Hephaistos’ MDT – Day 7: Names & Epithets

Χαίρετε πάντες!

Today’s blog post is dedicated to discussing the names and epithets of Hephaistos.

The origin of his name is shrouded in mystery. It is attested indirectly in the Mycenaean period in the form of a theophoric name mentioned in Linear B tablets at Knossos: A-pa-i-ti-jo, which is interpreted as Haphaistios or Haphaistion. Keep in mind that a long α and an η are regularly interchangeable between Hellenic dialects when they descend from a common origin. His name does not yield a commonly accepted Hellenic etymology, however, and it is likely of a pre-Hellenic origin. On Wikipedia, it is suggested that perhaps there is an etymological relationship with the place name Phaistos, attested in Linear B as Pa-i-to, on Krete. I have not found any etymologies attempted by philosophers, though these must no doubt exist. Personally, I think one could make a case for a – probable folk-etymology – etymology involving the term ἑστία, which means “hearth”. Particularly as ἐφέστιος, which means “around the hearth”. As I said, that is mere speculation on my part and likely spurious as his name seems to have a pre-Hellenic origin.

Then we get to his various epithets. Most of these relate to his craft and to his lameness. There is one exception, however, Αἰτναῖος (Aitnaios), meaning “of Mt. Etna”, the volcano on Sicily where he had a forge. This is the only geographic epithet that I could identify.

One of his most important cult titles is Χαλκεύς (Bronze Smith), with this name he had a festival at Athens called the Χαλκεία (Khalkeia). Other epithets connected to his crafts are: Καρτερόχειρ (Karterokheir; With Mighty Hands), Κλυτόμητις (Klytometis; Famous for his Skill), Κλυτοτέχνης (Klytotekhnes; Famous Craftsman), Πολύμητις (Polymetis; Resourceful), Πολυτέχνης (Polytekhnes; of Many Skills), Πολύφρων (Polyphron; Genious, Inventive), and Αἰθαλόεις Θεός (Aithaloeis Theos; Sooty God).

Then there are some epithets relating to his lameness: Ἀμφιγύεις (Amphigyeis; Lame in Both Legs) and Κυλλοποδίων (Kyllopodion; Club-footed). Finally, there are various epithets meaning basically “Famous” or “Renowned”: Κλυτός (Klytos; Famous), Ἀγακλυτός (Agaklytos; Renowned), Περικλυτός (Periklytos; Famous Around (the World)).

That’s about it for today.

Ἔρρωσο.

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