Poseidon, Hephaestus, Ares

September 21, 2009

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CC 303 Intro to Classical Mythology - Fall 2009
Department of Classics, University of Texas at Austin, Prof. Lawrence Kim

I. Names to Remember

Poseidon (Neptune), Hephaestus (Vulcan), Ares (Mars)
Corinth, Lemnos, Mt. Etna, Thrace
Graces, Fates, Triton

II. Lecture Outline

  1. Daughters of Zeus Who Come in Threes
    1. The Three Graces
      • Attendants of Aphrodite; Mother = Eurynome
    2. The Hours (Seasons; Horae)
    3. The Fates (Parcae or Moerae)
      • Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos (you don't need to remember these names)
      • One rolls out the thread of a life, one measures, and one cuts
      • Mother = Themis (Order)
  2. Poseidon (Neptune)
    1. Lord of the Sea and Ocean; Earthquakes
    2. Trident; Horses; chariot of sea monsters
    3. Married to Amphitrite, a Nereid
    4. Child: Triton = Merman; blows conch shell
    5. Sea Gods: Proteus
      1. Old wise man of the sea; shape-shifter; prophet
  3. Hephaestus/Vulcan: The God of Fire and the Forge
    1. Two Birth Stories
      • Born of Hera alone in response to Athena
      • Child of Hera and Zeus
    2. Lame, Ugly God (Thrown from Olympus)
    3. Personifies Fire (not of the hearth, but of the forge)
      • Vulcan = Volcanoes imagined as workshops (Mt. Etna, Sicily; Lemnos)
      • Craftsman and Smith of the Gods (metalworking)
      • Shield of Achilles
    4. Sacred island: Lemnos
    5. Married to Venus (humorous wedding of opposites)
  4. Ares/Mars: The God of War
    1. The destructive, violent, beserker side of battle = chaos
      • Contrasted to Athena, the god of rational war, strategy, military
    2. Pictured in Armor and Weaponry (Helmet, Spear)
      • Bearded or clean-shaven
    3. Associated with Thrace, northern Greece, savage land
    4. Not worshipped that much; even the other gods dislike him
  5. The Adultery of Venus and Mars
    1. The Sun tells Hephaestus of the affair
    2. Lovers trapped by Hephaestus with a golden net
    3. Gods laugh and Poseidon vouches for Ares; lovers are released
  6. Zeus' Children
    Zeus + Metis
    Zeus + Hera
    Zeus + Leto
    Zeus + Maia

    Zeus + Mnemosyne

    Zeus + Eurynome

    Zeus + Themis



    (Hephaestus), Ares
    Apollo and Artemis

    Nine Muses

    Three Graces

    Hours (Seasons)
    Moerae (Fates)

III. Images


  1. Incuse silver stater, 530-510 BC, from Poseidonia. Obverse: nude Poseidon with chlamys and trident. Soprintendenza Archeologica, Naples.
  2. Poseidon. Mosaic floor from the Baths of Neptune, Ostia, c. 133 CE.
  3. Neptune and a Dolphin. Bernini.
  4. Neptune and Amphitrite. Constantinian mosaic pavement from North Africa.
  5. Triton with dolphins. Detail of North Ionic neck amphora, c. 530 BCE. Ashby Castle, Northampton Collection.


  1. Mars Ultor.
  2. Ludovisi Ares.
  3. Ares and Aphrodite. Wall Painting
Ares and Aphrodite
  1. Ares and Aphrodite. Vase Painting.
  2. Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces. Jacques-Louis David, 1822-24. Brussels.
  3. Venus, Mars and Cupid. Guercino, 1633. Pinacoteca Estense, Modena
  4. Venus and Mars. Sandro Botticelli, 1485. National Gallery, London.


  1. Venus, Vulcan, and Mars. Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto, c. 1550. Pinakothek, Munich.
  2. Venus and Mars in Vulcan's Net. Martin Van Heemskerk, 1536.
  3. The Forge of Vulcan. Diego Velåazquez, 1630. Museo del Prado, Madrid.


  1. The Three Graces. Wall painting, c. 60 CE. Pompeii.
  2. The Three Graces. Raphael, 1504. Musee Conde, Chantilly.
  3. The Three Graces. Canova.