The harper struck up a tune, and sang of the loves of Ares and Aphrodite. He told how first they lay secretly in the house of Hephaistos himself. Ares brought her many gifts, and dishonoured the bed of Lord Hephaistos: but before long Helios the sun came and told him that he had seen them lying in a loving embrace. Hephaistos heard the cruel tale and straight to the smithy he went with a plan of vengeance in his heart.
He set the anvil on the stand, and forged chains that could not be broken or loosed, to hold the pair immovable. When he had fashioned this net for Ares in his hot anger, he took it to the bedchamber, and fastened the meshes over the bedposts and down from the roof-beams, network fine as a spider's web, which no eye could see, not even the blessed gods themselves; a masterpeice of clever work.
As soon as he had draped the cunning net to perfection, he made as if he were going to Lemnos, for he loved that noble city best of all. But Ares kept no blind man's watch. He saw the mastercraftsman going away; he made haste to the house of the famous smith, eager for the love of garlanded Cythereia.
She had just come in from Almighty Cronion her father, and there she was sitting in the house when he entered. He clasped her hand, and said:
"Come, my love, let us to bed and take our joy! Hephaistos is not in the place, but I think he is gone already to Lemnos, to hear the barbarous talk of those Sintians!"
She was filled with joy at the thought, and they lay down on the bed. Then the craftsman's clever net closed round them, and they could neither move nor lift a limb: at last they knew there was no chance of escape. Hephaistos was close by all the time, and now he came hobbling along; he had turned back before he came to Lemnos, for Helios had been on the look out and told him what had happened. He stood in the doorway, with fury in his heart; he roared aloud and called to the gods one and all.
"Father Zeus and all you blessed gods who live for ever! Come this way, and see a fine joke! an intolerable piece of impudence! Because I am lame, this daughter of Zeus, this Aphrodite, for ever treats me with contempt; she loves this murderous Ares because he is handsome and has two sound feet on him, and I was born a cripple! Why blame me? It is my parents' fault, not mine, and I wish I had never been born at all! But you shall see where the loving pair are sleeping, on my own bed! It makes me sore to see that. Well, I don't think they will care to lie like that one little minute more, fond lovers, though they are. Before long they won't want to sleep, neither one nor the other; but there my ingenious arts will keep them, until her father pays back my marriage gifts, every jot, all I paid for the sake of this bitch because she was a pretty girl! But she does not know how to behave herself."
At this call the gods crowded to the smith's house; up came Earthshaker Poseidon, up came Hermeias Eriunios, up came Apollo, Prince of Archers; but the goddesses were too modest and stayed at home. There stood the Dispensers of all Blessings, at the door; a roar of unquenchable laughter rose from the blessed gods to see the skill of Hephaistos the master-craftsman.
You might have heard them say to one another, "Honesty is the best policy! Slow catches quick, as now slow old Hephaistos has caught Ares, the quickest god in Olympos; the lame dog wins by his wits. Now there's damages due to the cuckold!"
Amid this kind of banter, Prince Apollo son of Zeus said to Hermes:
"My dear Hermeias son o Zeus, King's Messenger, Dispenser of blessings! Would you like to sleep with the golden Aphrodite and have that strong net smothering you close all round?"
King's Messenger Argeiphontes answered:
"I only wish I could, my dear Lord Apollo Prince of Archers! Wrap around me three nets like that, with no way out, all you gods look on and all the goddesses too, I would sleep with golden Aphrodite!"
The gods burst into laughter at this. Only Poseidon did not laugh, but just begged the famous craftsman to let Ares go. "Let him go," he said, "and I give you my word, as you ask, that he shall pay all that is justly due in the presence of the immortal gods."
But the famous Crookshank God answered him: "Do not ask me that, Poseidon Earthshaker. Go bail for a cheat, and he'll cheat you out of your bail! How can I put you in the net, if Ares gets out of net and debt together?"
To this Poseidon Earthshaker made reply:
"Heiphaistos, if Ares gets out of his debt and shows a clean pair of heels, I will pay you the debt myself."
Then the famous Crookshank God gave answer, "I cannot and I must not refuse your offer."
So Hephaistos, angry still, undid the net. Once free from the inextricable bonds, the two were off like a shot- he to Thrace and she to Cyprus, similing broadly, away to Paphos and her temple and altar of incense. There the Graces bathed her and rubbed her with oil divine, such as the deathless gods refresh themselves with; and they clothed her in lovely garments, a wonder to behold.
So sang the famous singer: Odysseus was delighed as he listened, and no less that whole nation of seafaring men.
Helios, as the God of the Sun,