The ancient Greeks attributed the weather, along with almost every other aspect of the natural world, to the intervention of the gods. Anemoi, the Greek god of the wind, was worshiped in ancient Greece.
These four deities—Boreas, Zephyrus, Notus, and Eurus—are collectively known as the Anemoi. Each is given a cardinal direction and a season according to the prevailing wind.
The Greek god Boreas represents the chilly north wind that ushers in winter. Some believe he is responsible for bringing winter, and his fiery temper and incredible strength justify such a dire prediction.
Boreas is often represented as a bearded, balding, and/or wingless older man. The first Anemoi is typically pictured wearing a long cloak and wielding a conch shell.
Zephyrus, the second of the Anemoi, represents the west wind, the calmest of the directions.
Zephyrus, in Greek mythology, was the herald of spring and resided in a cave in Thrace, in northern Greece.
Here’s a quick overview of Greek Anemoi’s history before we get into further detail:
Origin of Greek Anemoi
The Anemoi didn’t materialize anywhere.
The Titan goddess Eos, who brought the day into being, actually had four children who became the wind gods. The Greek deity of dusk, Astraeus, was their father. Similarly, he was linked to the wind god Aeolus.
As a result of the union between the King of the Dusk and the Titan queen of the Dawn, many of the brightest stars in the ancient Greek sky became active. Among these heavenly bodies were Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus.
The Greeks believed that the union of these two paved the way for the Anemoi, the love of the gods, to permeate our tiny blue world, Earth.
Zephyrus – God of Spring
Zephyrus, however, was beyond simply a wind god. The Ancient Greeks also revered him as the god of spring since springtime brings with it the mild west breezes that signal the end of winter and the beginning of the growing season for plants and flowers.
Zephyrus was seen as a helpful god because his Roman name was Favonius, which means favoring.
Tales of Zephyrus
Some legends suggest that Zeus may not have used Zephyrus’s typically benevolent disposition during the Deluge of Deucalion, as he is said to have enlisted the help of all of the Anemoi in order to bring about the storms that resulted in the Great Flood’s rains.
Others, however, say that everyone was locked up except for Notus during this time, so the rain clouds wouldn’t be dispersed.
Certainly, Zephyrus was a helpful deity in Homer’s works, as seen by Achilles‘ appeal to him and Boreas and Iris for assistance lighting Patroclus’ funeral pyre when it refused to catch fire. When the two Anemoi arrived, they kindled the funeral pyre and kept it burning all night.
Homer adds that when Aeolus delivered Odysseus the bag of winds, he commanded Zephyrus to return the Ithacan monarch to his kingdom speedily. However, Odysseus’ men intervened to prevent this hasty journey home.
On the other hand, Homer also claims that Zephyrus and his brothers were responsible for the storms threatening their return home.
Zephyrus And Chloris
An Oceanid nymph named Chloris was Zephyrus’s wife. As the Greek counterpart to Flora, Chloris would become revered as the goddess of flowers because of the ever-renewing spring she and her husband experienced in their home. Similarly to how Boreas married Orithyia, Zephyrus stole Chloris and made her his wife.
Greek fruit deity Carpus was born to the union of Zephyrus and Chloris.
Although it is not often accepted, some tales also depict Zephyrus getting married to Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and messenger of Hera. Those who claim Zephyrus and Iris were married attribute the god’s Eros and Pothos to them. Nevertheless, both of these deities are more commonly associated with Aphrodite.
Zephyrus And Hyacinth
Zephyrus was typically portrayed as an attractive young man, but just like the other Anemoi, Zephyrus was occasionally represented as a horse galloping ahead of the winds that came after.
Zephyrus was reported to have competed with Hyacinth, a Spartan teen, for her attention because he was a gorgeous young man. However, Hyacinth’s beauty attracted the attention of the deity Apollo, and in the end, he decided to pursue Apollo’s love rather than Zephyrus.
Then, an envious Zephyrus would bring about Hyacinth’s demise when, during a discus toss between Apollo and Hyacinth, Zephyrus caused a gust of wind to direct Apollo’s discus in such a way that it struck Hyacinth in the head, killing him instantly.
Zephyrus And Horses
Zephyrus had a special relationship with steeds. The Anemoi fathered the legendary horses Balius and Xanthus, who were handed down from Peleus to Achilles to Neoptolemus and were both immortal and could speak. Moreover, they say that Podarge, one of the Harpies, was the mother of these horses.
Further, many people consider tigers to be “Zephyrus’ children.”
Importance of Wind in Greek Mythology
The power of nature and its effect on humans is nothing new in Greek mythology. The elements are all represented within the pantheon, from the god of light, Apollo, to the gods of the sea, who rule over the numerous waves and tides.
But, before the Industrial Revolution, the wind was a major driving force in the industry in ancient Greece and throughout the world. This renewable energy source remains competitive with the best of them.
So, you can only guess at the magnitude of wind’s role in shaping ancient societies.
All that mattered to ancient Greeks were the winds that blew in from the four cardinal directions. It caused it to rain, helped farmers, made navigation easier, and set ships afloat. We could use some of that in a time of steadily increasing gas prices.
The Bottom Line
A minor god in the pantheon, Zephyrus nonetheless played a pivotal role in the stories of the Greeks. People looked forward to his coming each year since he represented the west wind and spring.
His willingness to aid Eros, Achilles, and Odysseus reveal his helping nature, yet the story of Hyacinth demonstrates that he was not one to be trifled with. Even after their traditions have been told, Zephyrus and his brothers continue to be a potent force in art, literature, and the very winds themselves.