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Katelyn Dudash

Mrs. Dietrich

Honors World Literature

March 6, 2017

Helios Research Paper

Just as the sun is vital to life on earth, the Greek titan god of the sun played an influential

role in Greek mythology and literature. Helios was the Greek titan god of the sun, and he had a

lasting impact on Greek culture and remains an important figure. His title “Sun god”, put him at

the center of Greek mythology, allowing him to play an important role, especially in works such

as the Odyssey.

Helios, the titan god of the sun, was tasked with bringing light to the world by raising the

sun everyday with his chariot and horses. Every morning he began his journey in the East,

driving his for horse team westward as they carried the sun across the earth, bringing light to the

world (“Helios in Greek Mythology”). Greek mythology tells us that Helios floated back to his

Eastern palace in a golden bowl down the stream of Ocean, which was a mythical river, believed

to have circled the flat earth (Karas). It was also widely believed that, as the Sun god, Helios saw

and heard everything that happened on the earth, and therefore he was often called upon as a

witness by humans and gods (Karas). Some considered him a sort of heavenly spy, because not

many secrets can be kept a secret. This characteristic is displayed in some myths about him, such

as Persephone’s abduction and Athena and Ares’ affair.


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Helios is often portrayed as a young, handsome charioteer, often with a headdress, and

sometimes on horseback. His chariot is a recognizable symbol, as it is what enables him to make

the sun rise every day. The chariot he drives is pulled by four horses by the names of Pyroeis,

Eoos, Aithon/Aithops, and Phlegon, whose names mean Fiery, Orient, Blazing, and Flaming

(Rose 33). Other symbols that are sometimes used to represent Helios include his whip (which he

uses to drive the chariot), and a globe (Regula). Helios’ powers and symbols can be more easily

understood after considering his parentage and his family’s place in the genealogy of the Greek

titans and gods.

Greek god/goddess genealogy can be complicated due to the different deities that existed.

There were the primeval gods, the Titans, and the Olympians. As the son of the Titan of Light

(Hyperion) and the Titaness of Sight (Theia), Helios is considered to be a second generation

Titan. His parents, Hyperion and Theia, were the siblings of Cronus and Rhea, who had various

children including Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. However, these children of Cronus and Rhea

were considered to be Olympians. Helios and his two siblings, Eos (Titaness of Dawn) and

Selene (Titaness of the Moon), are the cousins of these Olympians. According to Greek myth,

Helios’ sister Eoos began her journey before Helios, and he followed after her. Some web

sources provide additional details about Helios’ family, and writes about his offspring:

Helios was also the father to some important mythical characters. With his wife, the

Oceanid Perseis, Helios had three legendary children - Circe, Pasiphae, and

Aeetes…These “children of the Sun” were sometimes referred to as Heliades in Greek

mythology and literature. (“Helios in Greek Mythology”)

In Greek mythology, Helios has a complicated relationships with other gods. Zeus and

Apollo are two good examples. Zeus is considered to be the ruler of the Olympian gods, and
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therefore is one of the more powerful and more famous gods. However, some believe that Helios

was once worshipped on the same scale as Zeus due to his powers as the Sun god (“Helios”).

Helios is compared to Apollo, because the two gods are very similar. Apollo is actually the son

of Zeus, and he is the patron of many things, including music, healing, truth, and light. Some

people confuse Helios and Apollo, because both are the god of light, but there is a difference

between the two. Helios is a second generation titan, while Apollo is considered a god, so they

are from to separate deities (Karas).

Helios’ importance in Greek mythology led to his involvement in many works such as

Homer’s Odyssey. In the Story of the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men come upon Helios’ cattle.

Myths and oral tradition have claimed that Helios had about 350 sheep, and they debated on the

significance of this number, as it was close to the number of days in a year (Rose). Odysseus’

men were instructed not to eat the cattle, but as Odysseus sleeps, his men feast on the cattle.

Helios hears this news and is enraged, so he takes up the issue with Zeus, and threatens to shine

the Sun in the Underworld. Zeus promises to punish the men for eating the sheep and kills all the

men except for Odysseus, who had refused to eat any of the cattle. This is such an important

event because it leaves Odysseus completely alone, as all his crew members had been killed. He

is forced to return to Ithaca alone, where he faces even more challenges, such as the suitors. He

is at a greater disadvantage without his crew, and his perseverance and strength is showcased in

the last few books of the Odyssey. This event also stressed the idea of respecting the gods, which

was a constant theme in the Odyssey. The crew members go against the gods by eating Helios’

cattle and are punished for it. If Helios and his cattle were not included in the Odyssey, the story

would have drastically changed.


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Like many other Greek gods, Helios is included in various myths that reveal more about

him. One of the most famous myths involving Helios details the time he allowed his mortal son

Phaeton to drive his chariot. Phaeton lost control of the chariot, so Zeus was forced to strike him

down so that the Sun, which was carried by the chariot, would not set fire to the Earth (Russel

52). Helios has a role in the myth about Athena and Ares’ affair as well. He spots the two in the

Palace of Hephaestus, and as a good friend of Hephaestus, informs him of what he saw. As the

god of craftsmanship, Hephaestus creates a trap to catch the other two gods. They later catch the

two gods in the act, and Ares was then banished from Olympus (Russel 75). Helios also plays

one of the major parts in the story of Clytie, the ill-fated nymph. Clytie had been deeply

infatuated with Helios, and she watched as his chariot pulled the sun every day. At some point,

Helios becomes involved with a mortal king’s daughter. In her jealousy, Clytie informs the king

of his daughter and Helios, and the two are broken apart. Helios never shows affection for Clytie,

though, and she eventually transforms into a flower, where she watches the sun for the rest of her

life (“Helios in Greek Mythology”).

Helios also plays minor parts in myths about Hercules, Orion, and even the mother

goddess Gaea. Hercules was unable to find the island of Erythia, so in desperation he shoots an

arrow toward the sun (“Helios”). Impressed by Hercules’ bravery and boldness, Helios provides

him with a golden goblet so that he may cross the ocean and reach Erythia. “Helios also helped

Orion who was blinded and, while wandering around, came across Hephaestus who then directed

him to Helios. The sun god then cleansed his eyes with rays and recovered his vision”

(“Helios”). Gaea, the mother goddess of the earth, even approaches Helios and asks him to dry

her land after it had been left frozen due to a fight between Typhon and Zeus. Helios also plays a

role in the story of Persephone’s abduction. When Hades abducts Persephone so that she would
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be his wife, Helios is one of the few gods who hears Persephone’s screams as she was abducted.

Again, this can be attributed to the fact that Helios is in the sky and sees or hears just about

everything on earth. When Persephone’s mother, Demeter, demanded the gods of Olympus tell

her who had taken her daughter, Helios came forward and told her that Zeus and Hades were to

blame (Karas).

In conclusion, Helios’ role in raising the sun each day put him at the center of life and

Greek mythology. He also played important parts in works such Homer’s Odyssey. He brought

sunlight to earth each day so that all living things could thrive and grow. Helios’ influence is

often compared to that of Zeus, who is the ruler of all the gods. He widely influenced Greek

mythology and literature, and this is especially prevalent in the story of the Odyssey. Overall, his

importance was invaluable, and had a lasting impact.


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Annotated Bibliography

"Helios (Helius, Sol, Sun)." Helios, Titan God of the Sun. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

This source provided information on Helios’ interactions with other gods as well as his

descendants.

"Helios in Greek Mythology." Mythography RSS. Mythography.com, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

This website details more of Helios’ role in Greek mythology which can be useful in my

essay.

Karas, Michael and Charilaos Megas. "Helios." Helios. Michael Karas, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

This source can be used for more basic information about Helios, his genealogy, and his

involvement in Greek myths.

Regula, DeTraci. "Helios, the Apollo before Apollo." About.com Travel. About.com, 30 Apr.

2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

This source provides basic information and facts about Helios which I can use as a base

for my essay.

Rose, H.J. A Handbook of Greek Mythology. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc., 1959. Print.

This source detailed the history of the Greek gods. The information can be used for

Helios’ genealogy.

Russel, William F. Classic Myths to Read Aloud. New York, New York: Crown Publishers Inc.,

1988. Print.

This book provides various myths that include Helios.


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Outline:

I. Introduction

A. Grabber

1. Just as the Sun is vital to life on earth, Helios was vital to Greek culture.

B. Thesis

1. As the god of the Sun, Helios played an important role in Greek mythology and

the story of the Odyssey.

II. Basic Story

A. Helios drives a chariot pulled by four horses which raises the sun each day

B. Helios sees/hears everything from his position in the sky

III. Symbols

A. Young, handsome, charioteer, chariot, four horses, whip, globe

IV. Relation to Other Gods

A. Parentage and children

B. Helios was worshipped on the same scale as Zeus

C. Some confuse Apollo and Helios

V. Role in the Odyssey

A. Helios’ cattle

B. How Helios affected the story

C. How the story would be different without Helios

VI. Other Myths

A. Athena and Ares


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B. Clytie the ill-fated nymph

C. Hercules

D. Phaeton

E. Orion

F. Persephone

VII. Conclusion

A. Restate Thesis

B. Sum up each paragraph