Castor and Pollux – Mythology and Religion

The twin boys, Castor and Pollux, are often associated with Roman pagan religion. Merchants and sailors would pray or make sacrifices to them to ensure a safe voyage.

Even Castor and Pollux were worshipped in a 6th-century-onwards cult and became household religious names, only one of the boys was actually immortal (a demi-god). The other, Castor, was a mere human, born to the King and Queen of the mighty city of Sparta: Leda and Tyndareus. Therefore, his brother was technically superior to him. On the other hand, Pollux was said to have been born to Zeus (Jupiter for the Romans) and Leda. However, they were both athletic boys and were described as having blonde hair and large eyes.

The twin boys became recognised as the patron gods of seafarers and sailing ever since a group of sailors returned home to Rome, telling this story. When in a fierce tempest, they spotted a glowing and sparkling light on the top of their mast. They believed that the gods Castor and Pollux had descended from the sky to help them survive the ferocious waves. What they were actually seeing, however, was a natural phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire. However, Castor and Pollux henceforth became gods of the sea and naval expedition.

In 484 BC, the Romans scored a victory at the Battle of Regillus. The glorious triumph was quickly attributed to the boys, Castor and Pollux, as a rumour had been going about that the twins had led the Roman army into battle upon two white horses. Consequently, they were immediately named the protectors of cavalry, or “equites”. A temple was built for their worship in Rome and they would be honoured in the city from that point onwards.

Gradually, during the golden age of Rome, Castor and Pollux became known as the gods of almost all household matters! Guests to a villa would tell the stories of the twin brothers helping defeat the Calydonian Boar and rescuing Helen of Troy. Due to their athletic nature and respect of the Roman people, they became very likeable and were glorified often, in images etched into coins and in artwork. Pollux was an excellent boxer and became a great sporting example. Castor and Pollux would be admired into the Early Middle Ages.

When the mortal Castor died, Pollux was devastated. For so long, the bond between the brothers had been unbreakable. Now that his brother was dead, Pollux knew that his soul had gone to Hades, the Underworld. There are many stories of the end of the brothers. Legend has it that Castor was so devastated that he offered to give up half of his immortality to save his brother. It was also said that Zeus took pity on them, and made them into the two brightest stars of the Gemini constellation.

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