Castor and Pollux as the Constellation of Gemini copper plate engraving.
Castor and Pollux as the Constellation of Gemini from Bayer's 'Uranometria'. Copper plate engraving. 1635.
University of Glasgow Library. License.

Castor and Pollux

The Gemini Twins

Castor and Pollux are figures from Greek and Roman mythology, known as the Dioscuri or the Gemini twins.

According to the myth, Leda, the queen of Sparta, was seduced by Zeus, the king of the gods, who transformed into a swan. On the same night, she also lay with her husband Tyndareus, the king of Sparta. As a result, she gave birth to two sets of twins: Castor and Pollux, and Helen and Clytemnestra. Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus.

Castor is known for his skills in horse-taming and was an excellent horseman, while Pollux was a skilled boxer and renowned for his strength. They were considered paragons of brotherly love and devotion, and their bond was unbreakable.

The story of Castor and Pollux is often associated with their adventures, including the famous quest for the Golden Fleece alongside Jason and the Argonauts. They were also involved in the Trojan War, where Castor was killed. Overwhelmed with grief, Pollux begged his father, Zeus, to grant him immortality so that he could be reunited with his brother. Zeus granted his wish by placing them in the heavens as the constellation Gemini, representing the twins.

The myth of Castor and Pollux has inspired many works of art, literature, and culture throughout history. They are often revered as symbols of brotherhood, loyalty, and the inseparable bond between twins. And they are the patrons of sailors, to whom they appear as St. Elmo’s fire. 

Ficoroni Cista depicting Castor and Pollux
The bronze Ficoroni Cista (basket) depicts Castor and Pollux defeating King Amykos in a boxing match. Credit: Egisto Sani. License.

Castor and Pollux as Argonauts

During the expedition of the Argonauts, Pollux took part in a boxing contest and defeated King Amycus of the Bebryces, a savage mythical people in Bithynia. After returning from the voyage, the Dioscuri helped Jason and Peleus to destroy the city of Iolcus in revenge for the treachery of its King Pelias.

This bronze cista (basket) depicts an episode from the Argonauts journey.

When the sailors stopped in the land of King Amykos, he would permit them to draw water only if one of the Argonauts defeated him in a boxing match. Pollux , son of Zeus and twin brother of Castor, accepted the challenge. Upon winning the contest, he tied the king to a tree as seen in the picture.

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