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The Cyclopes

The One-eyed master-craftsmen Giants

It is often said that two is far better than one, but whomever first said those words never looked into the lives and times of some the most misunderstood and under-appreciated beings in all of Greek mythology! Incredibly intelligent giants who sported one eye in the middle of their foreheads instead of two, the CYCLOPES belong to the first generations of beings ever created by Gaea and Ouranos, the Mother and Father of all the Titans. There were three of them; Brontes (Thunderer), Steropes (Lightning) and Arges (Bright).

As neither Gaea or Ouranos was very experienced at the whole "let's create some life and see what happens" routine at the beginning of the universe, their first attempts tended to be a little off from what they were hoping for. Monsters and oddly shaped creatures were among some of the first kiddos they ever brought on to the scene.

The children that first arrived were not at all what their parents were expecting; they didn't have the "good looks" of Ouranos and Gaea, and were seen, especially by Ouranos, to be disgusting failures, mutants and abominations. As a result, many of these early creations were tossed down into the bowels of Tartarus, the hellish fiery pit deep within Gaea's body, a hideous prison from which there was no reasonable escape.

The Cyclopes, along with their brothers, the Hecatonchires (100-Handers) were the ones who bore this punishment, spending untold centuries in agony as prisoners of their parents, simply because of their looks. As far as Ouranos was concerned, problem solved. Later, when he and Gaea figured out the whole "creation" thing, they gave birth to the Titans, and the whole game of Greek mythology really got moving along.

Down the line, Ouranos' Titan son, Cronus, vowed to overthrow his dad and take over as ruler of the Titans. His mother Gaea had had enough of Ouranos' cruelty and promised to help Cronus do so under one condition; that he free his Cyclope and Hecatonchires brothers from Tartarus. Cronus agreed, and once Ouranos was dealt with (Cronus castrated him, making him unable to lead!), the first sons of the Titans were released from their hated cage and free once more!

However, their luck was short-lived.

It turned out that Cronus was really no better than his dad; he mistrusted his older "brothers" and honestly believed they were out to off him and take his place. So, when Gaea wasn't looking, Cronus had the Cyclopes and Hecatonchires rounded up and sent back down to the misery of Tartarus.

They say history always repeats itself, and it wasn't long until Cronus' paranoia reached insane levels. He seriously believed that HIS kids were going to rise up and take his crown.

He couldn't murder his kids (his wife Rhea would never permit that to happen), but he COULD swallow them whole and imprison them in his stomach for safe keeping! Which is exactly what the king of the Titans did to the first few children that came along (these happened to be the first of the Olympians, though Cronus didn't know that at the time...).

In the end, the last of Cronus' kids, Zeus, freed his trapped siblings (who had spent their early years floating around in Cronus' belly acid and digestive juices...) and led the rebellion against the Titan King and the rest of the Titans in a war called the Titanomachy (War Between the Gods). Zeus knew he'd need some extra kick to their rag-tag army if they wanted to crush the Titans, so he went down to Tartarus personally and freed the Cyclopes and the others trapped in Tartarus if they promised to fight with them.

The Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires had no problems with that at all; they had a serious hankering for revenge because of Cronus' double-cross and wanted some red-raged payback.

The Cyclopes were extremely intelligent and inventive, and though maybe gruff and anti-social at times, they were able to create amazing things out of seemingly nothing.

During the Titanomachy, they used their talents to create special weapons for the Olympians to use in combat. Most famously, they created the Thunderbolt for Zeus, the Helm of Invisibility for Hades and the Trident for Poseidon out of thanks for their release from Tartarus. After the Titanomachy, the Cyclopes brothers became Hephaestus' helpers at his forge, lending inspiration and technical assistance to the gruff god in his workshop.

The Cyclopes were also said to have built the "cyclopean" city walls at the ancient Greek cities of Tiryns and Mycenae. According to the myths, the explosive noises belching and exploding from the heart of the local volcanoes were because of their working operations as they built and constructed deep underground.

In a bizarre family feud of Olympian proportions, Apollo actually killed the Cyclopes out of revenge for Zeus whacking his own son, Asclepius, the god of medicine. Zeus punished Apollo for the murder, and forced him to serve King Admetus for one year as a cowherd. Zeus, being the final say in all things, later retrieved Asclepius and the Cyclopes from Hades in the underworld, though it was probably quite a task to do so, even for Zeus.

What exactly he had to trade off with Hades to make that happen is unknown (Hades usually NEVER gives up the dead without a good reason or acceptable trade-off!) Zeus couldn't leave the Cyclopes in the lurch though, as they were the number-one biggest reason the Olympians beat down the Titans and took over the universe. He OWED them, big-time! Zeus also resurrected Asclepius at the request of Apollo, so that father and son could make up. The Cyclopes had dodged a permanent vacation in the underworld, something few are able to avoid!

There is another Cyclops that is mentioned in Greek mythology but he is not related to the original three brothers. He appears in the story of Odysseus, and is quite a lot less civilized than the sons of the first Titans. In fact, he's a downright hairy, sloppy unintelligent brute named Polyphemus, who happens to be the son of the sea god, Poseidon. Polyphemus kept a herd of giant sheep on an island of other related dunce-cyclopes, and was blinded by Odysseus when he tried to devour all his crew.

For this crime, Poseidon cursed Odysseus and made every effort to block him from ever returning home to his kingdom on the island of Ithaca. But that's a whole other story...!

[1]

Sources

[1] "Mrpsmythopedia"




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