Weird X-Files

Possible Origin Of The Cyclops: A Race Of One-Eyed Giants

Possible Origins Of Cyclops Legend: A Race Of One Eyed Giants

(Odysseus, in his tale:) ‘Cyclops, in the end it was no weak man’s companions you were to eat by violence and force in your hollow cave, and your evil deeds were to catch up with you, and be too strong for you, hard one, who dared to eat your own guests in your own house, so Zeus and the rest of the gods have punished you.’ (9.475-479)

Homer, The Odyssey 

Cyclopes were described as the primordial giants in the Greek mythology, who had a single eye on the centre of their foreheads. The species name is widely translated as ‘single eyed’ or ‘one eyed’. They have been mentioned in both  Greek and Roman mythologies as a race of giants. Some ancient writers also described these species to be the sons of Titan or sons of Poseidon. They were usually described as creatures who lacked manners, did not fear the Gods, and were said to work for Hephaestus.

Classification Of Cyclopes

Possible Origins Of Cyclops Legend: A Race Of One Eyed GiantsBirth name: Bertrand-Jean Redon, Painter: Odilon Redon

According to the Greek Mythology, the ‘lesser cyclopes’ were seen as the sons of Poseidon, who were bestial and violent, and thus, were avoided and feared. There were also the ‘elder cyclops’ who were wise and powerful, thought to be the sons of Cronus. Hesiod described three one-eyed cyclopes, ‘Brontes’, ‘Steropes’ and ‘Arges’, who were the sons of Uranus and Gaia, brothers of the titans, builders and craftsmen.

The epic poet Homer described another group of mortal herdsmen cyclopes. Polyphemus, who was considered as the main Cyclops, was known for his man-eating habits, and he was supposedly blinded by Odysseus.

Attic black-figure skyphos, Odysseus blinds the sleeping Cyclop Polyphemus, by the Theseus Painter, from Boeotia (Greece), 490-480 BC, Altes Museum Berlin (Image Source)

Racial Traits Of Cyclops

Cyclops is usually described as a fearsome creature with one eye and sometimes with tusks. Their skin is apparently tougher than human’s and in-human coloured like green, red, grey, etc. Their hands and feet are usually depicted as having three to five digits, some depictions showing them with elephant-like feet. Sharp claws, pointy ears, either fat or muscular bodies and one or more horns are common in modern sources. It was all most likely to make them more monstrous than their mythological counterparts.

Their size is usually depicted as much larger than the humans, mostly twice the size of the humans. The size of the tusks, is usually compared with that of a baby elephant and their weapons being rocks, trees and giant axe.

Legends Of Cyclops

Many references could be found about the Cyclops in the ancient mythologies. The German scholar Walter Burkert, who specialised in Greek mythology and cults, had suggested that there is a cult association between the ancient groups of lesser gods and other creatures. According to him, the smith guilds lie behind the stories of the Cyclops because of their habit of wearing a single eyepatch to protect one eye from the flying sparks, which could blind them. He believes that blacksmithing was a vigorous job and it takes a really strong man to perform it. So, he believed that the men who filled the positions would have been extremely muscular after hefting their hammers onto hot iron hour after hour.

Cyclop @ Museum of Natural History (Image Source)

In 1914, Othenio Abel, a paleontologist, suggested another possible origin of the Cyclops legend. He had to say that the prehistoric dwarf elephant skulls, which are approximately twice the size of a human skull, may have been found by the Greeks in Crete, Malta, Cyprus and Sicily. These would have been mistaken for the mortal remains of the mythical creature.

Herbal medicine has existed in the world since and before 400 B.C. It also might explain a myth associated with these giant creatures. There is a medicine prescribed to patients, which was white hellebore that was capable of causing severe birth defects in unborn children. In some cases it might cause the birth of a child with one eye. This does not exactly relate to the existence of Cyclops, but the relevance is enough to add fuel to the myth.

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