Helios was formerly the Titan of the sun, but faded due to lack of worship by the Romans, after which his duty of driving the sun chariot was passed on to Apollo, god of the sun. Helios was the son of Hyperion and Theia, brother of Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn. He was married to Rhodes, a nymph daughter of Poseidon. His Roman counterpart is Sol.
The best known story involving Helios is that of his son Phaethon, who begged his father to let him drive the sun chariot. Helios agreed, albeit reluctantly, and granted the wish of his son who soon after lost control over the immortal horses and set the earth ablaze, scorching the African plains to desert and freezing the North to snowy areas. Zeus, appalled by the destruction, blasted the youth out of the chariot with one of his lightning bolts. Phaethon's flaming body was hurled from the sky and right into the river Eridanos. His sisters gathered on the banks of the river, mourning over their brother's demise and they transformed into amber-teared poplar trees. After his death the boy was either placed among the stars as the constellation Auriga (the charioteer) or became the god of the wandering star (the planet Jupiter or Saturn).
Helios was sometimes referred to with the epithet Helios Panoptes ("the all-seeing"). In the story told in the hall of Alcinous in the Odyssey (viii.300ff), Aphrodite, the consort of Hephaestus, secretly beds Ares, but all-seeing Helios spies on them and tells Hephaestus, who ensnares the two lovers in nets to punish them.
"You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god. There will be seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty heads in each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetia, who are children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look after their father's flocks and herds."
Though Odysseus warns his men not to, they impiously kill and eat some of the cattle of the Sun. The guardians of the island, Helios' daughters, tell their father, and Helios appeals to Zeus, who destroys the ship and kills all the men except for Odysseus.
In one Greek vase painting, Helios appears riding across the sea in the cup of the Delphic tripod, which appears to be a solar reference. Athenaeus in Deipnosophistae relates that, at the hour of sunset, Helios climbed into a great golden cup in which he passes from the Hesperides in the farthest west to the land of the Ethiops, with whom he passes the dark hours. While Hercules traveled to Erytheia to retrieve the cattle of Geryon, he crossed the Libyan desert and was so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the sun. Helios begged him to stop, and Hercules demanded the golden cup that Helios used to sail across the sea every night, from the west to the east. Hercules used this golden cup to reach Erytheia.
The chief seat of the worship of Helios was the island of Rhodes, which according to the following myth was his special territory. At the time of the Titanomachy, when the gods were dividing the world by lot, Helios happened to be absent, and consequently received no share. He therefore complained to Zeus, who proposed to have a new allotment, but Helios would not allow this, saying that as he pursued his daily journey, his penetrating eye had beheld a lovely, fertile island lying beneath the waves of the ocean, and that if the immortals would swear to give him the undisturbed possession of this spot, he would be content to accept it as his share of the universe. The gods took the oath, whereupon the island of Rhodes immediately rose above the surface of the waters.
When Apollo explained how a god can fade to Nico di Angelo, he used Helios and Selene as examples. He told Nico that when the Romans took over, many of the roles that Helios was responsible for (like driving the Sun Chariot) were given over to other gods. Apollo called this downsizing, which resulted in Helios eventually fading.
Before Percy Jackson battled Hyperion, Annabeth Chase mentions that Hyperion is the "father of Helios, the first sun god."
Helios is mentioned to have been the grandfather of Medea.
When Phaethon meets him in Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes, Helios sat on a throne constructed entirely from emeralds, wearing flowing purple robes that showed off his tan, and a wreath of golden laurels crowing his dark hair, while his eyes' pupils blazed "like pilot lights for industrial ovens."
Helios possessed the standard powers of a Titan.
- Photokinesis: As the Titan of the Sun, Helios had absolute control and divine authority over light.
- Pyrokinesis: As the Titan of the Sun, Helios had absolute control and divine authority over the sun and the element of fire. An additional ability he derived from this province is:
- Thermokinesis: Helios has absolute control and divine authority over heat.
- Vision Manipulation: As the Titan of the Sun, Helios had the ability to manipulate his vision and those of others, which enabled him to see everything the sun touched, as well as to induce or cure blindness. An additional ability he presumably derived from this province is:
- Foresight: As a Titan of Sight, Helios could see the past, present, and future, which he passed down to most of his descendants.
- Tongue of the Old Times Fluency: According to Tyson in The Battle of the Labyrinth, this was the ancient language that Gaea spoke to the Titans, Elder Cyclops and Hekatonkheires before the birth of the Olympian gods. Hence, Helios understands and speaks it perfectly.
Consorts and Children
- By the goddess Hecate, Helios became the father of Circe.
- By the Oceanid Perseis, he became the father of Aeetes, Pasiphae, and Perses.
- By the Oceanid Klymene, he became the father of the Heliades, Astris, and Phaethon.
- By the nymph Neaera he became the father of Phaethusa ("radiant") and Lampetia ("shining").
- By his sister Selene, he became the father of the four Horae (seasons) and the twelve Horae (hours).
- By Aegle, he may have been the father of the Charities.
- By Rhode, his wife and daughter of Poseidon, he became the father of the Heliadae and Electryone.
- By the Oceanid Ocyrrhoe, he became the father of Phasis.
- By Leucothoe, he became the father of Thersanon.
- By Nausidame, he became the father of Augeas, one of the Argonauts.
- By undetermined mothers, he was the father of Aegiale, Aithon, Aix, Aloeus, Camirus, and Mausolus.
Sol was the solar deity in Ancient Roman religion. It was long thought that Rome actually had two different, consecutive sun gods. The first, Sol Indiges, was thought to have been unimportant, disappearing altogether at an early period. Only in the late Roman Empire, scholars argued, did the solar cult re-appear with the arrival of the Syrian Sol Invictus in Rome, perhaps under the influence of the Mithraic mysteries.
- The center of Helios's worship was on the isle Rhodes.
- The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and a representation of the Titan of the sun. Built between 292 and 280 BC it stood 107 feet tall making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 224.
- It's been said that the colossus is planned to be rebuilt in the future, thus fulfilling the dream of generations of Rhodians. Like the previous statue, it will represent the Titan Helios, but will be at least twice the size of the original one.
- Helium is a chemical element that can be found in the sun, therefore it was named after the Greek word for sun, which is Helios.
- Copernicus's Theory was called heliocentrism because he stated the Sun was at the center of the universe, not the Earth.
- Heliophobia, fear of the sun, is named after Helios.
- The city of Heliopolis was named after him.
- While the connection between Helios and Apollo is stressed upon, Helios was sometimes perceived as Zeus' eye.