Hephaistos and Volcanoes

Vesuvius Erupting by Johan Christian Claussen Dahl

Broad sheets of flame were lighting up many parts of Vesuvius; their light and brightness were the more vivid for the darkness of the night … It was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night.

– Pliny the Younger

August 24th, 79AD is a date that is traditionally held to be when Mt.Vesuvius erupted, this eruption is one of the most catastrophic eruptions known to man. I touched on how Ares is unpopular because he is associated with bloody, physical warfare and violence. However people tend to overlook the destructive sides of other Olympian gods. Hephaistos’ association with volcanoes is one of those things that may be over looked or not really thought about much.

Volcanoes have always fascinated me since I was a child, their destructive power and beauty is truly something to behold. It is Hephaistos’ links to volcanic activity which partially lead me to him, as well as my admiration for the arts. But there is something we can also learn about Hephaistos if we think about how destructive volcanic activity can be.

Hephaistos is a god of technology, he’s a god who contributes towards making our lives easier and he is closely involved with the advancement of civilisation. Volcanoes on the other hand, can halt technological advancement, destroy a civilisation and even destroy entire species. Just as he can grant us aid with technological advancement, he can just as easily take it all away. If that doesn’t shake you to your very core, then I don’t know what will.

But this doesn’t put me off of Hephaistos, I love him with all my heart. Even if his destructive powers do make me tremble, it makes me realise I am a mere mortal, it makes me realise how powerful these gods really are. They are not forces for us to ‘use’, they are not wishing machines; to treat them as such is hubristic.

One of my dreams is to visit Lemnos and Sicily, two islands he is closely associated with. I would also like to do a pilgrimage to other volcanic areas, like Iceland and Yellowstone. However I wouldn’t rule out visiting volcanic sites in Great Britain, even though the volcanoes here are no longer active. Arthur’s Seat is especially a place I would like to visit. I do truly hope to be able to do a trip like this sometime in the future.

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