Cyclopes, or Polyphemus, was the son of Poseidon and Thoosa. Cyclopes is best known for his role in Homer's epic poem known as the Odyssey. He was part of a species known as the Cyclops, or in Greek, "round eye". Cyclopes was a gigantic creature with a single eye at the center of his forehead. He lived on a remote island near Sicily, where caves were available for shelter, and the only type of food consisted of flesh such as sheep and goats. Cyclops's were completely separated from the rest of society.
Many Cyclops were in black smith guilds such as, Caneiri, Idaian, Dactyloi, Telchines, and Cyclopes. Given there talents, many believed that the legend of the the Cyclopes' sing eye arose from an actual practice of blacksmiths wearing an eyepatch over one eye to prevent flying sparks from blinding both eyes. Cyclopes was known as the monster adressed in Homer's The Odyssey.
There are two main branches of the Cyclops family. The elder Cyclops are named Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, and these are the ones who got locked up by Uranus and later by Kronos. Eventually, they allied with Zeus, forged some weapons for the Olympians, and retired to a career working at forge to Hephaestus. The other main branch of the Cyclopean family comes in the form of shepherds with a taste for man-flesh. This tribe became famous when Odysseus made a pit stop on their island and stuck a rather sharp stick in the eye of a Cyclops named Polyphemus. Many believe that the second generation of children were conceived by Uranus and Gaea. Others believe that the Greek god Poseidon and the sea Nymph Thoosa were the origins to the species.
Odysseus and his twelve men were on their way home from the Trojan War and landed on the island of the Cyclopes in search of provisions. Polyphemus, or Cyclopes, was tending his sheep and goats while, from fighting the war, Odysseus and his men were tired and hungry. They came across Polyphemus's cave and went in to find any food left for them to take. Curiosity possessed Odysseus and he decided to stay in the cave, patiently waiting to see a glimpse of Cyclopes. While Cyclopes was herding his flock into his cave, he decided for safekeeping, to block the cave with a boulder so the animals couldn't escape, not acknowledging the fact that thirteen men were in the cave.
At the sight of the beast, Odysseus and his men gasped in disbelief and gave away their hiding place. Polyphemus rushed toward them and killed two men by eating them for dinner, afterwards he fell asleep. Odysseus came up with a plan to avoid being killed and to escape. The next morning, when Cyclopes awoke, he ate two more of Odysseus's men. He then moved the boulder shyly so only his flock would be able to exit the cave, and then rushed it back into place. Odysseus and his men created the plan of driving a stake through Polyphemus's eye and escaping. After the men hid the stake, Cyclopes came back into the cave and ate another two men. After consuming both Greeks, he spoke to Odysseus, asking his name, in which Odysseus answered "Outis", which meant nothing in Greek. As part of the plan, Odysseus offered Polyphemus a full goatskin wine. Polyphemus took the wine and drank it to the last drop and fell fast asleep.
The plan went into full action as Odysseus, and his four men, thrust the stake in Cyclopes's only eye, blinding the Cyclops for good. The antagonizing pain made Cyclopes scream so loud that neighboring Cyclops came by to see what was wrong. They asked and Polyphemus responded with "nothing", as "Outis" meant, while really Cyclopes was trying to say Odysseus. At dawn when Polyphemus led out his sheep, totally blind, and knowing the Greeks' would try to escape, he felt each animal as they exited. Odysseus, and his remaining men, held onto the belly of a ram, and one at a time, escaped from the horrid cave. They ran toward their ship for the journey back home, and took part of Cylopes's flock. Once aboard the ship, Odysseus taunted the Cyclopes by telling him the Cyclops's true identity. Out of rage, Polyphemus thrusted rocks toward the ship, trying to prevent the men from escaping. When Odysseus had made his escape, Polyphemus prayed to his father asking him to send a curse, and throughout the rest of Odysseus' journey home Poseidon was his enemy.
Cyclopes were minor gods and didn't contain many powers. Being a giant, they were very big and strong. Later generations were thought to be gracefully skilled in architecture. While first generation Cyclopes were known to be skilled at blacksmiths, making a series of weapons for the gods, including Zues's thunderbolt.
- The Cyclopes were locked in Tartarus because Uranus was fearful of their strength. Tartarus was described as a deep gloomy place, pit or abyss that was located beneath the Underworld.
- There is a unpopular fable that says the Cyclops made a deal with Hades, which centered on trading an eye for the ability to see the future. Hades consented by removing an eye and allowing Cyclops to foretell the day of their death.
The Cyclops gave Artemis bows and arrows of moonlight, while Apollo received the bow and arrow of the sun's rays.
The thunderbolt possessed by Zeus became from three Cyclops, Arges who was responsible for brightness, Brontes for thunder, Steropes for giving Zeus the power of lightening.
- 1) "Polyphemus." Encyclopedia Mythica. 2013. Encyclopedia Mythica Online.
10 Apr. 2013 <http://www.pantheon.org/articles/p/polyphemus.html>. 2) "Polyphemus." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 May 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphemus> 3) Theocritus. "MythNET - Cyclops Polyphemus." MythNET - Cyclops Polyphemus. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.classicsunveiled.com/mythnet/html/polyphem.html>