Roman name: Vulcan or Mulciber
Function: god of the forge
Hephaestus was sometimes considered the son of both Zeus and Hera, though other accounts say that Hera gave birth to Hephaestus parthenogenically in response to Zeus giving birth to Athena by himself. In some versions of his birth, Hephaestus was born lame; Hera was less than pleased and threw him off Mount Olympus [see Olympus Mons on map]. Hephaestus landed in the sea, where he was cared for by the sea goddesses Thetis and Eurynome while he grew. He soon proved to be a master craftsman, and he built a beautiful throne for his mother that trapped her when she sat in it. Numerous gods tried to convince Hephaestus to release Hera, but he refused until Dionysus came and got Hephaestus really drunk. This aid rendered to her is often cited as the reason Hera put aside her hatred of Dionysus [see Dionysus].
According to another version of his birth myth, Hephaestus was born perfectly healthy, but when he intervened on behalf of his mother in a dispute between his parents, Hera and Zeus, Zeus flung Hephaestus off Mount Olympus. Hephaestus fell for a full day until he crash-landed on the island of Lemnos. The Lemnians took care of him as best they could, but the god was left crippled. Hephaestus was grateful to the Lemnians and established his workshop on the island. The Romans claimed that Vulcan’s forge was located beneath Mount Aetna on the island of Sicily. When the volcano on Mount Aetna erupted, the Romans said that Vulcan was working in his forge.
Hephaestus was married to Aphrodite, but theirs was not a happy marriage. Aphrodite had a long-standing affair with the war god, Ares. Whenever Hephaestus would leave home, Aphrodite and Ares would jump into bed. When the sun god, Helius, informed Hephaestus of what his wife did while he was away, Hephaestus came up with a plan to catch the two in the act. He built a golden net which was so fine that it was invisible and set it up above his bed. He then told his wife that he was taking a trip to Lemnos to visit his forge and hid. Soon, Aphrodite and Ares were in the bed together and the net fell upon them, trapping them right where they were. Hephaestus came in with all the other Olympians to jeer at the lovers, who were caught in flagrante delicto (in a blazing crime).