Study Guide

The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) Context

Context

The twin brothers, Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces), were super popular figures back in ancient Greece and also in the Roman Empire. The Dioscuri, as they were called, were worshipped all over the place as the patrons of horsemen, athletes, sailors, and warriors. (If you're the patron of that many things, you know you're the cool kid on campus.)

The twins were so revered by pretty much everybody that they even got their own constellation, Gemini. Most experts agree that the worship of "divin twins" like Castor and Pollux goes way back to the Proto-Indo-European people who most of the peoples of India and...you guessed it...Europe, are descended from.

Though the Dioscuri don't get some great epic of their own in classical literature, they pop up in works by pretty much everybody who was anybody way back in the day. In Homer's Iliad, Helen looks out from the walls of Troy and wonders where her twin brothers are. Their full story was told as part of the lost epic, the Cypria, which was kind of a prequel to the Iliad, written either by a guy named Stasinus or Hegesias.

The twins also get their time on stage in Euripides' plays, Helen and Electra. Mega-awesome Roman poet, Ovid, also tells the tale of the Dioscuri in his poem, Fasti. Castor and Pollux also show up in the writings by a long list of other dudes with funny names: Hesiod, Ovid, Pindar, Apollonius Rhodius, Diodorus Siculus, and (our favorite) Valerius Flaccus.

Don't go thinking that Castor and Pollux have dropped out of the popular imagination either. Recently they've appeared in Hercules (the animated Disney series), Xena: Warrior Princess, Jason and the Argonauts (TV miniseries), Helen of Troy (TV miniseries), and they inspired the names of two brother cameramen in Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay. If that resume doesn't prove to you that the Castor and Pollux are still super stars, then just look up into the sky, where they shine to this day as the constellation, Gemini.

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