Cap of invisibility

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Cellini's Perseus (1545–54), wearing the Cap of Invisibility and carrying the head of Medusa

In classical mythology, the Cap of Invisibility (Ἄϊδος κυνέην (H)aidos kuneēn in Greek, lit. dog-skin of Hades) is a helmet or cap that can turn the wearer invisible.[1] It is also known as the Cap of Hades, Helm of Hades,[2] or Helm of Darkness. Wearers of the cap in Greek myths include Athena, the goddess of wisdom, the messenger god Hermes, and the hero Perseus. The Cap of Invisibility enables the user to become invisible to other supernatural entities, functioning much like the cloud of mist that the gods surround themselves in to become undetectable.[3]

Origins[edit]

The only ancient source that attributes a special helmet to the ruler of the underworld is the Bibliotheca (2nd/1st century BC), in which the Uranian Cyclopes give Zeus the thunderbolt, Poseidon the trident, and a helmet (kyneê) to Pluto (in the Greek text Πλούτων, Plouton) for their war against the Titans (Titanomachy).[4] Pluto's helmet, however, is not specifically said to be the Helmet of Invisibility (aidos kyneê). The magical quality of invisibility (aidos) sounds like the name Hades, a name for the ruler of the underworld but by the time of the Bibliotheca used mainly for the underworld as a place. The similarity between aidos and Hades appears to be the reason that in the post-classical tradition the aidos kyneê was thought to be a possession of the ruler of the underworld, but in fact no ancient sources ever say that he wears or uses it. Myths about the use of the Helmet of Invisibility (see below) sometimes explain how the user obtained it, but the giver or source is never Pluto (or the god Hades).[5] Translators often render aidos kyneê as "Helmet of Hades", but "Hades" is ambiguous in this phrase; it may refer to the place and its characteristic "hiddenness" which the helmet has the power to bestow upon the wearer, with no indication that the helmet was thought of as the personal property of the god who rules the underworld. It "belongs" to him primarily in the sense that its magical properties draw on powers within his realm.[6] In Greek art, the wearing of a helmet is not an attribute of the ruler of the underworld.[7]

In the classical mythology of the Renaissance, however, the helmet is regularly said to belong to the god of the underworld. Rabelais calls it the Helmet of Pluto,[8] and Erasmus the Helmet of Orcus.[9] The helmet becomes proverbial for those who conceal their true nature by a cunning device: "the helmet of Pluto, which maketh the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in the counsel, and celerity in the execution."[10]

Users[edit]

Athena[edit]

Athena, the goddess of wisdom, battle, and handicrafts, wore the Cap of Invisibility in one instance during the Trojan War.[11] She used it to become invisible to Ares when she aided Diomedes, his enemy. Her assistance even enabled Diomedes to injure the god of war with a spear.

Hermes[edit]

The messenger god Hermes wore the Cap during his battle with Hippolytus, the giant.[citation needed]

Perseus[edit]

In some stories, Perseus received the Cap of Invisibility (along with the Winged Sandals) from Athena when he went to slay the Gorgon Medusa, which helped him escape her sisters.[12] In other myths, however, Perseus obtained these items from the Stygian nymphs.[13] The Cap of Invisibility was not used to avoid the Gorgons' petrifying gazes, but rather to escape from the immortal Sthenno and Euryale later on after he had decapitated Medusa.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

In the Dragon Quest role-playing video game series, there is a piece of equipment named "Hades' helm." It is cursed, and is therefore useless, in every game but Dragon Quest IX, in which it can be alchemised into a Great helm.

In the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, Annabeth Chase (a Daughter of Athena) received a New York Yankees baseball cap from her mother that was a disguised cap of invisibility. In the same series, the main antagonist, Luke Castellan, stole Hades' Helm of Darkness, as well as Zeus' master bolt.

The helmet also appears in the Italian mythological comedy Arrivano i titani, but its invisibility powers work in this version only at night.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hansen, William (2004-06-10). Handbook of Classical Mythology. World Mythology. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-226-4. 
  2. ^ Michael W. Stewart (2006-08-15). "Helm of Hades (Cap of Hades)". Greek Mythology: From The Iliad To The Fall Of The Last Tyrant. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  3. ^ G. S. Kirk (1990). The Iliad: A Commentary, Books 5-8. Cambridge University Press. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-521-28172-0. 
  4. ^ Bibliotheca 1.1–2, 1911 Loeb Classical Library edition, translation and notes by J.G. Frazer. Recent scholarship refers to the author of the Bibliotheca or Library as Pseudo-Apollodorus.
  5. ^ William Hansen, Classical Mythology: A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 182.
  6. ^ Jenny Strauss Clay, The Wrath of Athena: Gods and Men in the Odyssey (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), p. 15, note 12; Olga Freidenberg, Image and Concept: Mythopoetic Roots of Literature (Harwood, 1997), p. 66, and especially Robin Hand, Apollodorus: The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford University Press, 1997), note to the Bibliotheca passage, p. 201: "The leather helmet or cap belongs to Hades because his name suggests invisibility (a-ides). The notion that he was 'armed' with it by the Cyclopes … is a fancy from a relatively late period."
  7. ^ For the iconography of Hades the god, Pluto, and other forms of the god, see Pluto (mythology)#Iconography and attributes.
  8. ^ Gargantua and Pantagruel Book 5, Chapter 8.
  9. ^ Erasmus, Adagia 2.10.74 (Orci galea).
  10. ^ Francis Bacon Essays Civil and Moral 21, "Of Delays".
  11. ^ "...but Athene put on the cap of Hades, to the end that mighty Ares should not see her." Homer. Iliad 5.844-845. Translation By A. T. Murray.
  12. ^ Joel Skidmore (2006-06-10). "Hermes". Mythweb. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  13. ^ Morford, Mark P.O.; Robert J. Lenardon (2006-07-18). "Perseus and the Legends of Argos". Classical Mythology (Eighth ed.). USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 506–518. ISBN 978-0-19-530805-1. 
  14. ^ Phinney Jr., Edward (1971). "Perseus' Battle with the Gorgons". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 102: 445–463. doi:10.2307/2935950. JSTOR 2935950.