ERIDANOS was a River-God of the mythical northern land of Hyperborea. He was also the god of the constellation Eridanus.
The Eridanos was a purely mythical river of the north which was later variously identified with the Istros (Danube) of Hungary and the Po of northern Italy. The river may have been named Eridanos ("Early Burnt") from the story of Phaethon, the boy who attempted to drive the chariot of the sun, and fell flaming into the waters of this mythical river.
ERI′DANUS (Êridanos), a river god, a son of Oceanus and Tethys, and father of Zeuxippe. (Hesiod. Theog. 338; Hygin. Fab. 14.) He is called the king of rivers, and on its banks amber was found. (Virg. Georg. i. 482; Ov. Met. ii. 324.) In Homer the name does not occur, and the first writer who mentions it is Hesiod. Herodotus (iii. 15) declares the name to be barbarous, and the invention of some poet. (Comp. Strab. v. p. 215.) The position which the ancient poets assign to the river Eridanus differed at different times.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 11 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) depicting the death of Phaethon :] Golden are the tears of the Heliades. The story is that they are shed for Phaethon; for in his passion for driving this son of Helios (the Sun) ventured to mount his father’s chariot, but because he did not keep a firm rein he came to grief and fell into the Eridanos . . . Now the youth is thrown from the chariot and is falling headlong--for his hair is on fire and his breast smouldering with the heat; his fall will end in the river Eridanos and will furnish this stream with a mythical tale . . .
As for the women on the bank, not yet completely transformed into trees, men say that the Heliades on account of their brother’s mishap changed their nature and became trees, and that they shed tears [i.e. amber] . . . The River [Eridanos] also laments, emerging from his eddying stream, and offers his bosom to receive Phaethon--for the attitude is of one ready to receive--and soon he will harvest the tears of the Heliades [i.e. amber]; for the breezes and the chills which it exhales will turn into stone the tear-drops of the poplar trees, and it will catch them as they fall and conduct them through its bright waters to the barbarians by Okeanos."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 319 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Phaethon, driving the chariot of the sun, was struck down by Zeus with a thunderbolt :] Phaethon [struck by Zeus from the chariot of the Sun], flames ravaging his auburn hair, falls headlong down, a streaming trail of light, as sometimes through the cloudless vault of night a star, though never falling, seems to fall. Eridanus receives him, far from home, in his wide waters half a world away. And bathes his burning face. The Naides Hesperiae (Hesperian Nymphs) bury his smouldering body in a tomb and on a stone engrave his epitaph."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 43. 400 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[At the wedding of Poseidon and Beroe :] Eridanos brought shining gifts, amber from the trees of the Heliades that trickle riches."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 236 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[When the River Hydaspes tried to drown the army of Dionysos, the god threatened him with fire :] `If your Okeanos makes you so haughty, consider Eridanos struck by the bolt of Zeus, your brother burnt with fire: a cruel sorrow it was for your watery ancestor [i.e. Okeanos] . . . when he saw his own son burnt up and made no war on Olympos, nor contended with his flood against the firebarbed thunderbolt. Pray spare your waters awhile, or I may see you Hydaspes, burnt up in fiery flames like Eridanos."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 380 ff :
"I will drag down from heaven the fiery Eridanos whose course is among the stars, and bring him back to a new home in the Celtic land: he shall be water again, and the sky shall be bare of the river of fire."
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.