See also: Cyclops (homonymy), Cyclops (kind)
The Cyclops form a race of fantastic creatures in the Greek Mythologie. They are giants having only a eye in the middle of the face. The word is a transcription of the Greek κύκλωψ / kýklôps , which comes from κύκλος / kýklos (“the wheel”, “the circle”) and of ὤψ / ôps (“eye”), which one could translate by “round eye”. According to Hellanicos, the Cyclops draw their name from their father, Cyclops, wire of Ouranos.
The legends which relate to them are contradictory: they should not be confused with the Géants, born from the blood of Ouranos and killed at the time of the Gigantomachie; it is also necessary to take care to distinguish several successive races: ouraniens, blacksmiths, builders and pastors (only the cyclops ouraniens and pastors are mentioned by Homère).
They are three: Brontès ( Thunder ), Stéropès ( Flash ) and Argès ( the Lightning ). Ouranos, frightened by their force, locks up them in the Tartar . Later, their brother Cronos releases them, as well as the Hécatonchires and the Géants. They help it to reverse and castrate Ouranos, but Cronos, fearing in its turn to be overcome by them, returns them in the Tartar where they remain until their release by Zeus. Grateful towards this last, they manufacture the the lightning that Zeus uses as arms to reverse Cronos and the others Titans. Argès adds the gleam, Brontès the storm and Stéropès the flashes. These weapons of the lightning become the weapons of predilection of Zeus to which it can overcome Cronos and the Titans, and to become the Master of the Universe.
These cyclops create also the three-pronged fork of Poséidon, the arc and the arrows of Artémis and the Kunée of Hadès (helmet which makes its carrier invisible and which one finds in several legends).
In a version of the myth, the Cyclops are killed by Apollon after Zeus killed his/her son, Asclépios, with the weapon forged by the Cyclops, whereas this last had brought back to the life several deaths.
According to Phérécyde de Syros (in Fragments of Greek history , Jacoby), they are not the cyclops but their sons that Apollon destroys to be avenged for dead for Asclépios.
These cyclops are used as assistances to Héphaïstos. One knows the names of two of them, Acamas and Pyracmon.
A group of cyclops to the service of the king Proétos builds the walls of the city of Tirynthe, the birthplace of Héraclès. These walls are described as cyclopean . They build also the walls of Mycènes and carries it Lions. They have a sanctuary in the isthmus of Corinthe.
These cyclops are called encheirogasteres (“those which have hands with the belly”), because they work to earn their living.
The Cyclops pastors incarnate a late generation, far from being as brilliant as the preceding ones. They are satisfied to live breeding in Sicily. The term “Cyclops” refers then usually to the one of the representatives of this race of Cyclops of which best emphasized by Homère is the son of Poséidon and Thoosa: Polyphème. There exists also Télémus.
This category of Cyclops is not limited to Greek mythology, since one finds of them examples in the the Pyrenees, with the Tartaro, the Bécut S, Ulhart (the Pyrenees and the Alps), of which the main part of the accounts corresponds of enough close to démélés of Polyphème with Ulysses.
One knows their leaning for the work of metals: certain specialists thus think that the legend of the cyclops comes from Forgeron S which carried really a protection on an eye, of fear of being plugged in the event of projection of extreme ashes. The blacksmiths also carried tattooings in the honor of the sun, which could be another origin of the myth.
The generation of the cyclops pastors is clearly differentiated from the preceding ones. They are most probably late additions with the the Pantheon and do not have or few relations with the blacksmiths.
One as often as thinks the legends associated with Polyphème do not come really from the myth of the cyclops but were there associated only by inclusion with Polyphème in the Odyssey by Homère. Polyphème could have been a local demon or a kind of monster. The Triomate S of the legends crétoises could be the true origin about it - they were a rural race ogres nourishing human flesh and who carried a third eye to the back of the head. This eye except, they resemble much the cyclops d' Homère.
Another possible source of the legends on the cyclops could be the presence of prehistoric craniums of proto-elephant S found by the Greeks (one meets some still today) in Crete. The broad nasal cavity (for the horn) which is very visible with the center of cranium would have been confused with an ocular orbit of big size. Being given the alive little of elephant S that the inhabitants could meet, they had little chance to recognize the exact origin of cranium.
But the most probable explanation is that of an Indo-European origin of the myth. The languages of the Greeks, the Celtic and all the other Indo-European people resulted from the same language-mother. It is thus natural to think that these people had myths common going up to very a deep past. In the Irish beliefs, one finds creatures called the Fomoire, which had only one eye, that an arm and that a leg and which lived on peripheral islands. Their king was Balor. Of these characteristics, the Greeks retained only the unicity of the eye. In the beliefs of the Ossètes, people of Iranian language, appear of the ogres in an eye.
The Holoproencéphalie is a congenital malformation of the brain and face. It exists to differing degree and results in an incomplete separation between the two hemispheres from the brain and sometimes between the two eyes. It is easy to imagine that the birth of a baby having such malformations could be the source of terrifying legends.
(I, 1,2; I, 2,1; III, 10,4).
- (v. 139 & 501).
- , (IX, 106).
- (XIII, 760).
- (II, 25,8).
- (III, 617; VIII, 416), (IV, 170).
- Balor, god in single eye of the Celtic Mythology Irish
- Odin, god of the Scandinavian Mythology sacrificing a eye to acquire the Wisdom
- Tartaro, Bécut, cyclops of the Basque and Pyrenean Mythology.
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