Ethan's answer to the How did Athena keep from being turned into stone by her shield? question puts forth an interesting idea:

Athena probably wouldn't have been turned to stone from Medusa's head since Athena was the one who cursed Medusa to look like that in the first place using her own power. Like if someone tried to use Zeus's thunderbolts against him; I don't think it would work since they are his.

Is this true? Could Zeus's thunderbolts be used against him? Could Poseidon be hurt by his own trident?

  • AFAIR, both Zeus' thunderbolts and Poseidon's trident were made by cyclopses. So I doubt that'll be the case for these specific situations but Athena's situation is indeed interesting.
    – eko
    Oct 9 '17 at 11:51
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    @echonax I think you're correct that they were created by titans to assist in the battle against cronos, by which the titans hoped to receive freedom. Still, I think even if the weapons of Zeus and Poseidon weren't crafted by their own, this doesn't necessarily mean that they can't be immune to them. Zeus is not only wielder, but master of thunder. To strike thunder against the master of thunder is to splash water against the sea! Still, this is of course merely speculation. Mar 17 '18 at 22:38
  • However, I think that unless there is any known text or tale that describes 'theft' of personal weapons of the gods (the fire stolen by Prometheus wasn't a 'personal weapon', but perhaps it tells something), this question is unanswerable. Given that this question hasn't been answered, I guess such a tale doesn't exists or is hard to find. Would so speculation, backed by texts making claims on the nature of the gods do for an answer? In that case, I might be able do something. Mar 17 '18 at 22:39
  • There's an interpretation of some of the language surrounding Ragnarök that Freyr is slain by his own sword, the one he gave up for the hand of the giantess Gerðr. You've tagged this greek so it's unclear if you'll accept this as an answer.
    – Spencer
    Oct 30 '18 at 23:22

Apparently yes, their weapons could be used against them, although I have only ever encountered one example of this in the ancient sources, specifically in Apollodorus' Library 1.6.3, wherein Zeus is engaged in a fierce struggle against the humongous, many-armed monster Typhon.

Zeus' two means of battling the monster are his thunderbolts, which he uses as long-range missiles, and an unbreakable sickle, which he uses to lash out at close quarters. When the fight brings the two combatants to Mt Casius in Syria, Typhon is by now severely wounded. Nonetheless he uses the snake-like coils of his many arms to entwine Zeus so that he wrests the sickle from the god's grasp and uses the weapon to tear out the sinews or tendons from the Olympian king's hands and feet, thus paralysing him.

Zeus is eventually rescued from this ignominious capture by his sons Hermes and Aegipan. The sickle is never again mentioned. Incidentally an unbreakable sickle appears one other time in the same book, earlier on, towards its beginning (1.1.4). There, prior to Zeus's birth, his father the Titan Cronus is supplied by Gaia, the Earth, with this device in order for him to castrate her husband Uranus, the Sky.

It is tempting to see a connection between Cronus's sickle and the one used later by his son, but we can only speculate as to whether they are one and the same, since we are not granted such a detail. There is also no occurrence, as far as I can tell, of a story in which Poseidon's Trident is ever handled by anyone other than him; nor of a myth in which Zeus's thunderbolts are disapprovingly in someone else's possession.

The only occurrences I know of someone else handling Zeus's thunder and lightning (apart from the manufacturers thereof) are: when Zeus let his baby son Zagreus play with the thunderbolts and sit on his throne—from which Zeus suffered no harm at all; and when Zeus was pelting Typhon with thunderbolts. Some of the ones from Typhon's battle fell astray into the sea, where they were received by the marine gods Poseidon and Nereus. Nonnus' Dionysiaca Book 1 tells us simply that the weapons "fell into the welcoming hand of Poseidon", after which we never hear of them again; or that "old Nereus brought the brine-soaked bolts to the ford of the Cronian Sea [apparently the North Sea, by Northern Europe], and dedicated them as an offering to Zeus."

Both Zeus's thunderbolts and Poseidon's Trident seem to me to be merely concretised expressions of the powers of these gods. In ancient art they are depicted wielding these attributes of theirs in much the same way that modern professional wrestlers and comicbook superheroes wear colourful costumes: it is so that they can be easily and correctly identified by the audience which is consuming this media.

In the narrative world of the mythology, my guess would be that these particular weapons were designed such that only by their rightful owners possessed the ability to use them. As far as Zeus' thunderbolts are concerned, therefore, I suppose that I agree with the premise proposed in the quote from your Question, even though Ethan and I are merely speculating here.

I do not, however, perceive the same issue with Medusa's head to be quite as simple, for various reasons, such as the fact that Medusa was not originally a weapon owned by Athena, not to mention the fact that the whole tale which has Athena angrily metamorphosing a beautiful maiden Medusa into a monster Gorgon seems to be the invention of late classical poets. In the more ancient accounts Medusa is simply born a Gorgon. At any rate, as referenced in your inquiry, that is a whole other Question.

I have confined my Answer to Greco-Roman sources since your Question seems to be specifically about Greek mythology.

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