Hey guys! So! To make our last blog post relatable and memorable to us, we decided on the topic of twins in mythology (Hurrayyyy!). Even though we are twins ourselves, we still find it fascinating when we come across another set of twins but perhaps, not as much a non-twin individual would (we might be wrong here). Anyway, back to the topic, we really wanted to do something fun and something that was particularly closer to us both so we thought why not twins? and here we are. In class, we already learnt about the story of the orphaned twins Romulus and Remus, who were raised in the wilderness and discovered the magnificent city of Rome. So for today, we will be exploring more on other twins in ancient mythology and what essentially made their story so interesting and famous. There are many different versions of every story so keep that in mind!
Heracles and Iphicles (Hercules and Iphecules)
Heracles (or Hercules) and Iphicles were twin brothers. Heracles was believed to be the son of Greek god, Zeus and thus, his superpowers. Iphicles on the other hand, was the son of Amphitryon and Alcmene (their mom) who were both mortals so he did not have any of his brother’s superpowers. This may perhaps explained why Heracles was more famous and why many of you did not know that he had a twin brother (AM I RIGHT?!). What essentially made people believe that Heracles was the son of Zeus is the story of when the twin brothers were infants. Apparently, when Hera, third lawful wife of Zeus, knew that he cheated on her and heard about the twins, she got jealous and sent two serpents down to kill them. While Iphicles screamed and cried when he saw the serpents, Heracles on the other hand, choked the serpents by their throats and killed them.
While we do not know much about Iphicles, what we do know is that he joined his brother on many adventures and eventually died battling the Moliones (another pair of twins, Eurytus and Cteatus, sons of Poseidon and Molione) with Heracles. In Greek mythology, Heracles was described as a demigod who grew up to become a strong warrior and a hero. He was famous for accomplishing the “twelve labors” that made him immortal. Additionally, he also played a big role in the victory of the Olympians against the Giants.(Read more about that here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/giants.html)
The pair Apollo and Artemis was the son and daughter of Zeus (the King of the Gods) and his favorite lover, Leto (a Titan goddess). The birth story of the twins was not an easy one because Heta (the legitimate wife of Zeus) was envious and hated Leto despite the fact that the pregnancy happened before her marriage with Zeus. When Heta heard about the pregnancy, she made sure to stir up all sorts of trouble for Leto and even chased her out of Olympus. Heta also prohibited everyone in Greece from providing help and refuge to Leto. She went as far as to prevent her own daughter Eileithyia (the goddess of childbirth) from aiding Leto during childbirth. Even more outrageous, she had a large serpent called Python hunt down Leto WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT!!! What a cruel woman!!
Leto eventually settled on an island called Delos. Leto was miserable and was in immense pain for nine days before finally giving birth to Artemis on the tenth day at a nearby pond. Soon after, Artemis assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo. Hence, Artemis also became known as the new goddess of childbirth. AND! After only FOUR DAYS following their birth, the young and strong Apollo avenged his mother’s pain by killing Python. (YASSSSS!)
All direct quotes came from only one source linked in the above heading
Yama and Yami were the son and daughter of Surya (the Sun God) and Sanjna (meaning Conscience). The story goes that Yama and Yami were the first mortals on Earth. Like the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, they were also “born into a garden of earthly delights.” Their love for one another prospered as they grew. While Yama’s love for Yami was always platonic and brotherly, Yami wanted more. Yami was devastated by her brother’s rejection and distanced herself away from him.
When she came back later on, she found Yama lying motionless underneath a tree. She called out his name and shook him but he never woke up. The understanding that she was now the only human left on this world made her absolutely heartbroken and miserable. She cried so much that her tears became “a river (the Yamuna), which began to flood the earth.”
The gods wanted to help her but she would continuously say: “But Yama just died today! Yama died today!” The gods then realized that Yami’s nonstop grief and mourning was due to the fact that she lived in “a perpetual interval of time.” There was no yesterday or tomorrow. Hence, this was how night was created as the gods combined their powers to make the sun set below the western horizon and rise above the eastern horizon.
Then, Yami slept through the night for the first time ever and woke up and said: “Why, Yama must have died yesterday!” Therefore, as time passed, her sadness slowly diminished and she became prudent from her acknowledgment of her hardship and her understanding of what it means to be a human.
For Yama, because he was the first human to die and to “discover the ineffable secrets of life, death, and the cosmic laws that govern existence.” There, he became the God of Death, with a secondary title of Dharmaraja, which means “the ‘King of Dharma’ or righteousness.”
Hunahpu and Xbalanque (The Hero Twins)
The Hero Twins, known as Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are popular Mayan demigods. Their story came from Mayan ancient sacred text, the Popol Vuh otherwise known as “The Book of Council”.
To tell the birth story of the Hero Twins, we must first look at their father, One Hunahpu who happened to also have a twin brother, Seven Hunahpu. They were described as knowledgeable and good by nature. One thing that they most enjoyed doing was playing ball and this somehow angered the Death Lords of Xibalba (Mayan underworld). They were thus, summoned to Xibalba, where they were put to many trials and was eventually deceived by the lords and they died in sacrifice. The head of One Hunahpu magically appeared on a tree, which was then touched by Xquic, a goddess of Xibalba and she was pregnant with the Hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
Just like their father, the Hero Twins also enjoyed playing ball and they were great players. However, they made a lot of noise and this angered the Lords of Xibalba who called them to the Underworld to play a ball game. The Twins similarly went through the trials and they passed them all because they knew the story of their father and uncle. The Death Lords again tried to trick them but they did not fall into the trap. However, they did let the Death Lords kill them because they knew they had to die to essentially become divine. After they returned, the Hero Twins possessed a supernatural power that allows them to bring any living thing back to life when they wish to do so. Upon hearing this news, the Death Lords eagerly asked the boys to kill them and bring them back to life but unfortunately for them, the Hero Twins knew better and they did not resurrect the Death Lords. Ultimately, the sky gods made the Hero Twins become the rulers of the Earth; they turned into the Sun and the Moon.
The video below tells another version of the story with beautiful artworks. Do check it out if you have time :)
Thank you for reading and we hope you've enjoyed reading about twins! Farewell!!! :D