In Greek mythology and religion, Eos (//; Ionic and Homeric Greek Ἠώς Ēṓs, Attic Ἕως Héōs, "dawn", pronounced [ɛːɔ̌ːs] or [héɔːs]; Aeolic Αὔως Aúōs, Doric Ἀώς Āṓs) is the goddess and personification of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the river Oceanus to deliver light and disperse the night. Like Roman Aurora and Rigvedic Ushas, Eos continues the name of an earlier Indo-European dawn goddess, Hausos. Eos, or her earlier Proto-Indo-European (PIE) ancestor, also shares several elements with the love goddess Aphrodite, perhaps signifying Eos's influence on her or otherwise a common origin for the two goddesses. In surviving tradition, Aphrodite is the culprit behind Eos' numerous love affairs, having cursed the goddess with insatiable lust for mortal men.
Personification of the Dawn
|Symbol||Saffron, cloak, roses, tiara|
|Color||Red, white, pink, gold|
|Mount||A chariot drawn by two horses|
|Parents||Hyperion and Theia|
|Siblings||Helios and Selene|
|Consort||Astraeus, Orion, Cephalus, Cleitus, Ares, Tithonus|
|Children||The Winds (Boreas, Eurus, Notus and Zephyrus), the Stars (Eosphorus/Hesperus, Pyroeis, Stilbon, Phaethon, and Phaenon), Memnon, Emathion, and Astraea|
In Greek literature, Eos is presented as a daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, the sister of the sun god Helios and the moon goddess Selene. In rarer traditions, she is the daughter of the Titan Pallas. Each day she drives her two-horse chariot, heralding the breaking of the new day and her brother's arrival. Thus, her most common epithet of the goddess in the Homeric epics is Rhododactylos, or "rosy-fingered", a reference to the sky's colours at dawn, and Erigeneia, "early-born".
Eos fell in love with mortal men several times, and would abduct them in similar manner to how male gods did mortal women. Her most notable mortal lover is the Trojan prince Tithonus, for whom she ensured the gift of immortality, but not eternal youth, leading to him aging without dying for an eternity. In another story, she carried off the Athenian Cephalus against his will, but eventually let him go for he ardently wished to be returned to his wife, though not before she denigrated her to him, leading to the couple parting ways.
Despite her Proto-Indo-European origins, there's little evidence of Eos having received any cult or worship during classical times.
The Proto-Greek form of Ἠώς / Ēṓs has been reconstructed as *ἀυhώς / auhṓs. It is cognate to the Vedic goddess Ushas, Lithuanian goddess Aušrinė, and Roman goddess Aurora (Old Latin Ausosa), all three of whom are also goddesses of the dawn. Beekes notes that the Proto-Greek form *ἇϝος (hãwos) is identical with the Sanskrit relative yāvat, meaning 'as long as'. Meissner (2006) suggested an áwwɔ̄s > /aṷwɔ̄s/ > αὔως lengthening for Aeolic and */aṷwɔ̄s/ > *āwɔ̄s > *ǣwɔ̄s > /ǣɔ̄s/ for Attic-Ionic Greek.
In Mycenaean Greek her name is also attested in the form 𐀀𐀺𐀂𐀍 in Linear B, a-wo-i-jo (Āw(ʰ)oʰios; Ἀϝohιος),[a] found in a tablet from Pylos; it has been interpreted as a shepherd's personal name related to "dawn", or dative form Āwōiōi.
Heinrich Wilhelm Stoll offered a different etymology for ἠὼς, linking it to the verb αὔω, meaning "to blow", "to breathe."
Lycophron calls her by an archaic name, Tito, meaning "day" and perhaps etymologically linked to "Titan". Karl Kerenyi observes that Tito shares a linguistic origin with Eos's lover Tithonus, which belonged to an older, pre-Greek language.
All four of the aforementioned goddesses sharing a linguistic connection with Eos are considered derivatives of the Proto-Indo-European stem *h₂ewsṓs (later *Ausṓs), "dawn". The root also gave rise to Proto-Germanic *Austrō, Old High German *Ōstara and Old English Ēostre / Ēastre. These and other cognates led to the reconstruction of a Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess, *h₂éwsōs.
In the Greek pantheon, Eos, Helios and Zeus are the three gods that are of impeccable Indo-European lineage in both etymology and status, although the former two were sidelined in the pantheon by non-PIE newcomers. A common epithet associated with this dawn goddess is *Diwós Dhuǵh2tḗr, the 'Daughter of Dyēus', the sky god. In Homeric tradition however, Eos is never stated to be the daughter of Zeus (Διὸς θυγάτηρ, Diòs thugátēr), rather a commonly occurring epithet of hers is δῖα, dîa, meaning "divine", from earlier *díw-ya, which would have translated into "belonging to Zeus" or "heavenly".
This probably of Proto-Indo-European origin goddess of the dawn was often conflated and equated with Hemera, the goddess of the day and daylight. Eos might have also played a role in Proto-Indo-European poetry.
Eos also shares some characteristics with the love goddess Aphrodite connoting perhaps a semi-shared origin or influence of Eos/*Haéusōs on Aphrodite, who otherwise has a Near Eastern origin; both goddesses were known for their erotic beauty and aggressive sexuality, both had relationships with mortal lovers and both were associated with the colors red, white, and gold. Michael Janda etymologizes Aphrodite's name as an epithet of Eos meaning "she who rises from the foam [of the ocean]" and points to Hesiod's Theogony account of Aphrodite's birth as an archaic reflex of Indo-European myth. Evidence is also provided by an Italic red-figure krater in which Aphrodite is shown holding a mirror beneath a solar disc while the Theban hero Cadmus slays the dragon, with a female figure nearly identical to Aphrodite being depicted on another krater labelled "ΑΩΣ", or Aṓs, the dawn; this shows that although Aphrodite is assimilated to Astarte/Inanna, in Greek artistic tradition she is sometimes presented in a similar matter to Eos.
Aphrodite, like Eos, is predator and not prey, as no tales of men assaulting Aphrodite exist, but there are many where she abducts mortal men reversing the traditional theme of gods and men pursuing maidens, in the same fashion as Eos. Not only does Aphrodite abduct or seduce mortal men as Eos does, but even cites Eos' own adventures with Tithonus when she seduces Anchises. The two goddesses are presented as both maleficent and beneficent abductors, as they confer both death (maleficent) and preservation (beneficent) to their mortal lovers.
The rapacious goddess of the dawn Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers or rosy forearms as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise. In Homer, her saffron-colored robe is embroidered or woven with flowers; while the singer in the Homeric Hymn to Helios calls her ῥοδόπηχυν (ACC), "rosy-armed" as does Sappho; rosy-fingered and with golden arms, she is pictured on Attic vases as a beautiful woman, crowned with a tiara or diadem and with the large white-feathered wings of a bird. Mesomedes of Crete used χιονοβλέφαρος for her, "she who has snow-white eyelids", while Ovid described her as "golden". The delicate and fragile beauty of her appearance seems to be in total contrast with the carnal nature that was often attributed to her in myth and literature.
Eos was the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia: Hyperion, a bringer of light, the One Above, Who Travels High Above the Earth and Theia, The Divine, also called Euryphaessa, "wide-shining" and Aethra, "bright sky". Eos was the sister of Helios, god of the sun, and Selene, goddess of the moon, "who shine upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless gods who live in the wide heaven". Out of the four authors that give her and her siblings a birth order, two make her the oldest child, the other two the youngest.[b] In some accounts, Eos's father was called Pallas, who is also confirmed to the be father of Eos' sister Selene in some rare traditions; even though the two goddesses are still connected as sisters in the traditions going with lineage from Pallas, their brother Helios is never included with them in those versions, being consistently the son of Hyperion. Mesomedes made her the daughter of Helios, who is usually her brother, by an unnamed mother. Some authors made her the child of Nyx, the goddess of the night.
Eos married the Titan Astraeus ("of the Stars") and became the mother of the Anemoi ("winds") namely Zephyrus, Boreas, Notus and Eurus; of the Morning Star, Eosphoros (Venus); the Astra ("stars") and of the virgin goddess of justice, Astraea ("starry one"). Her other notable offspring were Memnon and Emathion by the Trojan prince, Tithonus. Sometimes, Hesperus, Phaethon and Tithonus (different from her lover) were called the children of Eos by the Athenian prince, Cephalus.
Each morning, the dawn goddess Eos would get up and open the gates so that her brother the Sun would pass and rise, bringing the new day. Although often her job seems to be done once she announces Helios' coming, in the Homeric epics she accompanies him throughout the day, and does not leave him until the sunset; hence "Eos" might be used in texts where one would have expected to see "Helios" instead. In Musaeus's rendition of the story of Hero and Leander in the sixth century AD, Eos is mentioned during both sunrise and sunset.
From The Iliad:
Near the end of the Odyssey, Athena, wanting to buy Odysseus some time with his wife Penelope after they have reunited with each other, orders Eos not to yoke her two horses, thus delaying the coming of the new day:
Thus Eos, preceded by the Morning Star, is seen as the genetrix of all the stars and planets; her tears are considered to have created the morning dew, personified as Ersa or Herse, who is otherwise the daughter of her sister Selene by Zeus.
Eos is addressed by the singer in one of the Orphic Hymns, as the bringer of the new day:
Hear, O goddess, you bring the light of day to mortals
resplendent Dawn, you blush throughout the world
messenger of the great, the illustrious Titan.
Eos's team of horses pull her chariot across the sky and are named in the Odyssey as "Firebright" and "Daybright". Quintus described her exulting in her heart over the radiant horses (Lampus and Phaëton) that drew her chariot, amidst the bright-haired Horae, the feminine Hours, the daughters of Zeus and Themis who are responsible for the changing of the seasons, climbing the arc of heaven and scattering sparks of fire.
Eos is presented as a goddess who fell in love several times. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, it was the jealous Aphrodite who cursed her to be perpetually in love and have an insatiable sexual desire because Eos had once lain with Aphrodite's lover Ares, the god of war. This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men.
In the Odyssey, Calypso complains to Hermes about the male gods taking many mortal women as lovers, but not allowing goddesses to do the same. She brings up as example Eos’s love for the hunter Orion, who was killed by Artemis in Ortygia. Apollodorus also mentions Eos’s love for Orion, and adds that she brought him to Delos, where he met Artemis. The good-looking Cleitus was snatched and made immortal by her.
Eos fell in love with and abducted Tithonus, a handsome prince from Troy. She went with a request to Zeus, asking him to make Tithonus immortal for her sake. Zeus agreed and granted her wish, but Eos forgot to ask for eternal youth as well for her beloved. For a while, the two lived happily, but their happinnes came to an end when Tithonus’ hair started turning grey, and Eos ceased to visit him in bed. But he kept aging, and was soon unable to even move. In the end, Eos locked him up in a chamber, where he withered away, forever a helpless old man. Out of pity, she turned him into a cicada.
In the account of Hieronymus of Rhodes from the third century BC, the blame is shifted from Eos onto Tithonus, who asked for immortality but not agelessness from his lover, who was then unable to help him otherwise and turned him into a cicada. Propertius wrote that Eos did not forsake Tithonus, old and aged as he was, and would still embrace him and hold him in her arms rather than leaving him deserted in his cold chamber, while cursing the gods for his cruel fate. This myth might have been used to explain why cicadas were particularly noisy during the early hours of the morning, when the dawn appears in the sky.
The abduction of Cephalus had special appeal for an Athenian audience because Cephalus was a local boy, and so this myth element appeared frequently in Attic vase-paintings and was exported with them. In the literary myths, Eos snatched Cephalus against his will when he was hunting and took him to Syria. Although Cephalus was already married to Procris, Eos bore him three sons, including Phaethon and Hesperus, but he then began pining for Procris, causing a disgruntled Eos to return him to Procris, but not before sowing the seeds of doubt in his mind, telling him that it was highly unlikely that Procris had stayed faithful to him this entire time.
Cephalus, troubled by her words, asked Eos to change his form into that of a stranger, in order to secretly test Procris’s love for him. Cephalus, now disguised, propositioned Procris, who at first declined but eventually gave in when he offered her money. He was hurt by her betrayal, and she left him in shame, but eventually they got back together. This time however it was Procris’s turn to doubt her husband’s fidelity; while hunting, he would often call upon the breeze ('Aura' in Latin, sounding similar to Eos’s Roman equivalent Aurora) to refresh his body. Upon hearing that, Procris followed and spied on him. Cephalus, mistaking her for some wild animal, threw his spear at her, killing his wife. The second-century CE traveller Pausanias knew of the story of Cephalus’s abduction too, though he calls Eos by the name of Hemera, goddess of day.
Hyginus omits the kidnapping from the story, and has Cephalus reject Eos out of fidelity to Procris when she begs him to have sex with her. Eos then says to Cephalus that she would not want him to break his vows if Procris herself has not either, and alters his appearance and gives him gifts to trick Procris. Cephalus then goes to Procris as a stranger, and she agrees to lay him him, thereupon Eos removes the enchantment from Cephalus, revealing his identity. Procris, knowing she has been deceived by Eos, flees; she is eventually reunited with Cephalus, but still fearful of Eos, follows him when he goes out hunting, and ends up being accidentally killed by him.
Eos played a small role in the battle of the giants against the gods, known as the Gigantomachy. When the earth goddess Gaia learned of a prophecy that the giants would perish at the hand of a mortal, Gaia sought to find a herb that would protect them; thus Zeus ordered Eos, as well as her siblings Selene (Moon) and Helios (Sun) not to shine, and harvested all of the plant for himself, denying Gaia the chance to make the giants indestructible. Moreover, Eos is seen fighting against the Giants in the south frieze of the Pergamon Altar, where she rides on a horse right ahead of Helios, swinging herself on the back of her mount; a robe wound around her hips serves as her saddle-cloth.
According to Hesiod, by her lover Tithonus, Eos had two sons, Memnon and Emathion. Memnon, king of Aethiopia, joined the Trojans in the Trojan War and fought against Achilles in battle. Pausanias mentions images of Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and Eos begging Zeus on behalf of their sons. In the end, it was Achilles who triumphed and slew Memnon in battle. Mourning greatly over the death of her son, Eos made the light of her brother, Helios the god of the sun, to fade, and begged Nyx, the goddess of the night, to come out earlier, so she could be able to freely steal her son's body undetected by the armies. After his death, Eos, perhaps with the help of Hypnos and Thanatos, transported Memnon's dead body back to Aethiopia; she also asked Zeus to make her son immortal, and he granted her wish. Eos' role in the Trojan War saga mirrors that of Thetis herself; both are goddesses married to aging old men, both see their mortal sons die in the battlefield, and both arrange an afterlife of sorts for said sons.
Eos was imagined as a woman wearing a saffron mantle as she spread dew from an upturned urn, or with a torch in hand, riding a chariot. Greek and Italian vases show Eos/Aurora on a chariot preceding Helios, as Eosphorus flies with her; she is winged, wearing a fine pleated tunic and mantle. Eos is not an uncommon figure, especially on red-figure vases; as a single figure she appears rising from the sea in, or driving, a four-horse chariot like her brother Helios.
Although the romantic adventures of Eos is a common subject in pottery, so far as it is known, no vase depicts her with Orion or Cleitus, known lovers of hers, instead those vases fall into groups; those that depict Eos with a young hunter identified as Cephalus, and those that depict Eos with a youth holding a lyre, identified as Tithonus. Sometimes those vases bear inscriptions, and on a few the hunter is identified as Tithonus, while the lyre-player is Cephalus. The image of Eos pursuing Tithonus was eerily repetitive in ancient art, as was that of erotic pursuit in general; Tithonus was drawn running off to the right in terror, or trying to clobber with a lyre or a spear the pursuing Eos, indicating the terrifying aspect of a mortal man being taken by a goddess. The image of Zeus, the active erastes, pursuing Ganymede, the passive eromenos, was also common, but in the case of Eos, the female figure was put in the dominant position.
Among Theia and Hyperion's children, she is the only one depicted with wings, as neither her brother nor her sister ever sport some in art.
Eos, along with her brother and sister, is a Proto-Indo-European deity, that was side-lined by the non-PIE newcomers to the pantheon; James Davidson argues that apparently persisting on the sidelines was a primary function for them, to be the minor gods that the major gods were juxtaposed to, thus helping to keep the Greek religion Greek. However, whereas her brother and sister did receive minor cults, and in Helios' case even major ones, Eos does not seem to have been the focus of any worship at all. Thus there are no known temples, shrines, or altars to Eos. However, Ovid seems to allude to the existence of at least two shrines of Eos, as he describes them in plural, albeit few, in the lines:
‘Least I may be of all the goddesses the golden heavens hold – in all the world my shrines are rarest.’
Ovid may therefore have known of at least two such shrines.
Traces of the goddess's worship can be found at Athens, where wineless offerings (or nephalia) were made to Eos, along with other celestial gods and goddesses, including Eos's siblings Helios and Selene, as well as Aphrodite Urania.
Among the Etruscans, the generative dawn-goddess was Thesan. Depictions of the dawn-goddess with a young lover became popular in Etruria in the fifth century, probably inspired by imported Greek vase-painting. Though Etruscans preferred to show the goddess as a nurturer (Kourotrophos) rather than an abductor of young men, the late Archaic sculptural acroterion from Etruscan Cære, now in Berlin, showing the goddess in archaic running pose adapted from the Greeks, and bearing a boy in her arms, has commonly been identified as Eos and Cephalus. On an Etruscan mirror Thesan is shown carrying off a young man, whose name is inscribed as Tinthu.
The Roman equivalent of Eos is Aurora, also a cognate showing the characteristic Latin rhotacism. Dawn became associated in Roman cult with Matuta, later known as Mater Matuta. She was also associated with the sea harbors and ports, and had a temple on the Forum Boarium. On June 11, the Matralia was celebrated at that temple in honor of Mater Matuta; this festival was only for women during their first marriage.
Although distinct deities in early works such as Hesiod's Theogony, later the tragic poets completely identified Eos with Hemera, the primordial goddess of the day; each of Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles used "Hemera" for the goddess who abducts Tithonus or drives a chariot drawn by white horses at daybreak in some work. Both goddesses were said to be daughters of Nyx (Night), albeit Eos was much more commonly the daughter of Hyperion by his wife. Pausanias, when describing depictions of Eos's myths at Athens and Amyclae, he calls Eos by the name of Hemera. A scholion on the Odyssey mentions the abduction of the hunter Orion by "Hemera" (Eos in Homer). Eos, in contrast to Helios and Selene and more similarly to Hemera and Hemera's mother Nyx, embodies a part of the day and night cycle, instead of a celestial body. The word "eos", meaning dawn, was some times used by writers to refer to the entire duration of the day, not just the morning.
|Eos's family tree|
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|Look up Ἠώς in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|