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Personification of the Sun
Wall painting - Dionysos with Helios and Aphrodite - Pompeii (VII 2 16) - Napoli MAN 9449 - 02.jpg
Helios on an antique fresco from Pompeii
AnimalsHorse, rooster, wolf, cattle
SymbolSun, chariot, horses, aureole, turnsole, cornucopia,[1] ripened fruit[1]
DaySunday (hēméra Hēlíou)
Personal information
ParentsHyperion and Theia
SiblingsSelene and Eos
ConsortMany including: Clymene, Clytie, Perse, Rhodos, and Leucothea
ChildrenActis, Aega, Aegiale, Aeëtes, Aloeus, Astris, Augeas, Bisaltes, Candalus, Cercaphus, the Charites, Circe, the Corybantes, Electryone, the Heliades, the Horae, Ichnaea, Lampetia, Macareus, Ochimus, Pasiphaë, Perses, Phaethon, Phaethusa, Tenages, Thersanon and Triopas
Roman equivalentSol
Norse equivalentSól
Etruscan equivalentUsil
Hinduism equivalentSurya[2]
Canaanite equivalentShapash
Mesopotamian equivalentUtu
Egyptian equivalentRa

Helios (/ˈhliəs, -ɒs/; Modern Greek: Ήλιος; Ancient Greek: Ἥλιος; Homeric Greek: Ἠέλιος), Latinized as Helius, is the god and personification of the Sun in ancient Greek religion and myth, often depicted in art with a radiant crown and driving a horse-drawn chariot through the sky. He was a guardian of oaths and also the god of sight. Though Helios was a relatively minor deity in Classical Greece, his worship grew more prominent in late antiquity thanks to his identification with several major solar divinities of the Roman period, particularly Apollo and Sol. The Roman Emperor Julian made Helios the central divinity of his short-lived revival of traditional Roman religious practices in the 4th century AD.

Helios figures prominently in several works of Greek mythology, poetry, and literature, in which he is often described as the son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia and brother of the goddesses Selene (the Moon) and Eos (the Dawn). Helios' most notable role in Greek mythology is the story of his mortal son Phaethon who asked his father for a favour; Helios agreed, but then Phaethon asked for the privilege to drive his four-horse fiery chariot across the skies for a single day. Although Helios warned his son again and again against this choice, explaining to him the dangers of such a journey that no other god but him was capable to bring about, Phaethon was hard to deter, and thus Helios was forced to hand him the reins. As expected, the ride was disastrous and Zeus struck the youth with one of his lightning bolts to stop him from burning or freezing the earth beyond salvation. Other than this myth, Helios occasionally appears in myths of other characters, witnessing oaths or interacting with other gods or mortals.[3]


The Greek ἥλιος (from earlier ἁϝέλιος /hāwelios/) is the inherited word for the Sun from Proto-Indo-European *seh₂u-el[4] which is cognate with Latin sol, Sanskrit surya, Old English swegl, Old Norse sól, Welsh haul, Avestan hvar, etc.[5] The name Helen is thought to share this etymology[6][7][8] and may express an early alternate personification of the sun among Hellenic peoples. The female offspring of Helios were called Heliades, the male Heliadae. The Proto-Indo-European sun goddess's name *Seh₂ul has been reconstructed based on several solar mythological figures, like Helios and Helen, the Germanic Sól, the Roman Sol, and others, all of which are considered derivatives of this proto-sun goddess. In PIE mythology, the sun, a female goddess, was seen as a pair with the moon, a male god, which in Greek mythology is recognized in the female deity Selene, usually united in marriage.[9] Martin L. West proposed the reconstruction of a PIE suffix -, so that Helena's name would roughly translate to "mistress of sunlight", denoting the goddess controlling the natural element.[10]

The Doric and Aeolic form of the name is Ἅλιος, Hálios. In Homeric Greek his name is spelled Ἠέλιος, Ēélios, with the Doric spelling of that being Ἀέλιος, Aélios. In Cretan it was Ἀβέλιος (Abélios) or Ἀϝέλιος (Awélios).[11]

The author of the Suda lexicon tried to etymologically connect ἥλιος to the word ἀολλίζεσθαι, aollízesthai, "coming together" during the daytime, or perhaps from ἀλεαίνειν, aleaínein, "warming".[12] Plato proposed a connection, via the Doric form of the word halios, to the words ἁλίζειν, halízein, meaning collecting men when he rises, or from the phrase ἀεὶ εἱλεῖν, aeí heileín, "ever turning" because he always turns the earth in his course.[13]

Although the Mycenaean Greek word has been reconstructed as *hāwélios, no unambiguous attestations of the word and the god for the sun have been discovered so far in Linear B tablets. It has been proposed that in the Mycenaean pantheon existed a female sun goddess, ancestor/predecessor to Helios and closely related to Helen of Troy.[14]


Helios in his chariot, early 4th century BC, Athena's temple, Ilion

Helios is the son of Hyperion and Theia,[15][16][17] or Euryphaessa,[18] or Aethra,[19] or Basileia.[20] Of the four authors that give him and his sisters a birth order, two make him the oldest child, one the middle, and the other the youngest.[a] Homer in the Odyssey calls him Helios Hyperion ("the Sun up above"), with Hyperion used in a patronymic sense to Helios. In the Odyssey, Theogony and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Helios is once in each work called Ὑπεριονίδης (Hyperionídēs, "the son of Hyperion") and this example is followed by many later poets (like Pindar[21]), who distinguish between Helios and Hyperion; in later literature the two gods are distinctly father and son. In literature, it is not uncommon for authors to use "Hyperion's bright son" instead of his proper name when referring to the Sun.[22]

Helios is usually depicted as a handsome young man crowned with the shining aureole of the Sun who drove the chariot of the Sun across the sky each day to Earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night. Beyond his Homeric Hymn, not many texts describe his physical appearance; Mesomedes of Crete writes that he has golden hair,[23] and Apollonius Rhodius that he has light-emitting, golden eyes.[24] According to Augustan poet Ovid, he dressed in purple robes and sat on a throne of bright emeralds.[25] In the Homeric Hymn to Helios, Helios is said to drive a golden chariot drawn by steeds;[26] and Pindar speaks of Helios's "fire-darting steeds".[27] Still later, the horses were given fire related names: Pyrois ("The Fiery One"), Aeos ("he of the dawn"[28]), Aethon ("Blazing"), and Phlegon ("Burning").

The imagery surrounding a chariot-driving solar deity is likely Indo-European in origin[29][30][31] and is common to both early Greek and Near Eastern religions.[32] The earliest artistic representations of the "chariot god" come from the Parthian period (3rd century) in Persia where there is evidence of rituals being performed for the sun god by Magi, indicating an assimilation of the worship of Helios and Mithras.[29]

Helios is seen as both a personification of the Sun and the fundamental creative power behind it[33] and as a result is often worshiped as a god of life and creation. Homer described Helios as a god "who gives joy to mortals"[34] and other ancient texts give him the epithet "gracious" (ἱλαρός), given that he is the source of life and regeneration and associated with the creation of the world. One passage recorded in the Greek Magical Papyri says of Helios, "the earth flourished when you shone forth and made the plants fruitful when you laughed and brought to life the living creatures when you permitted."[29]


God of the Sun[edit]

Rising and Setting[edit]

Helios was envisioned as a god driving his chariot from east to west each day, pulled by four white horses. The chariot and his horses are mentioned by neither Homer nor Hesiod, the earliest work in which they're attested being the Homeric Hymn to Helios.[35] Although the chariot is usually said to be the work of Hephaestus,[36][37] Hyginus states that it was Helios himself who built it.[38] In one Greek vase painting, Helios appears riding across the sea in the cup of the Delphic tripod which appears to be a solar reference. His chariot is described as golden[26] or pink[39] in colour. The Horae, goddesses of the seasons, are part of his retinue and help him yoke his chariot.[40][41][42] Everyday he rose from the Ocean, the great earth-encircling river, carried by his horses:

Helios the rising Sun, painting on a terracotta disk, 480 BC, Agora Museum Athens

As he rides in his chariot, he shines upon men and deathless gods, and piercingly he gazes with his eyes from his golden helmet. Bright rays beam dazzlingly from him, and his bright locks streaming from the temples of his head gracefully enclose his far-seen face: a rich, fine-spun garment glows upon his body and flutters in the wind: and stallions carry him. Then, when he has stayed his golden-yoked chariot and horses, he rests there upon the highest point of heaven, until he marvelously drives them down again through heaven to Ocean.

— Homeric Hymn 31 to the Sun[26]

Athenaeus in his Deipnosophistae relates that, at the hour of sunset, Helios climbs into a great cup of solid gold in which he passes from the Hesperides in the farthest west to the land of the Ethiops, with whom he passes the dark hours. According to Athenaeus, Mimnermus said that in the night Helios travels eastwards with the use of a bed (also created by Hephaestus) in which he sleeps, rather than a cup.[43] Aeschylus, in his lost play Prometheus Unbound[44] describes the sunset as such:

“There [is] the sacred wave, and the coralled bed of the Erythræan Sea, and [there] the luxuriant marsh of the Ethiopians, situated near the ocean, glitters like polished brass; where daily in the soft and tepid stream, the all-seeing Sun bathes his undying self, and refreshes his weary steeds.”

On several instances in mythology the normal solar schedule is disrupted; he was ordered not to rise for three days during the conception of Heracles, and made the winter days longer in order to look upon Leucothoe, Athena's birth was a sight so impressive that Helios halted his steeds and stayed still in the sky for a long while.[46] In the Iliad Hera who supports the Greeks, makes him set earlier than usual against his will during battle,[47] and later in the same war, after his sister Eos's son Memnon was killed, she made him downcast, causing his light to fade, so she could be able to freely steal her son's body undetected by the armies.[48] It's said that summer days are longer due to Helios often stopping his chariot mid-air to watch from above nymphs dancing during the summer,[49] and sometimes he is late to rise because he lingers with his consort.[50]

Helios's cup with Heracles in it, Rome, Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, n. 205336.

When Zeus desired to sleep with Alcmene, he made one night last threefold, hiding the light of the Sun, by ordering Helios not to rise for those three days.[51] From this union, Heracles was born. While Heracles travelled to Erytheia to retrieve the cattle of Geryon for his tenth labour, he crossed the Libyan desert and was so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the Sun. Almost immediately, Heracles realized his mistake and apologized profusely (Pherecydes wrote that Heracles stretched his arrow at him menacingly, but Helios ordered him to stop, and Heracles in fear desisted[43]); In turn and equally courteous, Helios granted Heracles the golden cup which he used to sail across the sea every night, from the west to the east because he found Heracles’ actions immensely bold. Heracles used this golden cup to reach Erytheia, and after he had taken Geryon's cattle, returned it back to its owner.[52][53]

Travelling Backwards[edit]

When the brothers Thyestes and Atreus fought over which would get to rule Mycenae,[54] following the death of the previous king, Eurystheus, Atreus suggested that whoever possessed of a splendid golden ram would be declared king. Unbeknownst to Atreus, his unfaithful wife Aerope had given Thyestes the ram, and thus Thyestes became king. Zeus sent Hermes to Atreus, telling Atreus to get Thyestes to agree that should the Sun rise in the west and set in the east, the kingship would be given to Atreus.[55] Thyestes agreed, and Helios indeed rose where he usually set, and set where he usually rose, not standing the unfairness of Thyestes’ actions.[56] According to Plato, Helios at first used to rise in the west and set in the east, and only changed that after the incident of the golden ram, as did the other celestial bodies.[57]

Solar eclipses[edit]

Solar eclipses were phaenomena of fear as well as wonder in Ancient Greece, and were seen as the Sun abandoning humanity.[58] According to a fragment of Archilochus, it is Zeus who blocks Helios and makes him disappear from the sky; in one of his paeans, the lyric poet Pindar describes a solar eclipse as the Sun's light being hidden from the world, a bad omen of destruction and doom:[59]

Beam of the sun! What have you contrived, observant one, mother of eyes, highest star, in concealing yourself in broad daylight? Why have you made helpless men's strength and the path of wisdom, by rushing down a dark highway? Do you drive a stranger course than before? In the name of Zeus, swift driver of horses, I beg you, turn the universal omen, lady, into some painless prosperity for Thebes ... Do you bring a sign of some war or wasting of crops or a mass of snow beyond telling or ruinous strife or emptying of the sea on land or frost on the earth or a rainy summer flowing with raging water, or will you flood the land and create a new race of men from the beginning?

— Pindar, Paean IX[60]

Plutarch in his Moralia writes that it is "through love of the sun that the moon herself makes her circuit, and has her meetings with him to receive from him all fertility".[61]

Helios rising in his chariot, red-figured calyx-krater, 430 BC (circa), British Museum.

Horses of Helios[edit]

Some lists, cited by Hyginus, of the names of horses that pulled Helios' chariot, are as follows. Scholarship acknowledges that, despite differences between the lists, the names of the horses always seem to refer to fire, flame, light and other luminous qualities.[62]

  • According to Eumelus of Corinth – late 7th/ early 6th century BC: The male trace horses are Eous (by him the sky is turned) and Aethiops (as if flaming, parches the grain) and the female yoke-bearers are Bronte ("Thunder") and Sterope ("Lightning").
  • According to Ovid — Roman, 1st century BC Phaethon's ride: Pyrois ("the fiery one"), Eous ("he of the dawn"), Aethon ("blazing"), and Phlegon ("burning").[63][64]

Alexander of Aetolia, cited in Athenaeus, related that the magical herb grew on the island Thrinacia, which was sacred to Helios, and served as a remedy against fatigue for the sun god's horses. Aeschrion of Samos informed that it was known as the "dog's-tooth" and was believed to have been sown by Cronus.[65]

Awarding of Rhodes[edit]

Silver tetradrachm of Rhodes showing Helios and a rose (205-190 BC, 13.48 g)

According to Pindar,[66] when the gods divided the earth among them, Helios was absent, and thus he got no lot of land. He complained to Zeus about it, who offered to do the division of portions again, but Helios refused the offer, for he had seen a new land emerging from the deep of the sea; a rich, productive land for humans and good for cattle too. Helios asked for this island to be given to him, and Zeus agreed, with Lachesis (one of the three Fates) raising her hands to confirm the oath. Helios asked for this island to be given to him, and Zeus agreed. He named it Rhodes, after his lover Rhode (the daughter of Poseidon and Aphrodite[67] or Amphitrite[68]), and it became the god's sacred island. With Rhode Helios sired seven sons, the Heliadae, who became the first rulers of the island, as well as one daughter, Electryone.[69] Three of their grandsons founded the cities Ialysos, Camiros and Lindos on the island, named after themselves;[66] thus Rhodes came to belong to him and his line, with the autochthonous peoples of Rhodes claiming descend from the Heliadae.[70]

Once Athena was born from Zeus’ head, Helios enjoined the Rhodians to immediately build an altar for the goddess quickly, in order to win her favour. They did as he told them, however they forgot to bring fire with them to properly do the sacrifice. Zeus, however, sent a golden cloud and rained gold on them, and Athena still graced them with unmatched skill in every art.[71]


The most well known story about Helios is the one involving his son Phaethon. Phaethon was Helios’ son by Clymene,[72][73][74][75] or alternatively Rhode[76] or Prote.[77] In one version of the story, Phaethon is Helios' grandson, rather than son, through his father Clymenus.[78] In Euripides' lost play Phaethon, Phaethon is the product of an illicit liaison between his mother Clymene (who's married to Merops, king of Aethiopia) and Helios. Clymene reveals the truth to her son, and urges her son to travel east to get confirmation from his father after she informs him that Helios promised to grant their child any wish when he slept with her.[79] In a surviving fragment from the play, Helios accompanies his son in his ill-fated journey in the skies, trying to give him instructions on how to drive the chariot:

Phaethon meets the Sun, engraving for the Metamorphoses.

When the Sun hands the reins to Phaethon, he says

‘Thou, driving, trespass not on Libya's sky
Whose heat, by dews untempered, else shall split
Thy car asunder.’
And after that,
‘Speed onward towards the Pleiads seven thy course.’
Thus far the boy heard; then he snatched the reins:
He lashed the flanks of that wing-wafted team;
Loosed rein; and they through folds of cloudland soared.
Hard after on a fiery star[80] his sire
Rode, counselling his son—‘Ho! thither drive!
Hither thy car turn—hither!’

— Euripides, Phaethon frag 779[81]
Helios and Phaethon, by Nicolas Poussin

Phaethon inevitably dies; a fragment near the end of the play has Clymene order the slave girls hide Phaethon's still-smouldering body from Merops, and laments Helios' role in her son's death, saying he destroyed him and her both.[82]

In Ovid's account, Zeus' son Epaphus mocks Phaethon's claim that he is the son of the sun god; his mother Clymene tells Phaethon to go to Helios himself, to ask for confirmation of his paternity, and the boy travels east to meet his father. Helios, living in a palace far away and attended by several other gods, warmly receives his son, and promises him on the river Styx any gift that he might ask as a proof of paternity; Phaethon asks for the privilege to drive Helios’ chariot for a single day, causing his father to immediately regret his gift. Although Helios warns his son of how dangerous and disastrous this would be, and keeps begging Phaethon to rethink his wish, he is nevertheless unable to change Phaethon's mind or revoke his promise. Phaethon takes the reins in his father's horror, and drives the chariot with catastrophic results; the earth burns when he travels too low, and freezes when he takes the chariot too high. Zeus, in order to save the world, strikes Phaethon with a lightning, killing him. Helios, in his sorrow and deprived of all light out of grief, refuses to resume his job, but he returns to his task and duty at the appeal of the other gods, as well as Zeus’ threats. He then takes his anger out on his four horses, whipping them in fury for causing his son's death.[83]

Phaethon in the chariot of the Sun, Godfried Maes, ca 1664-1700

Nonnus of Panopolis presented a slightly different version of the myth, narrated by Hermes; according to him, Helios met and fell in love with Clymene, the daughter of the Ocean, and the two soon got married with her father's blessing; Merops doesn't factor at all, and their son Phaethon is born within marriage. When he grows up, fascinated with his father's job, he asks him to drive his chariot for a single day. Helios does his best to dissuade him, arguing that sons are not necessarily fit to step into their fathers' shoes, bringing up as example that none of Zeus' sons wields lightning bolts like he does. But under pressure of Phaethon and Clymene's begging both, he eventually gives in, and gives his son the reins and instructions for the road. As per all other versions of the myth, Phaethon's ride is catastrophic and ends in his death.[84]

A consistent detail across versions are that Phaethon's sisters the Heliades mourn him by the Eridanus and are turned into black poplar trees, who shed tears of amber. According to Quintus Smyrnaeus, it was Helios who turned them into trees, for their honour to Phaethon.[85]

In one version of the myth, Helios conveyed his dead son to the stars, as a constellation.[86]

Relating to this is a fable from Aesop, in which Helios announces his intention to get married, causing the frogs to protest intensively. When Zeus, disturbed by all that noise, asks them to explain their stance, they reply that the Sun already burns their ponds on his own just fine; if he gets married and begets even more sons, it will sure doom them.[87]

The Watchman[edit]

Head of Helios, middle period, Archaeological Museum of Rhodes

Helios saw and stood witness to everything that happened underneath him where his light shone. When Hades abducted Persephone, Helios, who was characterized with the epithet Helios Panoptes ("the all-seeing Sun"), was the only one to witness it. Persephone's mother Demeter, at the suggestion of Hecate, came to him, and asked him if he had seen anything. Helios, sympathizing with her grief, told her in detail that it was Hades who, with Zeus’ permission, had taken an unwilling and screaming Persephone to the Underworld to be his wife.[88][89] In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter he asks Demeter to sooth her pain, as Hades is not an unworthy son-in-law for her, being her own brother and king of the Underworld besides, living with those he was chosen by lot to rule over. In Fasti, Helios calls Persephone "the queen of the third world".

Clytie turns into a sunflower as the Sun refuses to look at her, engraving by Abraham van Diepenbeeck.

In another myth, Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, but she cheated on him with his brother Ares, god of war. Helios caught them in the act, and informed Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus. Upon learning that, Hephaestus forged a net so thin it could hardly be seen, in order to ensnare them. He then announced that he was leaving for Lemnos. Upon hearing that, Ares went to Aphrodite and the two lovers coupled.[90] Helios informed Hephaestus again, who came into the room and trapped them in the net. He then called the other gods to witness the humiliating sight.[91] Later versions add a young man, a warrior named Alectryon, tasked by Ares to stand guard should anyone approach. But Alectryon fell asleep, allowing Helios to discover the two lovers and inform Hephaestus. In his anger, Ares turned Alectryon into a rooster, a bird that to this day crows at dawn, to announce the arrival of the Sun.[92][93][94] According to Pausanias, the rooster is Helios' sacred animal, always crowing when he is about to rise.[95] For this, Aphrodite hated Helios and his race for all time.[96] In some versions, she cursed his daughter Pasiphaë to fall in love with the Cretan Bull as revenge against him.[97][98] Pasiphaë's daughter Phaedra's passion for her step-son Hippolytus was also said to have been inflicted on her by Aphrodite for this same reason.[96]

For Helios’ tale-telling, Aphrodite would have her revenge on him. She made him fall for a mortal princess named Leucothoe, forgetting his previous lover the Oceanid nymph Clytia for her sake. "He who harmed her secret affair, was equally harmed by love. Son of Hyperion, what use to you now, are beauty, lustre, and radiant light? Surely, you who make all countries burn with your fires, burn with a new fire. You, who should discern everything, contemplate Leucothoë, and your eyes, that ought to be fixed on the whole earth, are fixed on one virgin girl. Sometimes you rise too early in the dawn sky. Sometimes you sink too late into the waves. Thinking of her, you lengthen the winter hours. Sometimes you vanish, your mind’s defect affecting your light, and, obscured, terrify men’s hearts. It is not because the moon’s shadow, closer to the earth, eclipses you, that you fade", writes Ovid. Helios would watch her from above, even making the winter days longer so he could have more time looking at her. Taking the form of her mother Eurynome, Helios entered their palace with no problem and came into the girl's room where he dismissed her servants so he would be left alone with her, using the excuse of wanting to entrust a secret to his "daughter". There he took his real form, revealing himself to the girl. However, Clytia, still in love with him, informed Leucothoe's father Orchamus of this affair, and he buried Leucothoe alive in the earth. Helios came too late to rescue her, his grief over her death compared to the one he had over Phaethon's fiery end, and could not revive her, so instead he poured nectar into the earth, and turned the dead Leucothoe into a frankincense tree, so that she could still breathe air (after a fashion) instead of rotting beneath the soil. Clytia had hoped that this would get Helios back to her, but he wanted nothing to do with her, angered as he was about the role she played in his love's death, and went on his way. Clytia stripped herself naked, accepting no food or drink, and sat on a rock for nine days, pining after him; he never looked back at her. Eventually she turned into a purple, sun-gazing flower, the heliotrope,[b] which follows Helios’ movement in the sky, still in love with him; her form much changed, her love unchanged.[100][101][102][103] Edith Hamilton notes that this case is unique in Greek mythology, as rather than the usual, a god being in love with an unwilling maiden, it's instead the maiden who is in love with an unwilling god.[104]

Relationship with other gods and mortals[edit]

Helios sided with the other gods in several battles; during what appears to have been the Titanomachy,[c] Zeus sacrificed a bull to him, Gaia, and Uranus, and in accordance they revealed to him the will of the gods in the affair, the omens indicating the victory of the gods and a defection to them of the enemy.[105]

Helios on his chariot fighting a Giant, detail of the Gigantomachy frieze, Pergamon Altar, Pergamon museum, Berlin

He also took part in the Giant wars; it was said by Pseudo-Apollodorus that during the battle of the giants against the gods, the giant Alcyoneus stole Helios’ cattle from Erytheia where the god kept them,[106] or alternatively, that it was Alcyoneus’ very theft of the cattle that started the war.[107][108] Because the earth goddess Gaia, mother and ally of the Giants, learned of the prophecy that the giants would perish at the hand of a mortal, she sought to find a magical herb that would protect them and render them practically indestructible; thus Zeus ordered Helios, as well as his sisters Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn) not to shine, and harvested all of the plant for himself while Athena summoned the mortal Heracles to fight.[109] At some point during the battle of gods and giants in Phlegra, where the battle took place,[110] Helios took up an exhausted from the fight Hephaestus on his chariot (in gratitude, Hephaestus forged four ever-flowing fountains and fire-breathing bulls for Helios' son Aeëtes).[111] After the war was won and over, one of the giants, Picolous, fled the battle against Zeus; he went to Aeaea, the island where Helios’ daughter, the sorceress Circe, lived. He attempted to chase Circe away from the island, only to be killed by Helios, who defended his daughter.[112] From the blood of the slain giant that dripped on the earth a new plant was sprang, the herb moly, named thus from the battle ("malos" in Ancient Greek).[113] The flower had a black root, for the colour of the blood of the slain Giant, and a white flower, either for the white Sun that killed him, or for the fact that Circe grew pale of terror.[114] This is the very same plant, a plant only immortals can uproot from the ground, that Odysseus would later use on Hermes' suggestion to save his companions from Circe's magic, after she transformed them all into swines.[115]

Phoebus and Boreas, Jean-Baptiste Oudry's cosmic interpretation of La Fontaine's fable, 1729/34

Despite that, he sometimes clashed with other gods; just like the Athenians had a story about how Athena and Poseidon fought over the patronage of the city of Athens, the Corinthians had a similar story about Corinth. Helios and Poseidon, representing fire versus water, clashed as to who would get to have the city. The Hecatoncheir Briareos, an elder god, was tasked to settle the dispute between the two gods; he awarded the Acrocorinth to Helios, while Poseidon was given the isthmus of Corinth.[116][117] Aelian wrote that Nerites was the son of the sea god Nereus and the Oceanid Doris. In the version where Nerites became the lover of Poseidon, it is said that Helios turned him into a shellfish, for reasons unknown to Aelian's sources, who theorized that perhaps Helios was somehow offended. Aelian himself suggests that perhaps Poseidon and Helios were rivals in love, and the sun god wished the youth would run among the constellations, rather than be with the sea monsters.[118]

In an Aesop fable, Helios and the north wind god Boreas argued about which one between them was the strongest god. They agreed that whoever was able to make a passing traveller remove his cloak would be declared the winner. Boreas was the one to try his luck first; but no matter how hard he blew, he couldn't remove the man's cloak, instead making him wrap his cloak around him even tighter. Helios shone bright then, and the traveller, overcome with the heat, removed his cloak, giving him the victory. The moral is that persuasion is better than force.[119] Athenaeus of Naucratis records in his Deipnosophistae that Greek author Hieronymus of Rhodes, in his Historical Notes, quoted an anecdote about playwriters Sophocles and Euripides that referenced the fable of the two gods' contest; it related how Sophocles made love to a boy outside the city's gates who then proceeded to steal Sophocles' cloak, and leave behind his own boyish one. Euripides then joked that he had had that same boy too, and it had not cost him anything. Sophocles then replied to him that "It was the Sun, and not a boy, whose heat stripped me naked; as for you, Euripides, when you were kissing someone else's wife the North Wind screwed you. You are unwise, you who sow in another's field, to accuse Eros of being a snatch-thief."[120]

Relating to his nature as the Sun, Helios was presented as a god who could restore and also deprive of people's light as it was regarded that his light that made the faculty of sight and enabled visible things to be seen.[121] After Orion was blinded by King Oenopion for attacking his daughter Merope, he was given a guide, Cedalion, from the god Hephaestus to guide him. Orion with Cedalion on his shoulders travelled to the east, where he met Helios. Helios then healed Orion's eyes, restoring his eyesight.[122][123][124][125] Meanwhile in Phineus's story, his blinding, as reported in Apollonius Rhodius's Argonautica, was Zeus' punishment for Phineus revealing the future to mankind.[126] For this reason he was also tormented by the Harpies, who stole or defiled whatever food he had at hand. According, however, to one of the alternative versions, it was Helios who had deprived Phineus of his sight; Phineus, when asked by Zeus if he preferred to die or lose sight as punishment for having his sons killed by their stepmother, Phineus chose the latter, saying he would rather never see the Sun than die, and consequently the offended Helios blinded him and sent the Harpies against him.[127] Pseudo-Oppian wrote that Helios' wrath was due to some obscure victory of the prophet.[128]

Oxen of the Sun[edit]

Helios and chariot depicted on the dome of the entrance hall of the Széchenyi Bath, Budapest

In his sacred island of Thrinacia, Helios kept his sacred flocks and herds of sheep and cattle. He owned seven herds of cows and many sheep as well; each flock numbered fifty beasts in it, totaling 350 cows and 350 sheep—the number of days of the year in the early Ancient Greek calendar; the seven herds correspond to the week, containing seven days.[129] The cows did not breed (thus not increasing in number) or die (thus not decreasing in number).[130] In the Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes, after Hermes has been brought before Zeus by an angry Apollo for stealing Apollo's sacred cows, the young god excuses himself for his actions and says to his father that "I reverence Helios greatly and the other gods",[131] not unaware of Helios' special connection to cows.[132] Augeas, who in some versions is his son, safe-kept a herd of twelve bulls sacred to the god.[133] Moreover, it was said that Augeas' enormous herd of cattle, as he owned more beasts than any other rich man or king could ever acquire in life, was a gift to him by his father; he made him the greatest master of flocks, and all he cattle to thrive and prosper unceasingly, with no end.[134] Another place of their dwelling was named Erytheia, from where the Giant Alcyoneus stole them during the Gigantomachy.

Apollonia in Illyria was another place where he kept a flock of his sheep; a man named Peithenius had been put in charge of them, but the sheep were devoured by wolves. The other Apolloniates, thinking he had been neglectful, gouged out Peithenius' eyes. Angered over the man's treatment, Helios made the earth grow barren and ceased to bear fruit; the earth grew fruitful again only after the Apolloniates had propitiated Peithenius by craft, and by two suburbs and a house he picked out, pleasing the god.[135] This story, more or less the same, albeit in a more detailed manner, is also attested by Greek historian Herodotus, who calls the man Evenius and records the story as a real historical event of the recent past, and not a mythological tale.[136]

The companions of Odysseus rob the cattle of Helios, fresco by Palazzo Poggi, 1556.

During Odysseus’ journey to get back home, he arrived at the island of Circe, who warned him not to touch Helios’ sacred cows once he reached Thrinacia, the sun god's sacred island, where the cattle was kept, or the god would keep them from returning home:

You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god. There will be seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty heads in each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetia, who are children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look after their father's flocks and herds. If you leave these flocks unharmed, and think of nothing but homecoming [nostos], you may yet after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and of your comrades; and even though you may yourself escape, you will return late, in bad plight, after losing all your men.[137]

Though Odysseus warns his men, when supplies run short they impiously kill and eat some of the cattle of the Sun. The guardians of the island, Helios' daughters Phaethusa and Lampetia, tell their father about this. Helios then appeals to Zeus telling him to dispose of Odysseus’ men, or he will go in the Underworld and shine among the dead instead. Zeus promises Helios that he will deal with it, and destroys the ship with his lightning bolt, killing all the men except for Odysseus.[138][139]

This episode is symbolic; the cattle of the Sun are attended to by his daughters “Bright” and “Shining”, born to him by “Younger”, all epithets related to the Sun.[140] Relating to the number of cows found on the Sun’s island, Eustathius wrote that each cow stood for a day in the year, thus the companions devouring the oxen of the Sun symbolizing them wasting (“eating up”) their own days and life.[141] H. J. Rose disagreed with the interpretation, writing that 350 is a sacred Oriental number that reached Greece and had nothing to do with the Sun.[142] Aristotle, who also connected the number of cattle to the number to days, suggested that the reason Helios did not see the companions stealing his cattle could be explained a number of ways, such as he sees everything but not at once, or that Lampetia being the messenger is symbolic for light being messenger of sight, or that her account is similar to oath-swearing on his name.[143]

Other works[edit]

Bust of Helios in a clipeus, detail from a strigillated lenos sarcophagus, white marble, early 3rd century CE, Tomb D in Via Belluzzo, Rome.

Helios is featured in satirical author Lucian's of Samosata Dialogues of the Gods where he is ordered by Zeus via Hermes not to rise for three days so Zeus can spend much time with Alcmene and sire Heracles. Although Helios agrees, he complains about this decision of the king of gods, finding the reason too weak for humanity to stay in the dark for so long, and negatively compares Zeus to his father.[144] In another, Zeus angrily berates him for lenting his chariot to his son, who burned the earth with it; he returns the damaged chariot to its owner and threatens Helios to zap him with one of his lightning bolts should he do such thing again.[145] In another work of Lucian's, Icaromenippus, Selene complains to the titular character about philosophers wanting to stir up strife and sour feelings between her and her brother with their theories about them—namely, that the moon steals her spurious light from the sun (compare the Phocylidea, where it's stated that she is not envious that his rays are much stronger than her own[146]), or calling the sun a red-hot lump.[147] In A True Story, the Sun is an inhabited place, ruled by a king named Phaethon, referencing Helios's mythological son.[148] The inhabitants of the Sun are at war with those of the Moon, ruled by King Endymion (Selene's lover), over colonization of the Morning Star (Aphrodite's planet).[149][150]

Diodorus Siculus recorded an unorthodox version of the myth, in which Basileia, who had succeeded her father Uranus to his royal thrown, married her brother Hyperion, and had two children, a son Helios and a daughter Selene, both admired for their beauty and their chastity. Because Basileia's other brothers envied these offspring, and feared that Hyperion would try to seize power for himself, conspired against him; they put Hyperion to the sword and drowned Helios in the river Eridanus, while Selene took her own life. After the massacre, Helios appeared in a dream to his grieving mother and assured her and he and his sister would now transform into divine natures; what was known as Mene[151] would now be called Selene, and the "holy fire" in the heavens would bear his own name.[20]

It was said that due to her burning passion for the mortal Endymion, his sister Selene would often abandon the night sky to be with him;[152] during those nights that she was too preoccupied, she would give her moon chariot to Helios to drive it; although unfamiliar at first, in time he learnt to drive it like his own.[153]

Claudian wrote that in his infancy, Helios (along with Selene – their sister Eos is not mentioned) was nursed by his aunt the water goddess Tethys, back in the old days when his light wasn't as strong and his rays had not grown yet.[154]

Arge was a huntress who, while hunting down a particularly fast stag, claimed that fast as the Sun as it was, she would eventually catch up to it. Helios, offended by the girl's words, turned her into a doe.[155][156]

In Sophocles's play Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus curses Creon, wishing that of all the gods may Helios, witnessing all that has happened, grant him an old age as wretched as his own.[157]

In Imagines by Philostratus, Palaestra asks him to help her with her tanning, to redden her skin with his heat.[158]

According to sixth century BC lyric poet Stesichorus, with Helios in his palace lives his mother Theia.[159]

Aelian wrote that the wolf is a beloved animal to Helios;[160] the wolf is also Apollo's sacred animal, and the god was often known as Apollo Lyceus, "wolf Apollo."

Consorts and children[edit]

Limestone relief representing the god Helios, driving the celestial quadriga, Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, Belgium.

Traditionally the Oceanid Perse was seen as the sun god's wife[161][162] by whom he had various children (depending on version), most notably the witch Circe from the Odyssey, the king of Colchis Aeëtes and Minos' wife Pasiphaë, though he is also stated to have married other women instead like Rhodos in the Rhodian tradition[163] by whom he had seven sons, the Heliadae (Ochimus, Cercaphus, Macar, Actis, Tenages, Triopas, Candalus, and the girl Electryone), or even Clymene the mother of Phaethon and the Heliades,[164] though their relationship is usually a liaison in other sources.

Helios rising in his quadriga; above Nyx driving away to the left and Eos to the right, and Heracles offering sacrifice at altar. Sappho painter, Greek, Attic, black-figure, ca. 500 BC

Helios had several love affairs, but far less numerous than those of other gods, especially Zeus, since, unsurprisingly, in a warm climate it would be more likely for the rain god rather than the sun god to be seen as the fertility god.[142] By the Oceanid Perse, Helios became the father of Circe, Perses, Aloeus, Pasiphaë and Aeëtes. Helios distributed the land between Aloeus and Aeëtes; the former received Sicyon, the latter Corinth, but Aeëtes not desiring the land, decided to make his kingdom in Colchis.[165] Helios brought Aeëtes to Colchis, his eventual kingdom, on his chariot; in the same ride he transferred Circe to her own abode, Aeaea.[166] At some point Helios warned his son of a prophecy that stated he would suffer treachery from one of his own offspring (which Aeëtes took to mean his daughter Chalciope and her children by Phrixus).[167] At some point he also gave him several gifts, such as a chariot with steeds,[168] a giant's war armor,[169] and robes and a necklace as a pledge of fatherhood.[170] When his daughter Medea betrays him and flees with Jason after stealing the golden fleece, Aeëtes called upon his father and Zeus to witness their unlawful actions against him and his people.[171] As father of Aeëtes, Helios was also the grandfather of Medea and would play a significant role in Euripides’ rendition of her fate in Corinth. When Medea offers Princess Glauce the poisoned robes and diadem, she says they were gifts to her from Helios.[172] Later, after Medea has caused the deaths of Glauce and Glauce's father King Creon, as well as her own children by Jason, Helios helps her escape Corinth and her impious husband Jason by offering her a chariot pulled by flying dragons.[173] Pseudo-Apollodorus seems to follow this version as well.[174] In Seneca's rendition of the story, a frustrated Medea criticizes the inaction of her grandfather, wondering why he hasn't darkened the sky at sight of such wickedness, and asks from him his fiery chariot so she can burn Corinth to the ground.[175][176]

The mortal king of Elis Augeas was said to be Helios' son, but Pausanias states that his actual father was the mortal king Eleios; the people of Elis claimed he was the son of the Sun because of the similarity of their names, and because they wanted to glorify the king.[177]

In some rare versions, Helios is the father, rather than the brother, of his sisters Selene and Eos.

Consort Children Consort Children Consort Children
Athena • The Corybantes[178] Rhodos
(a nymph[179])
The Heliadae[d] Ephyra
(an Oceanid[181])
(a Naiad[182][183])
The Charites[184] 1. Tenages Antiope[185] Aeëtes
1. Aglaea
2. Macareus Aloeus
2. Euphrosyne
3. Actis Crete[186][187] Pasiphaë
3. Thalia
4. Triopas Gaia Bisaltes[188]
(an Oceanid)
The Heliades[189] 5. Candalus Selene • The Horae
1. Aetheria 6. Ochimus Hyrmine[192] or Augeas
2. Helia 7. Cercaphus Iphiboe[187] or
3. Merope 8. Auges Nausidame[193]
4. Phoebe 9. Thrinax Leucothoe Thersanon
5. Dioxippe Electryone unknown woman Aegiale[195]
Phaethon[196] Perse
(an Oceanid[197])
Aega unknown woman • Aethon[198]
Astris[199] Aeëtes unknown woman • Aix[200]
Lampetia Perses unknown woman Aloeus[201]
(a Naiad[76])
Phaethon Circe unknown woman • Camirus[202]
(a Nereid[203])
Pasiphaë unknown woman Ichnaea[204]
The Heliades Aloeus unknown woman • Mausolus[205]
(perhaps an
Phaethusa Asterope[207] Aeëtes unknown woman Phorbas[208]
Lampetia[209][210] Circe unknown woman Sterope[211][212]
(an Oceanid[213])
Phasis Ceto
(an Oceanid[214])
Astris[215] unknown woman Eos[216]
Leda[217] Helen Leucothoe[100] Thersanon
unknown woman Selene[219]
(an Oceanid[100])
No known offspring unknown woman Hemera[220]


Archaic and Classical Greece[edit]

L.R. Farnell assumed "that sun-worship had once been prevalent and powerful among the people of the pre-Hellenic culture, but that very few of the communities of the later historic period retained it as a potent factor of the state religion".[222] The largely Attic literary sources used by scholars present ancient Greek religion with an Athenian bias, and, according to J. Burnet, "no Athenian could be expected to worship Helios or Selene, but he might think them to be gods, since Helios was the great god of Rhodes and Selene was worshiped at Elis and elsewhere".[223] James A. Notopoulos considered Burnet's distinction to be artificial: "To believe in the existence of the gods involves acknowledgment through worship, as Laws 87 D, E shows" (note, p. 264).[224] Aristophanes' Peace (406–413) contrasts the worship of Helios and Selene with that of the more essentially Greek Twelve Olympians, as the representative gods of the Achaemenid Persians (See also: Hvare-khshaeta, Mah); all the evidence shows that Helios and Selene were minor gods to the Greeks.[225]

The island of Rhodes was an important cult center for Helios, one of the only places where he was worshipped as a major deity in ancient Greece.[226] The worship of Helios at Rhodes included a ritual in which a quadriga, or chariot drawn by four horses, was driven over a precipice into the sea, in reenactment to the myth of Phaethon. Annual gymnastic tournaments were held in Helios' honor. The Colossus of Rhodes was dedicated to him. The Rhodians called shrine of Helios, Haleion (Ancient Greek: Ἄλειον).[227] Athenaeus also mentions that the Rhodians celebrated a festival, the Halieia, in his honour.[228] Helios also had a significant cult on the acropolis of Corinth on the Greek mainland.[229]

The Dorians also seem to have revered Helios, and to have hosted His primary cult on the mainland. The scattering of cults of the sun god in Sicyon, Argos, Hermione, Epidaurus and Laconia, and his holy livestock flocks at Taenarum, seem to suggest that the deity was considerably important in Dorian religion, compared to other parts of ancient Greece. Additionally, it may have been the Dorians who brought his worship to Rhodes.[230]

Helios as the personification of midday, renaissance painting by Anton Raphael Mengs (c. 1765) showings apollonian traits absent in mythology and Hellenic art, such as the lack of a chariot.

The tension between the mainstream traditional religious veneration of Helios, which had become enriched with ethical values and poetical symbolism in Pindar, Aeschylus and Sophocles,[231] and the Ionian proto-scientific examination of the sun, a phenomenon of the study Greeks termed meteora, clashed in the trial of Anaxagoras c. 450 BC, in which Anaxagoras asserted that the Sun was in fact a gigantic red-hot ball of metal.[232] His trial was a forerunner of the culturally traumatic trial of Socrates for irreligion, in 399 BC.

It has been suggested that in Ancient Greece people would reveal their dreams to Helios and the sky in order to avert any evil foretold or presaged in them as Clytemnestra does in Sophocles's Electra,[233] however Harrison notes that not all examples from ancient texts supporting the claim are entirely convincing.[234]

A scholiast on Sophocles wrote that the Athenians did not offer wine as an offering to the Helios among other gods, making instead nephalia, or wineless, sober sacrifices;[235][236] Athenaeus also reported that those who sacrificed to him did not offer wine, but brought honey instead, to the altars reasoning that the god who held the cosmos in order should not succumb to drunkenness.[237]

According to a scholium on Theocritus, Pindar wrote that lovesick young men would pray to Helios for help (as lovesick young women would pray to his sister Selene).[238]

In Plato's Republic (516 B), Helios, the Sun, is the symbolic offspring of the idea of the Good.

While the predominance of Helios in Sparta is currently unclear, it seems Helen was the local solar deity.[239]

The ancient Greeks called Sunday "day of the Sun" (ἡμέρα Ἡλίου) after him.[240]

As an oath god[edit]

Gods were often called upon by the Greeks when an oath was sworn; Helios is among the three deities (the other two being Zeus and Gaia) to be invoked in the Iliad to witness the truce between Greeks and Trojans.[241] Due to his job as sun in the sky, he was in the position of witnessing everything on earth with his infallible eye, and it's thus fitting that he was widely invoked, along with Zeus, in oath-taking, making sure there was no escape if the oath was violated. For example both are invoked in an oath at Eresos and in one by Eumenes I of Pergamon; a chthonic aspect of the god is apparent in the cases where he is invoked in oaths alongside subterranean gods and goddesses such as Hades, Gaia, Hecate and the Furies.[242] Helios together with Zeus represent the sky, as Gaia and Demeter the earth.[242][243] The invocation of gods such as Earth and Sun is a very standard feature of such gods, and goes back to loyalty oaths originating from the Near East.[244] He is also often appealed to in ancient drama to witness the unfolding events or take action, such as in Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and Euripides's Medea (the later also appeals to their kinship, being his granddaughter through his son).[245] The notion of Helios as witness to oaths and vows also led to a view of Helios as a witness of wrong-doings, as when Prometheus calls upon him to see what he is suffering at the hands of other gods,[246] and even specialized to unadmitted love, as evidenced in a scholium on a black-figure vase from Aegina.[247]

Conflation with Apollo[edit]

Helios is sometimes identified with Apollo: "Different names may refer to the same being," Walter Burkert observes, "or else they may be consciously equated, as in the case of Apollo and Helios."[248]

In Homeric literature, Apollo was clearly identified as a different god, a plague-dealer with a silver (not golden) bow and no solar features. The earliest certain reference to Apollo being identified with Helios appears in the surviving fragments of Euripides' play Phaethon in a speech near the end[82]Clymene, Phaethon's mother, laments that Helios has destroyed her child, that Helios whom men rightly call Apollo (the name Apollo is here understood to mean Apollon "Destroyer").

By Hellenistic times Apollo had become closely connected with the Sun in cult and Phoebus (Greek Φοῖβος, "bright"), the epithet most commonly given to Apollo, was later applied by Latin poets to the sun-god Sol.

The identification became a commonplace in philosophic texts and appears in the writing of Parmenides, Empedocles, Plutarch and Crates of Thebes among others, as well as appearing in some Orphic texts. Pseudo-Eratosthenes writes about Orpheus in Placings Among the Stars, section 24:

But having gone down into Hades because of his wife and seeing what sort of things were there, he did not continue to worship Dionysus, because of whom he was famous, but he thought Helios to be the greatest of the gods, Helios whom he also addressed as Apollo. Rousing himself each night toward dawn and climbing the mountain called Pangaion, he would await the Sun's rising, so that he might see it first. Therefore, Dionysus, being angry with him, sent the Bassarides, as Aeschylus the tragedian says; they tore him apart and scattered the limbs.[249]

Dionysus and Asclepius are sometimes also identified with this Apollo Helios.[250]

Strabo wrote that Artemis and Apollo were associated with Selene and Helios respectively due to the changes those two celestial bodies caused in the temperature of the air, as the twins were gods of pestilential diseases and sudden deaths.[251] Pausanias also linked Apollo's association with Helios as a result of his profession as a healing god, and father to Asclepius.[252] The light that comes from the sun is physical and at the same time metaphorical, signifying mental enlightenment; in that respect, the mental and physical phenomena are made distinct from each other, a distinction which placed the two gods on opposing sides: thus Apollo is the metaphorical light, the oracular god who sheds light into the dark ways of the future, the god of music and song (which are heard where light and security reigns), while Helios on the other hand represents the physical light, the orb of the sun that creates summer and winter, who brings dark secrets to the light, as demonstrated in the story of Aphrodite and Hephaestus, when he rises and sets in the sky.[253] In the Orphic Hymns, Helios is addressed as Paean ("healer") and holding a golden lyre,[254] both common descriptions for Apollo; similarly Apollo in his own hymn is described as Titan and shedding light to the mortals, both common epithets of Helios.[255]

According to Athenaeus, sixth century BC lyric poet Telesilla wrote that the song sung in honour of Apollo is called the "sun-loving song" (φιληλιάς, philhēliás),[256] and Scythinus of Teos wrote that Apollo uses as the bright light of the sun (λαμπρὸν πλῆκτρον ἡλίου φάος) as his harp-quill.[257] Scholia on Homer's Iliad report that during the Theomachy in song 21, where Poseidon fights Apollo, Apollo here represents the partial fire, that is the sun, against the full of water (the whole of fire versus the partial water is represented by Hephaestus fighting the Scamander river).[258][259] Aeschylus in his Seven Against Thebes writes that Apollo never walks in the Underworld, and calls the place sunless (ἀνάλιον, análion "sunless").[260] Similarly, Helios never steps foot on the Underworld either:

Sleep and Death, awful gods. The glowing Sun never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven.[261]

Classical Latin poets also used Phoebus as a byname for the sun-god, whence come common references in later European poetry to Phoebus and his chariot as a metaphor for the Sun but, in particular instances in myth, Apollo and Helios are distinct. The sun-god, the son of Hyperion, with his sun chariot, though often called Phoebus ("shining") is not called Apollo except in purposeful non-traditional identifications.[262] Ancient Roman authors who used "Phoebus" for Sol as well as Apollo include Ovid,[263] Virgil,[264] Statius,[265] and Seneca.[266]

Late antiquity[edit]

Coin of Roman Emperor Constantine I depicting Sol Invictus/Apollo with the legend SOLI INVICTO COMITI, c. 315 AD.

By Late Antiquity, Helios had accumulated a number of religious, mythological, and literary elements from other deities, particularly Apollo and the Roman sun god Sol. In 274 AD, on December 25, the Roman Emperor Aurelian instituted an official state cult to Sol Invictus (or Helios Megistos, "Great Helios"). This new cult drew together imagery not only associated with Helios and Sol, but also a number of syncretic elements from other deities formerly recognized as distinct. Other syncretic materials from this period include an Orphic Hymn to Helios; the so-called Mithras Liturgy, where Helios is said to rule the elements; spells and incantations invoking Helios among the Greek Magical Papyri; a Hymn to Helios by Proclus; Julian's Oration to Helios, the last stand of official paganism; and an episode in Nonnus' Dionysiaca.[267] Helios in these works is frequently equated not only with deities such as Mithras and Harpocrates, but even with the monotheistic Judaeo-Christian god.[268]

The last pagan emperor of Rome, Julian, made Helios the primary deity of his revived pagan religion, which combined elements of Mithraism with Neoplatonism. For Julian, Helios was a triunity: The One, which governs the highest realm containing Plato's Forms, or intelligible gods; Helios-Mithras, the supreme god of the Intellectual realm; and the Sun, the physical manifestation of Helios in the Encosmic, or visible realm. Because the primary location of Helios in this scheme was the "middle" realm, Julian considered him to be a mediator and unifier not just of the three realms of being, but of all things (which was a concept likely imported from Mithraism, and also may have been influenced by the Christian idea of the Logos).[33] Julian's theological conception of Helios has been described as "practically monotheistic", in contrast to earlier Neoplatonists like Iamblichus,[33] though he also included the other traditional gods worshiped around the ancient Mediterranean as both distinct entities and also certain principles or manifestations that emanate from Helios.[33]

A mosaic found in the Vatican Necropolis (mausoleum M) depicts a figure very similar in style to Sol / Helios, crowned with solar rays and driving a solar chariot. Some scholars have interpreted this as a depiction of Christ, noting that Clement of Alexandria wrote of Christ driving his chariot across the sky.[269] Some scholars doubt the Christian associations,[270] or suggest that the figure is merely a non-religious representation of the sun.[271]

In the Greek Magical Papyri[edit]

Solar Apollo with the radiant halo of Helios in a Roman floor mosaic, El Djem, Tunisia, late 2nd century

Helios figured prominently in the Greek Magical Papyri, a collection of hymns, rituals, and magic spells used from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD all around the Greco-Roman world. In these mostly fragmentary texts, Helios is credited with a broad domain, being regarded as the creator of life, the lord of the heavens and the cosmos, and the god of the sea. He is said to take the form of 12 animals representing each hour of the day, a motif also connected with the 12 signs of the zodiac.[29]

The Papyri often syncretize Helios with a variety of related deities. He is described as "seated on a lotus, decorated with rays", in the manner of Harpocrates, who was often depicted seated on a lotus flower, representing the rising sun. According to the Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus, "sitting on a lotus implies pre-eminence over the mud, without ever touching the mud, and also displays intellectual and empyrean leadership."[272][29]

Helios is also assimilated with Mithras in some of the Papyri, as he was by Emperor Julian. The Mithras Liturgy combines them as Helios-Mithras, who is said to have revealed the secrets of immortality to the magician who wrote the text. Some of the texts describe Helios Mithras navigating the Sun's path not in a chariot but in a boat, an apparent identification with the Egyptian sun god Ra. Helios is also described as "restraining the serpent", likely a reference to Apophis, the serpent god who, in Egyptian myth, is said to attack Ra's ship during his nightly journey through the underworld.[29]

In many of the Papyri, Helios is also strongly identified with Iao, a name derived from that of the Hebrew god Yahweh, and shares several of his titles including Sabaoth and Adonai.[29] He is also assimilated as the Agathos Daemon (called "the Agathodaimon, the god of the gods"), who is also identified elsewhere in the texts as "the greatest god, lord Horus Harpokrates".[29]

The Neoplatonist philosophers Proclus and Iamblichus attempted to interpret many of the syntheses found in the Greek Magical Papyri and other writings that regarded Helios as all-encompassing, with the attributes of many other divine entities. Proclus described Helios as a cosmic god consisting of many forms and traits. These are "coiled up" within his being, and are variously distributed to all that "participate in his nature", including angels, daemons, souls, animals, herbs, and stones. All of these things were important to the Neoplatonic practice of theurgy, magical rituals intended to invoke the gods in order to ultimately achieve union with them. Iamblichus noted that theurgy often involved the use of "stones, plants, animals, aromatic substances, and other such things holy and perfect and godlike."[273] For theurgists, the elemental power of these items sacred to particular gods utilizes a kind of sympathetic magic.[29]

Identification with other gods[edit]

Helios in the sun chariot accompanied by Phosphorus and Hermes, fresco at Nymphenburg Palace, Munich.

The Etruscan god of the Sun, equivalent to Helios, was Usil. His name appears on the bronze liver of Piacenza, next to Tiur, the Moon.[274] He appears, rising out of the sea, with a fireball in either outstretched hand, on an engraved Etruscan bronze mirror in late Archaic style, formerly on the Roman antiquities market.[275] On Etruscan mirrors in Classical style, he appears with a halo. In ancient artwork, Usil is shown in close association with Thesan, the goddess of the dawn, something almost never seen with Helios and Eos.[276]

Helios is also sometimes conflated in classical literature with the highest Olympian god, Zeus. According to Plutarch's Quaestiones Romanae section from his Moralia, Helios is Zeus in his material form that one can interact with, and that's why Zeus owns the year (accordingly, his sister Selene is Queen Hera in her material form, and owns the months)[277] and the chorus in Euripides' Medea also link him to Zeus when they refer to Helios as "light born from Zeus".[278] In Crete, the cult of Zeus Talaios had incorporated several solar elements into his worship; "Talos" was the local equivalent of Helios.[279] Hesychius of Alexandria wrote that "Talos" was another word for the sun.[280] Helios is referred either directly as Zeus' eye,[281] or clearly implied to be. For instance, Hesiod effectively describes Zeus's eye as the Sun.[282] This perception is possibly derived from earlier Proto-Indo-European religion, in which the Sun is believed to have been envisioned as the eye of *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr (see Hvare-khshaeta). An Orphic saying, supposedly given by an oracle of Apollo, goes:

"Zeus, Hades, Helios-Dionysus, three gods in one godhead!"

When quoting this in his Hymn to King Helios, Emperor Julian replaced the compound name Helios-Dionysus with Serapis, whose native Egyptian counterpart Osiris was identified with Dionysus. On the basis of this oracle, Julian concluded that "among the intellectual gods, Helios and Zeus have a joint or rather a single sovereignty."[283]

Helios seems to have been connected to some degree with Hades, the god of the Underworld. A dedicatory inscription from Smyrna (modern day İzmir in Turkey) describes a 1st–2nd century sanctuary to "God Himself" as the most exalted of a group of six deities, including clothed statues of Plouton Helios and Koure Selene, or in other words "Pluto the Sun" and "Kore the Moon."[284] As for the other gods and goddesses, those include Helios Apollon, who is paired with his twin sister Artemis;[285] Zeus, who is subordinated to "God Himself"; and Men, an Anatolian moon deity (a god often identified with Selene[286][287]); Men is also sometimes identified with another Anatolian import, Attis (the consort of the mother goddess Cybele), who had a table before him for ceremonial dining.[288] Plouton Helios is mentioned in other literary sources as well; he is associated with Koure Selene and Helios Apollon; the sun on its nighttime course, while coming back from the west, was sometimes envisioned as travelling through the Underworld on its return to the east for the next day. Roman poet Apuleius describes a rite in which the sun appears at midnight to the initiate at the gates of Proserpina; the suggestion here is that this midnight sun could be Plouton Helios.[289]

Diodorus Siculus reported that the Chaldeans called Cronus (Saturnus) by the name Helios, or the sun, and he explained that this was because Saturn was the “most conspicuous” of the planets.[290]

Bust of Alexander the Great as an eidolon of Helios (Musei Capitolini).


The Greek sun god had various bynames or epithets, which over time in some cases came to be considered separate deities associated with the Sun. Among these are:

Apollo (Ἀπόλλων) here understood to mean "destroyer", the sun as a more destructive force.[82]

Elector (Ἠλέκτωρ) of uncertain derivation (compare Electra), often translated as "beaming" or "radiant", especially in the combination Elektor Hyperion.[291]

Eleutherios (Ἐλευθέριος) "the liberator", epithet under which he was worshipped in Troezen in Argolis,[292] also shared with Dionysus and Eros.

Hecatos (Ἕκατος), also Hecatebolos (Ἑκατήβολος) "the far-shooter", i.e. the sun's rays considered as arrows.

Hyperion (Ὑπερίων) and Hyperionides (Ὑπεριονίδης), "superus, high up" and "son of Hyperion" respectively, the sun as the one who is above,[293] also the name of his father.

Panoptes (Πανόπτης) "all-seeing" and Pantepoptes (Παντεπόπτης) "all-supervising", as the one who witnessed everything that happened on earth.

Phaethon (Φαέθων) "the radiant", "the shining", also the name of his son and daughter.

Phasimbrotos (Φασίμβροτος) "he who sheds light to the mortals", the sun.

Philonamatos (Φιλονάματος) "water-loving", a reference to him rising from and setting in the ocean.[294]

Phoebus (Φοῖβος) "bright", several Roman authors applied Apollo's byname to their sun god Sol.

Soter (Σωτὴρ) "the saviour", epithet under which he was worshipped in Megalopolis, Arcadia.[295]

Terpsimbrotos (Τερψίμβροτος) "he who gladdens mortals", with his warm, life-giving beams.

Titan (Τιτάν), possibly connected to τιτώ meaning "day"[296] and thus "god of the day".


Helios (far left, head missing) marble from the east pediment of the Parthenon, British Museum

Helios often appears in ancient pottery and coins. He was typically depicted with a radiant crown;[297] a radiate god, with the right hand often raised, a gesture of power (which came to be a definitional feature of solar iconograhy), the left hand usually holding a whip or a globe.[298] In Rhodian coins, he was shown as beardless god, with thick and flowing hair, surrounded by beams.[299] He was also presented as a young man clad in tunic, with curling hair and wearing buskins.[300]

In archaic art, Helios rising in his chariot was a type of motive.[301] Helios in ancient pottery is usually depicted rising from the sea in his four-horse chariot, either as a single figure or connecting to some myth, indicating that it takes place at dawn; often he is accompanied by Selene (Moon), Eos (Dawn), Hemera (Day) and the stars. He is often present at the abduction of Persephone, the Judgement of Paris, and Heracles shooting arrows at him.[302]

Helios adorned the east pediment of the Parthenon; he along with Selene framed the scene of the birth of Athena, he, with only his head and arms shown, driving his quadriga on the left as he rises from the ocean, while she in her biga descending into the sea on the far right.[303][304] Helios (again with Selene) also framed the birth of Aphrodite on the base of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia,[305][306] the Judgement of Paris,[307] and possibly the birth of Pandora on the base of the Athena Parthenos statue.[308] In the Pergamon Altar, depicting the Gigantomachy, the charioteer with the fluttering robes guiding his four-horse chariot while swinging a flaming torch at his enemy is doubtlessly Helios.[309]

The ancient sculptor Lysippus, teacher of Chares of Lindos (who built the Colossus of Rhodes) was celebrated for many his statues, more particularly for his Chariot with the Sun, another large statue of the god which stood in Rhodes.[310][311] In Elis near the market place he was depicted with rays coming out of his head in an image made of wood with gilded clothing and marble head, hands and feet.[312] Outside the market of the city of Corinth, along the road to Lechaeum, stood a gateway on which stood two gilded chariots; one carrying Helios' son Phaethon, the other Helios himself.[313]



Helios's family tree[315]
The RiversThe OceanidsHELIOSSelene[316]EosAstraeusPallasPerses
IapetusClymene (or Asia)[317]Themis(Zeus)Mnemosyne
Atlas[318]MenoetiusPrometheus[319]EpimetheusThe HoraeThe Muses

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hesiod and Hyginus both give their birth order as first Helios/Sol, then Selene/Luna and lastly Eos/Aurora,[15][19] pseudo-Apollodorus makes him the middle child (the oldest is Eos)[16] and the author of his Homeric Hymn has him as the youngest of the three (Eos is again the oldest).[18]
  2. ^ Often substituted in modern retellings with the yellow sunflower, which is native to North America,[99] not Greece or Italy. Ovid explicitly states that the flower Clytie turned into is purple in colour.
  3. ^ Diodorus Siculus writes "battle against the Giants" but the events described do not add up.[105]
  4. ^ Expert seafarers and astrologers from Rhodes island.[180]


  1. ^ a b Alexander Stuart Murray and William H. Klapp, Handbook of World Mythology, pg 117
  2. ^ Pande, Govind Chandra (2007). A golden chain of civilizations : Indic, Iranic, Semitic, and Hellenic up to c. 600 B.C. (1 publ. ed.). New Delhi: Project of History of Indian Science, philosophy, and Culture. p. 572. ISBN 978-8187586289. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  3. ^ March, s.v. Helios
  4. ^ R.S.P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 516.
  5. ^ helios. Online Etymology Dictionary.
  6. ^ Euripides, Robert E. Meagher, Helen, Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1986
  7. ^ O'Brien, Steven. "Dioscuric Elements in Celtic and Germanic Mythology". Journal of Indo-European Studies 10:1 & 2 (Spring–Summer, 1982), 117–136.
  8. ^ Skutsch, Otto. "Helen, her Name and Nature". Journal of Hellenic Studies 107 (1987), 188–193.
  9. ^ Gamkrelidze, Thomas V.; Ivanov, Vjaceslav V., Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture, pp 590-591, (1995).
  10. ^ Indo-European Poetry and Myth, p. 137
  11. ^ ἥλιος in Liddell & Scott (1940), A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  12. ^ Suidas, Suda Ἥλιος
  13. ^ Plato, Cratylus 409a
  14. ^ Kristiansen, Kristian; Larsson, Thomas B. The Rise of Bronze Age Society: Travels, Transmissions and Transformations pp 297; see also Etymology of Ἑλένη.
  15. ^ a b Hesiod, Theogony 371
  16. ^ a b Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.2.2
  17. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Isthmian Odes 5.2
  18. ^ a b Homeric Hymns 31.5
  19. ^ a b Hyginus, Fabulae preface
  20. ^ a b Diodorus Siculus, Historic Library 3.57.2-8
  21. ^ Pindar, Olympian Odes 7.40
  22. ^ Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 26; Homeric Hymn 28 to Athena 28.13; Eumelus of Corinth, Corinthiaca frag 18
  23. ^ Mesomedes, Hymn to the Sun 4
  24. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.727
  25. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.23-24
  26. ^ a b c Homeric Hymn 31 to the Sun 31.14-15
  27. ^ Pindar, Olympian Odes 7.71
  28. ^ Gordon MacDonald Kirkwood, A Short Guide to Classical Mythology, pp 88
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pachoumi, Eleni. 2015. "The Religious and Philosophical Assimilations of Helios in the Greek Magical Papyri." Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 55: 391–413.
  30. ^ Gelling, P. and Davidson, H.E. The Chariot of the Sun and Other Rites and Symbols of the Northern Bronze Age. London, 1969.
  31. ^ Gamkrelidze, Thomas V.; Ivanov, Vjaceslav V., Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture, pp 634
  32. ^ Burkert, W. Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical. Cambridge Mass., 1985, p. 175.
  33. ^ a b c d Wright, Wilmer Cave. 1913. The works of Emperor Julian, volume 1.
  34. ^ Homer, Odyssey Book 12
  35. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Helios
  36. ^ Aeschylus in his lost play Heliades writes: "Where, in the west, is the bowl wrought by Hephaestus, the bowl of thy sire, speeding wherein he crosseth the mighty, swelling stream that girdleth earth, fleeing the gloom of holy night of sable steeds."
  37. ^ Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 11.38
  38. ^ Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.13.1
  39. ^ Mesomedes, Hymn to the Sun 2
  40. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 27
  41. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38.298
  42. ^ Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.92-93
  43. ^ a b Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 11.39
  44. ^ A sequel to Prometheus Bound.
  45. ^ Strabo, Geographica 1.2.27, translation by H.C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M.A., Ed.
  46. ^ Homeric Hymn 28 to Athena 28.13
  47. ^ Homer, Iliad 18.239-240
  48. ^ Philostratus of Lemnos, Imagines 1.7.2
  49. ^ Callimachus, Hymn to Artemis 181-182
  50. ^ Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods Aphrodite and Eros
  51. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 2.4.8; Seneca, Hercules Furens 24; Argonautica Orphica 113; see also Lucian's satirical Dialogues of the Gods Hermes and the Sun which presents Helios as reluctant to follow the order, reasoning that humans shouldn't be deprived of sunlight for three whole days due to Zeus desiring some mortal woman while he is married.
  52. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.5.10
  53. ^ Noted in Kerenyi 1951:191, note 595.
  54. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Epitome 2.11
  55. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Epitome 2.12
  56. ^ John Tzetzes, Chiliades 1.18
  57. ^ Plato, The Statesman 268e and 269a
  58. ^ Glover, Eric. “The eclipse of Xerxes in Herodotus 7.37: Lux a non obscurando.” The Classical Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 2, 2014, pp. 471–492. New Series. Accessed 12 Sept. 2021.
  59. ^ Ian Rutherford, Pindar's Paeans: A reading of the fragments with a survey of the genre.
  60. ^ Rutherford, pp 191
  61. ^ Plutarch, Moralia On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon
  62. ^ Slim, Hédi. "La chute de Phaeton sur une mosaïque de Barrarus-Rougga en Tunisie". In: Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. 147ᵉ année, N. 3, 2003. p. 1121. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3406/crai.2003.22628; www.persee.fr/doc/crai_0065-0536_2003_num_147_3_22628
  63. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 183
  64. ^ Dain, Philippe. Mythographe du Vatican III. Traduction et commentaire. Besançon: Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l'Antiquité, 2005. p. 156 (footnote nr. 33) (Collection « ISTA », 854). DOI: https://doi.org/10.3406/ista.2005.2854; www.persee.fr/doc/ista_0000-0000_2005_edc_854_1
  65. ^ Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner 7.294C
  66. ^ a b Pindar, Olympian Odes 7
  67. ^ Scholia on Pindar's Olympian Odes 7.25
  68. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.4.5
  69. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5.56.3
  70. ^ Conon, Narrations 47
  71. ^ Pindar, Olympian Odes 7.39
  72. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses
  73. ^ Euripides, Phaethon
  74. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca
  75. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 152A
  76. ^ a b Scholia on Homer, Odyssey 17.208
  77. ^ John Tzetzes, Chiliades 4.127
  78. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 154
  79. ^ Cod. Claromont. - Pap. Berl. 9771, Euripides fragment 773 Nauck
  80. ^ In the original Ancient Greek πατὴρ δ᾽ ὄπισθε νῶτα Σειρίου βεβὼς ἵππευε ("the father was horse-riding behind him on Sirius' back"); he is riding on Sirius, but perhaps this could be the name of a horse, and not the star.
  81. ^ Longinus, On the Sublime 15.4, with a translation by W. Rhys Roberts.
  82. ^ a b c Euripides, Phaethon fragment fr 781 N²
  83. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.7472.400
  84. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38.142435
  85. ^ Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica 5.300, "The Daughters of the Sun, the Lord of Omens, shed (tears) for Phaethon slain, when by Eridanos' flood they mourned for him. These, for undying honour to his son, the god made amber, precious in men's eyes."
  86. ^ Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.42.2
  87. ^ Aesop, Fables 436 (this particular version is Phaedrus's). The English language provides a fortuitous pun with the words son and sun, which is not possible in either Greek or Latin.
  88. ^ Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 2.75
  89. ^ Ovid, Fasti 4.575
  90. ^ Homer, Odyssey 8. 266-295
  91. ^ Homer, Odyssey 8. 296-332
  92. ^ Lucian, Gallus 3
  93. ^ Ausonius, 26.2.27
  94. ^ Libanius, Progymnasmata 2.26
  95. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.25.9
  96. ^ a b Seneca, Phaedra 124
  97. ^ Scholia on Euripides' Hippolytus 47
  98. ^ Libanius, Progymnasmata 2.21
  99. ^ Flora of North America: Common sunflower, United States Department of Agriculture, Helianthus annuus L.
  100. ^ a b c Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.167-273; Lactantius Placidus, Argumenta 4.5
  101. ^ Hard, p. 45
  102. ^ Gantz, p. 34
  103. ^ Berens, p.63
  104. ^ Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes pg 275
  105. ^ a b Diodorus Siculus, Historic Library 5.71.3
  106. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.6.1
  107. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Isthmian Odes 6.47b
  108. ^ Gantz, pp. 419, 448–449
  109. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.6.1
  110. ^ Aeschylus, Eumenides 294; Euripides, Heracles Gone Mad 1192–1194; Ion 987–997; Aristophanes, The Birds 824; Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3.232–234 (pp. 210–211), 3.1225–7 (pp. 276–277). See also Hesiod fragment 43a.65 MW (Most 2007, p. 143, Gantz, p. 446)
  111. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.220-234
  112. ^ Eustathius, Ad Odysseam 10.305 "Alexander of Paphos reports the following tale: Picoloos, one of the Giants, by fleeing from the war led against Zeus, reached Circe's island and tried to chase her away. Her father Helios killed him, protecting his daughter with his shield;"
  113. ^ Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 4 "The plant “moly” of which Homer speaks; this plant had, it is said, grown from the blood of the giant killed in the isle of Circe; it has a white flower; the ally of Circe who killed the giant was Helios; the combat was hard (mâlos) from which the name of this plant."
  114. ^ Rahner, Hugo. Greek Myths and Christian Mystery New York. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. 1971. pg. 204
  115. ^ Homer, Odyssey 10.302-306
  116. ^ Fowler 1988, p. 98 n. 5; Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.1.6, 2.4.6.
  117. ^ Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 37.11-12
  118. ^ Aelian, On Animals 14.28
  119. ^ Aesop, Fables 183
  120. ^ Fortenbaugh, William Wall; White, Stephen Augustus, eds. (2004). Lyco and Traos and Hieronymus of Rhodes: Text, Translation, and Discussion. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities. XII. Transaction Publishers. p. 161. ISBN 9781412827737. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
  121. ^ John Peter Anton and George L. Kustas, Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy II, pp 236
  122. ^ Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Placings Among the Stars Orion
  123. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.4.3
  124. ^ Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.34.3
  125. ^ Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid 10.763
  126. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 2.178–86
  127. ^ Scholia on Homer's Odyssey 12.69
  128. ^ Pseudo-Oppian, Cynegetica 2.615
  129. ^ Chris Rorres, Archimedes’ count of Homer’s Cattle of the Sun, 2008, Drexel University, chapter 3
  130. ^ Homer, Odyssey 12.127-135
  131. ^ Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 383
  132. ^ Kimberley Christine Patton, Religion of the Gods: Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity pp 393
  133. ^ Theocritus, Idylls 28 Heracles the Lion-Slayer 28.129-130
  134. ^ Theocritus, Idylls 28 Heracles the Lion-Slayer 28.118-121
  135. ^ Conon, Narrations 40.
  136. ^ Herodotus, Histories 9.93-94
  137. ^ Homer, Odyssey 12.127–137.
  138. ^ Homer, Odyssey 12.352-388
  139. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Epitome 7.22
  140. ^ W. Walter Merry, James Riddell, D. B. Monro, ’’Commentary on the Odyssey’’, 12.132
  141. ^ Eustathius ad Homer’s Odysseam 12.481
  142. ^ a b H. J. Rose, pp 25
  143. ^ Robert Mayhew, Aristotle on Helios’ ‘Omniscience’ in Iliad 3 and Odyssey 12: On Schol. B* Iliad 3.277
  144. ^ Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods Hermes and the Sun
  145. ^ Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods Zeus and the Sun
  146. ^ Phocylidea 68
  147. ^ Lucian, Icaromenippus 20; Lucian is parodying here Anaxagoras' theory that the sun was a piece of blazing metal.
  148. ^ Lucian of Samosata, A True Story pp 23
  149. ^ Georgiadou & Larmour 1998, pp 100.
  150. ^ Casson 1962, p. 18.
  151. ^ Hard, pp 46, another Greek word for the Moon.
  152. ^ Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods Aphrodite and Eros I
  153. ^ Seneca, Phaedra 309–314
  154. ^ Claudian, Rape of Persephone Book II
  155. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 205
  156. ^ Alexander Stuart Murray and William H. Klapp, Handbook of World Mythology, pp 288
  157. ^ Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 865-8871
  158. ^ Philostratus, Imagines 2.32.1
  159. ^ Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner 11.38; "Now the Sun, begotten of Hyperion, was descending into his golden cup, that he might traverse the Ocean and come to the depths of dark and awful night, even to his mother and wedded wife and beloved children."
  160. ^ Aelian, On Animals 10.26
  161. ^ Hecataeus of Miletus, fr. 35A Fowler
  162. ^ Hard, p. 44
  163. ^ Fowler 2013, pp. 14, 591–592; Hard, pp. 43, 105; Grimal, p. 404 "Rhode", pp. 404–405 "Rhodus"; Smith, "Rhode" , "Rhodos"; Pindar, Olympian Odes 7.71–74; Diodorus Siculus, 5.55
  164. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38.130
  165. ^ Scholia on Pindar's Olympian Odes 13.74
  166. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.309-313
  167. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.597-600
  168. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.220-221
  169. ^ Philostratus, Imagines 11
  170. ^ Seneca, Medea 570
  171. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.228-230
  172. ^ Euripides, Medea 956
  173. ^ Euripides, Medea 1322
  174. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.9.28
  175. ^ Seneca, Medea 32-41
  176. ^ Boyle, pg 98
  177. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.1.9
  178. ^ Strabo, Geographica 10.3.19.
  179. ^ Daughter of Poseidon and Aphrodite or Amphitrite.
  180. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Historic Library 5.56.3 & Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14.44
  181. ^ Epimenides in scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.242
  182. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.35.5 with a reference to Antimachus.
  183. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria s. v. Αἴγλης Χάριτες
  184. ^ Otherwise called daughters of Eurynome with Zeus (Hesiod Theogony 907) or of Aphrodite with Dionysus (Anacreontea fragment 38).
  185. ^ Diophantus in scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.242
  186. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 4.60.4
  187. ^ a b Tzetzes, Chiliades 4.361
  188. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica s.v. Bisaltia
  189. ^ Mostly represented as poplars mourning Phaethon's death beside the river Eridanus, weeping tears of amber in Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.340 & Hyginus, Fabulae 154
  190. ^ Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 10.337
  191. ^ More commonly known as daughters of Zeus by Themis.
  192. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.172
  193. ^ Daughter of Amphidamas of Elis in Hyginus, Fabulae 14.3 & Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.172
  194. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 14.4. Either this Leucothoe or another is the mother of Thersanon according to Hyginus.
  195. ^ Possible mother to Alcyone by Aeolus.
  196. ^ The son who borrowed the chariot of Helios, but lost control and plunged into the river Eridanus.
  197. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 956; Hyginus, Fabulae 27; Diodorus Siculus, Historic Library 4.45.1; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.9.1 and Tzetzes ad Lycophron, Alexandra 174
  198. ^ In Suidas "Aithon", he chopped Demeter's sacred grove and was forever famished for that (compare the myth of Erysichthon).
  199. ^ In Nonnus Dionysiaca 17.269, wife of the river-god Hydaspes in India, mother of Deriades.
  200. ^ In Hyginus De Astronomica 2.13, a nymph with a beautiful body and a horrible face.
  201. ^ In Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.1.1, ruler over Asopia.
  202. ^ In Hyginus, Fabulae 275, founder of Camirus, a city in Rhodes.
  203. ^ John Tzetzes, Chiliades 4.363
  204. ^ Lycophron, Alexandra 128
  205. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers 25
  206. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria s. v. Νέαιρα
  207. ^ Argonautica Orphica 1217
  208. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica s.v. Ambrakia
  209. ^ Guardians of the cattle of Thrinacia (Homer, Odyssey 12.128).
  210. ^ In Ovid's Metamorphoses 2.340, these two are listed among the children of Clymene.
  211. ^ John Tzetzes on Lycophron, 886
  212. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Pythian Odes 4.57, in which she is also described as "sister to Pasiphaë", perhaps implying they also share a mother as well, either Perse or Crete.
  213. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers 5.1
  214. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 26.351, Nonnus calls her a Naiad, but says that her father is Oceanus.
  215. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 26.351, contradicting his previous statement that has Clymene as Astris' mother.
  216. ^ Mesomedes, Hymn to the Sun 1. Eos, much like her sister Selene, is usually said to be Helios' sister instead in various other sources, rather than his daughter.
  217. ^ Ptolemaeus Chennus, New History Book IV, as epitomized by Patriarch Photius in Myriobiblon 190. Usually Helen is the daughter of Leda by Zeus; in some versions her mother is Nemesis, again by Zeus.
  218. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 14.4. Either this Leucothoe or another is the mother of Thersanon according to Hyginus.
  219. ^ Euripides, The Phoenician Women 175 ff.; Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44.191. Just like her sister Eos, she's more commonly said to be Helios' sister rather than his daughter.
  220. ^ Scholia on Pindar's Olympian Odes 2.58; more often the daughter of Nyx and Erebus.
  221. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers 3.3
  222. ^ Farnell, L.R. (1909) The Cults of the Greek States (New York/London: Oxford University Press) vol. v, p 419f.
  223. ^ J. Burnet, Plato: Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito (New York/London: Oxford University Press) 1924, p. 111.
  224. ^ James A. Noutopolos, "Socrates and the Sun" The Classical Journal 37.5 (February 1942), pp. 260–274.
  225. ^ Notopoulos 1942:265.
  226. ^ Burkert, p. 174
  227. ^ Suda, alpha, 1155
  228. ^ Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 13.12
  229. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.1.6
  230. ^ Larson, Jennifer. "A Land Full of Gods: Nature Deities in Greek Religion". In Ogden, Daniel. A Companion to Greek Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 56–70.
  231. ^ Notopoulos 1942 instances Aeschylus' Agamemnon 508, Choephoroe 993, Suppliants 213, and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex 660 and 1425.
  232. ^ Anaxagoras biography
  233. ^ Sophocles, Electra 425; "Such was the tale that I heard told by one who was present when she revealed her dream to the Sun-god."
  234. ^ Juliette Harrison, Dreams and Dreaming in the Roman Empire: Cultural Memory and Imagination pp 114
  235. ^ Scholia ad Sophocli Oedipus at Colonus 91
  236. ^ Robert E. Meagher, pp 142
  237. ^ Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner 25.48
  238. ^ Scholia on Theocritus' Idylls 2 the Spell
  239. ^ Euripides, Robert E. Meagher, Helen, Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1986
  240. ^ Martin, pp 302; Olderr, pp 98.
  241. ^ Warrior, p. 10
  242. ^ a b Lalonde, p. 83
  243. ^ Mikalson, p. 84
  244. ^ Fletcher, pp 186
  245. ^ Fletcher, pp 116 and 186
  246. ^ Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 88-94
  247. ^ van der Toom, Becking and van der Horst, p. 396
  248. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 120.
  249. ^ Homer, William Cullen Bryant (1809). The Iliad of Homer. Ashmead.
  250. ^ G. Lancellotti, Attis, Between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God, BRILL, 2002
  251. ^ Strabo, Geographica 14.1.6
  252. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.23.8
  253. ^ Alexander Stuart Murray and William H. Klapp, Handbook of World Mythology pg 104
  254. ^ Orphic Hymn 8 to the Sun 9 and 12
  255. ^ Orphic Hymn 34 to Apollo 3 and 8
  256. ^ Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner 14.10
  257. ^ Scythinus fragment here in Plutarch’s De Pythiae Oraculis 16.402a
  258. ^ Scholia on the Iliad 20.67
  259. ^ Anecdota græca e codd. manuscriptis Bibliothecæ regiæ parisiensis, pp 120
  260. ^ Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 855-858
  261. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 760
  262. ^ O'Rourke Boyle Marjorie (1991). Petrarch's genius: pentimento and prophecy. University of California press. ISBN 978-0-520-07293-0.
  263. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.367
  264. ^ Virgil, Aeneid 4.6
  265. ^ Statius, Thebaid 8.271
  266. ^ Seneca, Hercules Furens 25
  267. ^ Wilhelm Fauth, Helios Megistos: zur synkretistischen Theologie der Spätantike (Leiden:Brill) 1995.
  268. ^ [1]
  269. ^ Webb, Matilda (2001). The Churches and Catacombs of Early Christian Rome. Sussex Academic Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-90221058-2.
  270. ^ Kemp, Martin (2000). The Oxford History of Western Art. Oxford University Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-19860012-1.
  271. ^ Hijmans 2009, p. 567-578.
  272. ^ On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians 7.2, 251–252.
  273. ^ (Myst. 5.23, 233)
  274. ^ Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths (Series The Legendary Past, British Museum/University of Texas) 2006:77.
  275. ^ Noted by Beazley, J.D. (1949). "The world of the Etruscan mirror". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 69: 1–17, esp. p. 3, fig. 1. doi:10.2307/629458. JSTOR 629458.
  276. ^ de Grummond, Nancy Thomson; Simon, Erika (2009-04-20). The Religion of the Etruscans. University of Texas Press.
  277. ^ Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae Why do they believe that the year belongs to Jupiter, but the months to Juno?
  278. ^ Euripides, Medea 1258; The Play of Texts and Fragments: Essays in Honour of Martin Cropp by J. Robert C. Cousland, James, 2009, pp 161
  279. ^ Karl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks 1951:110.
  280. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria s. v. Τάλως
  281. ^ Sick, David H. (2004) "Mit(h)ra(s) and the myths of the Sun", Numen, 51 (4): 432–467, JSTOR 3270454
  282. ^ Bortolani, Ljuba Merlina (2016-10-13) Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A study of Greek and Egyptian traditions of divinity, Cambridge University Press.
  283. ^ Julian, Hymn to King Helios
  284. ^ Thompson, "ISmyrna 753," pp. 101ff
  285. ^ Thompson, "ISmyrna 753," pp. 106.
  286. ^ Kerenyi, pp. 196–197
  287. ^ Frede and Laks, pg 200
  288. ^ Thompson, "ISmyrna 753," pp. 106, 109.
  289. ^ Thompson, "ISmyrna 753," pp. 111.
  290. ^ "epiphanestaton" – “most conspicuous” noted in Diodorus Siculus II. 30. 3–4. See also Franz Boll (1919) Kronos-Helios, Archiv für Religionswissenschaft XIX, p. 344.
  291. ^ Homer, Iliad 19.398
  292. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.31.5
  293. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria s. v. ὑπερίων
  294. ^ Orphic Hymn 8 to the Sun 16
  295. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.31.7
  296. ^ See τιτώ and Τιτάν in LSJ
  297. ^ Platt, pp 387
  298. ^ Kraemer, pp 165
  299. ^ Collignon, pp 178
  300. ^ Classical Manual, pp 572
  301. ^ Savignoni, pp 267
  302. ^ Walters, pp 78
  303. ^ Neils, pp 236-237
  304. ^ Palagia, pp 18-19
  305. ^ Robertson, Martin 1981, pp 96
  306. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.11.8
  307. ^ Robertson and Martin, pp 255
  308. ^ Morris, pp 87
  309. ^ Mitchell, pp 92
  310. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History 34.19
  311. ^ de Grummond, pp 96
  312. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 6.24.6
  313. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.3.2
  314. ^ "Helios". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d.
  315. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 132–138, 337–411, 453–520, 901–906, 915–920; Caldwell, pp. 8–11, tables 11–14.
  316. ^ Although usually the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, as in Hesiod, Theogony 371–374, in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (4), 99–100, Selene is instead made the daughter of Pallas the son of Megamedes.
  317. ^ According to Hesiod, Theogony 507–511, Clymene, one of the Oceanids, the daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, at Hesiod, Theogony 351, was the mother by Iapetus of Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus, while according to pseudo-Apollodorus, 1.2.3, another Oceanid, Asia was their mother by Iapetus.
  318. ^ According to Plato, Critias, 113d–114a, Atlas was the son of Poseidon and the mortal Cleito.
  319. ^ In Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 18, 211, 873 (Sommerstein, pp. 444–445 n. 2, 446–447 n. 24, 538–539 n. 113) Prometheus is made to be the son of Themis.


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