Helios was the original Greek god of the sun, but faded due to lack of worship by the Romans, afterwhich his duty of driving the sun chariot was passed on to Apollo. He was the son of Hyperion and Theia, and brother of Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn. He was married to the goddess Rhodes, 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, the Heliades, gathered on the banks of the river to mourn their brother's demise and are transformed into amber-teared poplar trees. After his death, the boy was either placed among the stars as the constellation Auriga ("the charioteer") or he became one of the five gods of the wandering stars (the planet Jupiter or Saturn).
Helios was often referred to as Helios Panoptes ("[Helios] the all-seeing"). As is recounted in Homer's Odyssey (Book VIII. 300 ff), Aphrodite, the wife of Hephaestus, secretly bedded Ares, although the two are seen by Helios and after he told Hephaestus, the smith god ensnared the two lovers in a net to punish them.
In Book XII of Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus and his surviving crew land on the island of Thrinacia, which is sacred to Helios and is where his cattle and sheep were kept. Though Odysseus warns his men not to, they impiously kill and eat some of the sun god's cattle. Helios’ daughters, Phaëthusa and Lampetië, who guard the island, tell their father, and Helios then appeals to Zeus, who destroys Odysseus' ship and kills all of 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 Aethipoia, with whom he passes the dark hours. When Hercules was traveling to Erytheia to retrieve the cattle of Geryon, he crossed the Libyan desert and was so frustrated by the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios. The sun god was so surprised by the demigod's daring that he gave Hercules the golden cup that he used to sail across the sea every night, from west to east in order to reach Erytheia. Hercules successfully retrieved the cattle and after he returned to Greece, he gave the cup back to Helios.
Helios' primary place of worship was the island of Rhodes, which according to the following myth was his special territory. At the time of the First 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.
Medea summons her grandfather, Helios, from the depths of Tartarus in order to absorb the latters power and give it to Caligula, turning the emperor into the new sun god. His flaming essence in the Labyrinth under Southern California caused natural disasters including wildfires and droughts, hence why it was referred to as the Burning Maze. Helios is summoned once again by Medea to fight Piper McLean, Meg McCaffrey and Apollo who was turned human, and once the sorceress was defeated, the god went supernova. Helios meets Apollo again when the former Olympian god is traveling the maze with Meg and Grover, searching for the Sybil. Apollo promises Helios that he will release him from Medea's control, convincing the god to let the trio pass and reach the center of the maze, where they find the Sybil and confront Medea once more. Eventually, Piper, who received a message from Grover, arrives and defeats Medea, killing her and releasing Helios from his prison. Apollo then convinces Helios to hold his rage and finally rest, promising him to keep the memories of the sun god alive, his essence then returning to Chaos.
During his glory days, Helios was much like Apollo, always chatting, joking and flirting while strolling around Olympus. However, after being replaced by Apollo and banished to Tartarus, he became distant, angry and resentful, principally at Apollo. He also hates his granddaughter Medea, due to her bounding his will to hers.
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 crowning his dark hair, while his pupils blazed "like pilot lights for industrial ovens."
Helios possessed the standard powers of a god.
- Photokinesis: As the god of the Sun, Helios had absolute control and divine authority over light.
- Pyrokinesis: As the god 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 (heat only): Helios has absolute control and divine authority over heat.
- Vision Manipulation: As the god of the Sun and of sight, 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 god of sight, Helios could see the past, present, and future, an ability which he passed down to most of his descendants.
- Reinforcing Oaths: As the Guardian of Oaths, he may have had the power to influence and command punishment of those who break their oaths including the gods in some myths.
- Tongue of the Old Times Fluency: According to Tyson in The Battle of the Labyrinth, this was the ancient language that Gaea spoke to her children (the Titans, Elder Cyclopes 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' worship was on the isle Rhodes.
- The Colossus of Rhodes was a massive statue of Helios that was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. 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 226 BC.
- 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 god Helios, but will be at least twice the size of the original one.
- The chemical element of Helium was named after 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.