Learn Facts About Ancient Greece's Hephaestus

God of the Forge, Crafts, and Fire

Temple of Hephaestus at Athens

Vasilis Tsikkinis photos/Getty Images

The best-preserved, Doric-style temple in Greece is the temple of Hephaestus. It’s called the Hephaisteion, located near the Acropolis in Athens, and it remains standing nearly as it was originally constructed. Up until the 1800s, it was used as a Greek Orthodox church, which helped preserve and maintain it. This temple also used to be known as the Theseion.

Who Was Hephaestus?

Here is a quick look at Hephaestus, who is often outshone by his famous wife, Aphrodite.

Hephaestus' appearance: A dark-haired man who has difficulty walking due to misformed feet. Some accounts make him small in stature; this may be associated with the hunched-over appearance of mine workers.

Symbol or attribute of Hephaestus: The forge and fire itself.

Strengths: Hephaestus is creative, cunning and an able metal worker

Weaknesses: Can't handle his liquor; can be crafty, volatile and vindictive.

Parents: Usually said to be Zeus and Hera; some say Hera bore him without the help of a father. Hera is also said to have thrown him into the sea, where he was rescued by the sea goddess Thetis and her sisters.

Spouse: Aphrodite. The blacksmith-god married well. Other tales give him as wife the youngest of the Graces, Aglaia.

Children: He created Pandora of the famous box; some tales give him as the father of Eros, though most ascribe this love-god to the union of Ares and Aphrodite. Some divine genealogies have him as the father or grandfather of Rhadamanthys, who ruled at Phaistos on the island of Crete, though Rhadamanthys is usually considered to be the son of Europa and Zeus.

Some major temple sites: The Hephaisteion near the Acropolis in Athens, which is the best-preserved Doric-style temple in Greece, built in 449 BCE. He was also associated with the islands of Naxos and Lemnos, another volcanic island. An area on one of the new volcanic islands in the caldera of Santorini is called Ifestos after him. The ancient Minoan city of Phaistos may also be related to him.

Basic story: Feeling rejected by his mother Hera, Hephaestus made a lovely throne for her and sent it to Olympus. She sat in it and discovered she could not get up again. Then the chair levitated. The other Olympian gods tried to reason with Hephaestus, but even Ares was driven off with his flames. He finally was given wine by Dionysus and, drunk was brought to Olympus. Drunk or not, he still refused to free Hera unless he could have either Aphrodite or Athene as his wife. He ended up with Aphrodite, who in this instance was not a quick learner.

When she lay with his brother Ares in the bed Hephaestus had made, chains emerged and they could not leave the bed, exposing them to the laughter of the rest of the Olympians when Hephaestus called them all together to witness his adulterous wife and brother.

The reason that Hephaestus limps or has badly-formed feet is that his mother Hera was so disgusted by him after she gave birth, she threw him down to earth and he was injured in the fall. With this backstory, his "gift" of the throne that she could not escape is a bit more understandable.

Interesting fact: Hephaestus could sometimes be called Daidalos or Daedalus, connecting him to the famous Cretan craftsman who was the first to fly using artificial wings.

In Roman mythology, Hephaestus is similar to the god Vulcan, another master of the forge and of metalwork.

Alternate spellings: Hephaistos, Ifestos, Iphestos, Ifestion and other variants.

More Fast Facts About Greek Gods and Goddesses

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