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Personification of the Sun
""Head Helios AM Rhodes E49.jpg
Head of Helios, middle period, "Archaeological Museum of Rhodes
Abode "Sky
Symbol Chariot, horse, "aureole, rooster, incense, "heliotrope, sunflower
Personal Information
Consort Many including: "Clymene, "Klytie, "Perse, "Rhodos, and "Leucothea
Children Many including: The "Charites, "Phaethon, The "Horae, "Aeëtes, "Circe, "Perses (brother of Aeetes), "Pasiphaë, "Heliadae ,"Heliades, "Phaethusa and "Lampetia
Parents "Hyperion and "Theia
Siblings "Selene, "Eos
Roman equivalent "Sol
Hinduism equivalent "Surya

Helios ("/ˈhli.ɒs/; "Ancient Greek: Ἥλιος Hēlios; "Latinized as Helius; Ἠέλιος in "Homeric Greek) was the personification of the "Sun in "Greek mythology. He is the son of the "Titan "Hyperion and the Titaness "Theia (according to "Hesiod), also known as "Euryphaessa (in "Homeric Hymn 31) and brother of the goddesses "Selene, the moon, and "Eos, the dawn.

Helios was described as a handsome "titan crowned with the shining "aureole of the Sun, who drove the "chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth-circling "Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night. In the "Homeric hymn to Helios, Helios is said to drive a golden chariot drawn by steeds (HH 31.14–15); and "Pindar speaks of Helios's "fire-darting steeds" (Olympian Ode 7.71). Still later, the horses were given fire related names: "Pyrois, Aeos, "Aethon, and Phlegon.

As time passed, Helios was increasingly identified with the god of light, "Apollo. However, in spite of their syncretism, they were also often viewed as two distinct gods/titan (Helios was a "Titan, whereas Apollo was an "Olympian). The equivalent of Helios in "Roman mythology was "Sol.



The Greek ἥλιος is the inherited word for the "Sun, from "Proto-Indo-European *seh₂u-el,[1] which is cognate with "Latin sol, "Sanskrit "surya, "Old English swegl, "Old Norse "sól, "Welsh haul, etc.[2]

The female offspring of Helios were called "Heliades. The Greek sun god had various bynames or epithets, which over time in some cases came to be considered separate deities associated with the Sun. Most notably, Helios is closely associated with, and sometimes consciously identified with, "Apollo.

"Diodorus Siculus of Sicily reported that the Chaldeans called "Cronus (Saturn) by the name Helios, or the sun, and he explained that this was because Saturn was the most conspicuous of the planets.[3]

Among these is "Hyperion (superus, "high up"), Elektor (of uncertain derivation, often translated as "beaming" or "radiant", especially in the combination elektor Hyperion), "Phaëton "the radiant", Hekatos (of "Apollo, also Hekatebolos "far-shooter", i.e. the sun's rays considered as arrows).

Greek mythology[edit]

Helios in his chariot, early 4th century BC, "Athena's temple, "Ilion

The best known story involving Helios is that of his son "Phaethon, who attempted to drive his father's chariot but lost control and set the earth on fire. If "Zeus had not interfered by throwing a thunderbolt at Phaethon, killing him instantly, all mortals would have died.

Helios was sometimes characterized with the epithet Panoptes ("the all-seeing"). In the story told in the hall of "Alcinous in the "Odyssey (viii.300ff.), "Aphrodite, the consort of "Hephaestus, secretly beds "Ares, but all-seeing Helios spies on them and tells Hephaestus, who ensnares the two lovers in nets invisibly fine, to punish them.

In the "Odyssey, "Odysseus and his surviving crew land on "Thrinacia, an island sacred to the sun god, whom "Circe names Hyperion rather than Helios. There, the sacred red["citation needed] cattle of the Sun were kept:

You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god. There will be seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty heads in each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and they are tended by the goddesses "Phaethusa and "Lampetia, who are children of the sun-god Hyperion by "Neaera. Their mother when she had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look after their father's flocks and herds.[4]

Though Odysseus warns his men, when supplies run short they impiously kill and eat some of the "cattle of the Sun. The guardians of the island, Helios' daughters, tell their father about this. Helios appeals to "Zeus telling them to dispose of Odysseus' men or he will take the Sun and shine it in the Underworld. Zeus destroys the ship with his lightning bolt, killing all the men except for Odysseus.

Solar Apollo with the radiant "halo of Helios in a Roman floor mosaic, "El Djem, Tunisia, late 2nd century

In one Greek vase painting, Helios appears riding across the sea in the cup of the Delphic tripod which appears to be a solar reference. "Athenaeus in "Deipnosophistae relates that, at the hour of sunset, Helios climbed into a great golden cup in which he passes from the "Hesperides in the farthest west to the land of the Ethiops, with whom he passes the dark hours. While "Heracles traveled to "Erytheia to retrieve the cattle of "Geryon, he crossed the "Libyan desert and was so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the Sun. Almost immediately, Heracles realized his mistake and apologized profusely, in turn and equally courteous, Helios granted Heracles the golden cup which he used to sail across the sea every night, from the west to the east because he found Heracles' actions immensely bold. Heracles used this golden cup to reach Erytheia.[5]

By the "Oceanid "Perse, Helios became the father of "Aeëtes, "Circe, "Perses (brother of Aeetes) and "Pasiphaë. His other children are Phaethusa ("radiant") and Lampetia ("shining").[6]

Helios and Apollo[edit]

Helios as the personification of midday by "Anton Raphael Mengs. Notice the "apollonian traits absent in mythology and Hellenic art, such as the lack of a chariot and the bow and arrow.

Helios is sometimes identified with Apollo: "Different names may refer to the same being," Walter Burkert observes, "or else they may be consciously equated, as in the case of Apollo and Helios."[7]

In "Homeric literature, "Apollo is clearly identified as a different god, a plague-dealer with a silver (not golden) bow and no solar features.

The earliest certain reference to Apollo identified with Helios appears in the surviving fragments of "Euripides' play Phaethon in a speech near the end (fr 781 N²), "Clymene, Phaethon's mother, laments that Helios has destroyed her child, that Helios whom men rightly call Apollo (the name Apollo is here understood to mean Apollon "Destroyer").

By "Hellenistic times Apollo had become closely connected with the Sun in "cult. His epithet "Phoebus, Phoibos "shining", drawn from Helios, was later also applied by "Latin poets to the sun-god Sol.

Coin of Roman Emperor "Constantine I depicting "Sol Invictus/Apollo with the legend SOLI INVICTO COMITI, c. 315 AD.

The identification became a commonplace in philosophic texts and appears in the writing of "Parmenides, "Empedocles, "Plutarch and "Crates of Thebes among others, as well as appearing in some Orphic texts. "Pseudo-Eratosthenes writes about "Orpheus in "Catasterismi, section 24:

"But having gone down into "Hades because of his wife and seeing what sort of things were there, he did not continue to worship "Dionysus, because of whom he was famous, but he thought Helios to be the greatest of the gods, Helios whom he also addressed as Apollo. Rousing himself each night toward dawn and climbing the mountain called Pangaion, he would await the sun's rising, so that he might see it first. Therefore, Dionysus, being angry with him, sent the Bassarides, as "Aeschylus the tragedian says; they tore him apart and scattered the limbs."[8]

Dionysus and "Asclepius are sometimes also identified with this Apollo Helios.[9]

Classical Latin poets also used Phoebus as a byname for the sun-god, whence come common references in later European poetry to Phoebus and his car ("chariot") as a metaphor for the sun. But in particular instances in myth, Apollo and Helios are distinct. The sun-god, the son of Hyperion, with his sun chariot, though often called "Phoebus ("shining") is not called Apollo except in purposeful non-traditional identifications.[10]

Despite these identifications, Apollo was never actually described by the Greek poets driving the chariot of the sun, although it was common practice among Latin poets. Therefore, Helios is still known as the "sun god" – the one who drives the sun chariot across the sky each day.

Bust of "Alexander the Great as an eidolon of Helios ("Musei Capitolini).

Helios and Zeus[edit]

Helios is also sometimes conflated in classical literature with another Olympian god, "Zeus. Helios is referred either directly as Zeus' eye,[11] or clearly implied to be. For instance, "Hesiod effectively describes Zeus's eye as the sun.[12] This perception is possibly derived from earlier "Proto-Indo-European religion, in which the sun is believed to have been envisioned as the eye of "*Dyḗus Pḥatḗr (see "Hvare-khshaeta).

Cult of Helios[edit]

L. R. Farnell assumed "that sun-worship had once been prevalent and powerful among the "people of the pre-Hellenic culture, but that very few of the communities of the later historic period retained it as a potent factor of the state religion".[13] Our largely Attic literary sources tend to give us an unavoidable Athenian bias when we look at ancient Greek religion, and "no Athenian could be expected to worship Helios or Selene", J. Burnet observes, "but he might think them to be gods, since Helios was the great god of Rhodes and Selene was worshiped at Elis and elsewhere".[14] James A. Notopoulos considers Burnet's an artificial distinction: "To believe in the existence of the gods involves acknowledgment through worship, as "Laws 87 D, E shows" (note, p. 264).[15] "Aristophanes' Peace (406–413) contrasts the worship of Helios and Selene with that of the more essentially Greek "Twelve Olympians, as the representative gods of the "Achaemenid Persians; all the evidence shows that Helios and Selene were minor gods to the Greeks.[16]

"The island of "Rhodes is almost the only place where Helios enjoys an important "cult", Burkert asserts (p. 174), instancing a spectacular rite, in which a "quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, is driven over a precipice into the sea, with its overtones of the plight of "Phaethon noted. Their annual gymnastic tournaments were held in his honor. The "Colossus of Rhodes was dedicated to him. Helios also had a significant cult on the "acropolis of Corinth on the Greek mainland.[17]

However, the Dorians seem to have revered Helios, offering the central mainland cultus for Helios. The scattering of cults of the sun god in "Sicyon, "Argos, "Ermioni, "Epidaurus and "Laconia, and his holy livestock flocks at "Taenarum, seem to suggest that the deity was considerably important in Dorian religion, compared to other parts of ancient Greece. Additionally, it may have been the Dorians to import his worship to "Rhodes.[18]

The tension between the mainstream traditional religious veneration of Helios, which had become enriched with ethical values and poetical symbolism in "Pindar, "Aeschylus and "Sophocles,[19] and the Ionian proto-scientific examination of Helios the Sun, a phenomenon of the study Greeks termed meteora, clashed in the trial of "Anaxagoras[20] c. 450 BC, a forerunner of the culturally traumatic "trial of Socrates for irreligion, in 399 BC.

In "Plato's "Republic (516 B), Helios, the Sun, is the symbolic offspring of the idea of the Good.

Usil, the Etruscan Helios[edit]

The Etruscan god of the Sun, equivalent to Helios, was Usil. His name appears on the bronze "liver of Piacenza, next to Tiur, the moon.[21] He appears, rising out of the sea, with a fireball in either outstretched hand, on an engraved Etruscan "bronze mirror in late Archaic style, formerly on the Roman antiquities market.[22] On Etruscan mirrors in Classical style, he appears with a "halo.

Helios Megistos[edit]

In "Late Antiquity a cult of Helios Megistos ("Great Helios") ("Sol Invictus) drew to the image of Helios a number of "syncretic elements, which have been analysed in detail by Wilhelm Fauth by means of a series of late Greek texts, namely:[23] an "Orphic Hymn to Helios; the so-called "Mithras Liturgy, where Helios rules the elements; spells and incantations invoking Helios among the "Greek Magical Papyri; a Hymn to Helios by "Proclus; "Julian's Oration to Helios, the last stand of official paganism; and an episode in "Nonnus' "Dionysiaca. Helios in these works is frequently equated not only with deities such as "Mithras and "Harpocrates, but even with the monotheistic Judaeo-Christian god.[24]

In this texts, he is given a variety of cosmical attributes, such as being the creator of life, the lord of the heavens and the god of the sea. He can take the form of all animals of the "zodiac.[25]

Consorts and children[edit]


Horses of Helios[edit]

Some lists, cited by "Hyginus, of the names of horses that pulled Helios' chariot, are as follows.

• According to Homer - late 8th/ early 7th century BC: "Abraxas, *Therbeeo.

• According to "Eumelus of Corinth - late 7th/ early 6th century BC: The male trace horses are Eous (by him the sky is turned) and Aethiops (as if faming, parches the grain) and the female yoke-bearers are Bronte ("Thunder") and Sterope ("Lightning").

• According to Ovid - Roman, 1st century BC Phaethon's ride: "Pyrois ("the fiery one"), Eous ("he who turns the sky"), "Aethon ("blazing"), and Phlegon" ("burning").[61]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 516.
  2. ^ helios. "Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ Noted in “epiphanestaton" — the most conspicuous (II. 30. 3-4). See also Franz Boll – Kronos-Helios, Archiv für Religionswissenschaft XIX (1919), p. 344.
  4. ^ Homer, Odyssey xii.127–137.
  5. ^ Noted in Kerenyi 1951:191, note 595.
  6. ^ Theoi Project: Lampetia and Phaethusa
  7. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 120.
  8. ^ Homer, William Cullen Bryant (1809). The Iliad of Homer. Ashmead. 
  9. ^ G. Lancellotti, Attis, Between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God, BRILL, 2002
  10. ^ O'Rourke Boyle Marjorie (1991). Petrarch's genius: pentimento and prophecy. University of California press. "ISBN "978-0-520-07293-0. 
  11. ^ Sick, David H. (2004), "Mit(h)ra(s) and the Myths of the Sun", Numen, 51 (4): 432–467, "JSTOR 3270454
  12. ^ Ljuba Merlina Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A Study of Greek and Egyptian Traditions of Divinity, Cambridge University Press, 13/10/2016
  13. ^ Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States (New York/London: Oxford University Press) 1909, vol. v, p 419f.
  14. ^ J. Burnet, Plato: Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito (New York/London: Oxford University Press) 1924, p. 111.
  15. ^ James A. Noutopolos, "Socrates and the Sun" The Classical Journal 37.5 (February 1942), pp. 260–274.
  16. ^ Notopoulos 1942:265.
  17. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 2.1.6.
  18. ^ Larson, Jennifer. A Land Full of Gods: Nature Deities in Greek Religion. In Ogden, Daniel. A Companion to Greek Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 56–70.
  19. ^ Notopoulos 1942 instances Aeschylus' Agamemnon 508, Choephoroe 993, Suppliants 213, and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex 660, 1425f.
  20. ^ Anaxagoras described the sun as a red-hot stone.
  21. ^ Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths (Series The Legendary Past, British Museum/University of Texas) 2006:77.
  22. ^ Noted by J. D. Beazley, "The World of the Etruscan Mirror" The Journal of Hellenic Studies 69 (1949:1–17) p. 3, fig. 1.
  23. ^ Wilhelm Fauth, Helios Megistos: zur synkretistischen Theologie der Spätantike (Leiden:Brill) 1995.
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ [2]
  26. ^ "Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.35.5 with a reference to "Antimachus
  27. ^ "Hesychius of Alexandria s. v. Aiglēs Kharites
  28. ^ "Hesiod "Theogony 907
  29. ^ "Anacreontea Fragment 38
  30. ^ "Ovid "Metamorphoses 2.340; "Hyginus Fabulae 154
  31. ^ "Nonnus "Dionysiaca 17.269
  32. ^ "Homer "Odyssey 12.128
  33. ^ "Ovid Metamorphoses 2.340
  34. ^ "Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5.56.3
  35. ^ "Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 14.44
  36. ^ "Hesiod, "Theogony 956
  37. ^ Pseudo-"Apollodorus, "Bibliotheca 1.80
  38. ^ "Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.45.1
  39. ^ "Hyginus, Fabulae 27
  40. ^ "Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 5.1
  41. ^ "Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.169 ff
  42. ^ a b "Hyginus, Fabulae 14
  43. ^ "Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.172
  44. ^ "Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Bisaltia
  45. ^ "Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy, 10.337
  46. ^ Suidas "Aithon"
  47. ^ "Hyginus Astronomica 2.13
  48. ^ "Pausanias, Guide to Greece 2.1.1
  49. ^ "Hyginus, Fabulae 275
  50. ^ "Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 25
  51. ^ "Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Ambrakia
  52. ^ "Scholia on Pindar, Olympian Ode 6.131
  53. ^ "Tzetzes, Chiliades, 4. 363
  54. ^ "Epimenides in "scholia on "Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 3.242
  55. ^ "Diophantus in "scholia on "Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 3.242
  56. ^ "Argonautica Orphica, 1217
  57. ^ "Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4.60.4
  58. ^ "Scholia on "Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1.172
  59. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.194 ff
  60. ^ On Rivers, 3.3
  61. ^ "Hyginus Fabulae 183


Further reading[edit]

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