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Ēōs


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The goddess of the dawn, daughter of the sun‐god Hyperion. In Homer her formulaic epithets are ‘rosy‐fingered’ and ‘saffron‐robed’, reflecting the pale shades of the dawn sky; and while the Sun himself has a four‐horse chariot, Eos, to mark her subsidiary status, is content with a chariot and pair.

Her mythology centres on her role as a predatory lover: she carries off the handsome hunters Cephalus or Orion as they stalk their own prey in the morning twilight, or seizes the Trojan prince Tithonus to be her heavenly gigolo. It is the latter whose bed she leaves when day breaks at the start of Odyssey. bk. 5, and by whom she became the mother of Memnon, the eastern warrior‐prince and Trojan ally. She begged immortality for Tithonus from Zeus, but forgot to ask for eternal youth to go with it, so that he shrivelled away until nothing was left but a wizened, piping husk (hence the origin of the cicadas); she locked him into a room and threw away the key. The explanation of these stories, in which a goddess's love is used as a metaphor for death, is to be found in the Greek practice of conducting funerals at night, with the soul departing at daybreak.

In art she is usually winged, first appearing in the 6th cent. bc in scenes concerning the death of her son: she balances Thetis in the psychostasia (‘weighing’) of the fates of Achilles and Memnon or at the fight itself, or (on Duris' fine cup in the Louvre) she weeps over his corpse in a moving pietà. For the 5th cent. the favoured theme is the pursuit and abduction of Cephalus or Tithonus.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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