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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 stems from the root *dyeu-, denoting the "diurnal sky" or the "brightness of the day" (in contrast to the darkness of the night), ultimately deriving from *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 suggest that Dyēus was the vast and bright sky of the day conceived as a divine entity,[1][4] such as Sanskrit dyumán- 'heavenly, shining, radiant'.[5]

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. The story leads ultimately to the birth of the Centaurs after the mating of Dia's husband Ixion with the phantom of Hera, the spouse of Zeus.[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 stemming either from the root *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 descendants of the root *dyeu- ("sky") and 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",[70][71]
  • 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";[72] although the etymology *w(i)tš- pati-, "lord of the house", has also been proposed).[73]

"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:[74]

Other cognates are less secured:

Other cognates deriving from the word *diwyós (*dyeu "sky" + yós, a thematic suffix) are attested in the following traditions:[115]


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 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").[122] 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.[123][124]

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).[125][126] 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.[127]

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.[1][128]


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  126. ^ Gieysztor 2006, p. 175.
  127. ^ Szyjewski 2003, p. 99-100.
  128. ^ Delamarre 2003, p. 143.


Further reading[edit]

  • "Indo-European *Deiwos and Related Words" by Grace Sturtevant Hopkins, Language Dissertations number XII, December 1932 (supplement to Language, journal of the Linguistic Society of America).
  • Cook, Arthur Bernard. "The European Sky-God. III: The Italians." Folklore 16, no. 3 (1905): 260-332. www.jstor.org/stable/1253947.
  • Cook, Arthur Bernard. "Zeus, Jupiter, and the Oak. (Conclusion.)." The Classical Review 18, no. 7 (1904): 360-75. www.jstor.org/stable/694614.
  • Kerényi, Carl, and Christopher Holme. "The Word 'Zeus' and Its Synonyms, 'Theos' and 'Daimon'." In Archetypal Images in Greek Religion: 5. Zeus and Hera: Archetypal Image of Father, Husband, and Wife, 3-20. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975. doi:10.2307/j.ctt13x190c.5.
  • Kretschmer, Paul. "Dyaus, Ζεὺς, Diespiter Und Die Abstrakta Im Indogermanischen." Glotta 13, no. 1/2 (1923): 101-14. www.jstor.org/stable/40265088.
  • Laroche, E. "Les Noms Anatoliens Du "dieu" Et Leurs Dérivés." Journal of Cuneiform Studies 21 (1967): 174-77. doi:10.2307/1359369.
  • Seebold, Elmar. "Der Himmel, Der Tag Und Die Götter Bei Den Indogermanen." Historische Sprachforschung / Historical Linguistics 104, no. 1 (1991): 29-45. www.jstor.org/stable/40849007.