Dionysus and Hephaestus

I usually stick to writing about cult practices and avoid mythology, but this topic is a bit different. To be fair, the two gods we are going to talk about are also different from the rest of the Pantheon in their respective ways, so it makes sense.

The myth is Hephaestus’ return to Olympos, so let’s summarize it quickly (I will be using the version brought to us by the late greek author Libanios): Hera, ashamed of her Hephaestus for his lameness, banished him from Olympos. As an answer, he crafts her a throne and sends it to her. Hera, upon sitting on the throne, quickly realizes that the object has invisible bonds that ties her in place. No one among the gods is able to free her, and so they realize they need to bring Hephaestus back because he’s the only one to know how this throne works. Ares tries first, through force, but Hephaestus sends him away with fire. The only god who succeeds to convince Hephaestus to come back is Dionysus, who manages to do so by making him drunk.

As a reward for his success, Dionysus is made an Olympian proper. As we can see, the myth serves the double purpose of justifying Dionysus’ and Hephaestus’ place amongst the other Olympians. I could go on and on about the themes of the myth but this is not the purpose of this post.

Instead, what I want to go through is the representations we have of the myth and the importance of Dionysiac imagery surrounding Hephaestus. Let’s look at some depictions found on pottery.

1)  The Francois crater, 570 – 560 B.C


2) Kylix, archaic, undated.


3)  Harvard Krater, ca 500 B.C.


4) Toledo Skyphox, ca. 430 – 420 B.C


5) Munich Pelike,  ca. 430 B.C.


It’s interesting to note how the depictions fit their stylistic periods. As such, the ithyphallism of the satyrs, silens and the donkey is very present until the entrance into the 5th century. In the last example I’ve chosen, the drunk Hephaestus is not shown on a donkey, but instead being supported by a satyr.

I’d argue however, that Hephaestus’ association with the donkey further links him to the dionysian realm, as it is an animal we find most often associated with Silenus, and later with Priapus. Both of which are heavily linked to Dionysus.The representations of the return of Hephaestus take the form of a dionysiac procession where Dionysus is triumphant.

Despite the popularity of this myth in artistic and lyrical depictions, there doesn’t seem to have been any particular connection between Hephaestus and Dionysus in festivals. The myth itself rathers tells about the creation of a stable pantheon. It is notable, however, that those two gods, whose epiphanies are linked also happen to be the two most different gods of the pantheon. They both are outcasts who owe to eachother their respective recognizition as gods of Olympus.

Further reading:

Hedreen G., The return of Hephaistos, Dionysiac processional ritual and the creation of a visual narrative, In: Journal of Hellenic Studies 124, 2004


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