Study Guide

The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) Summary

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

After Leda is seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan, she lays an egg. From it, hatch Castor and Pollux as well as their sisters Helen and Clytemnestra. The Dioscuri, as C and P come to be called, go on to have all kinds of famous adventures: the Quest for the Golden Fleece, the Calydonian Boar Hunt, and the quest to rescue Helen from the clutches of Theseus. When the twins start a feud with their cousins Lycenaus and Idas over some lovely ladies and a herd of cattle, Castor ends up on the wrong end of a spear. As his brother is dying, Pollux selflessly offers to share his immortality with his twin. Depending on whom you ask, the two are placed in the stars as the constellation Gemini, or live alternate days between Mt. Olympus and the Underworld.

The Less Short Story

  • Zeus takes a shine to Leda, the Queen of Sparta, wife of King Tyndareus.
  • Because he's Zeus and he likes things a little freaky, he decides to seduce Leda while in the form of a swan.
  • For some unknown reason, Leda is totally into it and gets in on with the god-swan. (In some versions this is more of a rape than a seduction.)
  • That night, however, Leda also lays with her husband Tyndareus. (That only seems fair.)
  • A little while later, pregnant Leda lays an egg. (We're guessing Tyndareus was a little suspicious at this point.)
  • Out of the egg hatches two boys and two girls.
  • The girls are named Helen and Clytemnestra, and the twin boys are named Castor and Pollux (a.k.a. Polydeuces).
  • Most agree that Helen and Pollux are the children of Zeus, while Clytemnestra and Castor are the children of Tynadareus.
  • (We should note that there are a ton of variations on this myth. Some say that there were two eggs, one for the boys and one for the girls. Others say that everybody was natural born except Helen, whose egg was laid by Nemesis and brought to Leda. Still others say that only Helen and Pollux were born of eggs.)
  • In any case, it turns out that Pollux is immortal and his twin brother Castor is not. (Don't ask us why Helen isn't immortal.)
  • Even though they have different dads, Castor and Pollux get along like peas in a pod (or chicks in an egg?)
  • When they grow up, they become especially famous for their skill with horses and boxing.
  • The Dioscuri, as the twins come to be called, become part of the who's who of Greek heroes and go on some of the most famous quests there are.
  • The twins are recruited by Jason to become Argonauts and go on the Quest for the Golden Fleece.
  • While on the quest, Pollux really distinguishes himself as a boxer, when he punches mean King Amycus of Bithynia so hard he kills the guy.
  • Castor and Pollux also go on the famous Calydonian Boar Hunt, helping Meleager and Atalanta track down the vicious giant boar.
  • Later on, their sister Helen is kidnapped by creepy old King Theseus of Athens.
  • The twins aren't about to take this lying down, so they round up their Spartan warriors and attack Theseus' city.
  • Not only do they rescue Helen, they also capture Theseus' mom, Aethra, as a hostage.
  • Of course, Theseus was trapped in the Underworld at this time, so they probably had an easier time of it than they would've otherwise.
  • One day, Castor and Pollux fall in love with some maidens named Phoebe and Hilaeira.
  • The only trouble is that these lovely ladies are engaged to the twins' cousins, Lynceus and Idas.
  • This doesn't see to bother Castor and Pollux too much, though.
  • The Dioscuri just snatch Phoebe and Hilaeira, take them back to Sparta, and marry them whether they like it or not.
  • (In some versions, this incident is described as a rape.)
  • Lynceus and Idas are pretty ticked, to say the least. But the prankster kids get no comeuppance... yet.
  • Later on, Castor and Pollux decide to do a little cattle rustling with Lynceus and Idas.
  • After they successfully steal some cows, Idas suggests an eating contest in which whatever set of brothers finishes their dinner first can keep all the cattle.
  • Little do Castor and Pollux know that the massive Idas is super good at eating contests.
  • The twins are ticked when Idas eats his food in no time flat, and he and Lynceus take off with all the cattle.
  • A little while later Idas and Lynceus come to hang out with the Dioscuri in Sparta.
  • The twins decide this would be a great time to sneak off and steal the cattle back.
  • This decision doesn't really work out well for anybody.
  • Idas ends up fatally wounding Castor with a spear.
  • Pollux slaughters Lynceus like a bug under a tennis shoe.
  • This makes Idas go nuts.
  • Just when he's about to skewer Pollux, Zeus steps in and fries Idas with a thunderbolt.
  • Pollux sees that his mortal brother, Castor, is dying.
  • He begs Zeus to let him share his immortality with his brother.
  • Zeus is touched by his brotherly dedication.
  • According to some the Dioscuri are then placed in the stars, where they shine together as the constellation Gemini.
  • Others say that they share Pollux's immortality, spending alternating days in the Underworld and on Mt. Olympus.