Castor & Pollux

In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda and the Swan, as Zeus had disguised himself. Leda gave birth to an egg from which sprang the twins. Various stories state that the twins had different fathers; Pollux was the offspring of Zeus, or Jupiter, and Castor was the child of Leda’s mortal husband, King Tyndareus of Sparta. Therefore, Castor is mortal and Pollux is immortal. Some say that the twins each wear half of the egg in honor of their being hatched instead of born. They received divine honors under the name Dioscuri, which directly translates to sons of Jove (Bulfinch 1).

Castor and Pollux were significantly important to the Romans.

Castor and Pollux : IMPORTANCE

By the Roman era their importance as lesser divinities had increased beyond that which it had played in Ancient Greece, as Kastor and Polydeukes, the Dioskouroi. Some form of twin gods is found in nearly every polytheistic religion. The Dioscuri represent, in their simplest form, the ever-changing cycle from dark to light, and light to dark. Castor and Pollux play many different, but equally significant roles. They are honored as the gods of athletes. Castor is famous for taming and managing horses, and Pollux is known for his skills in the ring, both wrestling and boxing (Bulfinch 1). They are also soldiers, especially the cavalry. In Rome’s earlier days they were part of the Equestrians, the supreme models of courage and bravery. The Dioscuri are seen as the inventors of military song, music, and dance, and are considered to be the patrons of each. They are also known to be the special protectors of sailors, and have the power to calm the sea and winds. Many seamen would pray to the twins in storm or peril. The Dioscuri are also the gods of friendship, fertility, and initiations.

The heroes of Greece and Rome, Castor and Pollux, enter into a great number of legendary events. The two brothers are known for their constant rivalry with Theseus of Athens. Theseus, in fact, kidnapped their sister Helen one day and locked her up in Athens. When Theseus was away attending to other business, Castor and Pollux stormed the city and took Helen back (Keightley 383). Castor and Pollux were legendary adventurers and fighters. They were members of the Argonauts, the group of brave young men who set off with Jason in pursuit of the Golden Fleece. On this voyage a fierce storm arose, and although the ship was sturdy and all the crew brave and fearless, this was still a storm no one had experienced before. In the midst of the great peril as the fury of the sea was raging, Orpheus took up his harp and began to play the melodies that only he could play to calm the storm. And as the winds died down and the clouds disappeared, suddenly there were two stars shining over the heads of the twins Castor and Pollux. From that time forward, the twins of Gemini have been the patron gods of sailors and of fishermen. The lambent flames, which in certain states of the atmosphere play round the sails and masts of vessels, were called by their names (Bulfinch 1).

After the Argonautic expedition, they are not quite as fortunate in the affairs of love. The Dioscuri fall in love with and abduct Phoebe and Hilaera who are married to the Dioscuri cousins, Lynceus and Idas. The cousins are furious and set after Castor and Pollux. The details of the combat are unknown, but the end of it is that Castor is killed and since he is mortal, he goes to Hades (Rose 231). Pollux is wounded and when Idas is about to drop a large rock on top of Pollux, Zeus hurls a lightning bolt at Idas, kills him, and takes his son to Olympus. Pollux is inconsolable over the loss of Castor and begs to follow him to the darkness of Hades. Zeus is moved to tears over brotherly love but can not grant Castor divinity and defy the ways of the world but allows the brothers to stay together spending every second day in Hades and every other day in Olympus. They were believed to have appeared occasionally in later times, taking part with one side or the other, in hard-fought fields, and were said on such occasions to be mounted on magnificent white steeds (Bulfinch 1). Even in Romes early history they assisted the Romans at the battle of Lake Regillus, and after the victory a temple was erected in their honor at the place where they had emerged.

In another version of the story, Zeus rewarded the unconditional love of the brothers by placing them among the stars as Gemini, the Twins.

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