The Dioscuri: Castor and Pollux
The Dioscuri are twin brothers Castor and Pollux. Both were demigods in mythology. The twins had the same mother but different fathers. Their mother Leda, had a relationship with Tyndareus, Castor’s father and king of Sparta, and Zeus, Pollux’s father and king of Olympus. They are commonly said to be born from an egg. The Dioscuri were known as patrons of sailors. The brothers are also depicted with horses. Their figures are “… blond haired, large eyed, fair complexioned, and wellbuilt with trim bodies”.
The Dioscuri grew up with their sisters in Sparta. They resided in Tyandeus’s royal household. It is said that the twins influenced the dual kingship of Sparta. They received a grave shrine located on the mountaintop of Therapne. Many lesser shrines were erected around Sparta in the Dioscuri’s honor. The twins were honored with temples in Athens and Rome. Other shrines were erected across the world.
The Dioscuri were great hunters and horsemen. Their skills were great enough that they contributed to the hunting of the Calydonian Boar. They later joined Jason’s ship becoming crew members on the Argo in his quest. During the Argonaut expedition, Pollux boxed and beat King Amycus. After returning from their journey, the twins aided in the destruction of the city of Iolcus for King Pelias’ treachery. When their sister, Helen, was abducted, the brothers invaded Theseus‘s kingdom of Attica to rescue her. For revenge, they kidnapped Theseus’s mother, Aethra, took her to their home, Sparta, and placed the rival of Theseus, Menestheus, on the throne of Athens.
The Dioscuri fell in love with the Leucippides, Phoebe and Hilaeira. The women were already engaged to the twins cousins, Lynceus and Idas. Castor and Pollux grabbed the women and brought them to their Spartan home. Phoebe had a son with Pollux, Mnesileos, and Hilaeira had a son with Castor, Anogon. Lynceus and Idas were upset and a feud began between the cousins. The cousins joined each other for a cattle-raid but began arguing over how the meat was divided. Idas suggested that instead of dividing the herd equally among the four, there should be a competition between each set of brothers. The team that finished their meal first would receive the herd. Idas, being a giant, ate both his and Lynceus’s portion. Lynceus and Idas would receive the herd. The Dioscuri planned to enact their revenge one day.
Both sets cousins along with Helen and Paris, prince of Troy, convened at Idas and Lynceus uncle’s house for a feast. Their uncle was on his way to Crete and left Helen in charge to entertain the guests while away. The Dioscuri seized the opportunity and created an excuse to leave the event. The brothers ventured to their cousins home in order to steal their herd. Idas and Lynceus eventually left for their home. The cousins left Helen alone with the Trojan prince and he kidnapped her.
This would lead to the Trojan War. Castor and Pollux reached their cousins’ house. Castor hid in a tree to keep watch. Lynceus spotted Castor watching and knew what the brothers were attempting. Idas became angry and gave a fatal wound ambushing Castor. Before dying, Castor warned Pollux. Pollux would kill Lynceus. Idas would have killed Pollux but Pollux’s father, Zeus, was watching from above on Olympus and saved his son, sending a thunderbolt hurling down to Idas.
Castor was dying and Zeus gave his son two options, come to Mt. Olympus or give half of his immortality to his brother. Pollux chose the second option. The Dioscuri were able to alternate between Olympus and the Underworld. Castor and Pollux became the brightest stars in the Gemini constellation.
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