Who Is Helios in “The Odyssey”?
In Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Helios is the god of the sun who keeps herds of oxen and sheep on the island of Sicily. Odysseus’ companions steal the oxen and eat them. A furious Helios asks Zeus to punish the men, so Zeus destroys Odysseus’ ship and the men drown.
Helios’s daughters Phaetusa and Lampetia tend the flocks on the island, called Thrinakia in the poem. Lampetia discovers that Odysseus’ crew stole the oxen and reports the theft to her father. The oxen are immortal and continue to move and make noise even after the men skin and roast them.
Homer describes the sun god as able to see and hear everything happening on Earth, but he doesn’t explain why Helios didn’t see the robbery of his oxen. In another part of “The Odyssey,” Homer describes how Helios saw Ares, the god of war, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, having an affair, and he informed Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus, the god of smithing. Homer often calls Helios Hyperion or Hyperionides, indicating that his father is Hyperion. Homer’s hymns to Helios say that his mother is Euryphaessia, whom other ancient Greek writers call Theia, and his sister is Selene, the goddess of the moon.