Castor is the twin brother of Polydeuces (Pollux in Latin), a pair of demigods. The two in collective are known as the Dioscuri. The twins feature in a number of myths, crossing paths with other notable figures in Greek Mythology like Jason. A major theme in stories featuring Castor and Polydeuces is the idea that Castor is a mortal, while Polydeuces is immortal. This is due to the fact that while they share a mother, their father of Castor is a mortal while Polydeuces’s father is Zeus.
Origin of Castor
The origin story of Castor and Polydeuces starts with their mother, Leda. Leda, the daughter of an Aetolian king, was married to a Spartan king, Tyndareus. However, Leda attracted the attentions of Zeus, who appeared in the form of a swan to mate with her.
According to the myth, Castor and Polydeuces were hatched from an egg, along with their twin siblings Helen and Clytemnestra. Despite the fact that Castor and Polydeuces were twins, Polydeuces was the product of Zeus and Leda while Castor was sired by Tyndareus and Leda. As a result, Polydeuces was immortal while Castor was mortal and able to die.
While the mixed mortal/immortal nature of Castor and Polydeuces is a theme of many myths, it’s not universal. There are some stories in which both Castor and Pollux are mortal. For instance, in the Illiad Helen of Troy wonders why her brothers Castor and Polydeuces are not among the sieging forces. The answer is that they had both died previously.
Myths Involving Castor
When Castor and Polydeuces grew up, they lived lives full of adventure and battle, catalogued in a number of myths.
The Calydonian Boar
The Calydonian Boar was a ferocious creature summoned by the Huntress goddess Artemis to plague the Calydonian region after its king showed her disrespect in his offerings.
A group of some of the greatest heroes of the land assembled to hunt the boar, among them Castor and Polydeuces. The lone woman hunter, Atalanta, draws first blood on the boar, causing controversy among some of the heroes unaccepting of a woman among their ranks.
Castor as an Argonaut
Castor and Polydeuces sailed as crew member of the famous ship the Argo, captained by the mythical hero Jason. Jason’s quest was to find the Golden Fleece, a prize which would grant Jason kingship of the kingdom of Iolcus. Among the heroes sailing with the Argo were legends such as Heracles, Orpheus and Theseus.
On their quest for the Golden Fleece, the Argonauts encounter a number of supernatural battles and dangers, as well as dealings with diverse peoples as they sail toward their prize. In the end, Jason finds the Golden Fleece and returns triumphant.
The Death of Castor
One of the most famous myths involving Castor and Polydeuces deals with Castor’s death. In this story, Castor and Polydeuces steal a herd of cattle with their cousins, Idas and Lynceus. After successfully stealing the cattle, Idas tricks Castor and Polydeuces into having an eating contest, the winner of which gets all the cattle. Idas, who is gigantic, wins the contest and takes all the cattle.
Castor and Polydeuces plot their revenge, and finally get a chance to steal Idas and Lynceus’ herd of cattle while a feast is going on. As the two are stealing the cattle, Idas and Lynceus happen upon them, and Castor is killed in the ensuing battle. Polydeuces kills Lynceus, and Zeus strikes down Idas with a thunderbolt to save his son Polydeuces.
Zeus gives the immortal Polydeuces a choice: Either he can spend all his time in Olympus with the immortals, or he can give half of his immortality to Castor. Polydeuces chooses to share his immortality with his twin, and they alternate between the Underworld and Olympus.
The brightest stars in the Gemini constellation are named after Castor and Polydeuces, for their bond as twins.
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