For the click beetle genus, see Aeolus (beetle).

Aeolus (Greek: Αἴολος [aí.jo.los], Ailos Modern Greek:), Latinized as Æolus was the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology. In fact this name was shared by three mythic characters. These three personages are often difficult to tell apart, and even the ancient mythographers appear to have been perplexed about which Aeolus was which. Diodorus Siculus made an attempt to define each of these three (although it is clear he also became muddled), and his opinion is followed here. Briefly, the first Aeolus was a son of Hellen and eponymous founder of the Aeolian race; the second was a son of Poseidon, who led a colony to islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea; and the third Aeolus was a son of Hippotes who is mentioned in Odyssey book 10 as Keeper of the Winds who gives Odysseus a rightly closed bag full of the captured winds so he could sail easily home to Ithaca on the gentle West Wind. All three men named Aeolus appear to be connected genealogically, although the precise relationship, especially regarding the second and third Aeolus, is often ambiguous.

Son of Hellen

This Æolus was son of Hellen and the nymph Orseis, and a brother of Dorus, Xuthus and Amphictyon. He was described as the ruler of Aeolia (later called Thessaly) and held to be the founder of the Aeolic branch of the Greek nation. Æolus married Enarete, daughter of Deimachus (otherwise unknown). Æolus and Enarete had many children, although the precise number and identities of these children vary from author to author in the ancient sources. The great extent of country which this race occupied, and the desire of each part of it to trace its origin to some descend­ant of Aeolus, probably gave rise to the varying accounts about the number of his children. Some scholars contend that the most ancient and genuine story knew only of four sons of Aeolus: Sisyphus, Athamas, Cretheus, and Salmoneus, as the representatives of the four main branches of the Aeolic race. Other sons included Deioneus, Perieres, Cercaphas and perhaps Magnes (usually regarded as a brother of Macedon) and Aethlius. Another son is named Mimas, who provides a link to the third Æolus in a genealogy that seems very contrived. Calyce, Peisidice, Perimele and Alcyone were counted among the daughters of Æolus and Enarete. This Æolus also had an illegitimate daughter named Arne, begotten on Melanippe, daughter of the Centaur Cheiron. This Arne became the mother of the second Æolus, by the god Poseidon.

Son of Poseidon

This Æolus was a son of Poseidon by Arne, daughter of Æolus. He had a twin brother named Boeotus. Arne confessed to her father that she was with child by the god Poseidon; her father, however, did not believe her, and handed her over to a man named Metapontus, King of Icaria. When Bœotus and Æo­lus were born, they were raised by Meta­pontus; but their stepmother (Autolyte, wife of Metapontus) quarrelled with their mother Arne, prompting Bœotus and Æolus to kill Autolyte and flee from Icaria. Bœotus (accompanied by Arne) went to southern Thessaly, and founded Boeotia; but Æolus went to a group of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, which received from him the name of the Aeolian Islands; accord­ing to some accounts this Æolus founded the town of Lipara. Although his home has been traditionally identified as one of the Æolian Islands (there is little consensus as to which), near Sicily, an alternative location has been suggested at Gramvousa off the northwest coast of Crete. Æolus had six sons and six daughters, whom in Homer he wed to one another and the family lived happily together. Later writers were shocked by the incest: in Hyginus, the day Æolus learned that one of his sons, Macareus, had committed incest with his sister Canace. he expelled Macareus and threw the child born of this incestuous union to the dogs, and sent his daughter a sword by which she was to kill herself. Other late accounts claim that the child, a daughter named Amphissa, was rescued and later beloved by Apollo.

Son of Hippotes

This Æolus is most frequently conflated with Æolus, the son of Poseidon. It is difficult to delineate this Æolus from the second Æolus, as their identities seem to have been merged by many ancient writers. The father of this third Æolus is given as Mimas, a son of the first Æolus (son of Hellen). According to some accounts, Mimas married the same Melanippe who was the mother of Arne. This Æolus lived on the floating island of Aeolia and was visited by Odysseus and his crew in the Odyssey. He gave hospitality for a month and provided for a west wind to carry them home. Unfortunately he also provided a gift of a bag containing each of the four winds, which Odysseus's crew members opened just before their home was reached. They were blown back to Aeolia, where Æolus refused to provide any further help. This Æolus was perceived by later authors (i.e., after Homer) as a god, rather than as a mortal and simple Keeper of the Winds (as in the Odyssey).

In the Aeneid by Virgil, Juno offers Aeolus the nymph Deiopea as a wife if he will release his winds upon the fleet of Aeneas.


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