Zephyrus, in Greek mythology, is the god of the west wind. He is often depicted as a gentle and mild breeze, bringing spring and warmth to the world. Zephyrus was one of the Anemoi, the wind deities in Greek mythology, and he was associated with the season of spring.
Zephyrus is sometimes portrayed as a young man carrying flowers, which symbolizes his role in bringing the bloom of spring. The Greek god of wind is also linked to various myths and stories, including his role in the tale of Cupid and Psyche.
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Who Was Zephyrus?
Zephyrus was one of the Anemoi, the wind deities in Greek mythology. He specifically represented the west wind, which was associated with gentle breezes, warmth, and the arrival of spring. Zephyrus was considered the personification of this wind and was often depicted as a young man carrying flowers or as a winged figure.
In Greek mythology, Zephyrus was the son of the Titans Astraeus and Eos (the goddess of the dawn). He had three siblings who were also wind deities: Boreas (the north wind), Notus (the south wind), and Eurus (the east wind).
Zephyrus’s role in mythology was closely tied to the changing of seasons and the natural world. He was believed to be responsible for bringing the warm and gentle breezes of spring, which helped to bring about the growth and blooming of plants and flowers. His character represented the more pleasant and beneficial aspects of wind, in contrast to the destructive and fierce winds associated with his siblings.
The Anemoi: The 4 Greek Gods of Wind
In ancient Greek mythology, the Anemoi were the gods of the four winds and directional breezes. They were considered personifications of the different wind directions and were often associated with the changing seasons and weather conditions.
The Anemoi were part of the larger Greek pantheon and had specific attributes and roles attributed to each of them.
Boreas: The god of the north wind, associated with cold, winter, and the bringing of frigid air. He was often depicted as a bearded man carrying a conch shell or a vessel of water.
Zephyrus: The god of the west wind, associated with gentle breezes and the arrival of spring. He was often portrayed as a young man holding flowers or a staff.
Notus: The god of the south wind, associated with warmth and summer heat. Notus was sometimes depicted as a man with a full beard, holding a water vessel.
Eurus: The god of the east wind, associated with rainy and stormy weather. Eurus was not as prominently featured in mythology as the other Anemoi and doesn’t have as many specific stories or attributes associated with him.
Other Harbingers of Wind
Even though these four wind gods might seem like the ultimate super-force in charge of wind blowing into Greece, the responsibility is further divided amongst lesser wind gods.
Besides the notable cardinal directions, middling directions such as the southeast wind, northeast wind, southwest wind, and northwest wind are also gifted their dedicated wind gods.
Wind Gods in Roman Mythology
These gaseous deities also make their grand appearances far away from Greek mythology. In Roman mythology, the Anemoi are given different names with a further expansion in their roles.
For instance, Boreas becomes Aquilo in Roman Mythology. The south wind, Notus, goes by the name Auster. Eurus is known as Vulturnus. Zephyrus comes to be introduced as Favonius.
Though they all have different names in various myths, the main Anemoi remains the same. However, the name “Anemoi” is changed to “Venti,” which is the Latin for (unsurprisingly) “winds.” With little to no differences when compared to their Greek counterparts, the Venti in Roman mythology are still very much relevant.
The four gods of the wind still continue to hold their importance even when the perspective is shifted to their Roman equivalents.
The Origin of the Greek Anemoi
The Anemoi didn’t just appear from thin air. In fact, the four Greek gods of the wind were the offspring of the Titan goddess Eos, the dawn bringer. Their father was Astraeus, the Greek god of dusk. He was also associated with Aeolus, who was in charge of regulating the Earthly winds.
This celestial pairing of the King of the dusk and the Titan goddess of dawn made it possible for many astronomical hotshots in the ancient Greek night sky to burst into life. This included celestial bodies such as the planets Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus.
And, of course, their marriage also made it possible for Anemoi to flow through this little blue planet known as Earth, as the Greeks believed.
Aeolus and the Anemoi
Though it might be a little hard to digest, even the Anemoi had to report to a daddy god. The four Anemoi occasionally got together in the house of Aeolus, the Keeper of the Winds, and bowed down to their airy ruler.
The name “Aeolus” literally means “nimble,” which is a fitting name for someone who controlled the four winds alone. Being the chief Anemoi himself, Aeolus had absolute rule over the winds.
Taming the north wind, east wind, or south wind is no easy feat; however, Aeolus did it as quickly as he breathed air. Living on the island of Aeolia, Aeolus is highlighted the most in Diodorus’ “Bibliotheca Historica.” It is stated that Aeolus is a just ruler and practices fairness and balance over all the winds, so they don’t run into stormy conflicts with each other.
The Importance of Wind in Greek Mythology
Greek mythology is no stranger when it comes to emphasizing the impact of nature on mortals. From the god Apollo, responsible for controlling light, to the sea gods in charge of various waves and tides, every element is given its spot within the pantheon.
That being said, the wind was one of the main catalysts of production for ancient Greece and the world since ancient times, up until the Industrial Revolution. It continues to be one of the most efficient renewable energy sources.
For ancient Greece, winds blowing in from the cardinal directions meant everything. It brought rain, promoted agriculture, enhanced navigation, and most importantly, made ships sail.
The Anemoi and Their Counterparts in Other Mythologies
The four wind gods of Greek mythology have had some dashing doppelgangers in other tales and religions.
As mentioned, the Anemoi was known as ‘Venti’ in Roman mythology. However, these Greek deities of the wind also appeared within many other famous mythologies.
The role of controlling the wind in Hindi mythology fell upon the shoulders of many gods. However, the main deity was considered to be Vayu. Other Hindu gods that reported to him included Rudra and the Maruts.
In Slavic mythology, Stribog influenced the winds from all eight directions. He was even said to gracefully bless the households he touched with an immense amount of wealth.
READ MORE: 9 Important Slavic Gods and Goddesses
Hine-Tu-Whenua is the lord of the winds in Hawaiian mythology. With help from his besties La’aMaomao and Paka, he ventures to the endless ocean to privilege torn sails with fresh hot winds.
READ MORE: The Hawaiian Gods: Māui and 9 Other Deities
Lastly, the position of the Japanese wind god is attributed to Fūten.
A Closer Look at the Anemoi and Lesser Wind Gods
The God of the North Wind, Boreas
Out of the four wind gods in Greek mythology, the north wind is given extra attention. Navigation is built around knowing where north, and things were no different in ancient Greece.
Hence, it is only natural that the god of the north wind pops up repeatedly within the pages of Greek mythology.
Simply put, Boreas was the punishingly cold wind that signaled the beginning of winter. Winter meant the beginning of icy sessions of intense cold and frostbite. It also meant the imminent destruction of vegetation and crops, a peasant’s worst nightmare.
As for his appearance, the north wind did have a fresh drip on him. Boreas was portrayed as the local bearded tough guy ready to challenge the odds. This weathered personality is brought about by his cold heart, which further influenced his persona as he brought winter to the people.
With a violent temper and even more violent desire to kidnap women, the north wind has ironically been a hot topic in Greek mythology.
Greek God of Wind Boreas and Helios
Boreas decided that the best way to settle the household drama was through a simple experiment. Whoever could blow the cloak away from a seafarer’s garb would be able to call himself a victor. Helios, being the fiery man that he is, accepted the challenge.
When a random seafarer minding his business was passing by these goofy gods, the north wind took his chance. Unfortunately, no matter how much he tried to blow the cloak away from the traveler, the man clung to it even tighter. Disappointed, Boreas let Helios work his way out of this sticky situation.
Helios, the sun simply cranked up his own brightness. That did the trick because the seafarer took off his cloak right after that, sweating and gasping for air.
Alas, by the time Helios dubbed himself the clear victor, the god of the north wind had already flown south. This entire event was highlighted in one of Aesop’s fables.
Boreas and the Persians
Another famous tale where Boreas shows up concerns the imminent destruction of an entire fleet of ships. Yet another Greek god has stuck its windy nose inside the little matters of humanity.
Xerxes, the King of the Achaemenid Empire, felt it. As a result, he decided to gather his army and invade all of Greece. During this extra manic phase of a mood swing, he underestimated Greek prayers’ power. The people of Athens prayed to the north wind god to bring them salvation and do something about this ravenous madman.
The king of winter proceeded to swoop down from the skies in a duty call and absolutely eradicated the Persian fleet of 400 ships at the infamous Battle of Marathon.
The God of the South Wind, Notus
Rising from the searing hot sands of the south, Notus is the southerly wind that brings about the ravages and storms of late summer. Being the bearer of “sirocco” gusts and wild winds, Notus embodies frenzy and bewildering strength.
The god of the south winds’ arrival was signaled by the rise of Sirius, the “Dog Star” that ruled over midsummer. The south wind brought hot winds alongside sirocco gusts which often spelled doom for flourishing crops. Due to a limited idea of the globe, the Greeks placed Ethiopia (“Aithiopia”) in the southernmost region of the planet. Since that was their idea of the ultimate south, Notus was said to have originated from there.
Tropical maritime winds from the horn of Africa seemed to come from one specific point, and Ethiopia was just there at the right place at the right time.
Notus in Roman Mythology
The god of the south wind also appears as a dashing man in Roman mythology. Known by the name “Auster,” he is the reason why ships violently shake their posterior on the summer seas.
In fact, the name “Australia” (which means ‘southernly lands’) derives from the name of his Roman counterpart. So if you live near Australia, you know who to dedicate your next year’s harvest.
The god of the south wind was also the symbol of summer as his violent storms often reign the greater stretch of the season. This made him quite infamous from the perspectives of both shepherds and sailors.
The God of the East Wind, Eurus
Being the epitome of anger, the god of the east wind is a violent deity by heart. His winds blew from the east and brought with them the throbs of wild uncertainty. The sailors often called the flow the ‘unlucky east wind’ due to acid rains or clouds infested with airborne diseases.
The east wind signaled the beginning of early autumn, bringing winter to the Ancient Greek people. However, Eurus’ presence was dreaded mostly by the sailors that sauntered the waters of the Mediterranean.
Torturously hot at times and turbulent in nature, the east wind tossed around vessels and led sailors to their doom. This made the winds relatively rarer. However, the looming danger constantly intimidated any eastward sailor in the sea.
Eurus in Roman Mythology
Eurus was known as Vulturnus in Roman tales. Sharing similar characteristics, Vulturnus also further added to rainy Roman weather in general.
Eurus and Helios
As best buddies with the sun god, Eurus resided near Helios’ palace and served at his command. No wonder the storm god brings violent turbulence wherever he goes.
The God of the West Wind, Zephyrus
Of all the four chief Anemoi and wind deities, the god of the west wind, Zephyrus, is the most well-known, thanks to his gentle touch and pop culture.
Zephyrus’ gentle westerly winds soothe the lands and bring about the start of spring. Blooming flowers, cold breezes, and divine fragrances are just some of the many things that signal his arrival. Zephyrus served as the primary catalyst behind spring, wrapping him in a somewhat floral responsibility that regulated beauty throughout the season.
The west wind also signaled the end of winter. With his arrival, his brother Boreas’ shaggy hair would scurry out of sight with his freezing storms.
Zephyrus and Chloris
The god of the west wind once decided to kidnap a beautiful nymph from the ocean, following in the footsteps of his brother, Boreas. Zephyrus abducted Chloris and soon linked with her.
Chloris became the goddess of flowers and came to be known as “Flora.” Flora’s role in Greek mythology was further highlighted by Ovid in his “FASTI.” Here, she blesses Juno, the Roman queen of the gods (Greek equivalent Hera), with a child after the latter insisted on it.
The couple even produced a child named Karpos, who casually proceeded to become the Greek god of fruit later in his life.
Zephyrus Butchers Hyacinth
A jealous man by nature, Zephyrus once rode the winds to get rid of the most annoying hurdle in his life.
Apollo, the Greek god of light, once crushed a handsome Spartan youth named Hyacinth. Furious by this love at first sight, Zephyrus fired on all cylinders and unleashed his jealousy on this poor boy.
While Apollo and Hyacinth were having a fun date night playing discus, the west wind called upon the storm to direct the hurling discus toward the youth. The discus ended up splitting Hyacinth into two and killing him.
Zephyrus, the Lover of Horses
Being a massive fan of both mortal and immortal horses, the wind god of the spring and early summer loved collecting the animals.
In fact, Heracles‘ and Adrastus’ famous divine horse, Arion, is thought to be Zephyrus’ son.
Zephyrus in Roman Mythology
Zephyrus also appears away from Ancient Greek tales as he is known as “Favonius” in Roman mythology. This name simply implies the relatively favorable nature of his winds, which brought the people the bounty of flowers and fruits.
Minor Wind Gods
It wasn’t uncommon to mention lesser gods of wind in various myths. For instance, even though Nostus is the south wind and Eurus is the east wind, there is a minor god for the southeast wind.
They might not have been winds dedicated to the actual cardinal directions. However, they still held notable positions.
- Kaikeus, the God of the Northeast Wind.
- Lips, the God of the Southwest Wind
- Euronotus/Apeliotes, the Gods of the Southeast Winds
- Skiron, the God of the Northwest Wind
These individual gods could have been further divided into more directions with more concentrated responsibilities. Still, these gods of the winds were essential to Greek myths nonetheless.
Given their permanence, the Anemoi are a vital part of many Greek myths simply due to their constant presence.
Hailing from the womb of a Titan goddess, these winged gods, each in a billowing cloak were in charge of the very essence of the ancient Greek atmosphere.
Pliny the Elder 2.46; cf. Columella 15