HELIOS was the Titan god of the sun who predided over the various facets of the solar body, from the measurement and divisions of the day, the year and the seasons, to the powers of heat and fire, and the gift of sight.
This page contains descriptions of the god's divine functions, hymns, and a list of his poetic titles and epithets.
HYMNS TO HELIUS THE SUN
Homeric Hymn 31 to Helius (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"And now, O Mousa Kalliope, daughter of Zeus, begin to sing of glowing Helios (the Sun) whom mild-eyed Euryphaessa (Wide Shining), the far-shining one, bare to the son of Gaia (Earth) and starry Ouranos (Heaven). For Hyperion wedded glorious Euryphaessa, his own sister, who bare him lovely children, rosy-armed Eos (Dawn) and rich-tressed Selene (Moon) and tireless Helios (Sun) who is like the deathless gods. 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 form 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 marvellously drives them down again through heaven to Okeanos (the Ocean-Stream).
Hail to you, lord! Freely bestow on me substance that cheers the heart. And now that I have begun with you, I will celebrate the race of mortal men half-divine whose deeds the Mousai have showed to mankind."
Orphic Hymn 8 to Helius (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To Helios (Sun), Fumigation from Frankincense and Manna. Hear, golden Titan, whose eternal eye with matchless sight illumines all the sky. Native, unwearied in diffusing light, and to all eyes the object of delight: Lord of the seasons, beaming light from far, sonorous, dancing in thy four-yoked car. With thy right hand the source of morning light, and with thy left the father of the night. Agile and vigorous, venerable Sun, fiery and bright around the heavens you run, foe to the wicked, but the good man’s guide, over all his steps propitious you preside. With various-sounding golden lyre ‘tis thine to fill the world with harmony divine. Father of ages, guide of prosperous deeds, the world’s commander, borne by lucid steeds. Immortal Zeus, flute-playing , bearing light, source of existence, pure and fiery bright; bearer of fruit, almighty lord or years, agile and warm, whom every power reveres. Bright eye, that round the world incessant flies, doomed with fair fulgid rays to set and rise; dispensing justice, lover of the stream, the world’s great master, and over all supreme. Faithful defender, and the eye of right, of steeds the ruler, and of life the light: with sounding whip four fiery steeds you guide, when in the glittering car of day you ride, propitious on these mystic labour shine, and bless thy suppliants with a life divine."
HELIUS THE SUN : THE PATHS OF DAY AND NIGHT
Homer, Iliad 7. 422 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Now Helios (the Sun) of a new day struck on the ploughlands, rising out of the quiet water and the deep stream of Okeanos to climb the sky."
Homer, Iliad 8. 485 ff :
"And now the shining light of the sun (helios) was dipped in the Okeanos trailing black night (nyx) across the grain-giving land."
Homer, Odyssey 3. 1 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Leaving the lovely lake of Okeanos, Helios (the Sun) leapt upwards into the brazen sky, bringing light for the Deathless Ones, bringing it too for mortal men who live on the earth that gives them grain."
Homer, Odyssey 12. 1 ff :
"The island of Aiaia [the home of Kirke, daughter of Helios]; it is there that Eos (Dawn) the early comer has her dwelling-place and her dancing-grounds, and Helios (the Sun) himself has his risings."
Homer, Odyssey 10. 80 ff :
"The lofty town of the Laistrygonians whose king is Lamos. There one herdsman as he drives in his beasts will hail another driving his out and the second answers the first. In those parts a man who never slept could have earned wages twice over, one wage for herding cattle and another for pasturing white sheep, because the pathways of day (emar) and night (nyx) come close together there." [N.B. Homer may be referring to the night-time path of Helios, who travels in a boat around the northern stream of Okeanos. The Laistrygones made their home on these northern shores so experiencing nocturnal day.]
Homer, Odyssey 24. 12 ff :
"The streams of Okeanos, the White Rock (petra Leukas), the Gates of the Sun (pylai Hêlioi) and the Land of Dreams (demos oneiroi)."
Homeric Hymn 31 to Helius (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"Tireless Helios (the Sun) who is like the deathless gods. As he rides 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 marvellously drives them down again through heaven to Okeanos."
Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 88 ff :
"[Helios] called to his horses : and at his chiding they quickly whirled the swift chariot along, like long-winged birds."
Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 67 ff :
"Helios (the Sun) was going down beneath the earth towards Okeanos with his horses and chariot."
Homeric Hymn 37 to Athena 12 ff :
"[When Athena was born from the head of Zeus :] Bright Hyperionides [Helios the Sun] stopped his swift-footed horses a long while until the maided Pallas Athene had stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders."
Mimnermus, Fragment 12 (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C6th B.C.) :
"For Helios' (the Sun’s) lot is toil every day and there is never any respite for him and his horses, from the moment rose-fingered Eos (Dawn) leaves Okeanos and goes up into the sky. A lovely bed, hollow, forged by the hands of Hephaistos, of precious gold and winged, carries him, as he sleeps soundly, over the waves on the water’s surface from the place of the Hesperides (Evenings) [in the West] to the land of the Aithiopes [in the East], where his swift chariot and horses stand until early-born Eos (the Dawn) comes. There the son of Hyperion mounts his other vehicle."
Mimnermus, Fragment 12 (from Philodemus, On Piety) :
"They have represented Helios (the Sun) and some other gods as enduring much toil . . . Mimnermos does not seem to disagree, since he says that Helios (the Sun) sleeps every night."
Stesichorus, Fragment S17 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (Greek lyric C6th to 7th B.C.) :
"That Helios too was conveyed to his setting in a cup Stesikhoros tells us in the following words : `And then strong Hyperionides [Helios the Sun] went down into the cup of solid gold, so that he might cross over Okeanos and reach the depths of holy, dark night and his mother [Theia] and wedded wife and dear children.'"
Stesichorus, Fragment S17 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner) :
"Stesikhoros says that Helios (the Sun) sailed across Okeanos in a cup."
Pindar, Olympian Ode 7. 69 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Great Helios who begets the fierce rays of the sun."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 46 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.) :
"Titan [Helios] shines strongly."
Aeschylus, Fragment 33 Heliades (from Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 11. 39. 469F) (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Where, in the west, is the bowl wrought by Hephaistos, the bowl of thy sire [Helios], speeding wherein he crosseth the mighty, swelling stream that girdeth earth [i.e. Okeanos], fleeing the gloom of holy Nyx (Night) of sable steeds."
Euripides, Fragment 2 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"Helios, cleaving the ageless vault of heaven."
Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragment 931 (from Oxyrhynchus Papyrus) (Greek lyric B.C.) :
"The many-eyed embroidery of blue-black Nyx (Night), and at once rose Hyperionides [Helios the Sun], hard-toiling eternally, almighty."
Aristophanes, Birds 563 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"Phoibos [Helios the Sun], who, from the summit of his chariot, sets the world aflame with his dazzling rays, Phoibos, a mighty deity amongst the gods and adored amongst mortals."
Plato, Cratylus 400d & 408d (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[Plato constructs philosophical etymologies for 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 . . . But why should you not tell of another kind of gods, such as sun, moon, stars, earth, ether, air, fire, water, the seasons, and the year? What, then, do you wish first? Shall we discuss the sun (hêlios), as you mentioned it first? . . . I think it would be clearer if we were to use the Doric form of the name. The Dorians call it halios. Now halios might be derived from collecting (halizein) men when he rises, or because he always turns (aei heilein) about the earth in his course, or because he variegates the products of the earth, for variegate is identical with aiollein."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 498 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"He [Orpheus] sang of . . . how the Astra (Stars), Selene (Moon), and travelling Helios (Sun) keep faithfully to their stations in the heavens."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 164 ff :
"Helios (the Sun) came back from the world’s end to light the dewy hills and wake the shepherds."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 1192 ff :
"It was evening. Out in the west, beyond the farthest Aithiopian hills, Helios (the Sun) was sinking under the darkening world; Nyx (Night) was harnessing her team [of horses]."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 1228 ff :
"Bright as Helios’ round face when he rises fresh from Okeanos Stream."
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 180 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The god Helios (the Sun) never passes by that beauteous dance [of Artemis and her Nymphs], but stays his car to gaze upon the sight, and lights of day are lengthened."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 30 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"From the Okeanos-verge upsprings Helios (the sun) in glory, flashing fire far over earth."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 488 ff :
"Helios (the sun) drave down his never-wearying steeds into the dark west : night streamed o'er the earth, bidding men cease from toil."
Orphic Hymn 8 to Helius (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Golden Titan [Helios the Sun], whose eternal eye with matchless sight illumines all the sky. Native, unwearied in diffusing light, and to all eyes the object of delight: Lord of the seasons, beaming light from far, sonorous, dancing in thy four-yoked car. With thy right hand the source of morning light, and with thy left the father of the night. Agile and vigorous, venerable Sun, fiery and bright around the heavens you run . . . borne by lucid steeds . . . Bright eye, that round the world incessant flies, doomed with fair fulgid rays to set and rise . . . of steeds the ruler, and of life the light: with sounding whip four fiery steeds you guide, when in the glittering car of day you ride."
Anonymous (perhaps Pamprepius of Panopolis), Fragments (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 140) (Greek poetry C4th A.D.) :
"[At dawn :] A song which the blast of wind from snowy Threike (Thrace) [i.e. Boreas], dancing upon the wintry waves of the sea, sings to the surge at dawn. And sweetly it sings how the snow-white brightness of blazing Phaethon [the sun] is quenched by the liquid streams of rainclouds, and the fiery . . of the dog-star is extinguished by the watery snowstorms . . .
[At dusk :] The steeds of Phaethon [Helios], beating the path of heaven beneath their hooves, were drawing the dew-moist rail of their twilight chariot toward their drinking-pool in the western sea . . .
The eagle, royal bird of aigis-bearing Zeus, knows how to call for witness of his noble birth the heavenly ray of the sun’s (helios’) golden gleam."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 118 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When Titan [Helios] perceived the Morning Star [Eosphoros] setting and saw the world in crimson sheen . . . he bade the nimble Horae (Hours) go yoke his steeds, and they, swift goddesses, fastened the jingling harness and the reins, as from the lofty stalls the horses came, filled with ambrosial food and breathing flame."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 627 ff :
"Until Lucifer [Eosphoros the morning star] should wake Aurora [Eos the dawn], and Aurora call forth the chariot of the day [Helios the sun]."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 633 ff :
"That far sea [Okeanos] that greets the panting horses of Sol (the sun) and welcomed their tired wheels."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 480 ff :
"Sol’s (the Sun's) team, the day’s toil nearly done, were pounding down the slope that led them home."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 323 ff :
"Three times had Phoebus [Helios the Sun] had now unyoked his team when they had plunged in Hibero’s [Spain's] sunset stream [the Atlantic Ocean]."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 257 ff :
"Titan [Helios the Sun] was setting and his chariot sloped to the western waves."
Ovid, Fasti 2. 73 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Titan [Helios the Sun] exits into Hesperia’s (Evening’s) waves and unhitches his jewelled purple team."
Ovid, Fasti 3. 415 ff :
"Phoebus [Helios] climbs steep Olympus from Oceanus and plucks the sky on winged horses."
Ovid, Heroides 4. 159 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"He [Helios the sun] who moves the tepid day with gleaming chariot, is crowned with palisade of pointed rays."
Ovid, Heroides 8. 105 ff :
"When Titan is urging aloft his radiant steeds."
Ovid, Heroides 13. 103 ff :
"Whether Phoebus [Helios the sun] be hid, or high above the earth he rise."
Ovid, Heroides 15. 135 ff :
"When Titan shows his face and lights up all the earth."
Ovid, Heroides 21. 85 ff :
"The sun was making ready to take their yokes from his shining steeds. When he has likewise called them once more to their accustomed rising."
Virgil, Georgics 1. 246 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"There [beneath the earth], men say, is either the silence of lifeless night, and gloom ever thickening beneath night’s pall; Aurora [Eos the Dawn] returns from us and brings them back the day, and when on us the rising Sun [Helios] first breathes with panting steeds, there glowing Vesper [Hesperos the evening star] is kindling his evening rays." [N.B. In this version of the Sun's path, he travels through the Underworld by night bringing light to the Elysian realms of the dead, cf. Apuleius below.]
Virgil, Georgics 3. 349 ff :
"Where dwell the tribes of Scythia by the waters of Maeotis . . . ‘Tis even winter; ever Caurus (the Northwest wind) blasts, with icy breath. Then, too, never does Sol [Helios the Sun] scatter the pale mists, either when, borne on his chariot, he climbs high heaven, or when he laves his headlong car in Oceanus’ crimson plain."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 37 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Where Sol (the Sun), as he brings back, and where, as he dismisses day, colours both Ethiop races [of the far East and far West] with neighbouring torch."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 125 ff :
"Now stars shine few and faint in the sinking sky; vanquished night draws in her wandering fires as the new day is born, and Phosphorus (the Morning Star) brings up the rear of the shining host; the icy sign high in the north, the Bears of Arcas, with their seven stars, with wheeling pole summons the dawn. Now, upborne by his azure steeds, Titan [Helios the sun] peeps forth from Oeta’s crest; now the rough brakes . . . touched by the dawn, flush red, and Phoebus’ sister [Selene the moon] flees away, to return again. Hard toil arises, sets all cares astir, opens all doors."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 592 ff :
"O lord of kindly light [Sol or Helios, the sun], glory of heaven, who in thy flame-bearing car dost circle both spaces of the sky, and dost show thy shining face to the broad lands, pardon, O Phoebus [Helios], if any unlawful sight thine eyes have seen."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 1060 ff :
"And thou [Helios the sun] above all, who ever the lands and stretches of the sea dost shed thy rays, and dispellest night with comely face, O glowing Titan; equally with thee hath Alcides [Herakles] seen the lands of thy setting and thy rising, and hath known both thy dwellings."
Seneca, Medea 28 ff :
"[Medea speaks :] `Behold him [Helios the sun] as, sitting in his chariot, he courses over bright heaven’s accustomed spaces? Why does he not return to his rising and measure back the day? Grant, oh, grant that I ride through the air in my father’s car; give me the reins, O sire, give me the right to guide thy fire-bearing steeds with the flaming reins.'"
Seneca, Medea 874 ff :
"Now, O Phoebus [Helios the sun], speed thy chariot with no check of rein; let friendly darkness veil the light and let Hesperus (the Evening Star), vanguard of the night, plunge deep this fearful day."
Seneca, Oedipus 1 ff :
"Now night is driven away; hesitant Titan [Helios the sun] returns, and rises, sadly veiling his beams in murky cloud; with woeful flame he brings a light of gloom and will look forth upon our homes stricken with ravening plague."
Seneca, Oedipus 120 ff :
"The shores of the ruddy sea [the Indian Ocean], whence Phoebus [Helios the sun] discloses his rising beams, opens the gates of day, and with nearer torch darkens the naked Indians."
Seneca, Phaedra 309 ff :
"The radiant goddess [Selene the moon] of the darksome sky burned with love [for Endymion] and, forsaking the night, gave her gleaming chariot to her brother [Helios the sun] to guide in fashion other than his own. He learned to drive the team of night and to wheel in narrower circuit, while the axle groaned beneath the car’s heavier weight; nor did the nights keep their accustomed length, and with belated dawning came the day."
Seneca, Phaedra 778 ff :
"Hide thee in the woods when Titan [Helios the sun] has brought midday."
Seneca, Troades 170 ff :
"Titan [Helios the sun] was just grazing the hill-tops with his morning rays and day had vanquished night."
Seneca, Troades 1140 ff :
"As Phoebus’ light is wont to appear more glorious at the moment of his setting, when the stars come back to their stations and the uncertain daylight is dimmed by the approach of night."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2. 34 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"And now Hyperion’s [Helios the Sun’s] car drew close to its goal in the Hiberian [Spanish] Sea, and with declining day the reins slackened at the journey’s end, what time the ancient Tethys raised her hands for the embrace and the holy Titan [Helios the Sun] hissed as he cleft the floor of Oceanus."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4. 90 ff :
"The stars are now gliding into the life-giving springs of mighty Oceanus, and the bridles are jingling in the Titanian caves [of Helios the Sun]; hastened by the golden-haired Horae (Hours) Sol [Helios the Sun] puts on his diadem of myriad rays and the corselet woven of twelve stars and bound by the belt which athwart the rain-clouds shows for men its many hued bow. Then above the earth and above the horns of the eastern mount he shone forth, and drew a train of light over the sparkling waves."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5. 408 ff :
"Iron Atlas stands in Oceanus, the wave swelling and breaking on his knees; but the god himself [Helios the Sun] on high hurries his shining steeds across the old man’s body, and spreads light about the curving sky."
Statius, Thebaid 1. 156 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The sky’s furthest bounds . . . whereon Sol (the Sun) looks when he issues from the eastern gate and when he sinks into his Iberian haven, or the lands he touches afar with his slanting devious ray."
Statius, Thebaid 3. 406 ff :
"Far on the sloping margin of the western sea sinking Sol (the Sun) had unyoked his flaming steeds, and laved their bright manes in the springs of Oceanus; to meet him hastens Nereus of the deep and all his company, and the swift-striding Horae (Hours), who strip him of his reins and the woven glory of his golden coronet, and revive his horse’s dripping breasts of the hot harness; some turn the well-deserving steeds into the soft pasture, and lean the chariot backward, pole in air."
Statius, Thebaid 8. 271 ff :
"It was the time when Phoebus’ [Helios the sun’s] fiery sister [Eos the dawn], hearing the sound of his yoked steeds and the roar of Oceanus’ cavernous abode beneath the gathering dawn, collects her straying beams and with light flick of whip chases the stars away."
Statius, Thebaid 12. 1 ff :
"Not ye had the wakeful dawn put all the stars to flight from heaven, and Luna [Selene the moon] was beholding the approach of day with fading horn, what time Tithonia [Aurora-Eos the dawn] scatters the clouds in hurrying rout, and prepares the wide firmament for the return of Phoebus [Helios the sun]."
Statius, Thebaid 12. 228 ff :
"Already had father Titan [Helios the Sun] hidden his flaming chariot in the Hesperian [Western] flood, to emerge again from other waves."
Statius, Achilleid 1. 242 ff :
"Now day o’erwhelms the stars, and from the low and level main Titan [Helios the Sun] wheels heavenward his dripping steeds, and down from the expanse of air falls the sea that the chariot bore up."
Statius, Achilleid 1. 689 ff :
"Phoebus [Helios the Sun], stooping low upon the verge of Olympus, was sending forth broken rays, and promising to his panting steeds the yielding shore of Oceanus."
Statius, Achilleid 2. 1 ff :
"Day arising from Oceanus set free the world from dank enfolding shades, and the father of the flashing light [Helios the Sun] upraised his torch still dimmed by the neighbouring gloom and moist with sea-water not yet shaken off."
Statius, Silvae 2. 7. 25 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"On the verge of Oceanus’ waves beholdest Hyperion [the Sun] slope downward to this setting, and hearest the hiss of plunging wheels."
Statius, Silvae 3. 3. 53 :
"But even deities have their laws : in thraldom the swift choir of the Astra (Stars), in thraldom is wandering Luna [Selene the Moon], not unbidden is the light whose path so oft returns [Helios the Sun]."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 9. 22 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"By now Sol [Helios the Sun] had glided down beneath Oceanus, and was giving light to the regions of the world below the earth [i.e. subterranean Elysium, cf. Virgil above]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 7. 280 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Zeus] resolved to mount Semele’s nightly couch, and turned his eye to the west, to see when sweet Hesperos (Evening) would come. He blamed Phaethon [Helios the Sun] that he should make the afternoon season so long, and uttered an impatient appeal with passionate lips: ‘. . . Helios (Sun), you plague me, though you know the madness of love. Why do you spare the whip when you touch up your slow team? I know another nightfall that came very quickly! If I like, I will hide you and the daughter of the mists [Eos] together in my clouds, and when you are covered Nyx (Night) will appear in the daytime, to speed the marriage of Zeus in haste; the stars will shine at midday, and I will make rising Hesperos (Evening Star), instead of setting Hesperos, the regular usher of the loves. Come now, draw your own forerunner Phosphoros (Dawn Star) to his setting, and do grace to your desire and mine; enjoy your Klymene all night long, and let me go quick to Semele."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 1 ff :
"[Helios the Sun] had just finished his course and come down from the sky. Bright Phosphoros [the star Venus] was ready for the fire-eyed driver, near his chariot and four. He put away the hot yokestraps and starry whip, and washed in the neighbouring Okeanos stream the bodies of the firefed horses wet with sweat. The colts shook the dripping manes on their necks, and stamped with sparkling hooves the shining mangertrough."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 17. 269 ff :
"O Helios, cutting the air in your fiery chariot, pouring your light on the Kaukasian plowland so near."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 392 ff :
"In the sky was Helios (the Sun) in the basket of his blazing chariot."
Nonnus, Dionsyiaca 27. 8 ff :
"Phaethon [Helios], blazing shepherd of the everflowing years, checked the course of his firebred steeds."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 140 ff :
"May Phaethon [Helios] not turn his fireblazing horses to his setting."
HELIUS THE SUN : THE ZODIAC PATHS OF THE YEAR
Aratus, Phaenomena 748 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek astronomical poem C3rd B.C.) :
"For verily through them all [the constellations of the zodiac] Helios the Sun passes in yearly course, as he drives his mighty furrow, and now to one, now to another he draws near, now as he rises and anon as he sets, and ever another star looks upon another morn."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 78 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In constant flux the sky [with its moving constellations] streams by, sweeping in dizzy whirl the stars on high. I [Phoebus or Helios] drive against this force, which overcomes all things but me, and on opposing course against its rushing circuit makes my way. Suppose my chariot yours: what then? Could you confront the spinning poles [of the sky] and not be swept away by the swift axis of the world? Perhaps you fancy cities of gods are there and groves and temples rich with offerings. No! Wild beasts lie in wait and shapes of fear! And though you shall meet Taurus (the Bull), must brave his horns, and face Arcus Haemonius (the Thessalian Archer) [Saggitarius] and the ravening Leo (the Lion), the long curved circuit of the Scorpio’s claws, Cancer (the Crab) whose claws in counter-menace wave."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 130 ff :
"[Helios instucts his son Phaethon on zodiac path of the sun :] Avoid the road direct through all five zones; on a wide slanting curve the true course lies within the confines of three zones; beware alike the southern pole and northern Arctus (the Bear). Keep to this route; my wheeltracks there show plain. Press not too low nor strain your course to high; too high, you’ll burn heaven’s palaces; too low, the earth; the safest course lies in between. And neither rightwards towards the twisting Anguis (the Snake) nor leftwards swerve to where the Ara (Altar) lies. Hold in the midst! To fortune I resign the rest to guide with wiser wit than yours."
Virgil, Georgics 1. 231 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"The golden Sun [Helios] rules his circuit, portioned out in fixed divisions, through the world’s twelve constellations. Five zones comprise the heavens [the Tropics]; whereof one is ever glowing with the flashing sun, ever scorched by his flames. Round this, at the world’s ends, two stretch darling to right and left, set fast in ice [the far North] and black storms [the far South]. Between these and the idle zone, two by grace of the gods have been vouchsafed to feeble mortals; and a path is cut between the two, wherein the slanting array of the Signs may turn."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 840 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"When the fifth summer has brought back the sacred games . . . when the time comes again for night to lengthen and the balanced Scales [Libra], yearning for quiet slumber, check Phoebus’ [Helios the sun's] car."
Seneca, Oedipus 250 ff :
"Thou [Helios the sun], greatest glory of the unclouded sky, who presidest over the twelve signs in thy changing course, who doest unroll the slow centuries with swift wheel; and thou, his sister, ever faring opposite to thy brother, Phoebe [Selene the moon], night-wanderer."
Seneca, Troades 386 ff :
"With such whirlwind speed as the twelve signs fly along, with such swift course as the lord [Helios the sun] of stars hurries on the centuries, and in such wise as Hecate [Selene the moon] hastens along her slanting ways, so do we all seek fate."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 90 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Helios describes zodiac path of the sun to Phaethon :] There are twelve houses in all the fiery aether, set in the circle of the rounded Zodiakos (Zodiac), one close after another in a row, each separate; though these alone is the inclined winding path of the restless Planetoi rolling in their courses. All round these Kronos [the planet Saturn] crawls from house to house on his heavy knees along the seventh zone upon the circle, until at last with difficulty he completes thirty circuits of returning Selene [i.e. two & half years]. On the sixth, quicker than his father, Zeus [the planet Jupiter] has his course opposite, and goes his round in a lichtgang. By the third, fiery Ares [the planet Mars] passes [one sign that is, of the Zodiac] in sixty days, near your father. I myself [the Sun] rise in the fourth, and traverse the whole sky garland-wise in my car, following the winding circles of the heavenly orbits. I carry the measures of time (khronos), surrounded by the four Horai (Seasons), about the same centre, until I have passed through a whole house and fulfilled one complete month as usual; I never leave my journey unfinished and change to a backward course, nor do I go forward again; since the other Asteres (Stars), the Planetoi, in their various courses always run contrary ways: they check backwards, and go both to and fro; when the measures of their way are half done they run back again, thus receiving on both sides my one-sided light [as half the planets including the moon are above and half below him each of them gets his light from one side only]. One of these Planetoi is horned Selene (Moon) whitening the sky; when she has completed all her circuit, she brings forth with her wise fire the month, being at firs half seen, then curved, then full moon with her whole face. Against Mene the moon I move my rolling ball, the sparkling nourisher of sheafproducing growth, and pass on my endless circuit about the turning-point of the Zodiakos, creating the measures of time. When I have completed one whole circle passing from house to house I bring off the lichtgang. Take care of the crossing-point itself [where the moon cuts the ecliptic], lest when you come close, rounding the cone of darkness with your car, it should steal all light from your overshadowed chariot. And in your driving do not stray form the usual circuit of the course, or be tempted to leave your father’s usual goal by looking at the five parallel circles [the arctic, the two tropic, the equatorial and the Antarctic circles] with their multiple bond of long encompassing lines, or your horses may run away and carry you through the air out of your course. Do not, when you look about on the twelve circles [the 12 signs of the zodiac] as you cross them, hurry from house to house. When you are driving your car in the Krios (Ram), do not try to drive over the Tauros (Taurus the Bull). Do not seek for his neighbour the Scorpion (Scorpio) moving among the stars, the harbinger of the plowtree, when you are driving under the Balance, until you complete thirty degrees.
Just listen to me, and I will tell you everything. When I reach the Ram, the centre of the universe, the navel-star of Olympos, I in my exaltation let the Spring (Eiar) increase; and crossing the herald of the West-Wind (Zephyros), the turning-line which balances night equal with day, I guide the dewy course of that Season (Hora Eiar) when the swallow comes. Passing into the lower house, opposite the Ram, I cast the light equal day on the two hooves; and again I make day balanced equally with dark on my homeward course when I bring in the leafshaking course of the autumn Season (Hora Phthinoporon), and drive with lesser light to the lower turning-point in the leafshedding month. Then I bring Winter (Kheimon) for mankind with its rains, over the back of fish-tailed Aigokereos (Capricorn), that earth may bring forth her gifts full of life for the farmers, when she receives the bridal showers and the creative dew. I deck out also corn-tending Summer (Theros) the messenger of harvest, floggin the wheatbearing earth with hotter beams, while I drive at the highest point of my course in Karkinon (Cancer the Crab), who is right opposite to the cold Aegokereos (Capricorn): both Neilos (Nile) and grapes together I make to grow.
When you begin your course, pass close by the side of Kerne, and take Phosphoros (the Morning Star) as guide to lead the way for your car, and you will not go astray; twelve circling Horai in turn will direct your way."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 45 ff :
"He [the god Dionysos] called to Helios, reminding the chief of the stars of his love for Klymene, and prayed him to hold back his car and check the stalled horses with the heavenly bit, that he might prolong the sweet light, that he might go slow to his setting and with sparing whip increase the day to shine again."
HELIUS THE SUN : THE SEVENTH "PLANET"
Late classical writers described seven zones of heaven ruled by the seven "planets" : the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5. 67 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"He [Kadmos founder of Thebes] dedicated the seven gates [of the new-founded city] to the seven planets [Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn] . . . the midmost gate opposite the Dawn he dedicated to fiery Helios, since he is in the middle of the planets."
HELIUS THE SUN : BURNING HEAT & FIRE
The mid-summer rising of the dog-star, Seirios, in conjunction with Helios the Sun was believed to be the source of the scorching heat of midsummer, and summertime droughts.
Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 300 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"`But here, shall Gaia (Earth) and shining Hyperion [Helios the Sun] make you [the monster Python] rot.' Thus said Phoibos [Apollon], exulting over her : and darkness covered her eyes. And the holy strength of Helios (the Sun) made her rot away there; wherefore the place is now called Pytho, and men call the lord Apollon by another name, Pythion; because on that spot the power of piercing Helios made the monster rot away."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 22 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.)
"Scorched by the sun's (Helios') bright beams, you shall lose the fair bloom of your flesh. And glad you shall be when spangled-robed night (nyx) shall veil his brightness and when the sun shall scatter again the frost of morning."
Aeschylus, Fragment 105 Prometheus Unbound (from Strabo, Geography 1. 2. 27) (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Leaving] the Erythraian (Red) Sea’s sacred stream red of floor, and the mere by Okeanos, the mere of the Aithiopes [i.e. the headwaters of the Nile] . . . that giveth nourishment unto all, where all-seeing (pantoptês) Helios (the Sun) doth ever, in warm outpourings of soft water, refresh his undying body and his wearied steeds [i.e. as in the quote below he melts the snows of Aithiopia to feed the river Nile]."
Aeschylus, Fragment 161 (from Anonymous, On the Swelling of the Nile) :
"The Aithiopian land, where seven-channelled Neilos (the Nile) rolleth its refreshing tide, fed by abundant, wind-born rain, and therein the fire-eyed sun (pyrôpos Helios) beaming forth upon the earth, melteth the snow amid the rocks; and all luxuriant Egypt, filled with the sacred flood, maketh to spring up Demeter’s life-giving grain."
Aesop, Fables (from Babrius, Fabulae Aesopeae 18) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"Helios (the Sun) suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another."
Strabo, Geography 8. 5. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Messenia is a land of fair fruitage . . . being neither very wintry in the blasts of winter nor yet made too hot by the chariot of Helios (the Sun)."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 30 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"From the Okeanos-verge upsprings Helios (the sun) in glory, flashing fire far over earth-- fire, when beside his radiant chariot-team races the red star Seirios, scatterer if woefullest diseases over men."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 32 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"As one who lives in the vales of Arkadia, she [Palaistra, the goddess of wrestling,] begs Helios (the Sun) for colour, and he brings it to her like a flower and reddens the girl with moderate heat."
Virgil, Georgics 4. 51 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"When golden Sol [Helios the Sun] has driven winter in rout beneath the earth, and with summer light unlocked the sky."
Seneca, Medea 28 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Medea, grand-daughter of Helios :] `O sire, give me the right to guide thy fire-bearing steeds with the flaming reins; then let Corinth . . . be consumed by flames and bring the two seas together.'" [N.B. Medea uses magic to destroy King Kreon and his palace with fire.]
Seneca, Oedipus 37 ff :
"[A land plagued with drought :] No soft breeze with its cool breath relieves our breasts that pant with heat, no gentle Zephyrus blows; but Titan [Helios the sun] augments the scorching dog-stars’s [Seirios'] fires, close-pressing upon the Nemean Lion’s [Leo in the zodiac. mid-summer] back. Water has fled the streams, and from the herbage verdure. Dirce is dry, scant flows Ismenus’ stream, and with its meagre wave scarce wets the naked sands. With paling light glides Phoebus’ sister [Selene the moon] athwart the sky, and the gloomy heavens are wan in the lowering day."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 2. 543 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Zeus attacked the monster Typhoeus with volleys of hail :] She [Gaia the earth] prayed to Titan Helios (the Sun) with submissive voice : she begged of him one red hot ray, that with its heating fire she might melt the petrified water of Zeus [i.e. hail], by pouring his kindred radiance over the frozen."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 16. 250 ff :
"Phaethon [Helios] scourged her skin with his blazing fire."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 27. 100 ff :
"Governor of the flaming stars, Phaethon [Helios], is himself a potentate all of fire."
For MORE information on the scorching power of the dog-star see SEIRIOS
For the MYTH of the earth scorched by the fires of the sun see PHAETHON
HELIUS THE SUN : NOURISHER OF LIFE
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 632 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Helios (the Sun) that fosters life upon the earth."
Plato, Cratylus 408d (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[Plato constructs etymologies for the names of gods and heavenly bodies :]
Sokrates : Shall we discuss the sun (Hêlios), as you mentioned it first? . . . The Dorians call it Halios. Now halios might be . . . because he variegates the products of the earth, for variegate is identical with aiollein."
Orphic Hymn 8 to Helius (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
“[Helios the sun] bearing light, pure and fiery bright; bearer of fruit."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 1 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Helios (the Sun), giver of feason, plantdresser, lord of fruits! When will the soil make winemother grapes to grow?" - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12.1
HELIUS THE SUN : THE SOLAR ECLIPSE
Pindar, Paean 9 (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Beam of the sun! O thou that seest afar, what wilt thou be devising? O mother of mine eyes! O star supreme, reft from us in the daytime [in a solar eclipse]! Why hast thou perplexed the power of man and the way of wisdom, by rushing forth on a darksome track? Art thou bringing on us some new and strange disaster? Yet, by Zeus, I implore thee, thou swift driver divine of steeds! Do thou, O queen! Change this world-wide portent into some painless blessing for Thebes.
Is it because, in thine anger at the presumptuous sons of mortals, thou art unwilling utterly to blot out the pure light of life? But art thou bringing a sign of some war, or wasting of produce, or an unspeakable violent snow-storm, or fatal faction, or again, some overflowing of the sea on the plain, or frost to blind the earth, or heat of the south-wind streaming with raging rain? Or wilt thou, by deluging the land, cause the race of men to begin anew? I in no wise lament whate’er I shall suffer with all the rest."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 939 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Herakles driven mad by Hera, believes he sees an eclipse :] But what is this? Shadows have begirt midday. Phoebus [Helios the sun] fares with darkened face though there be no cloud. Who puts the day to flight and drives it back to dawn? Whence does an unfamiliar night rear its black head? Whence do so many stars fill the sky though it is day?"
Seneca, Phaedra 671 ff :
"And thou, star of stars, O radiant Titan [Helios the Sun], dost thou behold this shame of thy race? Hide thy light and take refuge in darkness [perhaps an eclipse, or else hidden behind storm clouds]."
Statius, Thebaid 1. 97 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Dies (Day) [here Helios the Sun] felt her presence [an Erinys summoned up from Haides], Nox (Night) interposed her pitchy cloud [in a solar eclipse] and startled his shining steeds [an omen of the fall of Thebes]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 39. 19 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"A foreboding sign was shown to wine-faced Bakkhos [Dionysos] in the sky [during his war with the Indians], an incredible wonder. For at midday, a sudden darkness was spread abroad, and a midday obscurity covered Phaethon [Helios the Sun] with its black pall, and the hills were overshadowed as his beams were stolen away. Many a stray brand fell here and there scattered from the heavenly car; thousands of rainshowers deluged the surface of the earth, the rocks were flooded by drops from the sky, until fiery Hyperion rose again shining high on his chariot after his hard struggle . . .
Idmon the treasury of learned lore, for he had been taught the secrets of Ourania, the Mousa who knows the round circuit of the stars: he had been taught by his learned art the shades on Selene’s (Moon’s) orb when in union with the Sun, and the ruddy flame of Phaethon [Helios] stolen out of sight from his course behind the cone of darkness, and the clap of thunder, the heavenly bellow of the bursting clouds, and the shining comet, and the flame of meteors, and the fiery leap of the thunderbolt. Having been taught all these things by Ourania the goddess he stood with dauntless heart, while the limbs of every man was loosened [at the sight of the solar eclipse] . . .
And now to Dionysos, alone among the rocks which he loved, came Hermes his brother from heaven as messenger of Zeus, and spoke assuring him of victory: ‘Tremble not at this sign, even though night came at midday. This sign, fearless Bakkhos [Dionysos], your father Kronion [Zeus] has shown you to foretell your victory in the Indian War. For I liken Bakkhos the light-bringer to the sun shining again, and the bold black Indian to the thick darkness. That is what is meant by the picture in the sky. For as the darkness blotted out and covered the light of shining day, and then Helios (the Sun) rose again in his fireshining chariot and dispersed the gross darkness, so you also shall shake from your eyes far far away the darksome sightless gloom of the Tartarian Erinyes, and blaze again on the battlefield like Hyperion. So great a marvel ancient [an eclipse] eternal Khronos (Time) our foster-father has never brought, since Phaethon, struck by the steam of fire divine, fell tumbling half-burnt from Helios’s lightbearing chariot."
HELIUS THE SUN : BARRED FROM HEAVEN
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 35 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Now there was an oracle among the gods that they themselves would not be able to destroy any of the Gigantes, but would finish them off only with the help of some mortal ally. When Ge (Earth) learned of this, she sought a drug that would prevent their destruction even by mortal hands. But Zeus barred the appearance of Eos (the Dawn), Selene (the Moon), and Helios (the Sun), and chopped up the drug himself before Ge (Earth) could find it."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 24 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Herakles] for whose begetting the world lost a day, and Phoebus [Helios] with tardy light shone forth from the Eastern sea, bidden [by Zeus] to keep his bright car sunk beneath Oceanus’ waves."
HELIUS THE SUN : TRAVELS BACKWARDS
Plato, The Statesman 268e (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Of the portents recorded in ancient tales many did happen and will happen again. Such an one is the portent connected with the tale of the quarrel between Atreus and Thyestes . . . I mean the change in the rising and setting of the sun (hêlios) and the other heavenly bodies, how in those times they used to set in the quarter where they now rise, and used to rise where they now set, but the god at the time of the quarrel, you recall, changed all that to the present system as a testimony in favor of Atreus."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E2. 12 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus then sent Hermes to Atreus and told him to get Thyestes to agree that Atreus should rule [Argos], if Helios (the Sun) should journey backwards. Thyestes agreed, and Helios put his setting where he usually rose."
Ovid, Heroides 16. 199 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"A father-in-law [i.e. Atreus] who puts to flight the clear beams of the sun, and turns away from the [cannibalistic] feast his affrightened steeds."
Seneca, Medea 28 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Medea, grand-daughter of Helios :] `Does he behold this [her betrayal by Jason], Sol [Helios the sun], father of my race, and do men still behold him as, sitting in his chariot, he courses over bright heaven’s accustomed spaces? Why does he not return to his rising and measure back the day?.'"
HELIUS THE SUN : THE MAGIC OF WITCHES
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 207 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Medea the witch cries out to the sky gods :] `Thee too, bright Luna [Selene the Moon], I banish, though thy throes the clanging bronze assuage; under my spells even my grandsire’s [Helios the Sun’s] chariot grows pale and Aurora [Eos the Dawn] pales before my poison’s power.'"
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 365 ff :
"Circe turned to prayers and incantations, and unknown chants to worship unknown gods, chants which she used to eclipse Luna’s [Selene the Moon’s] pale face and veil her father’s [Helios the Sun’s] orb in thirsty clouds."
Ovid, Heroides 6. 85 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She [the witch Medea] is one to strive to draw down from its course the unwilling moon (luna), and to hide in darkness the horses of the sun (sol)."
Seneca, Medea 672 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Often have I seen her [the witch Medea] in frenzy and assailing the gods [Helios and Selene, the sun and moon], drawing down the sky."
Seneca, Medea 767 ff :
"At commandment of my [the witch Medea's] voice Phoebus [Helios the sun] has halted in mid-heaven."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 6. 442 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[The witch] Medea . . . than whom is none more potent at the nightly altars; for responsive to her cry and to the juices she scatters in desolate places the Stars are halted trembling and Solis [Helios the Sun] her grandsire is aghast as he runs his course."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 345 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Their [the Brahmans of India] inspired incantations have often enchanted Selene (Moon) as she passes through the air like an untamed bull, and brought her down from heaven, and often stayed the course of Phaethon [Helios the sun] swiftly driving his hurrying car."
HELIUS THE SUN : THE LANDS OF ETERNAL DARKNESS
Beyond the rising and setting places of the sun in the river Okeanos lay lands cloaked in eternal darkness.
Homer, Iliad 8. 480 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[The Titanes] Iapetos and Kronos seated have no shining of the sun god Hyperion [Helios] to delight them nor winds’ delight, but Tartaros stands deeply about them."
Homer, Odyssey 11. 18 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The vessel [of Odysseus came to the bounds of eddying Okeanos, where lie the land and the city of the Kimmerians, covered with mist and cloud. Never does resplendent Helios (the Sun) look on this people with his beams, neither when he climbs towards the stars of heaven nor when once more he comes earthwards from the sky; dismal night overhands these wretches always."
Homer, Odyssey 24. 12 ff :
"So did these ghosts travel on together squeaking, while easeful Hermes led them down [to the Land of the Dead] through the ways of dankness. They passed the streams of Okeanos, the White Rock (petra Leukas), the Gates of the Sun (pylai Hêlioi) and the Land of Dreams (demos oneiroi), and soon they came to the field of asphodel, where the souls (psykhai), the phantoms (eidola) of the dead have their habitation."
Hesiod, Theogony 758 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And there [at the ends of earth, sea and sky] the children of dark Nyx (Night) have their dwellings, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), awful gods. Glowing Helios (the Sun) never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 603 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"I [Herakles] have seen places unapproached by any [i.e. the land of the dead], unknown to Phoebus [Helios the sun], those gloomy spaces which the baser pole hath yielded to infernal Jove [Haides]."
HELIUS THE SUN : ALL-SEEING WATCHER
Homer, Odyssey 11. 102 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The all-seeing, all-hearing Helios (the Sun)."
Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 19 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"Helios (the Sun), who is watchman of both gods and men . . . You [Helios the Sun] with your beams look down from the bright upper air (aitheros) over all the earth and sea."
Sappho or Alcaeus, Fragment 4 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C6th B.C.) :
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 632 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"None knows to give clear report of this [of the fate of Menelaus, lost in a storm]--except only Helios (the Sun) that fosters life upon the earth."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 88 ff :
"[The Titan Prometheus calls on the universe to witness his torment :] O you bright sky of heaven (dios aithêr), you swift-winged breezes (takhypteroi pnoiai), you river-waters (pêgai potamôn), and infinite laughter of the waves of sea (pontos), O universal mother Earth (panmêtôr gê), and you, all-seeing orb of the sun (panoptês kyklos hêlios), to you I call! See what I, a god, endure from the gods."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 169 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Sol [Helios] is the first to see all things."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 575 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Sol (the Sun) gazes far and wide on the day’s deeds."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5. 245 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[Aeetes upon hearing the prophecy from the ghost of Phrixos that his realm will be ruined when the Golden Fleece is stolen :] Prayed to the godhead of his sire [Helios] and to his chariot as it rose above the eastern strand : `This prayer do I make to thee, O father, guardian of my destiny, all-seeing one! Cast now thine eyes upon the land, upon all the sea; whether it be men of my own land or strangers that are planning secret treachery, be first to bear me news.'"
HELIUS THE SUN : GOD OF SIGHT
Helios was the god of sight, who could heal the blind (such as Orion), or blind those who offended him (such as Phineus). The ancient Greeks compared sight (theia) to the rays of the sun. They believed that the human eye emitted an invisible beam which allowed us to see what it touched. Indeed the three light-emitting gods, Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon) and Eos (the Dawn) were called children of Theia (Sight).
Pindar, Paean 9 (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Beam of the sun! O thou that seest afar, what wilt thou be devising? O mother of mine eyes!"
Plato, Republic 508a-c (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"`Visibility and the faculty of sight is precious . . . Which one can you name of the divinities in heaven as the author and cause of this, whose light makes our vision see best and visible things to be seen?' `Why, the one that you too and other people mean for your question evidently refers to the sun (helios).' `Is not this, then, the relation of vision to that divinity?' `What?' `Neither vision itself nor its vehicle, which we call the eye, is identical with the sun.' `Why, no.' `But it is, I think, the most sunlike of all the instruments of sense . . . And does it not receive the power which it possesses as an influx, as it were, dispensed from the sun? . . . Is it not also true that the sun is not vision, yet as being the cause thereof is beheld by vision itself? . . . Directed upon objects illumined by the sun, they see clearly, and vision appears to reside in these same eyes.”
HELIUS THE SUN : WITNESS OF OATHS
Helios was invoked to witness the most solemn of oaths as the all-seeing god who would report any breach to the punishing deities of oath-breakers.
Homer, Iliad 3. 104 & 278 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Agamemnon calls on the Trojans to swear an oath on the outcome of the duel between Paris and Menelaos :] `Bring two lambs [for the oath-swearing]: let one be white and the other black for Gaia (Earth) and Helios (the Sun), and for Zeus we well bring yet another. Bring, that he may seal the pledges . . . Priamos himself, for his sons are outrageous, not to be trusted; lest some man overstep Zeus’ oaths, and make them be nothing.’ . . .
The heralds led up the victims for the gods’ oaths, and in a great wine-bowl mixed the wine, and poured water over the hands of the princes. Atreus’ son [Agamemnon] laid hands upon his work-knife, and few it from where it hung ever beside the mighty sheath of his war sword and cut off hairs from the heads of the lambs; and the heralds thereafter passed these about to all the princes of the Trojans and Akhaians. Atreus’ son uplifting his hands then prayed in a great voice : `Father Zeus, watching over us from Ida, most high, most honoured, and Helios (the Sun), you who see all things, who listen to all things, Gaia (Earth), and Potaioi (Rivers), and you who under the earth take vengeance on dead men [the Erinyes], whoever among them has sworn to falsehood, you shall be witnesses, to guard the oaths of fidelity . . .‘
So he spoke, and with pitiless bronze he cut the lambs’ throats."
Homer, Iliad 19. 259 ff :
"[Agamemnon swears an oath to Akhilleus that he hasn't lain with Briseis :] He cut first away the hairs from the boar, and lifting his hands up to Zeus, prayed . . . He spoke before them in prayer gazing into the wide sky : `Let Zeus first be my witness, highest of the gods and greatest, and Gaia (Earth), and Helios (Sun), and the Erinyes, who underground avenge dead men, when any man has sworn a falsehood, that I have never laid a hand on the girl Briseis . . .'
So he spoke, and with pitiless bronze he cut the boar’s throat."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1018 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[The witch Medea swears an oath :] I swear by Helios’ (the Sun's) sacred light and by the secret rites of Perses’ night-wandering daughter [Hekate]."
Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 9 (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"[King Aeetes makes a pledge to the Argonauts :] Let Helios (the Sun) be my witness and Phasis the king of our Rivers."
Orphic Hymn 8 to Helius (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"[Helios the Sun] foe to the wicked, but the good man’s guide, over all his steps propitious you preside . . . Faithful defender, and the eye of right."
Ovid, Heroides 12. 78 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Jason swears an oath to Medea :] I pray, by thy line, and by the godhead of thy all-seeing grandsire the sun [Helios], by the three-fold face and holy mysteries of Diana [i.e. Hekate[, and by the gods of that race of thine--if so be gods it have--by all these, O maiden, have pity upon me, have pity on my men; be kind to me and make me thine for ever!"
Ovid, Heroides 12. 191 ff :
"[Medea, forsaken by Jason, reminds him of his oath to her :] By the gods above, by the light of my grandsire’s [Helios the sun's] beams, by my favours to you . . ."
Seneca, Oedipus 247 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[King Oidipous swears an oath :] `Now at Heaven’s command let the crime be expiated [the murder of king Laius]. Whoever of the gods dost look with favour upon kingdoms – thou [Zeus], thou whose are the laws of the swift-revolving heavens; and thou [Helios the sun], greatest glory of the unclouded sky . . . and thou, his sister [Selene the moon] . . . thou [Poseidon] whom the winds obey . . . and thou [Haides] who dost allot homes devoid of light--do ye all attend: Him by whose hand Laïus fell may no peaceful dwelling, no friendly household gods, no hospitable land in exile entertain.'"
Seneca, Phaedra 888 ff :
"Thee, thee [Zeus], O sire of the heavenly gods, I call to witness, and thee [Helios the sun], bright radiance of celestial light, on whom as founder of this house of ours depends."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 1. 5 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"First I will swear to you by Sol [Helios the Sun-God] the all-seeing that what I’m telling you it true."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 17. 269 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The Indian Deriades swears :] I bring as witnesses Helios (the Sun), and boundless Gaia (the Earth), and India’s god, holy Hydros (Water) [the river Hydaspes]."
HELIUS THE SUN : GOD OF THE EVIL-EYE
One of the powers attributed to witches was the power of the evil eye -- a malicious gaze that caused misfortune. As the god of sight, and the powerful rays of the sun, Helios was naturally regarded as the source of this power. His children by Perseis (an Okeanis who was identified with Hekate Perseis, the goddess of witchcraft), were the first witches, namely Kirke, Pasiphae, Aeetes and his daughter Medea.
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 726 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Description of the witches Medea and Kirke :] All the Children of Helios were easy to recognise, even from a distance, by their flashing eyes, which shot out rays of golden light."
Seneca, Phaedra 379 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Her [Phaedra's] eyes, which once shone like Phoebus’ [Helios the Sun's] torch, no longer gleam with their ancestral fire [Phaedra was the daughter of Pasiphae, daughter of the Helios]."
HELIUS EQUATED WITH APOLLON
Apollon was identified with the sun-god Helios by a few early Greek poets and philosophers. However, it was really only the Latin poets, such as Ovid, Virgil and Seneca, who truly conflated the gods. Even in poets like Ovid, however, it is worth noting that the sun-god is often titled "Phoebus," but never directly referred to as "Apollo." Further, the same poets who mention Phoebus the sun, often call him "Hyperionides" (the son of Hyperion), and "Titan" (the Titan god) in the same passage. The name "Apollo," on the other hand, is used almost exclusively for non-solar references, i.e. Apollon as the god of music, oracles and poetry.
I have included all Latin references to Phoebus the sun-god within the Helios section of this site rather than the pages covering Apollon. This better coincides with the Greek versions of the myths--for example, the story of Phaethon, in which Helios rather than Apollon is always described as the father of the boy.
Timotheus, Fragment 800 (from Macrobius, Saturnalia) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric V) (C5th B.C.) :
"And you Helios (the Sun), who strike with your bright rays the everlasting heavenly vault, send on our enemies a far-shot arrow from your bowstring, oh ie Paian [Apollon]."
Greek Lyric V Folk Songs, Fragment 860 (from Heraclitus, Homeric Allegories) (trans. Campbell) (Greek lyric B.C.) :
"That Apollon is the same as the sun and that one god is furnished with two names is made clear to us by the mystical words spoken in the secret initiation rites and by the popular refrain which can be heard everywhere : The sun is Apollon and Apollon is the sun."
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 22 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
[The Greek adjective phoibos (the shining) was commonly used by the poets to describe the sun, in addition to being a title of the god Apollon, e.g. :]
"The sun's bright beams (hêliou phoibêi phlogi)."
Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 858 ff :
"The unseen land [i.e. the Underworld] where Apollon [here the sun] does not walk, the sunless (analion) land that receives all men."
Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 212 ff :
"Danaus: Invoke now also that bird of Zeus [i.e. the sun].
Chorus [of Danaides] : We invoke the saving beams of the sun (helios).
Danaus : Pure Apollon, too, who, though a god, was exiled once from heaven."
Aeschylus, Bassarae or Bassarides (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
In Aeschylus' lost play Bassarae the Thrakian bard Orpheus worshipped Apollon as the sun-god. Weir Smyth (L.C.L.) summarises evidence for the plot : "Eratosthenes, Catasterismoi, says of Orpheus that he paid no honour to Dionysos, but considered Helios to be the greatest of the gods and addressed him as Apollon; that, by making haste during the night, he reached at dawn the summit of Mt. Pangaios, and waited there that he might see the rising of the sun (as Aeschylus tells the story)."
Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Both Helios (the Sun) and Selene (the Moon) are closely associated with these [Apollon & Artemis], since they are the causes of the temperature of the air. And both pestilential diseases and sudden deaths are imputed to these gods [Apollon & Artemis]."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 27 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The name Apollo is Greek; they say that he is Sol (the Sun), and Diana they identify with Luna (the Moon); the word Sol being from solus, either because the sun ‘alone’ of all the heavenly bodies is of that magnitude, or because when the sun rises all the stars are dimmed and it ‘alone’ is visible."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 19 :
"You say that Sol the Sun and Luna the Moon are deities, and the Greeks identify the former with Apollo and the latter with Diana [Artemis]."
ALTERNATE NAMES, TITLES & EPITHETS OF HELIOS
The name Helios takes a number of forms in the different Greek dialects, such as the Doric form of the name Halios.
||Sun (Doric spelling)
Helios had a large number of poetic epithets and by-names.
||He Who Goes Above
||Son of Hyperion,
He Who Goes Above
The Straining God
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Hesiod, Fragments - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Pindar, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric II Anacreontea, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th-4th B.C.
- Greek Lyric III Stesichorus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C7th-6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric V Euripides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric V Philoxenus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th-4th B.C.
- Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Lyric B.C.
- Greek Elegaic Mimnermus, Fragments – Greek Elegaic C7th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Agamemnon - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Suppliant Women - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aristophanes, Clouds - Greek Comedy C5th-4th B.C.
- Aesop, Fables - Greek Fables C6th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Aratus, Phaenomena - Greek Astronomy C3rd B.C.
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Plato, Cratylus - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, The Republic - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, The Statesmen - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd AD
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd-3rd A.D.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History - Greek Mythography C1st-2nd A.D.
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
- Oppian, Cynegetica - Greek Poetry C3rd A.D.
- Greek Papyri III Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Poetry C4th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Heroides - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Medea - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Phaedra - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Oedipus - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Troades - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Achilleid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
- Apuleius, The Golden Ass - Latin Novel C2nd A.D.
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Photius, Myriobiblon - Byzantine Greek Scholar C9th A.D.
- Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.