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Dioscuri statues at the bottom of the stairs to the Capitol in Rome
Rome, Temple of Castor and Pollux. View from the west. Drawing by Giovanni Battista Piranesi . Mid 18th century

The Dioscuri ( ancient Greek Διόσκουροι Dioskouroi "sons of Zeus") are understood in Greek mythology as the half-brothers and twin brothers Castor and Polydeukes (Greek Κάστωρ and Πολυδεύκης ). They are often called with their Latin names Castor and Pollux or Kastor and Pollux , in which form they are also namesake of a bright pair of stars in the winter constellation of Gemini . Their second main name Tyndariden , which seems to have been the most important in older times and especially at the original seat of their cult, in Laconia , describes them as the sons of Tyndareos .

Indo-European heritage

In comparative religious studies, the Dioscuri is regarded as an Indo-European heritage and compared with the ancient Indian Ashvins and the Baltic Dieva dēli .

Mortality and immortality

Polydeukes, the pugilist, was the son of Leda and Zeus , who had seduced them in the shape of a swan. There was disagreement among the Greeks about Castor's origin. For some he was considered the son of Leda and her husband Tyndareos and was conceived the same night as Polydeukes. Since they were conceived that same night, they are twins and inseparable, although Polydeukes, as Zeus' son, was a demigod , Castor, the horse tamer, but a mortal. For the others, Castor, like his brother, was also a son of Zeus. Often, however, both are referred to as sons of Zeus, according to their names, who both were immortal and jumped out of an egg or as a pair of brothers from a second egg with Helena , her sister and also a daughter of Zeus. You are considered the pride of Sparta . The place of birth near Sparta is called Therapne.

Both took part in the voyage of the Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece . They accompanied Heracles on the way to the Amazons .

The end of the Dioscuri was initiated by a quarrel between Castor and his cousin Idas . Idas slew (the mortal) Castor, then Polydeukes killed Idas' brother Lynkeus. Zeus intervened by destroying Idas with a lightning bolt. The - due to his descent - immortal Polydeukes mourned from then on for his brother. He asked his father to take away his immortality so that he could go to his brother in the realm of the dead.

Touched by so much love, Zeus let his son choose either to stay forever young and live among the gods or to spend a day with Castor in the underground realm of Hades (realm of the dead) and a day in Olympus with the gods and in the process of aging and ultimately dying. Without thinking twice, Polydeukes chose the second variant and from then on hiked with his brother between Olympus and Hades.


As a constellation , they had a special relationship with seafaring and were helping deities there who were called upon in distress. The Dioskurenkult spread first over the whole Peloponnese and over the Hellenistic Asia Minor, on Samothrace (before the Dardanelles ) they had an important sanctuary. They also played an important role in Etruscan mythology.

In Rome, where, according to legend, they intervened against the Latins on the side of the Romans at the battle of Regillus lacus (around 500 BC) , there was a pronounced cult of Dioskur. There is a temple of the Dioscuri in the Roman Forum .

The phrase like Kastor and Pollux to describe an inviolable pair of friends has held up to this day.



Individual evidence

  1. In Homer , see also Georg Curtius : Grundzüge der Greek Etymologie , 248 p. 226.
  2. Apollonius Rhodius Argonautika 2,163
  3. Melanie Ho: "Hunger Games" -Casting: You are Castor & Pollux. In: Promiflash , September 25, 2013, accessed May 30, 2017.

Web links

Commons : Dioskurs  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files