrive in golden mail forged by Hephaestus.
Then she called Vulcan and said, "Vulcan, come here, Thetis wants you"; and the far-famed lame god answered, "Then it is indeed an august and honoured goddess who has come here; she it was that took care of me when I was suffering from the heavy fall which I had through my cruel mother's anger--for she would have got rid of me because I was lame. It would have gone hardly with me had not Eurynome, daughter of the ever-encircling waters of Oceanus, and Thetis, taken me to their bosom.
Nine years did I stay with them, and many beautiful works in bronze, brooches, spiral armlets, cups, and chains, did I make for them in their cave, with the roaring waters of Oceanus foaming as they rushed ever past it; and no one knew, neither of gods nor men, save only Thetis and Eurynome who took care of me. If, then, Thetis has come to my house I must make her due requital for having saved me; entertain her, therefore, with all hospitality, while I put by my bellows and all my tools."
On this the mighty monster hobbled off from his anvil, his
thin legs plying lustily under him. He set the bellows away from
the fire, and gathered his tools into a silver chest. Then he
took a sponge and washed his face and hands, his shaggy chest and
brawny neck; he donned his shirt, grasped his strong staff, and
limped towards the door.
Homer Iliad Book 18
Thus spoke Jove and gave the word for war, whereon the gods
took their several sides and went into battle. Juno, Pallas
Minerva, earth-encircling Neptune, Mercury bringer of good luck
and excellent in all cunning--all these joined the host that came
from the ships; with them also came Vulcan in all his glory,
limping, but yet with his thin legs plying lustily under him.
Mars of gleaming helmet joined the Trojans, and with him Apollo
of locks unshorn, and the archer goddess Diana, Leto, Xanthus,
and laughter-loving Venus.
Homer Iliad Book 20
"For the heavyknee bridegroom always expected that Cythereia would bear him a hobbling son, having the image of his father in his feet." - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5.136
Sing, shrill Muse, of Hephæstus renowned in craft, who
with grey-eyed Athene taught goodly works to men on earth, even
to men that before were wont to dwell in mountain caves like
beasts; but now, being instructed in craft by the renowned
craftsman Hephæstus, lightly the whole year through they
dwell happily in their own homes. Be gracious, Hephæstus,
and grant me valour and fortune.
Homeric Hymn 19: To Hephaestus. Lang translation
(ll. 60-68) So said the father of men and gods, and laughed
aloud. And he bade famous Hephaestus make haste and mix earth
with water and to put in it the voice and strength of human kind,
and fashion a sweet, lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal
goddesses in face; and Athene to teach her needlework and the
weaving of the varied web; and golden Aphrodite to shed grace
upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs.
And he charged Hermes the guide, the Slayer of Argus, to put in
her a shameless mind and a deceitful nature.
Hesiod, Works and Days
Theogony of Hesiod 561-584
Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very famous Limping God formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Cronos willed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athene girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and down from her head she spread with her hands a broidered veil, a wonder to see; and she, Pallas Athene, put about her head lovely garlands, flowers of new-grown herbs. Also she put upon her head a crown of gold which the very famous Limping God made himself and worked with his own hands as a favour to Zeus his father. On it was much curious work, wonderful to see; for of the many creatures which the land and sea rear up, he put most upon it, wonderful things, like living beings with voices: and great beauty shone out from it.
Dialogue between Libera (Ariadne)
and Baccus (Dionysus) Ovid's Fasti
Book III: March 8
I am she to whom you used to promise the heavens.
Ah me, what a reward I suffer instead of heaven!'
She spoke: Liber had been listening a long while
To her complaint, since he chanced to follow closely.
He embraced her, and dried her tears with kisses,
And said: 'Together, let us seek the depths of the sky!
You'll share my name just as you've shared my bed,
Since, transmuted, you will be called Libera:
And there'll be a memory of your crown beside you,
The crown Vulcan gave to Venus, and she to you.'
He did as he said, and changed the nine jewels to fire:
Now the golden crown glitters with nine stars.
Aphrodite wishing to delight Ares in the deep shrewdness of her mind, clasped a golden necklace showing pale about the girl's blushing neck, a clever work of Hephaistos set with sparkling gems in masterly refinement. This he had made for his Cyprian bride, a gift for his first glimpse of Archer Eros.
For the heavyknee bridegroom always expected that Cythereia would bear him a hobbling son, having the image of his father in his feet. But his thought was mistaken; and when he beheld a whole-footed son brilliant with wings like Maia's son Hermes, lie made this magnificent necklace.
It was like a serpent with starspangled back and coiling shape. For as the twoheaded amphisbaina in very sooth winds the coils between and spits her poison from either mouth, rolling along and along with double-gliding motion, and head crawling joins with head while she jumps about with twirling waves of her back sideways: so that magnificent necklace twisted shaking its crooked back, with its pair of curving necks, which came to meet at the midnipple, a flexible twoheaded serpent thick with scales; and by the curving joints of the work the golden circle of the moving spine bent round, until the head slid about with undulating movement and belched a mimic hissing through the jaws.
With the two mouths on each side, where is beginning and the end, was a golden eagle that seemed to be cutting the open air, upright between serpent's heads, high-shining with fourfold nozzle the four wings. One wing was covered with yellow jasper, one had the allwhite stone of Selene, which fades as the horned goddess wanes, and waxes when Mene newkindled distils her horn's liquid light and milks out the self-gotten fire of Father Helios.
A third had the gleaming pearl, which by its gleam makes the gray swell of the Erythraian Sea sparkle shining. Right in the middle of the other, the Indian agate spat out its liquid light, gently shining in bright beauty.
Where the two heads of the serpent came ether from both sides,
the mouths gaped wide enclosed the eagle with both their jaws,
enfolding it from this side and that. Over the shining front,
rubies in the eyes shot their native brilliancy, which sent forth
a sharp gleam, like a fiery lamp being kindled. Proud with the
manifold shapes of stones was a sea, and an emerald stone
grass-green welcomed the crystal adjoining like the foam, and
showed the image of the white-crested brine becoming dark; here
all clever work was fashioned, here the brinebred herds of the
deep sparkled in shining gold as though leaping about, and many a
supple traveller danced halfseen, the dolphin skimming the brine
which waggled its mimic tail selfmoved; flocks of many-coloured
birds - you might almost think you heard the windy beat of their
flapping wings, when Cythereia gave the glorious necklace to her
girl, golden, bejewelled, to hang by the bride's neck.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca Book V.131-190
After his servitude Athena procured for him the kingdom, and
Zeus gave him to wife Harmonia, daughter of Aphrodite and Ares.
And all the gods quitted the sky, and feasting in the Cadmea
celebrated the marriage with hymns. Cadmus gave her a robe and
the necklace wrought by Hephaestus, which some say was given to
Cadmus by Hephaestus, but Pherecydes says that it was given by
Europa, who had received it from Zeus.
Persephoneia: though she was
hidden when all that dwelt in Olympos were bewitched by this one
girl, rivals in love for the marriageable maid, and offered their
dowers for an unsmirched bridal. Hermes
had not yet gone to the bed of Peitho,
and he offered his rod as gift to adorn her chamber. Apollo produced his melodious harp as a
marriage-gift. Ares brought spear and
cuirass for the wedding, and shield as bride-gift. Lemnian
Hephaistos held out a curious necklace of many colours, new made
and breathing still of the furnace, poor hobbler! For he had
already, though unwilling, rejected his former bride Aphrodite,
when he spied her rioting with Ares; he displayed her to the
Blessed and the woman thief who had robbed his bed, when by
information from Phaëthon he had entangled them in a
spider's web, naked Ares with naked Aphrodite.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca Book V.569-586
The sixth labour he enjoined on him was to chase away the Stymphalian birds.
Now at the city of Stymphalus in Arcadia was the lake called Stymphalian, embosomed in a deep wood. To it countless birds had flocked for refuge, fearing to be preyed upon by the wolves. So when Hercules was at a loss how to drive the birds from the wood, Athena gave him brazen castanets, which she had received from Hephaestus. By clashing these on a certain mountain that overhung the lake, he scared the birds.
They could not abide the sound, but fluttered up in a fright,
and in that way Hercules shot them.
(ll. 237-270) And beyond these there were men fighting in
warlike harness, some defending their own town and parents from
destruction, and others eager to sack it; many lay dead, but the
greater number still strove and fought. The women on well-built
towers of bronze were crying shrilly and tearing their cheeks
like living beings -- the work of famous Hephaestus.
Hesiod, Shield of Heracles
(ll. 318-326) A wonderful thing the great strong shield was to
see -- even for Zeus the loud-thunderer, by whose will Hephaestus
made it and fitted it with his hands. This shield the valiant son
of Zeus wielded masterly, and leaped upon his horse-chariot like
the lightning of his father Zeus who holds the aegis, moving
lithely. And his charioteer, strong Iolaus, standing upon the
car, guided the curved chariot.
The Shield Of Heracles
VII. Prometheus moulded men out of water and earth and gave
them also fire, which, unknown to Zeus, he had hidden in a stalk
of fennel. But when Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaestus to
nail his body to Mount Caucasus, which is a Scythian mountain. On
it Prometheus was nailed and kept bound for many years. Every day
an eagle swooped on him and devoured the lobes of his liver,
which grew by night. That was the penalty that Prometheus paid
for the theft of fire until Hercules afterwards released him.
Strength to Hephaestus on Zeus' instructions that Prometheus
should be chained to the mountain:
"Lo, the earth's bound and limitary land,
The Scythian steppe, the waste untrod of men!
Look to it now, Hephaestus--thine it is,
Thy Sire obeying, this arch-thief to clench
Against the steep-down precipice of rock,
With stubborn links of adamantine chain.
Look thou: thy flower, the gleaming plastic fire,
He stole and lent to mortal man--a sin
That gods immortal make him rue to-day,
Lessoned hereby to own th' omnipotence
Of Zeus, and to repent his love to man!"
Aeschylus Prometheus Bound
From Ida’s top Hephaestus, lord of fire,
Sent forth his sign; and on, and ever on,
Beacon to beacon sped the courier–flame.
From Ida to the crag, that Hermes loves,
Of Lemnos; thence unto the steep sublime
Aeschylus, from Agamemnon Clytemnestra sees the flaming signal that announces the arrival of Agamemnon.
"If any of you are troubled by the thought of volleys from the roofs when the army enters the city, I bid you lay these fears aside: if our enemies do climb their roofs we have a god to help us, the god of Fire. Their porches are easily set aflame, for the doors are made of palm-wood and varnished with bitumen, the very food of fire."
Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.5.22 - The generals tell their army that Hephaestus is on their side. Hephaestus means fire in this case as fire can be used to burn down the houses of their enemy. Therefore the soldiers should not be afraid of people going onto their roofs and hurling projectiles at them because the soldier can just use Hephaestus to burn the houses down.
Apollodorus i - Hephaestus helped kill the Giants using “missiles of red-hot metal.”
Apollodorus Epitome 4.7 - Hephaestus dried up the rivers using his flames.
Euripides, Cyclops line 600 - Before thrusting the glowing stick into the Cyclops’ eye, Odysseus calls on Hephaestus in the form of the burning end of the stick to burn the eye of the enemy.
Iliad II - The fire used to cook the flesh of a sacrificial victim is referred to as Hephaestus’ fire.
Iliad XVII - The flame of Hephaestus may not be quenched.
Iliad XXI - Hephaestus made a fire that burned all the bodies of men slain by Achilles.
Odyssey XXIV - The sacrificial flame used to burn the meat left for the gods is referred to as the “flame of Hephaestus.”