25 Facts About Cyclops

They only had one eye, and they had a shockingly bad ability to judge distances as a result, the Cyclopes of ancient Greek Mythology play a prominent role in shaping the Olympian’s world. From providing weapons for the gods to being basic caver dwellers, these one-eyed giants have a story or two to tell. So read on to learn 25 facts about cyclops. 

Fact 1: A cyclops’ main defining feature is that they only have a single eye in the center of their forehead. This is often accompanied by a huge eyebrow ridge that stretches across the entire forehead above the eye. 

Fact 2: The single eye would cause serious issues for a cyclops. You see, humans and other animals have two eyes so they can perceive depth. We can do this because our brain uses the distance between the two eyes to create a parallax shift in the apparent position of the object. It then uses this difference to determine an object distance from us. You can try this out for yourself with a little experiment. Hold a finger 15 cm in front of your nose. Now close one eye. Take note of your finger’s position. Now close that eye and open the other. You’ll notice that your finger has shifted position. This shifting of position is caused by the differing positions of your two eyes. This helps your brain calculate an object’s position in 3D space. A cyclops, with one eye, would have no depth perception and would have no way of telling where an object in a 3d space. So he’d be easy to escape if you ever run into one!

Fact 3: Another feature of a cyclops is they often come with a single horn protruding from their forehead. This can be anything up to about 15cm long and is used for actions such as headbutting enemies and ramming into and destroying obstacles. 

Fact 4: The word cyclops is one of those rare words in English that doesn’t have a proper plural. A “plural” is the multiple version of something singular. For example, “apple” is singular, whereas “apples” is plural. So you’d think the Cyclops’ plural would be “Cyclopses”. But it’s not. Instead, the plural of Cyclops is spelled with an “e” before the “s” like this: Cyclopes.

Fact 5: Cyclopes are often depicted as having extremely tough leather-like skin that envelopes an extremely strong muscular body. 

Fact 6: They are often depicted is unintelligent creatures that use brute force to solve all problems they encounter. They are often seen wielding huge clubs made of broken off branches and tree stumps. They then swing these clubs haphazardly destroying anything in their path with little care for form or collateral damage.

Fact 7: In Greek mythology, the Cyclopes (remember, that’s plural) where the primordial sons of Gaia, the Personification of Earth, and Uranus, the king and ruler of the sky and space.  

Fact 8: The cyclopes are born from both Roman and Greek Mythology. 

Fact 9: Cyclopes are often depicted as giants. But their actual size varies greatly. They have been depicted as being twice the size of a man, to being the size of small mountains, much like the Titans of Greek mythology. 

Fact 10: According to ancient writing, there are three different groups of Cyclopes. 

Fact 11: The first of the three groups can be found in Hesiod’s Theogony. They are the brothers, Arges, Brontes, and Steropes. According to Hesiod’s fable, the brothers were responsible for giving Zeus his thunderbolt weapon! 

Fact 12: The Second of the three groups is depicted in Homer’s odyssey. They are a barbarous group of shepherds that are closely related to the Cyclops Polyphemus. But I’ll talk more about him in a later fact. 

Fact 13: The third and final group are the Cyclopean wall builders of Mycenae and Tiryns. They are famous for building massive stone walls from unworked boulders of limestone and basic lime mortar. 

Photo by Steven Lek – A first century CE head of a Cyclops, part of the sculptures adorning the Roman Colosseum
CC BY-SA 4.0

Fact 14: Cyclopses are often depicted as living on a couple of islands in the Mediterranean Sea. the first island is the Island of Sicily. The second is actually a small group of volcanic islands called the Aeolian island. They can be found just off the northern coast of Sicily. 

Fact 15: The cyclopes brothers Arges, Brontes, and Steropes didn’t just give Zeus his fancy bolt of lighting. Oh no, they didn’t stop there. They handed Artemis a bow along with arrows made of pure moonlight. And they also found time to give her brother Apollo a bow that used arrows made of pure sunlight.   

Fact 16: According to Greek Mythology, a cyclops made a deal with the god of the underworld, Hades. The deal consisted of the Cyclops trading one of his, at the time, two eyes for the ability to see into the future. Hades, being a little bit evil and knowing exactly what the cyclops would “see”, happily whipped the eye right out. He probably put it in a jar or something. And all the poor old Cyclops ever saw was the day of his death. Moral of the story: never trade your eyesight for anything!

Fact 17: Though Uranus was the Cyclopes’ father, he was actually really afraid of their strength. He feared that one day they would overthrow him and become ruler of the cosmos. So Uranus did what any “good” father would do: he threw all the Cyclopes in a deep unreachable abyss in the underworld called Tartarus. How lovely! 

Fact 18: According to Hesiod, the Cyclopes brothers of Arges, Brontes, and Steropes, though capable of making wondrous weaponry, were actually quite difficult to be around. They were quick to anger, extremely stubborn, and convinced of their complete superiority over pretty much everything. 

Fact 19: Ok, I promised earlier on to talk a little more about the cyclops Polyphemus. Well, Polyphemus was depicted as a savage, man-eating, one-eyed giant, who was eventually killed by the hero of Homer’s book the Odyssey, Odysseus.  

Fact 20: The Cyclopes that Homer talks of in his book, the Odessey, are extremely unskilled cave dwellers. They have no ability to build ships or buildings and have no concept of agriculture. 

Fact 21: After learning that Uranus threw his own sons, the cyclopes, into the Abyss called Tartarus, Zeus, along with a couple of his siblings Poseidon and Hades, saved them. 

Fact 22: The ancient Greek word for Cyclopes means either “Round Eyes” or “Circle Eyes”. Notice in these names that there is no mention at all of Cyclopes having only one eye. The word comes from the ancient Greek word “Kuklos” which means circle and “Ops” which means eye. 

Fact 23: For helping to save the cyclopes from the underworld abyss called Tartarus, the cyclopes granted Hades the helmet of invisibility. A little bit like Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, just not as cool!

Fact 24: In 1914, Paleontologist Othenio Abel proposed the idea that fossil skulls of an ancient dwarf Elephant gave rise to the Cyclops myth. These dwarf elephants had very large nasal cavity openings on the front of their skulls where their trunks would have attached to their face. It’s believed that farmers of Ancient Greece who lived near coastal caves discovered the remains and, unable to explain their origin, created stories about them that eventually formed the mythological cyclops. 

Fact 25: Posidon was given his trident by the Cyclopes as thanks for saving them from the underworld. The cyclopes’ father, Uranus, cast them down there in an effort to stop the cyclopes from overthrowing him and becoming the ruler of the sky and space.


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