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The Four Winds
Note: wind illustrations taken
Dr. Smith's Classical Dictionary, 1891
Aeolus is the Greek god of the winds, and a son of Poseidon. The gods gave him dominion over the winds, which he kept in vast caves on the mythical island of Aeolia. Thus he was the regent of the Winds, viceroy of the gods. As a favorite of the gods, they allowed him to join them at dinner. Aeolus gave Odysseus a bag of winds to help him on his voyage back home, but unfortunately his crew opened the bag and the winds escaped.
Meaning of name: "Earth destroyer"
Boreas was the Greek god of the North Wind who lived in a fertile region of Greece called Thrace. He is at home beside the river Strymon, but also inhabits a cave on Mount Haemus, a favorite haunt of the monster Typhon.
Sometimes said to have serpent-tails for feet, Boreas blew from the north, whistling through his conch. He often is depicted as being amber-winged, extremely strong, sporting a beard, and normally clad in a short pleated tunic.
Boreas is the son of Eos (Dawn) and the Titan Astraeus (some say that Aeolus is his father), and the brother of Zephyrus, Eurus and Notus (some mythographers also make him brother to Hesperus). Unlike the gentle Zephyrus, however, the violent and stormy North Wind was capable of terrific destruction. Gods often appealed to him to torment mortals, such as the time Hera asked him to shipwreck the hero Heracles (Hercules) on the island of Cos. Still, he often helped sailors by providing them with a friendly breeze.
Boreas once disguised himself as a dark-maned stallion and mingled with twelve of the 3,000 mares grazing beside the river Scamander. These famous horses belonged to Erichthonius, and from the union were born twelve fillies. They were so fleet that they could race over ripe ears of field corn without bending them, or over the crests of waves.
Boreas is notorious for kidnapping Oreithyia, who was the daughter of Erechtheus and Praxithea, king and queen of Athens. The wind god had long loved the young girl and had repeatedly asked her parents for her hand in marriage. However, they kept putting him off, telling him to wait, and using delaying tactics on Boreas.
The North Wind began to lose patience and decided to abandon his modest wooing: One day, Boreas saw Oreithyia playing beside the river Ilissus. Taking advantage, he swooped down unseen by anyone, tucked her beneath his amber wings, and carried her off to a rock near the river Ergines. Wrapped in a mantle of dark clouds, he then proceeded to ravish the helpless maiden.
Oreithyia became his wife and they settled down at the city of Thracian Cicones. They had twin sons, called Calais and Zetes (the Boreades), who were born normal but grew golden wings on their shoulders upon reaching adulthood. These swift men took part in the famous Quest for the Golden Fleece, accompanying Jason as part of the Argonauts, but were later killed by the great hero Heracles (Hercules). Boreas and Oreithyia also had two daughters, named Cleopatra and Chione.
Because of his union with Oreithyia, the Athenians regard Boreas as their brother-in-law or son-in-law, and once beseeched him to destroy the fleet of King Xerxes of Persia, which threatened the city of Athens. That was during the battle of Artemisium, fought in 480 BC.
The North Wind devastated the enemy fleet by invoking a violent storm, sinking 400 ships, and sending countless men and incredible treasure to a watery grave. The grateful citizens built Boreas a splendid temple sanctuary on the banks of the river Ilissus and a great festival, called the Boreasmi, was held annually in his honor to commemorate the Persian defeat.
The Romans identified Boreas as Aquilo. His name means "North Wind" or "Devouring".
Eurus was the child of Eos and Astraeus (or Aeolus). He is the Greek god of the East Wind, and is brother to Zephyrus, Boreas and Notus. Like his siblings, Eurus was a winged god, the strong wind that brought warmth and rain from the east. A symbol showing this was a vase inverted, pouring out rain.
Eurus was the unfavorable one. His Roman equivalent is Vulturnus.
Notus is the god of the South or Southwest Wind, which is a very warm and moist wind, bringing with it fog and rain. He is the son of Eos and Astraeus (or of Aeolus, according to others), and brother to Zephyrus, Boreas and Eurus.
Being the wind of fog and mists, Notus was dangerous to shepherds on the mountaintops or to mariners at sea, for he hindered visibility. For the same reason, the South Wind was a friend of thieves, enabling them to do their dastardly work unseen.
The Romans called him Auster.
In the image above, from Dr. Smith's Classical Dictionary, 1891, the winged deity Notus is depicted pouring rain from a vase, in the same way that his mother Eos, the goddess of Dawn, sprinkles dew from a vase in early morning, before the arrival of the sun god's chariot.
Zephyrus is the Greek god of the West Wind, believed to live in a cave on Thrace. He is the son of Eos and Astraeus and the brother of Boreas, Eurus and Notus. Some consider him and Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, as the parents of Eros, the god of love, and of Pothos (Longing) who was an attendant of Aphrodite.
The West Wind had fallen in love with a handsome youth named Hyacinthus, who also was a favorite of Apollo, the god of light. One day Apollo was teaching Hyacinthus how to throw the discus, when the insanely jealous Zephyrus caught it in mid-air and blew it at Hyacinthus, striking the young man on the head and killing him. From his blood sprang the hyacinth flower.
Zephyrus also abducted the goddess Chloris (Flora in Roman) and gave her dominion over flowers. In Roman myth, he is Favonius, the protector of flowers and plants.
With Podarge, one of the Harpies, Zephyrus fathered the famous horses Xanthus and Balius, who are the Trojan War hero Achilles' immortal horses. Hera endowed the horses with human speech. They served Poseidon first, and next Peleus, Achilles and Neoptolemus.
The union of Zephyrus and Podarge produced also Arion, a horse given by Heracles (Hercules) to Adrastus. Arion saved the life of Adrastus during the war of the Seven Against Thebes.
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