The god Helios is the Greek god of the sun. He is often depicted riding a chariot daily across the sky wearing a radiant crown. He was the son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia and brother of the goddesses Selene (the Moon) and Eos (the Dawn). He is also the guardian of oaths and the god of sight. In classical Greece, Helios was considered the guardian god of Rhodes, with his influence greatly spreading during Roman times.
According to the lyric poet Pindar, when the gods divided the earth between each other, Helios was absent. When he came back to Olympus, he was furious about this fact. Zeus, trying to calm Helios down, promised him that he would give him the greatest gift of all. Zeus created a beautiful new island and Helios was so amazed by its beauty that he named it Rhodes, after his wife Rhode.
When Hades abducted Persephone, Helios was there to witness it. When Persephone’s mother, the goddess Demeter came to him to ask him what happened to her daughter, Helios told her in detail that it was Hades who, with Zeus’ permission, had taken an unwilling Persephone to the Underworld to be his wife.
Phaethon was the son of Helios. In one story Epaphus the king of Egypt mocked Phaethon for claiming that he was the son of Helios. Phaethon’s mother Clymene instructs Phaethon to go to Helios himself to prove to Epaphus that he is the son of Helios. Helios welcomed his son and promised him any gift that he might ask for. Phaethon asks Helios to borrow his chariot for one day. Helios was hesitant at first because of how difficult riding this chariot was. Eventually, he gave in to his son’s wishes, borrowing him his chariot. Phaethon was so bad at riding the chariot that the earth burns when he travels too low and freezes when he goes too high. Zeus, to save the world, strikes Phaethon with lightning, killing him. Helios, in his sorrow, refuses to resume his job. But he returns to his tasks at the appeal of the other gods, and Zeus’ threats.
When Zeus decided to seduce Alcmene, he ordered Helios not to rise for those three days, hiding the sun. Alcmene gave birth to Hercules, one of the greatest heroes of ancient Greek Mythology. During his 10th Labour, Hercules crossed the Libyan desert. Hercules was so frustrated by the heat of the sun that he shot an arrow at Helios. Hercules realized his mistake and apologized immediately to Helios. But Helios was impressed by Hercules’s bravery that he gave him a golden cup, allowing him to travel faster.
During the journey of Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca, Helios plays an important role. When Odysseus and his crew came to the island of Circe, he was warned not to touch Helios’ sacred cows in Thrinacia. Although Odysseus warned his crew, they disobeyed, and they ate the god’s sacred cows. When Helios learned of this, he was furious, appealing to Zeus to punish Odysseus and his crew. Zeus destroys the ship with his lightning bolt, killing all the men except for Odysseus.
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