• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

Deciphering the Role of Helios, the Sun God of Greek Mythology


Sep 20, 2022

An unpunished second-generation Titan of Greek mythology, Helios was a deity who was vital, however not all the time acknowledged for his powers. Till his function was usurped by a more recent god, Helios was the deity of the life-giving, season-changing solar. He appeared in art work using his horse-drawn chariot throughout the sky and was a firsthand witness to a number of main occasions within the lives of different gods and goddesses. Nonetheless, Helios the solar god was typically depicted as present within the background, bearing witness to the whole lot occurring each on Earth and within the heavens as he made positive to comply with his every day routine.

Element from card 44 of the Mantegna Tarocchi, depicting Helios the solar god of Greek mythology and his chariot, from the Uffizi gallery in Florence. ( Public domain )

Titans, Nymphs, Kings, and Oceanids: Helios’ Intensive Household

Helios’ dad and mom have been the Titans Hyperion, god of sunshine, and Theia, goddess of sight. His sisters have been  Selene (the Moon) and Eos (Daybreak). Born, or created, in what known as the Golden Age of Greek Mythology, Helios was liable for bringing mild to the world because the god of the solar . That function would progressively be usurped over time.

Throughout the legends of Greek mythology, the lovers of the god Helios embrace Perse, an Oceanid water-nymph whom some sources name his spouse, and Clymene, in addition to the nymphs Crete and Rhodes. His daughters with Perse embrace the famed sorceresses  Circe, a lover to Odysseus, and  Pasiphae, King Minos of Crete’s spouse.

His two sons with Perse have been King Aietes (Aeete) of Kolchis (Colchis) and King Perses of Persia. Phaethon was his son born from Helios’ relationship with Clymene and he had three (or 5) daughters together with her, recognized collectively because the Heliades . The solar god additionally had seven sons with Rhode, and a daughter named Electryone.

These sons have been stated to have been smarter and stronger than some other males and shortly grew to become the rulers of Rhodes. Three of the principle cities, Ialysos, Cameiros, and Lindos, are stated to be named for 3 of his sons. In the meantime, two of his nymph daughters, Lampetia and Phaethusa, have been in control of overseeing his cattle on Thrinacia.

Helios the sun god of Greek mythology on a red-figure calyx-krater from circa 430 BC. (British Museum / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Helios the solar god of Greek mythology on a red-figure calyx-krater from circa 430 BC. (British Museum / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Helios in Artwork – How Did the Ancients Depict the Greek Solar God?

Helios appeared in every kind of Greek artwork. Typically depicted as a younger man sporting a crown of the solar’s rays, or with vivid, curly hair, his piercing eyes mirror the legends of his all-seeing gaze. Inside historical Greek depiction the solar god Helios is often clothed in a garment match for a god. An easier Greek image for Helios is a big, haloed eye.

The poet who authored the thirty first Homeric Hymn presents a fantastic description of the solar deity’s look in art work:

“As he rides in his chariot, he shines upon males and deathless gods, and piercingly he gazes along with his eyes from his golden helmet. Brilliant rays beam dazzlingly from him, and his vivid locks streaming from the temples of his head gracefully enclose his far-seen face: a wealthy, fine-spun garment glows upon his physique and flutters within the wind: and stallions carry him.”

Normally the solar god is proven using his golden chariot on the edge or within the background of another person’s scene. His chariot is drawn by four-winged horses, or generally dragons, and he’s generally accompanied by one or each of his sisters.

The picture of the solar god Helios has been recognized in a number of examples of Greek pottery courting to the fifth and sixth centuries BC. For instance, Helios is depicted on a red-figure calyx-krater from about 430 BC, wherein boys symbolizing the celebrities fall in the direction of the ocean as he approaches. He’s additionally represented in some  Heracles scenes on sixth century BC black-figure and fifth century BC red-figure pottery.

The Colossus of Rhodes straddling over the harbor, the 1886 painting by Ferdinand Knab. (Public domain)

The Colossus of Rhodes straddling over the harbor, the 1886 portray by Ferdinand Knab. (Public domain )

Essentially the most well-known instance of Helios in artwork, nonetheless, was the Colossus of Rhodes . This large standing determine was certainly one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World . It was constructed between 304 and 280 BC, however toppled over throughout an Earthquake in both 228 or 226 BC. Cash from Rhodes additionally offered their patron deity for hundreds of years. Some notable historic figures additionally took on the likeness of the Greek solar god of their portraits.  Alexander the Great  and the  Roman emperors Vespasian and Nero  all desired to be seen as incarnations of a solar god.

Alexander the Great depicted as Helios, the ancient Greek sun god. Roman copy after a Hellenistic original dating back to between the 3rd and 2nd century BC. (Capitoline Museums / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alexander the Nice depicted as Helios, the traditional Greek solar god. Roman copy after a Hellenistic authentic courting again to between the third and 2nd century BC. (Capitoline Museums / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Helios and his Every day Journey Throughout the Sky

Crucial historical Greek fable of Helios is his every day journey. The traditional Greeks believed that there was  a golden chariot  of the solar that was so vivid that human eyes couldn’t bear to gaze upon it. For them, that chariot was pushed from the east (Ethiopia) to the west (Hesperides) throughout the sky every single day by the solar god Helios.

The journey was troublesome, and it was believed that Helios was a talented charioteer to have the ability to not fly too shut or distant from the Earth. Helios’ every day journey throughout the sky started when his sister Eos (as daybreak) threw open the gates of his stunning japanese palace. He set off along with his four-winged horses, often called Aethon, Aeos, Pyrois, and Phlegon. The lengthy journey had a steep ascent, peaked round noon, after which steeply descended in the direction of his western palace, the place his nephew, Hesperus (night) awaited him.

To return to the japanese palace, Helios was believed to have sailed underneath the world by way of the northerly stream of the realm of Oceanus along with his horses and chariot in a golden boat (or massive cup/goblet, or mattress) created by  the master smith and deity, Hephaestus . Whereas Helios was hidden in Oceanus,  Selene, the moon goddess , took her flip to cross the sky.

Three paintings by Anton Raphael Mengs showing three deities of Greek mythology as personifications of the times of the day. From left to right: Helios (or sun god Apollo) personifying Day, Hesperus embodying Evening, and Selene (or Diana, Luna) personifying Night or the Moon. (Public domain)

Three work by Anton Raphael Mengs exhibiting three deities of Greek mythology as personifications of the occasions of the day. From left to proper: Helios (or solar god Apollo) personifying Day, Hesperus embodying Night, and Selene (or Diana, Luna) personifying Night time or the Moon. ( Public domain )

Minor Roles for Helios in Greek Myths

One other well-known fable involving Helios was when his son nearly destroyed the Earth. A well-liked model of the Greek fable of Phaethon says that the younger man wished proof that the solar was his father, so he went east to check the deity and ask him for a present. Helios agreed to offer his son regardless of the youth wished, however was distressed to find Phaethon wished to take a flip driving the golden solar chariot throughout the sky. He reluctantly consented and that favor become a catastrophe.

Phaethon couldn’t management  the winged horses  and spun uncontrolled, hurtling too far and too near the Earth. A number of the world froze and different elements have been set on hearth as Phaethon struggled to regulate the chariot. However it was an excessive amount of for him and because the gods watched the chaos unfold it was determined that one thing should be performed earlier than the Earth was destroyed.

Zeus noticed no different possibility than to strike Phaethon down with a thunderbolt. The gods needed to beg Helios to return to his work following the loss of life of his son, however the solar god ultimately agreed. And Phaethon’s sisters, the Heliades, have been in such despair on account of their brother’s loss of life that their tears become amber and so they grew to become poplar timber.

Cancer from Jacob Jordaens’ allegorical paintings of the Signs of the Zodiac depicts the fall of Phaethon after his father, Helios the sun god, lets him ride his chariot. (Public domain)

Most cancers from Jacob Jordaens’ allegorical work of the Indicators of the Zodiac depicts the autumn of Phaethon after his father, Helios the solar god, lets him experience his chariot. ( Public domain )

Helios performed a minor function in lots of Greek myths . For instance, his energy to see the whole lot on Earth and within the heavens made him an eyewitness to the  abduction of Persephone by Hades  and the affair between  Aphrodite and Ares .

He generally provided his help to different characters in Greek fable, equivalent to when he allowed his granddaughter Medea to flee on his chariot after  she murdered her children . The solar god additionally lent his golden ship/cup to Heracles when the Greek hero needed to cross Oceanus and seize the cattle of Geryon. Helios rescued his pal Hephaestus from the battlefield in the course of the Gigantomachy and restored Orion’s eyesight after he was blinded by Oenipion as nicely. The Earth mom goddess, Gaia, additionally sought his assist in warming and drying her when the land had been frozen by the stays of Typhon.

However Helios additionally confirmed his vengeful facet when he appeared within the epic Greek story,  the OdysseyAfter Odysseus’ males fed upon Helios’ sacred cattle, he was so angered he had Zeus strike Odysseus’ ship with a thunderbolt. Odysseus was the one survivor of the assault.

The Cult of the Solar God Helios

In Classical Greece, Helios was overtly worshipped in Rhodes, the place he was thought-about their patron deity from at the least the early fifth century BC. Legends stated that Helios was the primary to see the island emerge from the waters and claimed it as his personal. The island’s identify got here from Helios’ nymph lover, Rhodos. Each 5 years the island held  Panhellenic games , referred to as the Halieia, and a chariot and 4 horses have been thrown into the ocean as an providing to Helios.

Whereas he was worshiped on Rhodes, plainly Helios was not a significant cult deity in the remainder of historical Greece. Temples of worship haven’t been talked about to any extent, maybe on account of a perception that barbarians had constructed temples of worship to the solar. Nonetheless, his identify was invoked in severe oaths and  Plato wrote  that Socrates and others would greet and pray to the solar every single day.

Apollo and the Sun Chariot, by Pinckney Marcius-Simons. (Public domain)

Apollo and the Solar Chariot, by Pinckney Marcius-Simons. ( Public domain )

Helios vs Apollo and Sol – Who was the Actual Solar God of Greek Mythology?

The Greek Titans fell, and the Olympians arose. Helios was not punished after  the Titanomachy , however historical Greeks pushed his function because the solar god in the direction of another person – Apollo. Plainly the radiant and pure  god Apollo  started to progressively take over the function of solar god starting across the fifth century BC. By the Hellenistic interval the transition was nearly full, and Apollo and Helios had develop into nearly synonymous.

Prime picture: Element from Helios on His Chariot, a seventeenth century depiction of Helios the solar god of Greek mythology, by Hans Adam Weissenkircher. Supply: Public domain

By Alicia McDermott

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