How Did Volcanoes Get Their Name?
Volcanoes were named after Vulcan — the ancient Roman god of fire and metals. According to Roman legend, Vulcan lived under a volcanic island off the coast of Italy. He often built huge fires in his forge deep in the earth. Smoke and sparks flew from Vulcan’s chimney as he made his weapons. “Volcano” comes from Volcanus, the Latin word for Vulcan.
Volcanus was Hephaistos – the Greek god of fire and craftsmanship, named Vulcan by the Romans. He was the son of Zeus and Hera – although some versions of his story state that he had no father, with Hera bearing him alone in retaliation for Zeus having brought forth Athena – Hephaestus was born lame and ugly and his mother Hera hated him on first sight.
We now know that pressure and heat deep underground produce hot, liquid rock called magma. The “smoke” from volcanoes, once attributed by poets to be from Vulcan’s forge, is actually volcanic gas naturally released from both active and many inactive volcanoes. Volcanic eruptions occur when magma and hot gases are forced up through the earth’s crust.