Hephaestus’ Wife In ‘The Iliad’ Was A Different Woman Than In ‘The Odyssey’

(Relief of the Charites Aglaea, Thalia and Euphrosyne, from the island Paros, ca. 570–560 BC, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

 

In The Iliad, Hephaestus, the smith of the Greek Gods, has a wife named Charis. It is thought that this ‘Charis’ that Homer mentioned in the epic poem was the youngest of three sisters known as the Charites—Charis’ actual identity was likely Aglaia (or Aglaea), a goddess of grace, beauty and splendor.

The name of Hephaestus’ betrothed, however, changed in Homer’s second epic, The Odyssey. Within the lines of poetry describing the life of Odysseus, Hephaestus was no longer married to Charis, but was instead married to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.

So what happened? That is a question that is still unclear even thousands of years after The Iliad and The Odyssey were written. Hephaestus’ change of spouses between the two texts has spawned multiple theories as to what brought about the shift from Charis to Aphrodite. Some claim that Charis in The Iliad can be associated with Aphrodite since they were both goddesses of beauty. Others assert that the change in spouses only occurred because of Homer’s use of different oral folklore sources. Whether the change in Hephaestus’ marital status came about because of differences in the sources Homer used, or by an undetailed divine divorce, all anyone can do is theorize.

Sources:

  • The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu and edited by Peter Jones. New York: Penguin Classics, 2014.
  • The Odyssey by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu and edited by D. C. H. Rieu. New York: Penguin Classics, 2009.
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