Definitions

Talos

Talos

[tey-los]

In the Cretan tales incorporated into Greek mythology, Tálos (Greek Τάλως; Latin Talus) or Tálon (Greek Τάλων) was a giant man of bronze who protected Europa in Crete, circling the island's shores three times daily while guarding it. In the Cretan dialect talôs was the equivalent of the Greek hêlios, the sun: the lexicon of Hesychius of Alexandria notes simply, "Talos is the sun." In Crete Zeus was worshipped as Zeus Tallaios, "Solar Zeus", absorbing the earlier god as an epithet in the familiar sequence. The god was identified with the Tallaia, a spur of the Ida range in Crete. On the coin from Phaistos (illustration) he is winged; in Greek vase-paintings and Etruscan bronze mirrors he is not. The ideas of Talos vary widely, with one consistent detail: in Greek imagery outside Crete, Talos is always being vanquished: he seems to have been an enigmatic figure to the Greeks themselves.

Talos is described by Greeks as a gift, either a gift from Hephaestus to Minos, forged with the aid of the Cyclopes in the form of a bull or a gift from Zeus to Europa. Or he may have been the son of Kres, the personification of Crete; In Argonautica Talos threw rocks at any approaching ship. In the Byzantine encyclopia The Suda, Talos is said, when the Sardinians did not wish to release him to Minos, to have heated himself red-hot by jumping into a fire and to have clasped them in his embrace.

Talos had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. The Argo, transporting Jason and the Argonauts, approached Crete after obtaining the Golden Fleece. As guardian of the island, Talos kept the Argo at bay by hurling great boulders at it. According to Apollodorus, Talos was slain either when Medea the sorceress drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. In Argonautica, Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, driving him mad with the keres she raised, so that he dislodged the nail, and "the ichor ran out of him like molten lead", exsanguinating and killing him. The story is somewhat reminiscent of the story regarding the heel of Achilles.

In the film Jason and the Argonauts (1963), the Argonauts make a temporary stop at the Isle of Bronze. Jason, however, warns them not to loot it. Talos comes to life when the treasure chamber over which he crouches - like a statue - is looted by two of the Argonauts, Hylas and Hercules. He chases after the men and dumps them all into the sea after they board the Argos, which Talos wrecks. Just when all seems lost, the voice of Hera, emitting from the ship's figurehead of the goddess, advises Jason to check Talos's ankles. Jason does so and opens what looks like a giant cork in Talos's heel. Red liquid, resembling wine, gushes out, and Talos collapses in a broken heap.

Talos is also the inventive young pupil of Daedalus at Athens, who copied a fishbone for the first saw; Daedalus killed him in jealousy.

Interpretation

A political interpretation of the myth tells that Talos is the Minoan fleet armed with metallic weapons. When the Greeks from the Argo defeat him, the power of Crete vanishes.

Robert Graves (whose interpretation of Greek mythology is controversial among many scholars) suggests that this myth is based on a misinterpretation of a picture of Athena demonstrating the process of Lost-wax casting of bronze, which Daedalus, according to Graves, would have brought to Sardinia.

Modern adaptations

The grotesquely threatening figure of the colossal man of bronze with a hidden weakness has appealed to the inventors of fantasy fiction and computer games. Many instances could be adduced.

Notes

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