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In Greek mythology, Talos (//; Greek: Τάλως, Talōs) or Talon (//; Greek: Τάλων, Talōn) was a giant man of bronze who protected Europa in Crete from pirates and invaders. He circled the island's shores three times daily.
According to Brian A. Sparkes, "The most detailed treatment in literature is to be found in the Argonautica ... however, we have detailed images of the episode, 150 years earlier, dated to around 400 BC."
Talos is said to have been made by Hephaestus at the request of Zeus, to protect Europa from persons who would want to kidnap her. In some versions of the myth, Talos is forged by the inventor Daedalus.
In the Cretan dialect, talôs was the equivalent of the Greek hêlios, the Sun: the lexicon of Hesychius of Alexandria notes simply "Talos is the Sun". In Crete, Zeus was worshipped as Zeus Tallaios, "Solar Zeus", absorbing the earlier god as an epithet in the familiar sequence. The god was identified with the Tallaia, a spur of the Ida range in Crete. On the coin from Phaistos (illustration) he is winged; in Greek vase-paintings and Etruscan bronze mirrors he is not. The ideas of Talos vary widely, with one consistent detail: in Greek imagery outside Crete, Talos is always being vanquished: he seems to have been an enigmatic figure to the Greeks themselves.
Talos is described by Greeks in two versions. In one version, Talos is a gift from Hephaestus to Minos, forged with the aid of the Cyclopes in the form of a bull. In the other version, Talos is a gift from Zeus to Europa. Or he may have been the son of Kres, the personification of Crete; In Argonautica Talos threw rocks at any approaching ship to protect his island. In the Byzantine encyclopedia called the Suda, it is said that when the Sardinians did not wish to release Talos to Minos, he heated himself – by jumping into a fire – and clasped them in his embrace.
Talos had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. The Argo, transporting Jason and the Argonauts, approached Crete after obtaining the Golden Fleece. As guardian of the island, Talos kept the Argo at bay by hurling great boulders at it. According to pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheke, Talos was slain when Medea the sorceress either drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. In Argonautica, Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, driving him mad with the keres she raised, so that he dislodged the nail, and "the ichor ran out of him like molten lead", exsanguinating and killing him. Peter Green, translator of Argonautica, notes that the story is somewhat reminiscent of the story regarding the heel of Achilles.
In Argonautica, Apollonius notes that "the ichor... ran out like molten lead". A.B. Cook first suggested that the single vein closed by a nail or plug referred to the lost-wax method of casting. Robert Graves (whose interpretation of Greek mythology is controversial among many scholars) suggests that this myth is based on a misinterpretation of an image of Athena demonstrating the process of lost-wax casting of steel, which Daedalus would have brought to Sardinia.
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