t h e   c l a s s i c s   p a g e s   l e t t e r s

Sent: 	Friday, August 16, 1996 02:15

Subject: 	Castor and Pollux

I saw a movie with John Travolta this week 
(excuse me, I don't remember its name in English
 - in Portuguese it's "The other face"). Two
characters are named after Castor and Pollux. 
So, I would like to know the mythology about them.

Dear M

   Castor and Pollux were the Heavenly Twins - brothers of Helen (later "of Troy") and Clytemnestra (later wife - and killer - of Agamemnon). Their origins were very strange - their mother, Leda, fell in love with a swan (really Zeus/Jupiter in disguise) and the resulting pregnancy produced two eggs - one of which had Pollux (or Polydeuces in his Greek form) and Helen in it, the other Castor and Clytemnestra . The situation was even more complicated because Leda was already pregnant by her husband, Tyndareus, king of Sparta! It was generally agreed that egg 1 contained Zeus' children (immortal), egg 2 Tyndareus' !

   Both brothers became famous warriors - taking part in Jason's expedition to find the Golden Fleece. Their lives ended in tragedy, however. Invited to a double wedding, they raped the brides: in the fight that followed, Castor killed the bride's father and was then killed himself. Pollux avenged him by killing his brother's killer - and then pleaded with Zeus to make his twin immortal, too. Zeus agreed - but as usual when gods do the decent thing, there was a catch: the brothers had to share their immortality, one day it was Pollux's turn on Olympus while Castor stayed in the Underworld - next day they swapped over.

   Thanks for your query, and for being my first correspondent from Brasil!