Evolution and Innovation in the Portrayal of the Cyclopes in Greek Literature (c. 725 BC to c. AD 150)
Melissa R. Clark
Dr. Clifton H. Kreps and Dr. Bridget Thomas, Faculty Mentors
The giant, man-eating monster Polyphemus is one of the most memorable characters in Homer’s Odyssey, and consequently the Cyclopes are one of the most familiar races in Greek mythology. However, many overlook the fact that Polyphemus and the Cyclopes are not characterized consistently in Greek literature. No fewer than three distinct characterizations of the Cyclopes co-existed during this period: Homer’s island-dwelling shepherds, Hesiod’s craftsmen, and Bacchylides’ wall-builders. All three descriptions use the name ‘Cyclops,’ but it is difficult to understand how the groups relate to each other and how they may have developed. My analysis of the Cyclopes in Greek literature (c. 750 B.C to c. A.D. 150) examines the relationships between the three characterizations as they developed. I maintain that they are not as distinct as they first appear: one characterization has been transformed into three.
Keywords: Cyclops, Greek Mythology, Homer, Hesiod
Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Location: VH 1304