April 22, 2011


Eos by Evelyn Pickering de Morgan
In Greek mythology, Eos (Roman equivalent: Aurora) is the goddess of the dawn. She was the daughter of the Titans, Hyperion and Theia (also called: Euryphassa; alternative spellings: Thea, Thia). She was the sister of Helios (Roman equivalent: Sol), the god of the sun, and of Selene (Roman equivalent: Luna), the goddess of the moon.

Eos was believed to rise up into the sky each day from her island on the shores of Okeanos (a fresh-water stream in ancient Greece) dispersing the shadows of night with her rays of light. Her presence announced the arrival of the sun. In art, Eos is represented as a charming deity often driving a golden chariot drawn by two winged horses, Lampos and Phaithon. In some other portrayals she is shown ascending towards the sky by her own pair of wings.

Dawn by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri

Eos is known best for her inconstant love affairs. She had an uncontrollable desire for good-looking youths. These affairs allegedly resulted from a curse called down to her by Aphrodite (also called: Cytherea; Roman equivalent: Venus). It is assumed that once Aphrodite discovered Eos’ illicit affair with Ares (Roman equivalent: Mars), the god of war and then out of jealousy she punished Eos to be perpetually in illicit love affairs.

Eos pursuing Tithonus by Sebastiano Ricci
The effect of the curse is evident in her tragic love affair with the Trojan prince Tithonus, the son of Laomedon, the king of Troy, and of Strymo, the daughter of the river Scamander. After falling in love with Tithonus, she kidnapped him and took him to Ethiopia. With him Eos had two sons, Memnon, the king of Ethiopia and Emathion. Eos was so deeply in love with the mortal that she decided to adopt him as her official husband. Therefore, she asked Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter, also called: Jove), the ruler of the gods to grant Tithonus eternal life. Zeus granted her request instantly. However, because of the curse, she forgot to obtain eternal youth along with it. As a result, in his old age Tithonus transformed into a feeble and shrunken old man. Eos locked him in her palace, since she could not watch his misery any longer. A later account related his final transformation into a grasshopper. Alfred Tennyson, the famous English poet recounts a partially altered story in his famous dramatic monologue Tthonus. In the poem Eos herself confers Tithonus the gift of immortality. The poem begins in a melancholic vein expressing the grief of an ailing male psyche over his gradual decrepitude being trapped into perpetual old age:
"The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,"
Aurora and Cephalus by Pierre Narcisse Guerin
Eos could not resist her predilection to illicit love even when she was with the dearest of her lovers, that is, Thithonus. Her affection agitated the peaceful conjugal life of Cephalus and Procris. Eos told him to elope with her, but Cephalus, who truly loved his wife, denied doing so. Finding no other alternatives, Eos then sought to prove Procris’ inconstancy to her husband. To materialize her conspiracy, she changed Cephalus’ appearance and told him to try to seduce Procris. Cephalus then went to his wife and managed to seduce her without disclosing his true identity. After the incident Procris felt humiliated and thus ran away far from Cephalus. Eos then kidnapped Cephalus and took him to Syria, where they had a son named Phaeton. But Cephalus left her very soon and returned to his beloved wife.

Eos’ irrepressible obsession with love engendered the tragic tale of the handsome giant and mighty hunter Orion, the son of Poseidon (Roman equivalent: Neptune), the god of the sea, and Euryale, the Gorgon. When Eos fell in love with Orion she kidnapped him as usual. But when Artemis (Roman equivalent: Diana), the goddess of hunting, wilderness and wild animals, discovered his affection for Eos, she got envious and consequently killed him.

Astraeus (also spelt: Astraeos), the Titan god of the dusk, was also Eos’ husband. She had several offspring with Astraeus, who are also identified as the parts of the earth’s atmosphere as well as of the celestial bodies. They include Zephyrus, the god of west wind, Boreas, the god of north wind, Notos, the god of south wind, Eosphoros (also called: Hesperos; Venus), Stilbon (Mercury), Phosphorus (morning star) and all other Stars.

Eos carrying Memnon

Apart from her promiscuous standard of living, Eos is also remembered for her association with the Trojan War. Her son Memnon brought his army to the aid of Troy in the 10th year of the Trojan War. He fought bravely but was eventually killed by the Greek hero Achilles. Since then Eos used to shed tears lamenting over her son’s demise during announcing the starting of the day. Her tears are now known to us as dew drops that we see at early in the morning on the grass.

Aurora by John Gibson
The Gates of Dawn by Herbert Draper
Songs of the Morning by Henrietta Rae
Day and the Dawnstar by Herbert James Draper
Dawn by Sir Frank Dicksee
Dawn by William Adolphe Bouguereau


Khan, Farhad. An Encyclopedia of Classical Literature. Dhaka: Protik, 1996.

“Eos.” Wikipedia. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 April 2011
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eos >.

“Aurora (mythology).” Wikipedia. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 April 2011
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(mythology)>.
Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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