Web Theoi
HORAI
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Ὡρα
Ὡραι
Hôra
Hôrai
Hora
Horae
Portion of Time,
Hour (hôra)

THE TWELVE HORAI (or Horae) were goddesses of the hours of the day and perhaps also of the twelve months of the year. They oversaw the path of the sun-god Helios as he travelled across the sky, dividing the day into its portions.

The ancient Greeks did not have hours of fixed length like we do today. Instead they divided the hours of daylight into twelve portions, identified by the position of the sun in the sky. Thus the length of the hour varied between the longer days of summer and shorter ones of winter.

The twelve Horai were not always clearly distinguishable from the Horai of the seasons, who were also described as overseeing the path of the sun.

PARENTS
[1.1] HELIOS (Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.490)
[2.1] KHRONOS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 12.15)
NAMES
[1.1] AUGE, ANATOLE, MOUSIKA, GYMNASTIKA, NYMPHE, MESEMBRIA, SPONDE, ELETE, AKTE, HESPERIS, DYSIS (Hyginus Fabulae 183)
[1.2] ANATOLIA, MESEMBRIA, DYSIS, ARKTOS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 41.263)

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 1. 48 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"As when descends Eos (Dawn) from Olympos' crest of adamant, Eos, heart-exultant in her radiant steeds amidst the bright-haired Horai (Hours); and o'er them all, how flawless-fair soever these may be, her splendour of beauty glows pre-eminent."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 2. 490 ff :
"Erigeneia (the Child of the Mist) [Eos the Dawn] in her chariot through the sky she rode. Marvelled the Daughters of the Sun (Helioio Thugatres) [Horai] who stood near her, around that wondrous splendour-ring traced for the race-course of the tireless sun by Zeus, the limit of all Nature's life and death, the dally round that maketh up the eternal circuit of the rolling years."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 2. 549 ff :
"Eos (the Lady of the Morn) wailing her dear child [Memnon] from the heavens came down. Twelve maidens [the twelve Horai] shining-tressed attended her, the warders of the high paths of the sun for ever circling, warders of the night and dawn, and each world-ordinance framed of Zeus, around whose mansion's everlasting doors from east to west they dance, from west to east, whirling the wheels of harvest-laden years, while rolls the endless round of winter's cold, and flowery spring, and lovely summer-tide, and heavy-clustered autumn. These came down from heaven, for Memnon wailing wild and high; and mourned with these the Pleiades. Echoed round far-stretching mountains, and Aisepos' stream. Ceaseless uprose the keen, and in their midst, fallen on her son and clasping, wailed Eos."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 2. 658 ff :
"Eos (Dawn) divine now heavenward soared with the all-fostering Horai (Hours), who drew her to Zeus' threshold, sorely loth, yet conquered by their gentle pleadings, such as salve the bitterest grief of broken hearts."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 183 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The names of the Horae, daughters of Jove, son of Saturn [Kronos], and Themis, daughter Titanidis, are these: Auxo, Eunomia (Order), Pherusa, Carpo (Fruit), Dice (Justice), Euporia, Irene (Peace), Orthosie, Thallo (Bud). Other writers give ten by these names: Auge (When light first appears), Anatole (Dawn), Musica (Music-hour), Gymnastica (Gymn-hour), Nymphe (Bath-hour), Mesembria (Noon), Sponde (Libations poured after lunch), Elete, Acte, Hesperis (Evening), and Dysis (Setting)." [N.B. The name of the twelfth Hora (Hour) is not preserved.]

Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4. 90 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"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."

Statius, Thebaid 3. 406 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Far on the sloping margin of the western sea sinking Sol [Helios the Sun] had unyoked his flaming steeds, and laved their bright manes in the springs of Oceanus . . . and the swift-striding Horae (Hours), who strip him of his reins and the woven glory of his golden coronet, and relive 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."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 15 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The four [Horai (Seasons)] were greeted by the twelve circling Horai (Hours), daughters of Khronos (Time), tripling round the fiery throne of the untiring Charioteer in a ring, servants of Helios that attend on his shining car, priestesses of the lichtgang each in her turn: for they bend the servile neck to the ancient manager of the universe."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 130 ff :
"The lightfoot Horai (Hours) acclaimed [the Okeanis] Klymene’s bridal with Helios (the Sun) Phaesphoros, the Nymphai Neides (Naiads) [Okeanides] danced around; in a watery bridal-bower the fruitful maiden was wedded in a flaming union, and received the hot bridegroom into her cool arms."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 287 ff :
"[Helios instructs his son Phaethon on the driving of the sun-chariot :] `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 (Hours) in turn will direct your way.'
. . . The Horai (Hours) brought the fiery horses of Helios from their eastern manger; Eosphoros came boldly to the yoke, and fastened the horses’ necks in the bright yokestraps for their service."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 263 ff :
"The hall of Allmother Harmonia [in the vault of heaven], where that Nymphe dwelt in a house, self-built, shaped like the great universe with its four quarters joined in one. Four portals were about that stronghold standing proof against he four Aetai (Winds). Handmaids [Horai of the Hours] protected this dwelling on all sides, a round image of the universe: the doors were allotted--Anatolia (Rising) was the maid who attended the East Wind’s (Euros’) gate; at the West Wind’s (Zephyros’) was Dysis (Setting) the nurse of Selene; Mesembrias (Midday) held the bold of the fiery South (Notos); Arktos the Bear was the servant who opened the gate of the North (Boreas), thick with clouds and sprinkled with hail."

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Αυγη Augê Auge Daybreak
(augê)
Ανατολη Anatolê Anatole Rising
(anatolê)
Μουσικη Mousikê Musica Music
(mousikê)
Γυμναστικη Gymnastikê Gymnastica Athletics
(gymnastikos)
Νυμφη Nymphê Nympha Bath ?, Bridal
(nymphê)
Μεσημβρια Mesêmbria Mesembria Midday, Noon
(mesêmbria)
Σπονδη Spondê Sponde Libations, Offerings
(spondê)
Ηλετη Êletê Elete Grinding ? (aletos)
Prayer ? (litê)
Ακτη Aktê Acte Corn, Meal ?
(aktê)
Ἑσπερις Hesperis Hesperis Evening
(hesperos)
Δυσις Dysis Dysis Sunset
(dysis)
Αρκτος Arktos Arctus (Constellation) Bear
(arktos)

Sources:

  • Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.