Learn more about Helios
- For other uses of Helios, see Helios (disambiguation).
Helios was imagined as a handsome god crowned with the shining aureole of the sun, who drove a chariot across the sky. Homer descibed it as drawn by solar bulls (Iliad xvi.779); later Pindar saw it as drawn by "fire-darting steeds" (Olympian Ode 7.71). Still later, the horses were given fiery names: Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon and Phlegon.
 Greek mythology
The best known story involving Helios is that of his son Phaeton, who attempted to drive his father's chariot but lost control and set the earth on fire.
Helios was sometimes referred to with the epithet Helios Panoptes ("the all-seeing"). In the story told in the hall of Alcinous in the Odyssey (viii.300ff), Aphrodite, the consort of Hephaestus secretly bedded Ares. All-seeing Helios, lord of the sun, spied on them and told Hephaestus who ensnared the two lovers in nets invisibly fine, to punish them.
The rooster and white horse were sacred to the god. In the Odyssey (book XII), Odysseus and his surviving crew landed on Thrinacia, an island sacred to the sun god, whom Circe names Hyperion rather than Helios:
- You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god. There will be seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty head in each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetia, who are children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look after their father's flocks and herds."
There were kept the sacred red Cattle of the Sun. Though Odysseus warned his men not to, they impiously killed and ate some of the cattle. The guardians of the island, Helios' daughters, told their father. Helios, however, had to appeal to Zeus, who destroyed the ship and killed all the men except for Odysseus.
In one Greek vase painting Helios appears riding across the sea in the cup of the Delphic tripod, which appears to be a solar reference. Athenaeus in Deipnosophistae <ref>Noted in Kereny 1951:191, note 595.</ref> related that at the hour of sunset Helios climbed into a great golden cup, in which he passes from the Hesperides in the farthest west to the land of the Ethiops, with whom he passes the dark hours. While Heracles traveled to Erytheia to retrieve the cattle of Geryon, he crossed the Libyan desert and was so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the sun. Helios begged him to stop and Heracles demanded the golden cup which Helios used to sail across the sea every night, from the west to the east. Heracles used this golden cup to reach Erytheia.
 Helios and Apollo
Apollo as he appears in Homer, a plague-dealing god with a silver (not golden) bow, has no solar features. "Different names may refer to the same being," Walter Burkert observes (1985:120), "or else they may be consciously equated, as in the case of Apollo and Helios."
The earliest certain reference to Apollo identified with the sun titan Helios appears in the surviving fragments of Euripides' play Phaethon in a speech near the end (fr 781 N²), Clymene, Phaethon's mother, laments that Helios has destroyed her child, that Helios whom men rightly call Apollo (the name Apollo here understood to mean Apollon "Destroyer").
The identification became a commonplace in philosophic texts and appears in the writing of Parmenides, Empedocles, Plutarch and Crates of Thebes among others, as well as appearing in some Orphic texts. Pseudo-Eratosthenes writes about Orpheus in Catasterismi, section 24:
- But having gone down into Hades because of his wife and seeing what sort of things were there, he did not continue to worship Dionysus, because of whom he was famous, but he thought Helios to be the greatest of the gods, Helios whom he also addressed as Apollo. Rousing himself each night toward dawn and climbing the mountain called Pangaion, he would await the sun's rising, so that he might see it first. Therefore Dionysus, being angry with him, sent the Bassarides, as Aeschylus the tragedian says; they tore him apart and scattered the limbs.
Dionysus and Asclepius are sometimes also identified with this Apollo Helios.
Classical Latin poets also used Phoebus as a byname for the sun-god, whence come common references in later European poetry to Phoebus and his car ("chariot") as a metaphor for the sun. But in particular instances in myth, Apollo and Helios are distinct. The sun-god, the son of Hyperion, with his sun chariot, though often called Phoebus ("shining") is not called Apollo except in purposeful non-traditional identifications. Roman poets often referred to the sun god as Titan.
Despite these identification, Apollo was never actually described by the Greek poets driving the chariot of the sun; it was common practice among Latin poets.
 Cult of Helios
"The island of Rhodes is almost the only place where Helios enjoys an important cult", Burkert asserts (p 174), instancing a spectacular rite in which a quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, is driven over a precipice into the sea, with its overtones of the plight of Phaethon noted. There annual gymnastic tournaments were held in his honor. The Colossus of Rhodes was dedicated to him. He also had a significant cult on the acropolis of Corinth on the Greek mainland.
 See also
- Walter Burkert, 1982. Greek Religion.
- Konrad Schauenburg, 1955. Helios: Archäologisch-mythologische Studien über den antiken (Mann)
- Karl Kerenyi. Apollo: The Wind, the Spirit, and the God: Four Studies
- Karl Kerenyi, 1951. The Gods of the Greeks, "The Sun, the Moon and their Family" pp 190-94 et passim.
 External links
- Theoi Project, Helios references to the god in classical literature and art
- Greek Mythology Link, Helius summary of Helius mythsast:Heliu (mitoloxía)
bg:Хелиос cs:Hélios da:Helios de:Helios el:Ήλιος (μυθολογία) es:Helios fr:Hélios id:Helios it:Elio (mitologia) he:הליוס lt:Helijas hu:Héliosz nl:Helios ja:ヘリオス pl:Helios pt:Hélios ro:Helios ru:Гелиос simple:Helios sk:Helios sv:Helios tr:Helios uk:Геліос zh:赫利俄斯