Elephants and The Cyclopes

elephant and Cyclops

A Cyclops: One-eyed Giants of Greek Mythology

The Cyclopes of Greek mythology were massive, lumbering one-eyed giants said to be the sons of Uranus and Gaia, the earth goddess and mother of all life. They weren’t terribly nice. One was a man-eating monster called Polyphemus, and Homer’s Odyssey contains a well-known story of how Ullysses escaped death by blinding an understandably furious Polyphemus.

What has this to do with elephants? Well, the elephant skull has a large central nasal cavity, and it has been suggested that sailors in ancient Greece may have found an elephant skull and mistakenly thought that the creature to which it belonged had a single eye socket. This just might have been the foundation upon which the myth about cyclopes was built…

[Photo: British Library]