John T. Willis

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


In Greek [and later Roman] mythology, a cyclops is a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of its forehead. Ancient writers, including Hesiod, Euripides, Theocritus, and Virgil, wrote about cyclopes. Hesiod, for example, said Zeus released three Cyclopes, the sons of Uranus and Gaia, from the dark pit of Tartarus. They provide Zeus' thunderbolt, Hades' helmet of invisibility, and Poseidon's trident, and the goes use these weapons to defeat the Titans. Again, in a famous episode of Homer's Odyssey, the hero Odysseus encounters the Cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon and a nereid (Thoosa), who lives with his fellow Cyclopes in a distant country. The connection between the two groups has been debated in antiquity and by modern scholars. Again, Virgil, the Roman epic poet, said Aeneas and his crew landed on the island of the cyclopes after escaping from Troy at the end of the Trojah War. Aeneas and his crew land on the island, when they are approached by a desperate Greek man from Ithaca, Achaemenides, who was stranded on the island a few years previously with Odysseus' expedition.

Cyclops are fictitious beings, as all peoples have recognized throughout history. And yet, we ourselves present creatures that are "bigger than life" to entertain us, to teach us, to elevate our ego, to get away from the tragedies and boredoms of daily life, or whatever. We have Spider Man and Superman and Batman and Robin and King Kong and Star Trek and 007 and The Incredibles and Harry Potter, and the stories go on and on, and we love them.

The Bible does not refer to cyclopes. But it does refer to "giants," and some of them are still problematic for us. I think of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13;33; Goliath in 1 Samuel 17; four huge men who were descendants of the giants mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:15-22: Ishbi-benob, Saph, Goliath, and an unnamed man of great size, who had six fingers on each and six toes on each foot, a total of 24 fingers and toes.

What do YOU think about stories about giants, like Jack in the Beanstalk or Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox or Shrek? Share YOUR insights and thoughts. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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