In Greek mythology
(Ἴρις) is the personification of the rainbow
and messenger of the gods. As the sun unites Earth
, Iris links the gods to humanity. She travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other, and into the depths of the sea
and the underworld
Iris was a very important goddess. Her father was the Titan Lord,and her mother was Maia. She went around with angel wings and a rainbow as a gown. She accomplished many things, such as stopping the harpies from attacking a man named Phineas. She is a messenger god to everywhere but the underworld.
Iris is frequently mentioned as a divine messenger in the Iliad
which is attributed to Homer
, but does not appear in the other work attributed to him, Odyssey,
where Hermes fills that role. Like Hermes, also known as Mercury
, Iris carries a caduceus
or winged staff.
By command of Zeus
, the king of the gods, she carries a ewer
of water from the Styx
, with which she puts to sleep all who perjure
themselves. Goddess of sea and sky, she is also represented as supplying the clouds with the water needed to deluge the world, consistent with her rainbow identity.
According to Apollonius Rhodius, Zetes and Calais who numbered amongst the Argonauts, delivered the prophet Phineas from the attentions of the tormenting Harpies. The Boreads' pursuit of the Harpies ended at the Strophades (`Islands of Turning'), where they were turned back, repelled by Iris. This eventful 'turning' may have resulted in the Islands' name.
They sent the winged heroes, the Boreads, after the harpies. They succeeded in driving the monsters away but did not kill them, as a request from the goddess of the rainbow, Iris, who promised that Phineas would not be bothered by the harpies again. It is said that the Boreads were turned back by Iris at the Strophades. As thanks, Phineas told the Argonauts how to pass the Symplegades.
According to Hesiod's Theogony, Iris is the daughter of Thaumas and the ocean nymph Electra, an Oceanid. Her sisters are the Harpies, Aello and Ocypete. Iris is married to Zephyrus, who is the god of the west wind. Their son is Pothos (Nonnus, Dionysiaca). In some records she is a sororal twin to the Titaness Arkhe (arch), who flew out of the company of Olympian gods to join the Titans as their messenger goddess during the Titanomachy, making the two sisters enemy messenger goddesses. Iris was said to have golden wings, whereas Arkhe had iridescent ones. She is also said to travel on the rainbow while carrying messages from the gods to mortals. During the Titan War, Zeus tore Arkhe's iridescent wings from her and gave them as a gift to the Nereid Thetis at her wedding, who in turn gave them to her son, Achilles, who wore them on his feet. Achilles was sometimes known as podarkhes, or "wing-footed with Arkhe's wings". Not much is written about Iris' twin sister.
According to the Dionysiaca of Nonnos, Iris' brother is Hydaspes (book XXVI, lines 355-365).
In Euripides' play Heracles, Iris appears alongside Madness, cursing Heracles with the fit of madness in which he kills his three sons and his wife Megara.
Iris had numerous poetic titles and epithets
, including Chrysopteron
(Golden Winged), Podas ôkea
(swift footed) or Podênemos ôkea
(wind-swift footed), and Thaumantias
(Daughter of Thaumas, Wondrous One). Under the epithet Aellopus (Αελλόπους) she was described as swift-footed like a storm-wind.
Iris is represented either as a rainbow, or as a young maiden with wings on her shoulders.
Derivations and portrayals
- The word iridescence is derived in part from the name of this goddess.
- The 7 Iris asteroid is named after the messenger.
- "Arco iris" and "arco-íris" are the words for "rainbow" in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively.
- In 1946, Iris was depicted on a 50-franc airmail stamp in France. This was accompanied the same year by a 40-franc airmail stamp depicting a centaur shooting an arrow into the sky.
- Iris appears in the Disney movie Fantasia at the end of the segment featuring the Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven.
- Iris is the most powerful summon from the video game Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
- Iris is the name of an important non-playable character in the video game Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. In addition to being a messenger between the titular Sinistrals (Gods of the planet Estpolis) and the main character, there exist in the world Iris Treasures which are said to shine with all the colors of the rainbow.
- The manifestation of the "Iris" shares many characteristics to Lao Tzu's ("pragmatic") theories of perception in his book, the Tao Te Ching.