Anything to do with Sunshine always makes me happy so thought it would be fun and interesting to research and write an article about myth and legend – Helios, the Sun God.
Helios was one of the Titans, son of Hyperion and Theia, and of course he belongs to the season of Summer. According to myth, he resided in a golden palace, in the river Okeanos, far to the East. At dawn, he would rise out of the Eastern sky, riding in his chariot, drawn by four magnificent winged horses: Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon and Phlegon.
His birthplace was the Island of Rhodes, where a colossal statue of Helios was erected in 280 B.C. It was one of the seven wonders of the world, being 33 metres high, the tallest statue of the ancient world. Sadly, it collapsed during the earthquake of 226 B.C. Parts of the statue were preserved, but it was never rebuilt. Helios was believed to have shaped the Island of Rhodes and was honoured there as an important deity. Rhodes, therefore became sacred to Helios. Legend tells of the island being muddy and uninhabitable when it was discovered, but Helios dried the land and filled it with life.
To the Ancient Greeks, Helios was the personification of sun and sunlight, and was worshipped just as much as Zeus. I suppose today, many of us would say that we worship the sun.
” Brave Helios wake up your steeds, bring the warmth the countryside needs”
… The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed.
Helios had two sisters: one named Eos, Goddess of the Dawn. She would draw her fingers across the sky, moving aside the misty curtain from which Helios would appear to begin his journey. During his spectacular ride across the skies and above the earth, Helios would observe and listen to everything that happened below him, for he could see and hear everything. For this reason, other Gods and Humans alike, would seek his advice and counsel to learn the truth about all matters. Helios is, therefore, associated with speaking the truth.
I have read that if you want Helios to help you get to the truth of an issue, then whilst thinking about your problem say these words:
“Helios, god who knows all, god who drives his chariot across the sky, aid me, and help me recognise the truth from a lie.” … James Kambos
At dusk, Helios would descend into a golden cup in the western sky. He then drifted along a mystical river back to his golden palace in the east, where he was then ready to once again ride his chariot at dawn. The night belonged to Helios’ second sister, Selena, the Moon Goddess. She rode side saddle on her horse, or rode in a chariot drawn by two winged steeds and wore a crown with a lunar sphere.
Helios was married to Clymene, but did have other wives and consorts. He had several children including a son: Phaeton, who in wanting to seek the truth of his father being the Sun God, asked to be in charge of the chariot one day. However, he lost control of the horses and was in danger of setting the earth of fire. Zeus was forced to strike down the chariot and therefore, Phaeton was killed.
Helios had a role in The Odyssey. When Odysseus and his men visited Thrinacia, an island dedicated to Helios, The Sun God, they were warned not to touch any of Helios’ cattle or sheep. The men did not heed Odysseus’ warning and, whilst he was absent, they slaughtered some of the sacred animals. Helios then appealed to Zeus for revenge and threatened to shine the sun into the underworld, where the dead reside. Zeus, heeding the warning, struck the ship of Odysseus’ crew, killing everyone except for Odysseus himself.
Helios is usually depicted with his head surrounded by a glowing aureole of sun rays. The ancient Greeks believed that Helios could witness anything in the Heavens or on Earth and so it was common to see him depicted with the Epitaph Panoptes, otherwise known as the all-seeing eye.
And because he saw all, Helios was able to come to the aid of Demeter, Mother of Persephone. He informed her that Hades, the God of the Underworld, had kidnapped her daughter, the goddess.
Similarly, Helios witnessed an affair between Aphrodite and Ares. He reported this to Hephaestus, Aphrodite’s husband, and helped set a trap to catch the two lovers. Caught in the act, the gods then banished Ares from Olympus for his crime.
This ability, to have the all-seeing eye, to witness events unfolding beneath him, as he rode through the sky, would have made Helios both a valuable friend and a frightening ally.
Helios and Hercules: Legend tells us that on an occasion when Hercules was seeking to find the Island of Erythia and was lost, he became angry and in his frustration, shot an arrow towards the sun. When he realised the severity of what he had done, he greatly apologised to the Titan, Helios. However, Helios was impressed with the impulsive act and presented Hercules with his own golden cup. Hercules was then able to use the cup to reach his desired destination.
Although Helios was believed to have had such a significant place in the heart of the Ancient Greeks, he was eventually replaced by Apollo in mythology. However, to this day he is still pictured as the very handsome Titan God, who drove a chariot across the sky in blazing splendour, pulled by his fire-breathing winged horses.
I’ve had a lot of fun, researching this piece, it was like being back at school! It was interesting for me to learn so much about Helios, the Sun God, as I had not read anything about him before. And, if you know me, you’ll understand how I love all things sun-related. If you have any comments, please leave them below, or especially if you know something more about Helios that I’ve missed. Enjoy!
(websites that I used to research information)