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The Winds

The Children of Eos [Dawn]

The Winds

The Winds in the Iliad
The Winds in the Odyssey
Other Text References
Immortals Index
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Bodies of Air

The Winds are a group of Immortals who have chosen the air as their bodies.

Boreas is the North Wind;

Notos is the South Wind;

Zephyros is the West Wind; the evening wind; and

Eurus is the East Wind; more properly, the east-south-east wind; the morning wind.

Boreas, Notos and Zephyros are the sons of Eos [Dawn] and Astraios but the parents of Eurus are not recorded.

Zeus gave Aeolus lordship over the Winds but his role seems to be one of supervision rather than domination. Aeolus lives with his wife and twelve children on the floating island of Aeolia ... the location of Aeolia is constantly changing because of its relationship with the Winds.

After the Trojan War, Odysseus and his crew spent a month as guests of Aeolus. Odysseus was lost at sea and constantly being buffeted by contrary winds until he found asylum on Aeolia. Aeolus was delighted to hear about Odysseus's exploits during the Trojan War and in return for the war stories from his distinguished guest, Aeolus gave Odysseus a fair wind to send him and his crew towards their homes. Aeolus took a stitched-up bull's hide and sealed all the Winds except Zephyros inside. He tied the hide with a silver cord and warned Odysseus not to open the bag under any circumstances.

After a short time at sea, Odysseus's crewmembers began to speculate as to what treasures might be inside the bag ... their curiosity got the best of them and they opened the bag. The Winds emerged with a torrent of violent blasts ... the ship was blown this way and that until it finally came back at Aeolus's island. Aeolus was unsympathetic and refused to offer any further assistance. Odysseus was once again at the mercy of the Winds and spent many more years lost on the sea.

The Winds usually have bodies of air but they can assume the guise of any man or animal they chose. When Achilles prayed for the Winds to come to fan the flames of the funeral pyre of his beloved companion Patroklos, the goddess Iris heard Achilles's prayer and went to the abode of Zephyros on Achilles's behalf. When Iris arrived, she found the Winds gathered at a banquet ... they were drinking and being rowdy ... the implication is that they were in the form of men so that they could enjoy food and drink just like any other immortal or mortal being.

The Winds are usually mentioned when they interact with the sea and sailors but there are instances where they act as individuals. Of all the Winds, Boreas seems to be the most flamboyant.

King Erichthonios of Troy had a magnificent herd of horses that attracted the attention of Boreas ... he transformed himself into a dark-maned stallion and mated with the most desirable mares in the herd thus becoming the father of twelve semi-divine horses. .

In addition to the twelve horses he sired, Boreas had at least five other children. By two different women, Boreas was the father of Butes and Lykurgos. These boys seem to have been normal looking in all respects, without wings or scales. Also, to an unnamed woman, Boreas was the father of Kleopatra who married the seer, Phineus. After Kleopatra's death, Phineus married a spiteful women who hated Kleopatra's sons and induced Phineus to blind the boys. Boreas was infuriated at the harsh treatment of his grandsons so Zeus offered Phineus blindness or death ... Phineus chose blindness. Helios [Sun] was incensed that Phineus would chose darkness over death and sent the Harpies to torment Phineus by stealing his food ... the winged-women would always leave just enough food to sustain Phineus but the poor wretch was constantly on the verge of starvation. Phineus's curse was finally lifted by two other sons of Boreas ... these two young men were the sons of Boreas and Oreithyia.

Oreithyia was the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens. Erechtheus was one of the first kings of Athens and therefore ruled at the dawn of the Greek civilization. Boreas was attracted to Oreithyia when he saw her dancing at Kekropia by the Hissus River in Thrake ... Boreas is often called Thrakian Boreas. He carried Oreithyia to the Rock of Sarpedon, near the river Erginos, wrapped her in dark clouds and mated with her.

Boreas kidnapping Oreithyia

The above image shows Boreas kidnapping Oreithyia.

Boreas and Oreithyia had two sons, Zetes and Kalais. The two young demigods were a wonder to see ... they had dark wings, bright with golden scales vibrating from their temples and feet ... both had long blue-black curling hair that streamed in the wind when they flew.

The two brothers are best remembered for their role in the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts ... the voyage of the Argo with its company of heroes was one of the greatest adventures of the ancient world ... the Quest for the Golden Fleece.

Zetes and Kalais distinguished themselves by flying after the Harpies to prevent them from stealing the food of the blind prophet, Phineus. As fleet as they were, Zetes and Kalais could not catch the Harpies because the two winged women could fly faster than Boreas's brother, Zephyros.

Zetes and Kalais were both killed by Herakles after the Quest for the Golden Fleece was completed. Herakles gave Boreas's sons a suitable funeral and erected two columns to mark their graves ... one of the columns would actually sway when Boreas breathed on it.

When the Persians invaded Greece in 480 BCE, the Athenians, in accordance with a prophecy they had been given, sacrificed to Boreas and Oreithyia so that the god and his wife would intervene and send a storm to stop the Persian navy. A supernatural storm assailed the Persians off the coast of Sepias and four hundred Persian ships were lost. That incident was a contributing factor in the eventual defeat of the Persians. To demonstrate their devotion and thankfulness, the Athenians built a shrine to Boreas on the river Ilissus.

Zephyros made his contribution to history by fathering Achilles's chariot horses, Xanthos and Balios ... Xanthos is also called Roan Beauty or Bay and Balios is called Dapple. Xanthos and Balios are the children of Zephyros and the Harpy Podarge and thus immortal ... Achilles's third chariot horse Pedasos was not immortal and did not survive the Trojan War.

Pedasos was killed when Patroklos took Achilles's chariot and armor to drive the Trojans back from the Argive ships. This meant that only Xanthos and Balios were left to carry Achilles into the battle when he attacked Trojan Prince Hektor. The goddess Hera gave voice to Xanthos and he told Achilles that powerful Moira [Fate] was bringing his day of death near. He told Achilles that he and Balios were not the cause of Patroklos's death through sloth or slackness and that they would faithfully carry Achilles into the battle with the speed of their father Zephyros, who is the fastest of the Winds.

In the oldest myths there were only four Winds: Boreas, Eurus, Notos and Zephyros but the Tower of the Winds in Athens has eight Winds which include:

Apeliotes, the Southeast Wind;

Kaikias, the Northeast Wind;

Libos, the Southwest Wind; the soft wind; and

Skiron, the Northwest Wind; the name literally means, the wind which blows from the Skironian Rocks which are located on the Isthmus of Corinth.

Besides the divine Winds, there are a group of Winds which are considered to be ill-favored. These winds are the result of the conflict between Zeus and a monster named Typhoeus.

Typhoeus is the youngest child of Gaia [Earth] and Tartaros [the Pit]. He is a gigantic creature with a hundred snake-heads sprouting from his enormous shoulders ... each snake-head has eyes that glitter with fire and each of the snake-heads can create sounds that are both subtle or horrible ... from an echoing whistle to the sound of bellowing bulls. Typhoeus was strong and willful enough to have ruled the other Immortals but Zeus perceived the threat to his authority and attacked Typhoeus with unchecked fury. After a fierce battle, Typhoeus was imprisoned under the earth in Kilikia. From his underground prison, Typhoeus spews forth the ill-favored winds that menace and plague all human endeavors.

The Winds

The Winds in the Iliad

[from four different translations]

Richmond Lattimore

Boreas [North Wind]

The Iliad

Eurus [East Wind]

The Iliad

Notos [South Wind]

The Iliad

Zephyros [West Wind]

The Iliad

Loeb Classical Library

Boreas [North Wind]

The Iliad

Eurus [East Wind]

The Iliad

Notos [South Wind]

The Iliad

Zephyros [West Wind]

The Iliad

Robert Fagles

Boreas [North Wind]

The Iliad

Eurus [East Wind]

The Iliad

Notos [South Wind]

The Iliad

Zephyros [West Wind]

The Iliad

Robert Fitzgerald

Boreas [North Wind]

The Iliad

Eurus [East Wind]

The Iliad

Notos [South Wind]

The Iliad

Zephyros [West Wind]

Tower of the Winds

The Tower of the Winds in Athens with the Likavittos Hill in the background.

The Winds in the Odyssey

[from four different translations]

Richmond Lattimore

Boreas [North Wind]

The Odyssey

Eurus [East Wind]

The Odyssey

Notos [South Wind]

The Odyssey

Zephyros [West Wind]

The Odyssey

Loeb Classical Library

Boreas [North Wind]

The Odyssey

Eurus [East Wind]

The Odyssey

Notos [South Wind]

The Odyssey

Zephyros [West Wind]

The Odyssey

Robert Fagles

Boreas [North Wind]

The Odyssey

Eurus [East Wind]

The Odyssey

Notos [South Wind]

The Odyssey

Zephyros [West Wind]

The Odyssey

Robert Fitzgerald

Boreas [North Wind]

The Odyssey

Eurus [East Wind]

The Odyssey

Notos [South Wind]

The Odyssey

Zephyros [West Wind]

Boreas

Boreas

Other Text References

Theogony

Works and Days

Catalogue of Women

[Loeb Classical Library vol. 503, Hesiod II]

The Histories by Herodotus

The Argonautika by Apollonius Rhodius

Odes of Pindar

Library of History by Diodorus Siculus

Tower of the Winds

The Tower of the Winds in Athens.

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