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In ancient Greek religion and myth, the Anemoi (Greek: Ἄνεμοι, "Winds")[n 1] were Greek wind gods who were each ascribed a cardinal direction from which their respective winds came (see Classical compass winds), and were each associated with various seasons and weather conditions. They were sometimes represented as mere gusts of wind, at other times were personified as winged men, and at still other times were depicted as horses kept in the stables of the storm god Aeolus, who provided Odysseus with the Anemoi in the Odyssey. The Spartans were reported to sacrifice a horse to the winds on Mount Taygetus. Astraeus, the astrological deity sometimes associated with Aeolus, and Eos, the goddess of the dawn, were the parents of the Anemoi, according to the Greek poet Hesiod.
Of the four chief Anemoi, Boreas (Aquilo in Latin) was the north wind and bringer of cold winter air, Notus was the south wind and bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn, and Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes; Eurus, the east wind, was not associated with any of the three Greek seasons, and is the only one of these four Anemoi not mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony or in the Orphic Hymns. Additionally, four lesser Anemoi were sometimes referenced, representing the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest winds.
The deities equivalent to the Anemoi in Roman mythology were the Venti (Latin, "winds"). These gods had different names, but were otherwise very similar to their Greek counterparts, borrowing their attributes and being frequently conflated with them.
Boreas (Βορέας, Boréas) was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter. His name meant "North Wind" or "Devouring One" (with borealis being Latin for northern). Boreas is depicted as being very strong, with a violent temper to match. He was frequently shown as a winged old man with shaggy hair and beard, holding a conch shell and wearing a billowing cloak. Pausanias wrote that Boreas had snakes instead of feet, though in art he was usually depicted with winged human feet.
Boreas was closely associated with horses. He was said to have fathered twelve colts after taking the form of a stallion, to the mares of Erichthonius, king of Dardania. These were said to be able to run across a field of grain without trampling the plants. Pliny (Natural History iv.35 and viii.67) thought that mares might stand with their hindquarters to the North Wind, and bear foals without a stallion. The Greeks believed that his home was in Thrace, and Herodotus and Pliny both describe a northern land known as Hyperborea ("Beyond the North Wind"), where people lived in complete happiness and had extraordinarily long lifespans. He is said to have fathered three giant Hyperborean priests of Apollo by Chione.
Boreas was also said to have kidnapped Oreithyia, an Athenian princess, from the river Ilissus. Boreas had taken a fancy to Oreithyia, and had initially pleaded for her favours, hoping to persuade her. When this failed, he reverted to his usual temper and abducted her as she danced on the banks of the Ilissus. Boreas wrapped Oreithyia up in a cloud, raped her, and with her, Boreas fathered two sons—the Boreads, Zethes and Calais—and two daughters— Khione, goddess of snow, and Cleopatra.
From then on, the Athenians saw Boreas as a relative by marriage. When Athens was threatened by Xerxes, the people prayed to Boreas, who was said to have then caused winds to sink 400 Persian ships. A similar event had occurred twelve years earlier, and Herodotus writes:
Now I cannot say if this was really why the Persians were caught at anchor by the stormwind, but the Athenians are quite positive that, just as Boreas helped them before, so Boreas was responsible for what happened on this occasion also. And when they went home they built the god a shrine by the River Illisus.
The abduction of Oreithyia was popular in Athens before and after the Persian War, and was frequently depicted on vase paintings. In these paintings, Boreas was portrayed as a bearded man in a tunic, with shaggy hair that is sometimes frosted and spiked. The abduction was also dramatized in Aeschylus's lost play Oreithyia.
The Roman equivalent of Boreas was Aquilo, or Aquilon. An alternate, rarer name used for the northern wind was Septentrio, a word derived from septem triones ("seven oxen") referring to the seven prominent stars in the northern constellation Ursa Major.
Notus (Νότος, Nótos) was the Greek god of the south wind. He was associated with the desiccating hot wind of the rise of Sirius after midsummer, was thought to bring the storms of late summer and autumn, and was feared as a destroyer of crops.
Notus' equivalent in Roman mythology was Auster, the embodiment of the sirocco wind, who brought heavy cloud cover and fog or humidity. The Auster winds are mentioned in Vergil's Aeneid Book II, lines 304-307: "in segetem veluti cum flamma furentibus Austris incidit, aut rapidus montano flumine torrens sternit agros, sternit sata laeta boumque labores, praecipitesque trahit silvas"
Eurus (Εὖρος, Euros) was the Greek deity representing the unlucky east wind. He was thought to bring warmth and rain, and his symbol was an inverted vase, spilling water. His Roman counterpart was Vulturnus (not to be confused with Volturnus, a tribal river-god who later became a Roman deity of the River Tiber).
Zephyrus, or sometimes just Zephyr (Ζέφυρος, Zéphyros, "the west wind"), in Latin Favonius, is the Greek god of the west wind. The gentlest of the winds, Zephyrus is known as the fructifying wind, the messenger of spring. It was thought that Zephyrus lived in a cave in Thrace.
Zephyrus was reported as having several wives in different stories. He was said to be the husband of Iris, the goddess of the rainbow. He abducted the goddess Chloris, and gave her the domain of flowers. With Chloris, he fathered Carpus ("fruit"). He is said to have vied for Chloris's love with his brother Boreas, eventually winning her devotion. Additionally, with yet another sister and lover, the harpy Podarge (also known as Celaeno), Zephyrus was said to be the father of Balius and Xanthus, Achilles' horses.
One of the surviving myths in which Zephyrus features most prominently is that of Hyacinth. Hyacinth was a very handsome and athletic Spartan prince. Zephyrus fell in love with him and courted him, and so did Apollo. The two competed for the boy's love, but he chose Apollo, driving Zephyrus mad with jealousy. Later, catching Apollo and Hyacinth throwing a discus, Zephyrus blew a gust of wind at them, striking the boy in the head with the falling discus. When Hyacinth died, Apollo created the hyacinth flower from his blood. Apollo was furious, but Eros protected Zephyrus, as the act was committed in the name of love, on the condition that the wind god served Eros forever.
Four lesser wind deities appear in a few ancient sources, such as at the Tower of the Winds in Athens. Originally, as attested in Hesiod and Homer, these four minor Anemoi were the Anemoi Thyellai (Ἄνεμοι θύελλαι, "Tempest-Winds"), wicked and violent daemons (spirits) created by the monster Typhon, and male counterparts to the harpies, who were also called thuellai. These were the winds held in Aeolus's stables; the other four, "heavenly" Anemoi were not kept locked up. However, later writers confused and conflated the two groups of Anemoi, and the distinction was largely forgotten.
Kaikias was the Greek deity of the northeast wind. He is shown as a bearded man with a shield full of hail-stones, and his name is cognate to the Latin word caecus "blind", that is, he was seen as a "dark" wind. The Roman spelling of Kaikias was Caecius.
Apeliotes, sometimes known to the Romans as Apeliotus, was the Greek deity of the southeast wind. As this wind was thought to cause a refreshing rain particularly beneficial to farmers, he is often depicted wearing gumboots and carrying fruit, draped in a light cloth concealing some flowers or grain. He is cleanshaven, with curly hair and a friendly expression. Because Apeliotes was a minor god, he was often synthesized with Eurus, the east wind. Subsolanus, Apeliotes' Roman counterpart, was also sometimes considered the east wind, in Vulturnus' place.
Skiron, or Skeiron, was the Greek god of the northwest wind. His name is related to Skirophorion, the last of the three months of spring in the Attic festival calendar. He is depicted as a bearded man tilting a cauldron, representing the onset of winter. His Roman counterpart is Caurus, or Corus. Corus was also one of the oldest Roman wind-deities, and numbered among the di indigetes ("indigenous gods"), a group of abstract and largely minor numinous entities.
Lips was the Greek deity of the southwest wind, often depicted holding the stern of a ship. His Roman equivalent was Afer ventus ("African wind"), or Africus, due to Africa being to the southwest of Italy. This name is thought to be derived from the name of a North African tribe, the Afri.
Other minor wind deities included:
- Argestes "clearing", a wind blowing from about the same direction as Skiron (Caurus), and probably another name for it
- Aparctias, sometimes called the north wind instead of Boreas (Septentrionarius)
- Circius or Thrascius, the north-north-west wind
- Euronotus, the wind blowing from the direction, as its very name suggests, between Euros and Notos, that is, a south-south-east wind (Euroauster to the Romans)
- Iapyx, the north-west wind about the same as Caurus
- Libonotus, the south-south-west wind, known as Austro-Africus to the Romans
- Meses, another name for the north-west wind
- Olympias, apparently identified with Skiron/Argestes
- Phoenicias, another name for the south-east wind ("the one blowing from Phoenicia", due to this land lying to the south-east of Greece)
- Anemometer, modern device to measure wind
- Classical compass winds
- List of wind deities
- Four Dwarves (Norse Mythology)
- Four Stags (Norse Mythology)
Notes and references
- The earliest attestation of the word in Greek and of the worship of the Winds by the Greeks, are perhaps the Mycenaean Greek word-forms 𐀀𐀚𐀗𐀂𐀋𐀩𐀊, a-ne-mo-i-je-re-ja, 𐀀𐀚𐀗𐄀𐀂𐀋𐀩𐀊, a-ne-mo,i-je-re-ja, i.e. "Priestess of the Winds". These words, written in Linear B, are found on the KN Fp 1 and KN Fp 13 tablets.
- Raymoure, K.A. "a-ne-mo". Linear B Transliterations. Deaditerranean. Dead Languages of the Mediterranean. "KN Fp 1 + 31". "KN 13 Fp(1) (138)". DĀMOS: Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
- Pausanias 2.34.2 compared by Festus to the Roman sacrifice of the October Horse, 190 in the edition of Lindsay.
- "Google Image Result for http://www.ilex-press.com/wp-content/uploads/pig-thumb1.jpg". Google.ca. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
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Myths read aloud by storytellers Bibliography of reconstruction: Homer, Iliad ii.595–600 (c. 700 BCE); Various 5th century BCE vase paintings; Palaephatus, On Unbelievable Tales 46. Hyacinthus (330 BCE); Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.3; Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 162–219 (1–8 CE); Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.1.3, 3.19.4 (160–176 CE); Philostratus the Elder, Images i.24 Hyacinthus (170–245 CE); Philostratus the Younger, Images 14. Hyacinthus (170–245 CE); Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods 14 (170 CE); First Vatican Mythographer, 197. Thamyris et Musae