10

The stories of ancient Greek mythology mention many cases when mortal men use treasure forged by gods, usually by Hēphaistos.

The most famous example might be the armor of Achilleus, which Odysseus has won after Achilleus's death. Another example is the golden bridle Bellerophon got from Athēnē to tame Pēgasos, although it's not quite clear who made that bridle. But it is not these artifacts used for big heroic feats that seem so strange to me, but the ordinary household objects in rich kings' houses. The example that has made the most impression on me is in the Odyssey chapter 4, when Menelaos gives a vessel forged by Hēphaistos as a present to Tēlemachos.

With all that divine made treasure, I find it strange that I've never heard of any famous mortal smiths in Greek mythology. If arts and crafts is so important when a god does it, than why do the myths never remember the mortal men who do the same?

This hole seems especially jarring in contrast to other mythologies, which tell about the Sampo that Ilmarinen has made, and the Silmarils, the jewels that Fëanor has made.

So here's my question. Is there a famous mortal smith in Greek mythology of whom we know the name, and something about what objects he has made?

  • 1
    Daedalus, but he's not known for treasure-making. – DukeZhou Nov 29 '17 at 1:37
  • @DukeZhou He could be great if you can find a reference that he was working with metal too, making weapons or armor or metal goblets or ornaments, whether from bronze or silver and gold. I'm asking for metalworkers, not just any craftsman or artist. – b_jonas Nov 29 '17 at 2:02
  • Would you consider the legend of Archimedes burning of the Roman fleet by using mirror to generate a heat ray to be on topic? – DukeZhou Nov 29 '17 at 21:39
9

Perhaps the best example is the Golden Fleece, a treasure in every sense of the word. It was created when Phrixus sacrificed a winged ram his mother Nephele sent to carry him to safety. The lamb was fathered by Poseidon when he turned Theophane into an ewe, so divine influences played a role in sourcing the material. But credit for the actual creation surely belongs to Phrixus, even if it was just skinning a ram.

Another example, though not really much of a treasure, is the sevenfold Shield of Ajax. It was said to be crafted by Tychius of Hyle, who was famed as the best leatherworker of the time. According to the Iliad 7.206:

Ajax came up bearing his shield in front of him like a wall - a shield of bronze with seven folds of oxhide - the work of Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far the best worker in leather.

Source: Iliad, Book 7

Lastly, another possible example is the ship Argo, used by Jason and Argonauts. It was built by Argus, after whom the ship was named. However Athena is often said to have played a role in its creation, so this is only a marginal case.

  • Nice answer! (I didn't want to edit, but the passage is from Iliad 7.206) – DukeZhou Nov 29 '17 at 21:43
  • @DukeZhou I added the citation, but you should feel free to make such edits in general :) – Semaphore Nov 30 '17 at 6:06
  • Noted. (PS-thanks for leaving some room for me to post a secondary answer;) – DukeZhou Nov 30 '17 at 19:50
  • So, is it a lamb or a ram? You used both to describe the creature. – Andrew Johnson Mar 18 '18 at 22:44
  • 1
    @AndrewJohnson Have you never heard of "ram lambs"? Rams could be lambs, though lambs are not all rams. – Semaphore Mar 19 '18 at 2:53
7

This answer relates to the secondary question, regarding inventors and craftsmen specifically, as opposed to the forging of miraculous weapons.

Pliny the Elder devotes an entire chapter of Naturalis Historia (The Natural History) to the inventors of things.

The inventions are too numerous to list here. Daedalus is credited with the invention of the axe, although in the context of carpentry.

However you may find this passage to be of interest:

The first battles were fought by the Africans against the Egyptians, with clubs, which they are in the habit of calling phalange. Prœtus and Acrisius were the first to use shields, in their contests with each other; or, as some say, Chalcus, the son of Athamas. Midias, the Messenian, invented the coat of mail, and the Lacedæmonians the helmet, the sword, and the spear. Greaves and crests were first used by the Carians; Scythes, the son of Jupiter, it is said, invented the bow and arrows, though some say that arrows were invented by Perses, the son of Perseus. Lances were invented by the Ætolians; the javelin, with the thong attached, by Ætolus, the son of Mars; the spear of the light infantry by Tyrrhenus; the dart by Penthesilea, the Amazon; the axe by Pisæus; the hunting-spear, and the scorpion to hurl missiles, by the Cretans; the catapulta, the balista, and the sling, by the Syrophœnicians. Pisæus, the Tyrrhenian, was the first to invent the brazen trumpet, and Artemon, of Clazomenæ, the use of the testudo. The battering-horse, for the destruction of walls, which is at the present day styled the "ram," was invented by Epeus, at Troy. Bellerophon was the first who mounted the horse; bridles and saddles for the horse were invented by Pelethronius. The Thessalians, who are called. Centauri, and who dwell along Mount Pelion, were the first to fight on horse—Back. The people of Phrygia were the first who used chariots with two horses; Erichthonius first used four. Palamedes, during the Trojan war, was the first who marshalled an army, and invented watchwords, signals, and the use of sentinels. Sinon, at the same period, invented the art of correspondence by signals. Lycaon was the first to think of making a truce, and Theseus a treaty of alliance.
SOURCE: Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, 7.57

So, while the weapons listed are not magical, we have:

  • Midias, the Messenian: Chainmail
  • Scythes, son of Jupiter: Bow & Arrow
  • Perses, son of Perseus: Arrows (alternate)
  • Ætolus, son of Mars: Javelin w/ Strap
  • Tyrrhenus: Light Infantry Spear
  • Penthesilea the Amazon: Dart
  • Pisæus: War Axe
  • Epeus, son of Panopeus: Battering Ram (at Troy)
4

I know of no metal-smiths that have been mentioned in Greek myth - that aren't gods anyway - but there are craftspeople who have been remembered.

Semaphore mentioned Phrixus, Tychius and Argus. I'd throw in Arachne as well, whose weaving was so excellent, she competed against Athene and no winner was declared. Arachne was turned into the first spider as punishment.

-2

Metalworkers were Dactyls from mountain Ida which excavate the iron from Berekint mountain and bring it into Troy. Also they were called Phrygians or Curetes. Source: Robert Graves, The Greek myths.

  • The question asks for mortal men. The Dactyls weren't mortal. – Ouroboros Mar 12 '18 at 14:52
  • Dactyls were mortal,there is no evidence that they were immortal.Also their another names like Phrygians and Curets,are the names of ethnic groups which foundate Troy.Ethnic groups are mortal. – historicus Mar 12 '18 at 20:32
-2

Kings Ejetus and Epeirotus from Colhis were famous metalworkers. Metopa was in their prison which was something like a metal workshop. Also they had a stoves for iron which were presented like a bull who vomits fire.

My source is: Robert Graves, The Greek myths, Story of Argo.

  • 1
    If you want to put theory it is much better to a whole post. Especially theories detailing something we can be not very aware of (like that book you cite over and over) and cannot access the language the book is published in. Very very very few people are able to read Croatian. At least we can do some research to see. – Gibet Mar 14 '18 at 8:24
  • If you could reference the Grave chapters, this would be easy to confirm. (i.e. if it's in the translations portion, which is all cited, it is certainly reliable, but if it derives from Graves' commentaries, it is almost certainly speculation.) Either way, you need to cite the chapter and section of Graves that you are referencing. – DukeZhou Mar 14 '18 at 21:20
  • This is good comment,we know that Graves is going to far,but we have no choise,also Claude Levy Strauss is good for me.Myth and history,-hard way,but there is always connection.For me-investigate the myths is better mode than believe to Euripides ,Virgil,Pausanius,Sofocles,Herodotus and many others who deformed the Homers epics and many other oldest myths.They moderated myths in their version,with theirs parts.Graves has his own reconstructon,but he is useful for us,we learn.Also,we don't have many possibilities . – historicus Mar 15 '18 at 19:53
  • DukeZhou-Continuation- ;chapter was-152, page 414,and 154,page 418,The Greek myths ,R.Graves. – historicus Mar 15 '18 at 19:58
  • I can find no references to either Ejetus or Epeirotus online. Are you sure you are spelling their names correctly? Also, did either of them forge treasure? – Ouroboros Mar 17 '18 at 13:18

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