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The Dawn Goddess Eos in Greek Mythology

Updated on June 15, 2016
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Eos Goddess of Dawn

The name Eos is far from being the most recognisable name from Greek mythology, but Eos was one of the plethora of deities in the Ancient Greek pantheon. Indeed, Eos was the Greek goddess of Dawn.

The Family of the Dawn Goddess

Eos in Greek mythology was a second generation Titan, and was the daughter of Hyperion and Theia. This parentage made her sister to Helios, the Greek god of the Sun, and the Greek goddess Selene, the Moon.

There was also a Roman goddess of dawn, a goddess who was named Aurora; the mythology of Eos though was transplanted wholesale onto the Roman dawn goddess.

Hyperion was the Greek god of Light, as well as wisdom and watchfulness, and so it is probably these last two attributes that saw him and his family, remain neutral during the Titanomachy, the war between Zeus and the Titans.

Eos the Dawn Goddess

Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919) PD-art-100
Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919) PD-art-100 | Source

The Role of Eos Goddess of Dawn

As dawn goddess, the role of Eos was primarily that of ridding the world of the last vestiges of night, and to announce the arrival of her brother, Helios, the sun, to man and mortal; and so at the start of each day Eos would emerge from the realm of Oceanus.

To achieve this, the dawn goddess was often depicted onboard a golden chariot pulled by two horses, Lampus and Phaethon. Confusingly one of the horses that pulled Helios’ chariot was also called Lampus.

Many ancient writers would say that once Eos had gotten rid of the night, she would join her brother Helios on his chariot, and then traverse the sky with him, before the pair would descend into the domain of Oceanus at the end of the day. The dawn goddess would then travel under the surface of this domain, so that she would be in position to start again the following day.

The role of Eos was very similar to that of the preceding Protogenoi Hemera, who would scatter the remnants of Nyx and Erebus, and work with Aether to bring light to the world.

Eos the Dawn Goddess

Guercino (1591–1666) PD-art-100
Guercino (1591–1666) PD-art-100 | Source

Stories of the Dawn Goddess

Stories about Eos in Greek mythology normally focus on the love life of the goddess of dawn.

Children of Eos

Eos would have a relationship with the Astraeus, the Titan god of the stars and planet. From this relationship the Greek goddess of dawn would give birth to the four Anemoi, the wind gods, Boreas (north), Euros (east), Notos (south), and Zephyros (west).

Also by Astraeus, the dawn goddess Eos would also become mother to the Astra, the stars, including the wandering star, Phaethon (the planet Jupiter).

Ares and Eos

At one point Eos was also lover of the Olympian god Ares, but this relationship would bring her the eternal hatred of Aphrodite; and the goddess of love and beauty would curse Eos to only love mortals from then on.

Eos and Orion

Subsequently, the dawn goddess would become famous for abducting beautiful males. The first of these was the hunter Orion, who Eos carried off to Delos. The romance was short-lived though, for Orion became infatuated with chasing the Pleiades.

Eos and Cephaelus

The next beautiful mortal abducted by Eos was Cephalus, whom the Greek goddess of dawn took from Mount Hymettus. For a number of years, possibly as many as eight, Cephaelus would stay with Eos, and the dawn goddess would give birth to another son called Phaethon. This Phaethon would be taken by Aphrodite, where the youth would become an attendant in one of her sanctuaries.

Eventually, Cephaelus pined for his wife Procris, and reluctantly the dawn goddess returned Cephaelus home.

Eos and Cephaelus

Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774–1833) PD-art-100
Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774–1833) PD-art-100 | Source

Eos and Tithonus

Eos would subsequently abduct the handsome Trojan prince Tithonus, and the prince would become known as the consort of the goddess of dawn.

Eos though was upset about her mortal lovers leaving her, and so she went to Zeus, to ask the god to make Tithonus immortal, so that he could be by her side forever. Zeus granted Eos her wish, but the dawn goddess had made a mistake, for although immortal, Tithonus continued to age.

As time passed Tithonus grew old and was wracked with pain, but despite her pleas, Zeus could not remove the gift of immortality. The god though did instead change Tithonus into a cicada, and ever since the cicada can be heard chirping as Dawn arrives.

Memnon and Emathion - Sons of Eos

The relationship between Tithonus and the dawn goddess would produce two sons, Memnon and Emathion.

Emathion would go on to become a king of Aethiopia, although his life was cut short when he was killed by Heracles.

Memnon’s life was also cut short by a demi-god, for, as was right as a son of a Trojan prince, Memnon went to fight against the Achaean forces. Memnon though would eventually face the Greek hero Achilles.

Both heroes were equipped with armour made by Hephaestus, but, although a good fighter, Memnon was no match for Achilles, and the son of Eos was eventually cut down. Upon the death of Memnon, the dawn goddess was said to have wept, with tears falling as the morning dew.

Eos and Tithonus

Francesco de Mura (1696–1784) PD-art-100
Francesco de Mura (1696–1784) PD-art-100 | Source

Comments

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  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 

    2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    I have long been interested in Aurora / Eos. I have actually seen the Northern Lights when I lived in the Seattle area! They are amazing.

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