The Cyclopes in Mythology
One-eyed creatures abound in the stories and folktales of many civilisations, however the Cyclopes that give Paolozzi’s sculpture its name come from ancient Greek mythology.
They are described as giants; either as three bothers (Brontes “thunderer”, Steropes “lightning” and “bright” Arges) who work as smiths, forging thunderbolts for Zeus*, or a single cyclops (Polyphemus, “abounding in songs and legends”), a shepherd, who is blinded by Odysseus.
As smiths in their forge underneath Mount Etna, the Cyclopes are known for their brute strength and for creating various Greek God and Goddesses’s weapons; Poseidon’s trident, Artemis’ and Apollo’s bow and arrows, and Hades’ helmet of darkness.
The shepherd version of the Cyclops was later developed as a more bucolic figure by Hellenistic poet Theocritus and again during Renaissance and Baroque times in Spain, France and Italy.
List of one-eyed creatures
*The Greek names are used here but the Roman equivalents are given in this handy list
Myths of Greece and Rome, Thomas Bulfinch (free audio version of Bulfinch’s Age of Fable which contains the Greek and Roman Myths)