Web Theoi
POTHOS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Ποθος Pothos Pothus Sexual Desire,
Longing, Yearning
Pothos, god of longing & desire | Paestan red figure calyx krater C4th B.C. | J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu
Pothos, Paestan red-figure calyx krater
C4th B.C., J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu

POTHOS (or Pothus) was the god of sexual longing, yearning and desire. He was one of the winged love-gods known as Erotes.

Late classical writers describe him as a son of Zephyros (the west wind) and Iris (the rainbow) to represent the variagated passions of love.

The three Erotes--Pothos, Himeros and Eros--were often depicted together in Greek vase painting.

In the image right, Pothos sprinkling the essence of desire down upon the bull-riding maiden Europa from his cup.

PARENTS
[1.1] APHRODITE (Aeschylus Suppliants 1034)
[2.1] ZEPHYROS & IRIS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 47.340)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

POTHOS (Pothos) a personification of love or desire, was represented along with Eros and Himeros, in the temple of Aphrodite at Megara, by the hand of Scopas. (Paus. i. 43. § 6; Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 4, 7.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 1035 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"She [Aphrodite], together with Hera, holds power nearest to Zeus [as the gods of marriage], and for her solemn rites the goddess of varied wiles is held in honor. And in the train of their mother are Pothos (Desire) and she to whom nothing is denied, winning Peitho (Persuasion); and to Harmonia (Harmony) has been given a share of Aphrodite, and to the whispering touches of the Erotes (Loves)."

Plato, Cratylus 400d & 419e - 420b (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[Plato invents philosophical etymologies to explain the names of the gods:]
Sokrates: Let us inquire what thought men had in giving them [the gods] their names . . . The first men who gave names [to the gods] were no ordinary persons, but high thinkers and great talkers . . .
[Of the Loves:] The name himeros (longing) was given to the stream (rhous) which most draws the soul; for because it flows with a rush (hiemenos) and with a desire for things and thus draws the soul on through the impulse of its flowing, all this power gives it the name of himeros. And the word pothos (yearning) signifies that it pertains not to that which is present, but to that which is elsewhere (allothi pou) or absent, and therefore the same feeling which is called himeros when its object is present, is called pothos when it is absent."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 43. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is also [statues in the temple of Aphrodite at Megara] Peitho (Persuasion) and another goddess whom they name Paregoron (Consoler), works of Praxiteles. By Skopas (Scopas) are Eros (Love) and Himeros (Desire) and Pothos (Yearning), if indeed their functions are as different as their names."


K34.1 POTHOS
FLYING
K31.1 POTHOS,
EROS, HIMEROS
K31.5 POTHOS,
HEDYLOGOS
Z12.22 POTHOS,
ARIADNE, DIONYSOS

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 103 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Iris] he wife of jealous Zephyros (the West-Wind), Iris (the Rainbow), the messenger of Zeus when he is in a hurry . . . Iris, goldenwing bride of plantnourishing Zephyros, happy mother of Eros [i.e. the eros Pothos]!"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 150 ff :
[Minos won his war against King Nisos of Megara with the help of the gods of love who made the king's daughter betray her own father out of love for Minos:]
" Kypris (Aphrodite) wore a gleaming helmet . . . the bridal swarm of unwarlike Erotes (Loves) shot their arrows in battle; I know how tender Pothos (Longing) sacked a city . . . he [Ares] beheld Aphrodite holding the buckler and Pothos (Desire) casting a lance."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 33. 112 ff :
"[Aglaia calls upon Eros to assist his mother Aphrodite:]‘Allvanquisher unvanquished, preserver of life coeval with the universe, make haste! Kythereia [Aphrodite] is in distress. None of her attendants has remained with her; Kharis (Charis, Grace) has gone, Peitho (Seduction) has vanished, Pothos (Sexual Longing) the inconstant has left her; she had none to send but me. She needs your invincible quiver!’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 442 ff :
"[Dionysos addresses his future bride Ariadne:] ‘Not for nothing did that fleet [of Theseus] sail from my Naxos [abandoning Ariadne on the island], but Pothos (Sexual Longing) preserved you for a nobler bridal.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 340 ff :
"[Ariadne abandoned on Naxos by Theseus laments her fate:] ‘Who stole the man of Athens [Theseus]? . . . If Zephyros [the West-Wind who carried away Theseus' ship] torments me, tell Iris the bride of Zephyros and mother of Pothos (Desire), to behold Ariadne maltreated.’"


Sources:

  • Aeschylus, Suppliant Women - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Plato, Cratylus - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.