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In ancient Greek literature, an eidolon (plural: eidola or eidolons; Greek εἴδωλον 'image, idol, double, apparition, phantom, ghost') is a spirit-image of a living or dead person; a shade or phantom look-alike of the human form. The concept of Helen of Troy's eidolon was explored both by Homer and Euripides. However, where Homer uses the concept as a free-standing idea that gives Helen life after death, Euripides entangles it with the idea of kleos, one being the product of the other.[1][2] Both Euripides and Stesichorus, in their respective works concerning the Trojan Horse, claim that Helen was never physically present in the city at all.[3]

Literary use[edit]

The concept of the eidola of the dead was explored in various literature regarding Penelope, who in later works was constantly laboring against the eidola of Clytemnestra and later Helen herself.[1] Homer's use of eidola also extends to the Odyssey where, after the death of the suitors of Penelope, Theoclymenus notes that he sees the doorway of the court filled with them.[4]

In The Mill on the Floss (1860) by George Eliot, eidolon is used to describe Mr Tulliver's prejudicial image of his antagonist, Mr Wakem; Book Third, Chapter 7.

Walt Whitman's poem by the same name in 1876 used a much broader understanding of the term, expanded and detailed in the poem.[5] In Whitman's use of the term we can see the use broaden to include the concept of an oversoul composed of the individual souls of all life and expanding to include the Earth itself and the hierarchy of the planets, Sun, stars and galaxy.

In Theosophy, the astral double or perispirit or kamarupa after death, before its disintegration, is identified with the eidolon.[6]

Modern fiction[edit]

  • In The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, three eidola appear as antagonists, possessing characters and making them fight against each other.
  • In the short story "The White Ship" by H. P. Lovecraft the city of Thalarion in the Dreamlands is ruled by an eidolon named Lathi.
  • In Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Tessa, the main protagonist, is a 16-year-old girl whose father was an Eidolon, a shape-shifting demon. Tessa is a shape-shifter as well, though not a demon, and is told by a Silent Brother that she is an Eidolon.
  • The third part of "Helen in Egypt", the long poem by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), is titled "Eidolon".
  • In Charles William's novel The place of the Lion, Damaris' research paper which helps set off the plot is on "The Eidola and the Angeli"
  • In Ian Tregillis' Milkweed Triptych, the other-worldly entities responsible for magic are known as Eidolons.
  • Beings called eidolons appear in the series Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe.
  • In the Wildstorm Comic "Stormwatch" by Warren Ellis, the Eidolon is a superpowered villain who travels the world telling people he's seen "the other side" and that there is no God. In reality he is actually just a disembodied ghost pining for oblivion.
  • In The Wanderers by Meg Howrey, the astronaut-training simulation is named Eidolon.
  • In The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow the Greek concept of eidolon is discussed in detail throughout the book. Essentially, it is the heart of the story.
  • In Worm by John McCrae under the pseudonym Wildbow, one of the most influential 'parahumans' takes on the name Eidolon, likely after the meanings 'idol' and 'image'.
  • In Lost Light by Michael Connelly, Eidolon is the name of a film production company that is central to the murder mystery.
  • In "Into Everywhere", a sci-fi novel by Paul McAuley (2016), Eidolons play a central role and often "inhabit" the minds & bodies of people. These Eidolons are thought to have been left behind by an "Elder Culture".
  • In Dream-Land, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, there is an Eidolon ruling over a realm haunted by 'ill angels only' and reserved for the ones whose 'woes are legion' and who 'walk in shadow'.
  • In Warhammer 40 000, there is a character named Eidolon. Beheaded by his superior, he's finally brought back to life.
  • In The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy series by Hailey Edwards, Linus Andreas Lawson II becomes an Eidolon when trouble is afoot or he is out hunting because of his designation as Potentate of Atlanta.


  • The Eidolon, a 1985 game by Lucasfilm Games.
  • In the Magic: the Gathering plane of Theros, an eidolon is a spirit created when the soul of a dead person separates from its body.
  • In the multiplayer online battle arena video game Dota 2, the hero Enigma conjures minions called Eidolons with his spell Demonic Conversion.
  • In the original Tomb Raider game from 1996, the main character Lara Croft encounters an eidolon of herself, created by her antagonist Jacqueline Natla. The eidolon mirrors the player's in-game movements directly. It re-appears in the 2008 sequel Tomb Raider: Underworld.
  • In Death Rally (1996), a mirror image version of Velodrome, a high speed racetrack of the "hard" difficulty.
  • Many Final Fantasy games, specifically Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy Type-0, allow players to summon magical entities called "Eidolons" to assist in battles.
  • In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, an eidolon is a supernatural creature bonded to a character of the Summoner class.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition, an eidolon is a golem-like animated statue brought to life by a shard of divine energy.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons Online, an eidolon is an animated shadow summoned by the Necklace of Mystic Eidolons.
  • In Eclipse Phase, an eidolon is a specialized computer program that acts as digital body for digitalized minds, allowing infomorph characters to specialize.[7]
  • Eidolon is a 2014 first-person narrative introducing the protagonist or player-vehicle to a far-flung post-apocalyptic western Washington. The title was taken from Walt Whitman's poem "Eidolons".[8]
  • Aura Kingdom, an MMORPG produced by Aeria Games, has a plot-line that revolves around creatures called Eidolons.
  • In the 2012 MMORPG Guild Wars 2 there is a shield with a ghostly appearance called Eidolon.
  • In Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide an Eidolon is a Purity/Supremacy (aka Mastery) hybrid upgrade of a Soldier unit.
  • The video game Warframe features an update entitled "Plains of Eidolon", which added an open-world prairie zone inhabited by nocturnal machines known as "Eidolons".
  • Eidolon, the higher self in the tabletop Roleplay game Wraith: The Oblivion.
  • Eidolon is an enemy encountered in Hexen II, the oldest and most powerful of the Serpent Riders, and the main antagonist of the game.

Film and television[edit]

  • In the 2021 television series Them, season 1, episode 9, a pair of travelers come upon a town called Eidolon, an "intentional community devoted to God".
  • In the 2014 television series The Bridge, season 2, episode 10, is titled "Eidolon".


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Holmberg, Ingrid E. (Spring 1995). "Euripides' Helen: Most Noble and Most Chaste". The American Journal of Philology. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 116 (1): 19–42. doi:10.2307/295501. JSTOR 295501.
  2. ^ Meltzer, Gary S. (Oct 1994). "'Where Is the Glory of Troy?' 'Kleos' in Euripides' 'Helen'". Classical Antiquity. University of California Press. 13 (2): 234–255. doi:10.2307/25011015. JSTOR 25011015.
  3. ^ Papi, Donatella Galeotti (1987). "Victors and Sufferers in Euripides' Helen". The American Journal of Philology. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 108 (1): 27–40. doi:10.2307/294912. JSTOR 294912.
  4. ^ Barasch, Moshe (2005). "The Departing Soul: The Long Life of a Medieval Creation". Artibus et Historiae. IRSA s.c. 26 (52): 13–28. doi:10.2307/20067095. JSTOR 20067095.
  5. ^ Carpenter, Frederic I. (Mar 1942). "Walt Whitman's 'Eidolon'". College English. National Council of Teachers of English. 3 (6): 534–545. doi:10.2307/370944. JSTOR 370944.
  6. ^ Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary: A Resource on Theosophy, G. de Purucker
  7. ^ Morph Recognition Guide
  8. ^ Kelton Sears (August 26, 2014). "Eidolon Asks Us to Imagine a World Without Us". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  9. ^ Formby, Ellen (17 July 2021). "Do you know why Google Images was created?". 2ser 107.3. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  10. ^ "Jinjer – Sit Stay Roll over".