If an ancient Greek had been taking a stroll through the countryside and stumbled upon the ruins of massive walls or fortifications, he or she might have thought of them to be Cyclopean Walls or structures. After the times in which Homer describes in his poetry, such as those of Mycenae and Troy, dating back to 1260 BCE, around 400 to 500 years before Homer himself, Greeks who looked upon these mysterious ruins and rubble thought that they had been built by the Cyclopes, a race of humanoid giants with only one eye in the center of their heads, the name Cyclops meaning "Round Eye." Being that the buildings were so incredibly strong and grand, it was thought that humans could not have achieved such architectural stamina. Therefore, they were thought to have been built by the Cyclopes.
The Cyclopes did not just constitute the infamous Polyphemus, who was the Cyclops responsible for obstructing Odysseus on His journey home. There were many others like this giant, some of whom were employed by Zeus in the Titanomachy to help Him overcome Kronos and the Titan forces against Olympos. The Cyclopes were even said to have forged Zeus' thunderbolt, Poseidon's trident, and the helmet of Haides. These giants were also generally known as excellent engineers in the arts of architecture and metals. The creatures had an incredibly brilliant side to them.
Of course, today, we know that humans can and did build those structures and monuments like the great walls and fortifications of times long ago. Although, assistance from beings a little stronger may have helped, I'm sure. I also think that the idea of a Cyclopean structure might have referred to natural land formations as well, such as the rocky hill of the Acropolis. This was built by Nature, not men, and in that respect, we know it to be a building feat beyond the capabilities of humans. It wouldn't be wrong to say that the hands of something far greater and stronger than us, built the mighty fortification upon which Athena and Her people placed the Parthenon and the heart of Her City itself.
Even today, there are people who use the term Cyclopean, myself included, as a label for natural greatness in Earth's structure, especially those which are Archaic and prehistoric. So, the bigger question is, who or what are the Cyclopes? Perhaps they are earlier forces of creation in the world and Universe, before the coming of the Olympians. After all, they were said to be children of the very first original Gods - Ouranos and Gaia (Heaven and Earth), of whom nothing came before. Could there have also been physical Cyclopes? Certainly. Robert Wadlow, the Giant of Illinois, was the tallest man in the world of his time at 8ft, and Andre the Giant stood 7ft. People in ancient times would have certainly called them giants. We still do today. Compared to the rest of us, they are huge. So would it be hard to imagine there being ancient people of abnormal height, some of whom may have been born with one eye or lost one eye? It's entirely possible.
But I think the Cyclopes, in part, were among the first forging powers of our Universe and of our planet, who now either rest peacefully in the embrace of Gaia, or who stand at the assistance of the Gods if and when needed.
In the Goodness of the Gods,
Credit for Photograph
* A Cyclop Statue At The Geological Museum, June 11th, 2008, taken by Deror avi.
Link to picture.