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Goddess of the Rainbow
""Iris Carrying the Water of the River Styx to Olympus for the Gods to Swear By, Guy Head, c. 1793 - Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - DSC08946.JPG
"Iris Carrying the Water of the "River Styx to "Olympus for the Gods to Swear By, Guy Head, c. 1793
Abode Not specified
Symbol Rainbow
Personal information
Consort "Zephyrus
Children "Pothos
Parents "Thaumas and "Electra
Siblings "Arke, "Aello, "Celaeno and "Ocypete
Roman equivalent Iris

In "Greek mythology, Iris ("/ˈrɪs/; "Greek: Ἶρις) is the personification of the "rainbow and messenger of the gods.



Morpheus and Iris by "Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1811)

According to "Hesiod's "Theogony, Iris is the daughter of "Thaumas and the "Oceanid "Electra, and the sister of the "Harpies: "Aello and "Ocypete. During the "Titanomachy, Iris was the messenger of the "Olympian Gods, while her twin sister "Arke betrayed the Olympians and became the messenger of the "Titans. She is the goddess of the rainbow. She also serves nectar to the gods and goddesses to drink. Iris is married to "Zephyrus, who is the god of the west wind. Their son is "Pothos ("Nonnus, Dionysiaca). According to the "Dionysiaca of Nonnos, Iris' brother is "Hydaspes (book XXVI, lines 355-365).

She is also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky. Iris links the gods to "humanity. She travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other,[1] and into the depths of the "sea and the "underworld.


Iris had numerous poetic titles and "epithets, including Chrysopteron (Golden Winged), Podas ôkea (swift footed) or Podênemos ôkea (wind-swift footed), Roscida (dewy), and Thaumantias or Thaumantos (Daughter of Thaumas, Wondrous One). Under the epithet Aellopus (Ἀελλόπους) she was described as swift-footed like a storm-wind.[2] She also watered the clouds with her pitcher, obtaining the water from the sea.

Winged female figure holding a caduceus: Iris (messenger of the gods) or "Nike (Victory)


Iris stands behind the seated "Juno (right) in a "Pompeii fresco

Messenger of the gods[edit]

In some records Iris is a "sororal twin to the "Titaness "Arke (arch), who flew out of the company of "Olympian gods to join the Titans as their messenger goddess during the "Titanomachy, making the two sisters enemy messenger goddesses. Iris was said to have golden wings, whereas Arke had "iridescent ones. She is also said to travel on the rainbow while carrying messages from the gods to mortals. During the "Titan War, Zeus tore Arke's iridescent wings from her and gave them as a gift to the "Nereid "Thetis at her wedding, who in turn gave them to her son, "Achilles, who wore them on his feet. Achilles was sometimes known as podarkes (feet like [the wings of] Arke). Podarces was also the original name of "Priam, king of "Troy.

Iris is frequently mentioned as a divine messenger in "The Iliad, which is attributed to "Homer. She does not, however, appear in "The Odyssey, where her role is instead filled by "Hermes. Like Hermes, Iris carries a "caduceus or winged staff. By command of "Zeus, the king of the gods, she carries an "ewer of water from the "River Styx, with which she puts to "sleep all who "perjure themselves. In Book XXIII, she delivers Achilles's prayer to "Boreas and Zephyrus to light the funeral pyre of "Patroclus.[3]

Iris also appears several times in "Virgil's "Aeneid, usually as an agent of "Juno. In Book 4, Juno dispatches her to pluck a lock of hair from the head of Queen "Dido, that she may die and enter Hades. In book 5, Iris, having taken on the form of a Trojan woman, stirs up the other Trojan mothers to set fire to four of Aeneas' ships in order to prevent them from leaving Sicily.

According to the Roman poet "Ovid, after "Romulus was deified as the god "Quirinus, his wife "Hersilia pleaded the gods to let her become immortal as well so that she could be with her husband once again. Juno heard her plea and sent Iris down to her. With a single finger, Iris touched Hersilia and transformed her into an immortal goddess. Hersilia flew to Olympus, where she became one of the "Horae and was permitted to live with her husband forevermore.[4]

Iris, by "Luca Giordano

Other tales[edit]

According to the ""Homeric Hymn to Apollo," when "Leto was in labor prior to giving birth to "Apollo and his twin sister "Artemis, all the goddesses were in attendance except for two, Hera and "Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth. On the ninth day of her labor, Leto told Iris to bribe Ilithyia and ask for her help in giving birth to her children, without allowing Hera to find out.[5]

According to "Apollonius Rhodius, Iris turned back the "Argonauts "Zetes and Calais, who had pursued the "Harpies to the "Strophades ('Islands of Turning'). The brothers had driven off the monsters from their torment of the prophet "Phineus, but did not kill them upon the request of Iris, who promised that "Phineus would not be bothered by the Harpies again.

In "Euripides' play "Herakles, Iris appears alongside "Lyssa, cursing "Heracles with the fit of madness in which he kills his three sons and his wife "Megara.


Iris is represented either as a rainbow, or as a beautiful young maiden with wings on her shoulders. As a goddess, Iris is associated with "communication, "messages, the rainbow and new endeavors. This personification of a rainbow was once described as being a link to the heavens and earth.[6] In some texts she is depicted wearing a coat of many colors. With this coat she actually creates the rainbows she rides to get from place to place. Iris's wings were said to be so beautiful that she could even light up a dark cavern, a trait observable from in the story of her visit to "Somnus in order to relay a message to "Alcyone.[7]

Though Iris was principally associated with communication and messages, she was also believed to aid in the fulfillment of humans' prayers, either by fulfilling them herself or by bringing them to the attention of other deities.[8]



  1. ^ The Iliad, Book II, "And now Iris, fleet as the wind, was sent by Jove to tell the bad news among the Trojans."
  2. ^ "Homer uses the form Ἀελλόπος, "Iliad viii. 409
  3. ^ Mackie, Christopher John (2011). "The Homer Encyclopedia". Credo Reference. 
  4. ^ McLeish, Kenneth. "Bloomsbury Dictionary of Myth". Credo Reference. 
  5. ^ Grant, Michael (2002). "Who's Who in Classical Mythology, Routledge". Credo Reference. 
  6. ^ Seton-Williams, M.V. (2000). Greek Legends and Stories. Rubicon Press. pp. 75–76. 
  7. ^ Bulfinch, Thomas (1913). Bulfinch's Mythology: the Age of Fable, the Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne: Complete in One Volume. Thomas Y. Crowell Co. 
  8. ^ Seton-Williams, M.V. (2000). Greek Legends and Stories. Rubicon Press. p. 9. 


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