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The sky over the feather grass-covered steppe in Ukraine. *Dyḗus ph₂tḗr has been translated as "father daylight-sky-god".

*Dyḗus (lit. "daylight-sky-god"), also *Dyḗus ph₂tḗr (lit. "father daylight-sky-god"),[1][2] is the reconstructed name of the daylight-sky god in Proto-Indo-European mythology. *Dyēus was conceived as a divine personification of the bright sky of the day and the seat of the gods, the *deywṓs. Associated with the vast diurnal sky and with the fertile rains, *Dyēus was often paired with *Dʰéǵʰōm, the Earth Mother, in a relationship of union and contrast.

While its existence is not directly attested by archaeological or written materials, *Dyēus is considered by scholars the most securely reconstructed deity of the Indo-European pantheon, as identical formulas referring to him can be found among the subsequent Indo-European languages and myths of the Vedic Indo-Aryans, Latins, Greeks, Phrygians, Messapians, Thracians, Illyrians, Albanians and Hittites.[3][2]



The divine name *Dyēus derives from the stem *dyeu-, denoting the "diurnal sky" or the "brightness of the day" (in contrast to the darkness of the night), ultimately from the root *di or dei- ("to shine, be bright").[1][4] Cognates in Indo-European languages revolving around the concepts of "day", "sky" and "deity" and sharing the root *dyeu- as an etymon, such as Sanskrit dyumán- 'heavenly, shining, radiant',[5] suggest that Dyēus referred to the vast and bright sky of the day conceived as a divine entity among Proto-Indo-European speakers.[1][4]

A vṛddhi-derivative appears in *deywós ("celestial"), the common word for "god" in Proto-Indo-European. In classic Indo-European, associated with the late Khvalynsk culture (3900–3500),[6] *Dyēus also had the meaning of "Heaven", whereas it denoted "god" in general (or the Sun-god in particular) in the Anatolian tradition.[7] The suffix-derivative *diwyós ("divine") is also attested in Latin, Greek and Sanskrit.[4][8] The noun *deynos ("day"), interpreted as a back-formation of *deywós, has descendant cognates in Vedic Sanskrit divé-dive ("day by day"), Latin Dies, goddess of the day and counterpart to Greek Hemera, Hittite siwat ("day"), Palaic Tīyat- ("Sun, day"), Ancient Greek endios ("midday"), Old Armenian tiw (տիւ, "bright day"), Old Irish noenden ("nine-day period"), Welsh heddyw ("today"),[9][10] or Slavic Poludnitsa ("Lady Midday").[11][12]

While the Greek goddess Pandeia or Pandia (Greek: Πανδία, Πανδεία, "all brightness") may have been another name for the Moon Goddess Selene,[13] her name still preserves the root *di-/*dei-, meaning "to shine, be bright".[14]


The most constant epithet associated with *Dyēus is "father" (*ph2tḗr). The term "Father Dyēus" was inherited in the Vedic Dyáuṣ Pitṛ́, Greek Zeus Patēr, Illyrian Dei-pátrous, Roman Jupiter (*Djous patēr), even in the form of "dad" or "papa" in the Scythian Papaios for Zeus, or the Palaic expression Tiyaz papaz.[15] The epithet *Ph2tḗr Ǵenh1-tōr ("Father Procreator") is also attested in the Vedic, Iranian, Greek, and perhaps the Roman ritual traditions.[16]


*Dyēus was the Sky or Day conceived as a divine entity, and thus the dwelling of the gods, the Heaven.[7] As the gateway to the deities and the father of both the Divine Twins and the goddess of the Dawn (*H2éwsōs), *Dyēus was a prominent deity in the Proto-Indo-European pantheon.[17][18] He was however likely not their ruler or the holder of the supreme power like Zeus and Jupiter.[7]

*Dyēus was associated with the bright and vast sky, but also to the cloudy weather in the Vedic and Greek formulas *Dyēus' rain.[19] Although several reflexes of Dyēus are storm deities, such as Zeus and Jupiter, this is thought to be a late development exclusive to Mediterranean traditions, probably derived from syncretism with Canaanite deities and the Proto-Indo-European god *Perkwunos.[20]

Due to his celestial nature, *Dyēus is often described as "all-seeing" or "with wide vision" in Indo-European myths. It is unlikely however that he was in charge of the supervision of justice and righteousness, as it was the case for Zeus or the Indo-Iranian MithraVaruna duo, but he was suited to serve at least as a witness to oaths and treaties.[21] Proto-Indo-Europeans also visualized the sun as the "lamp of Dyēus" or the "eye of Dyēus", as seen in various reflexes: "the god's lamp" in Euripides' Medes, "heaven's candle" in Beowulf, "the land of Hatti's torch" (the Sun-goddess of Arinna) in a Hittite prayer,[22] Helios as the eye of Zeus,[23][24] Hvare-khshaeta as the eye of Ahura Mazda, and the sun as "God's eye" in Romanian folklore.[25]


*Dyēus is often paired with *Dhéǵhōm, the Earth goddess, and described as uniting with her to ensure the growth and sustenance of terrestrial life; the earth becomes pregnant as the rain falls from the sky.[26][18] The relationship between Father Sky (*Dyēus Ph2tḗr) and Mother Earth (*Dhéǵhōm Méhatēr) is also of contrast: the latter is portrayed as the vast and dark dwelling of mortals, located below the bright seat of the gods.[27] According to Jackson however, as the thunder-god is frequently associated with the fructifying rains, she may be a more fitting partner of *Perkwunos than of *Dyēus.[28]

While Hausos and the Divine Twins are generally considered the offsprings of *Dyēus alone,[29] some scholars have proposed a spouse-goddess reconstructed as *Diwōnā or *Diuōneh2,[30][31] with a possible descendant in Zeus's consort Dione. A thematic echo occurs in the Vedic tradition as Indra's wife Indrānī displays a similar jealous and quarrelsome disposition under provocation. A second descendant may be found in Dia, a mortal said to unite with Zeus in a Greek myth. After the mating of Dia's husband Ixion with the phantom of Hera, the spouse of Zeus, the story leads ultimately to the birth of the Centaurs (who may be seen as reminiscent of the Divine Twins, sons of *Dyēus).[29] Another reflex may be found in the Mycenaean Greek Diwia, possibly a feminine counterpart of Zeus attested in the second part of the 2nd millennium BC and which may have survived in the Pamphylian dialect of Asia Minor.[32][33][34] The reconstruction is however only based upon the Greek—and to a lesser extent the Vedic—tradition, and it remains therefore not secured.[29]

If the female goddesses Hera, Juno, Frigg and Shakti share a common association with marriage and fertility, Mallory and Adams note however that "these functions are much too generic to support the supposition of a distinct PIE 'consort goddess' and many of the 'consorts' probably represent assimilations of earlier goddesses who may have had nothing to do with marriage."[35]


Laurel-wreathed head of Zeus, c 360–340 BC.

Cognates deriving either from the stem *dyeu- ("daylight, bright sky"), the epithet *Dyēus Ph2ter ("Father Sky"), the vṛddhi-derivative *deiwós ("celestial", a "god"), the derivative *diwyós ("divine"), or the back-formation *deynos (a "day") are among the most widely attested in Indo-European languages.[2][3]


"Sky-Father" epithet[edit]

The Roman god Jupiter (Iovis-pater), 1811.

Ritual and formulaic expressions stemming from the form *Dyēus Ph2ter ("Father Dyēus") were inherited in the following liturgic and poetic traditions:

Other reflexes are variants that have retained both linguistic descendants of the stem *dyeu- ("sky") alongside the original structure "Father God". Some traditions have replaced the epithet *ph2ter with the nursery word papa ("dad, daddy"):

Other variants are less secured:

  • Hittite: attas Isanus, "Father Sun-god"; the name of the sky-god was replaced with a Hattic sun-god loan, but the original structure of the formula left intact,[17]
  • Latvian: Debess tēvs, "Father of Heaven",[2]
  • Old Norse: Óðinn Alföðr, "Odin, All-Father" or "Odin Father of All",[74][75]
  • Russian: Stribogŭ, "Father God",[2]
  • Albanian: Zot, "lord" or "God", epithet of Zojz, the sky-father (generally thought to be derived from Proto-Albanian *dźie̅u ̊ a(t)t-, "heavenly father";[76] although the etymology *w(i)tš- pati-, "lord of the house", has also been proposed),[77]
  • Tokharian B: kauṃ-ñäkte, 'sun, sun-god'.[69]

"Celestial" derivations[edit]

The Germanic god Týr, 1895.

Cognates stemming from *deywós, a vṛddhi-derivation of *dyēus (the sky-god), are attested in the following traditions:[78]

Other cognates are less secured:

"Divine" derivations[edit]

Other cognates deriving from the adjective *diwyós (*dyeu "sky" + yós, a thematic suffix) are attested in the following traditions:[118]

  • PIE: *diwyós, meaning "divine, heavenly, godlike",[4][119]
    • Mycenaean Greek: di-wi-jo (/diwjos/), di-wi-ja (/diwja/),[8][120]
    • Indo-Iranian: *diuiHa- / diuiia-,[37]
    • Proto-Italic: *dīwī (dat.abl.pl. dīwīs),[93]
      • Latin: dīvus, dīvī, "divine, heavenly, godlike",[93]
        • Latin: Dīs Pater, from dīves (gen. dītis), meaning "wealthy, rich", probably derived from *dīwīs > dīvus via the intermediate form *dīw-(o)t- or *dīw-(e)t- ("who is like the gods, protected by the gods"), with contraction *īwi- > ī. According to de Vaan, "the occurrence of the deity Dīs together with pater may be due to association with Di(e)spiter."[122]
      • Latin: dīus, dīā, another adjective with the same meaning, probably based on *dīwī > diī (dat.abl.pl. dīs),[93]
        • Latin: Diāna (from an older Dīāna), goddess of the moon and the countryside.[123][124]

Other cognates are less secured:


As the pantheons of the individual mythologies related to Proto-Indo-European religion evolved, attributes of *Dyēus seem to have been redistributed to other deities. In Greek and Roman mythology, *Dyēus was the chief god, while the etymological continuant of Dyēus became a very abstract god in Vedic mythology, and his original prominence over other gods largely diluted.[17][3]

In Albanian tradition[edit]

The cult practiced by the Albanians on Mount Tomorr in central Albania is considered as a continuation of the ancient sky-god worship.

After the first access of the ancestors of the Albanians to the Christian religion in antiquity, the presumable Albanian term for Sky-Father – Zot – has been used for God, the Father and the Son (Christ).[126] In Albanian folk beliefs the peak of the highest mountains like Tomorr in central Albania has been associated with the sky-god Zojz.[63][127] The enduring sanctity of the mountain, the annual pilgrimage to its summit, and the solemn sacrifice of a white bull by the local people provide abundant evidence that the ancient cult of the sky-god on Mount Tomorr continues through the generations almost untouched by the course of political events and religious changes.[128]

In Slavic tradition[edit]

At one point, early Slavs, like some Iranian peoples after the Zoroastrian religious reformation, demonized the Slavic successor of *Dyēus (abandoning this word in the sense of "heaven" at the same time, keeping the word for day, however, and abandoning many of the names of the other Proto-Indo-European gods, replacing them with new Slavic or Iranian names), while not replacing it with any other specific god, as a result of cultural contacts with Iranian peoples in the first millennium BC. Hence, after the process of demonization by the Slavs, *Dyēus is considered to have originated two continuations: *divo ("strange, odd thing") and *divъ ("demon").[129] The result of this demonization may be Pan-Slavic demons, e.g. Polish and Czech dziwożona, or Div occurring in The Tale of Igor's Campaign.[130][131]

According to some researchers, at least some of *Dyēus's traits could have been taken over by Svarog (Urbańczyk: Sun-Dažbóg – heavenly fire, Svarožič – earthly fire, Svarog – heaven, lightning).[132][133] Helmold recalls that the Slavs were also supposed to believe in a god in heaven, who only deals with heavenly matters and commands other gods.[134]

In non-Indo-European traditions[edit]

Various loanwords of *deiwós were introduced in non-Indo-European languages, such as Estonian taevas or Finnish taivas ("sky"), borrowed from Proto-Indo-Iranian into these Uralic languages.[1][135]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Hopkins, Grace Sturtevant (1932). "Indo-European *Deiwos and Related Words". Language. 8 (4): 5–83. doi:10.2307/522076. JSTOR 522076.
  • Cook, Arthur Bernard (1905). "The European Sky-God. III: The Italians". Folklore. 16 (3): 260–332. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1905.9719965. JSTOR 1253947.
  • Cook, Arthur Bernard (1904). "Zeus, Jupiter, and the Oak. (Conclusion.)". The Classical Review. 18 (7): 360–375. JSTOR 694614.
  • Duev, Ratko (29 October 2020). "The Family of Zeus in Early Greek Poetry and Myths". Classica Cracoviensia. 22: 121–144. doi:10.12797/CC.20.2019.22.05. S2CID 226337822.
  • Kerényi, Carl; Holme, Christopher (1975). "The Word 'Zeus' and its Synonyms, 'Theos' and 'Daimon'". Archetypal Images in Greek Religion: 5. Zeus and Hera: Archetypal Image of Father, Husband, and Wife. Princeton University Press. pp. 3–20. JSTOR j.ctt13x190c.5.
  • Kretschmer, Paul (1923). "Dyaus, Ζεὺς, Diespiter und die Abstrakta im Indogermanischen". Glotta. 13 (1/2): 101–114. JSTOR 40265088.
  • Laroche, E. (January 1967). "Les Noms anatoliens du 'dieu' et leurs dérivés". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 21 (1): 174–177. doi:10.2307/1359369. JSTOR 1359369. S2CID 164110389.
  • Olsen, Birgit Anette (Fall 2021). "Father Sky and the Wide-Eyed Cow". Journal of Indo-European Studies. 48 (3): 389–415. ProQuest 2578205133.
  • Seebold, Elmar (1991). "Der Himmel, der Tag und die Götter bei den Indogermanen". Historische Sprachforschung / Historical Linguistics. 104 (1): 29–45. JSTOR 40849007.