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Goddess of the Dawn
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Dawn (1881).jpg
L’Aurore by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1881)
SymbolSaffron, Cloak, Roses, Tiara, Cicada, Horse
Personal information
ParentsHyperion and Theia
SiblingsHelios and Selene
ChildrenAnemoi and Astraea
Roman equivalentAurora

In Greek mythology, Eos (/ˈɒs/; Ionic and Homeric Greek Ἠώς Ēṓs, Attic Ἕως Héōs, "dawn", pronounced [ɛːɔ̌ːs] or [héɔːs]; Aeolic Αὔως Aúōs, Doric Ἀώς Āṓs)[1] is a Titaness and the goddess[2] of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the Oceanus.


The Proto-Greek form of Ἠώς / Ēṓs has been reconstructed as *ἀυhώς / auhṓs, and in Mycenaean Greek as *hāwōs.[1][3] According to Robert S. P. Beekes, the loss of the initial aspiration could be due to metathesis.[1] 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.[4]

All four 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 cognates led to the reconstruction of a Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess, Hausos (*H₂éwsōs).[4][1]


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,[5] also called Euryphaessa, "wide-shining"[6] and Aethra, "bright sky".[7] 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".[8] The generation of Titans preceded all the familiar deities of Olympus who largely supplanted them. In some accounts, Eos' father was called Pallas.[9][10]

Eos married the Titan Astraeus ("of the Stars") and became the mother of the Anemoi ("winds") namely Zephyrus, Boreas, Notus and Eurus;[7][11] of the Morning Star, Eosphoros (Lucifer);[12] the Astra ("stars")[13] and of the virgin goddess of justice, Astrae ("starry one").[14][15] Her other notable offspring were Memnon[16][17][18][19][20] and Emathion[21][22] by the Trojan prince, Tithonus. Sometimes, Hesperus,[23] Phaethon[24][25] and Tithonus[26] (different from the lover) were called the children of Eos by the Athenian prince, Cephalus.

Mythology [edit]

Goddess of the dawn[edit]

The dawn goddess Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers or rosy forearms as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise.[27] In Homer,[28] her saffron-colored robe is embroidered or woven with flowers;[29] 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.


From The Iliad:

"Now when Dawn in robe of saffron was hastening from the streams of Oceanus, to bring light to mortals and immortals, Thetis reached the ships with the armor that the god had given her." [30]
"But soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, then gathered the folk about the pyre of glorious Hector."[31]

She is most often associated with her Homeric epithet "rosy-fingered" Eos Rhododactylos (Ancient Greek: Ἠὼς Ῥοδοδάκτυλος), but Homer also calls her Eos Erigeneia:

"That brightest of stars appeared, Eosphoros, that most often heralds the light of early-rising Dawn (Eos Erigeneia)."[32]


"And after these Erigeneia ["Early-born"] bore the star Eosphoros ("Dawn-bringer"), and the gleaming stars with which heaven is crowned."[33]

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.[34]

Divine horses[edit]

Eos' team of horses pull her chariot across the sky and are named in the Odyssey as "Firebright" and "Daybright". While 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, climbing the arc of heaven and scattering sparks of fire.[35]

Lovers and children[edit]

Eos and the slain Memnon on an Attic red-figure cup, ca. 490–480 BCE, the so-called "Memnon Pietà" found at Capua (Louvre).

Eos 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 once had Eos lain with Aphrodite's sweetheart Ares, the god of war.[36] This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men, most notably Cephalus, Tithonus, Orion, and Cleitus. The good-looking Cleitus was made immortal by her.[37] She also asked for Tithonus to be made immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, which resulted in him living forever as a helpless old man.[38] Out of pity, she turned him into a cicada.

According to Hesiod, by Tithonus, Eos had two sons, Memnon and Emathion.[39] Memnon fought among the Trojans in the Trojan War and was slain. Her image with the dead Memnon across her knees, like Thetis with the dead Achilles are icons that inspired the Christian Pietà.[citation needed][dubious ]

The abduction of Cephalus had special appeal for an Athenian audience because Cephalus was a local boy,[40] and so this myth element appeared frequently in Attic vase-paintings and was exported with them. In the literary myths, Eos kidnapped Cephalus when he was hunting and took him to Syria.[39][41][42][43][44]

The second-century CE traveller Pausanias was informed that the abductor of Cephalus was Hemera, goddess of Day.[45] Although Cephalus was already married to Procris, Eos bore him three sons, including Phaeton and Hesperus, but he then began pining for Procris, causing a disgruntled Eos to return him to her and put a curse on them.

In Hyginus' report, Cephalus accidentally killed Procris some time later after he mistook her for an animal while hunting.[43]

In Ovid's account, Procris, a jealous wife, was spying on him and heard him singing to the wind, but thought he was serenading his ex-lover Eos.[44]

Cult and temples[edit]

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:

[Eos addresses Zeus :] ‘Least I may be of all the goddesses the golden heavens hold – in all the world my shrines are rarest.’[46]

Ovid may therefore have known of at least two such shrines.



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.[47] 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.[48] On an Etruscan mirror Thesan is shown carrying off a young man, whose name is inscribed as Tinthu.[49]

Eos in her chariot flying over the sea, red-figure krater from South Italy, 430–420 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 492.
  2. ^ Lycophron calls her by an archaic name, Tito (the Titaness). Kerenyi observes that Tito shares a linguistic origin with Eos's lover Tithonus, which belonged to an older, pre-Greek language. (Kerenyi 1951:199 note 637)
  3. ^ West, Martin L. (2007-05-24). Indo-European Poetry and Myth. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780199280759.
  4. ^ a b Mallory, J.P.; Adams, D.Q. (2006). The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 432. ISBN 978-0-19-929668-2.
  5. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.2.2
  6. ^ Homeric Hymn to Helios, 1
  7. ^ a b Hyginus, Fabulae Preface
  8. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 371-374
  9. ^ Ovid, Fasti 4.373 ff
  10. ^ Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2.72 ff
  11. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6.18; 37.70 & 47.340
  12. ^ Cicero wrote: Stella Veneris, quae Φωσφόρος Graece, Latine dicitur Lucifer, cum antegreditur solem, cum subsequitur autem Hesperos; The star of Venus, called Φωσφόρος in Greek and Lucifer in Latin when it precedes, Hesperos when it follows the sun – De Natura Deorum 2, 20, 53.
    Pliny the Elder: Sidus appellatum Veneris … ante matutinum exoriens Luciferi nomen accipit … contra ab occasu refulgens nuncupatur Vesper (The star called Venus … when it rises in the morning is given the name Lucifer … but when it shines at sunset it is called Vesper) Natural History 2, 36
  13. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.2.4
  14. ^ Aratus, Phaenomena 97–128
  15. ^ Hyginus, Astronomica 2.25
  16. ^ Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica 2.549
  17. ^ Pindar, Nemean Odes 6.50 ff
  18. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 4.75.4
  19. ^ Callistratus, Statuaram Descriptiones 9
  20. ^ Ovid, Fasti 4.713
  21. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 984
  22. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.12.4
  23. ^ Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42.4
  24. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 1.3.1
  25. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 986
  26. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.181
  27. ^ Nonnus: "Eos had just shaken off the wing of carefree sleep (Hypnos) and opened the gates of sunrise, leaving the lightbringing couch of Kephalos." (Dionysiaca 27. 1f, in A.L. Rouse's translation).
  28. ^ Homer, Iliad viii.1 & xxiv.695
  29. ^ Odyssey vi:48 etc
  30. ^ Homer, Iliad xix.1
  31. ^ Homer, Iliad xxiv.776
  32. ^ Homer, Odyssey xiii.93
  33. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 378-382
  34. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.621-2
  35. ^ Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica i.48
  36. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.4.4
  37. ^ Homer, Odyssey 15.249 ff
  38. ^ Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 318 ff
  39. ^ a b Hesiod, Theogony 984ff
  40. ^ Mary R. Lefkowitz, "'Predatory' Goddesses" Hesperia 71.4 (October 2002, pp. 325-344) p. 326.
  41. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.14.3
  42. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 1.3.1
  43. ^ a b Hyginus, Fabulae 189
  44. ^ a b Ovid, Metamorphoses vii.703 ff
  45. ^ Pausanias remarking on the subjects shown in the Royal Stoa, Athens (i.3.1) and on the throne of Apollo at Amyklai (iii.18.10ff).
  46. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.576 ff (translated by Melville)
  47. ^ Marilyn Y. Goldberg, "The 'Eos and Kephalos' from Cære: Its Subject and Date" American Journal of Archæology 91.4 (October 1987, pp. 605-614) p 607.
  48. ^ Goldberg 1987:605-614 casts doubt on the boy's identification, in the context of Etruscan and Greek abduction motifs.
  49. ^ Noted by Goldberg 1987: in I. Mayer-Prokop, Die gravierten etruskischen Griffspiegel archaischen Stils (Heidelberg) 1966, fig. 61.


Further reading[edit]

  • Jackson, Peter. "Πότνια Αὔως: The Greek Dawn-Goddess and Her Antecedent." Glotta 81 (2005): 116-23. Accessed May 10, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/40267187.

External links[edit]