109 Facts About Helios


Helios's name is Latinized as Helius, and he is often given the epithets Hyperion and Phaethon.

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Helios is often depicted in art with a radiant crown and driving a horse-drawn chariot through the sky.

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Helios was a guardian of oaths and the god of sight.

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Helios played a significant part in ancient magic and spells.

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Helios' journey on a chariot during the day and travel with a boat in the ocean at night is likely a reflection of the Egyptian sun god Ra sailing across the skies in a barque and through the body of the sky goddess Nut to be reborn at dawn each morning anew; both gods were known as the Eye of the Heaven in their respective pantheons.

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Helios is the son of Hyperion and Theia, or Euryphaessa, or Aethra, or Basileia, the only brother of the goddesses Eos and Selene.

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Helios was not among the regular and more prominent deities, rather he was a more shadowy member of the Olympian circle, though in spite of him being a relatively marginal god, he was one of the most ancient ones, and one that the other gods did not want to meddle with.

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Helios is associated with harmony and order, both in the sense of society and the literal movement of the celestial bodies; in this regard, he resembles Apollo a lot, a god he was very often identified with.

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Helios is usually depicted as a handsome young man crowned with the shining aureole of the Sun who drove the chariot of the Sun across the sky each day to Earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night.

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Helios is seen as both a personification of the Sun and the fundamental creative power behind it and as a result is often worshiped as a god of life and creation.

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Helios was envisioned as a god driving his chariot from east to west each day, pulled by four white horses.

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In one Greek vase painting, Helios appears riding across the sea in the cup of the Delphic tripod which appears to be a solar reference.

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On several instances in mythology the normal solar schedule is disrupted; he was ordered not to rise for three days during the conception of Heracles, and made the winter days longer in order to look upon Leucothoe, Athena's birth was a sight so impressive that Helios halted his steeds and stayed still in the sky for a long while, as heaven and earth both trembling at the newborn goddess' sight.

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Almost immediately, Heracles realized his mistake and apologized profusely ; In turn and equally courteous, Helios granted Heracles the golden cup which he used to sail across the sea every night, from the west to the east because he found Heracles' actions immensely bold.

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Thyestes agreed, and Helios indeed rose where he usually set, and set where he usually rose, not standing the unfairness of Thyestes' actions.

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Alexander of Aetolia, cited in Athenaeus, related that the magical herb grew on the island Thrinacia, which was sacred to Helios, and served as a remedy against fatigue for the sun god's horses.

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Helios complained to Zeus about it, who offered to do the division of portions again, but Helios refused the offer, for he had seen a new land emerging from the deep of the sea; a rich, productive land for humans and good for cattle too.

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Helios asked for this island to be given to him, and Zeus agreed to it, with Lachesis raising her hands to confirm the oath.

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Helios named it Rhodes, after his lover Rhode, and it became the god's sacred island, where he was honoured above all other gods.

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Clymene reveals the truth to her son, and urges her son to travel east to get confirmation from his father after she informs him that Helios promised to grant their child any wish when he slept with her.

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Helios, living in a palace far away and attended by several other gods, warmly receives his son, and promises him on the river Styx any gift that he might ask as a proof of paternity; Phaethon asks for the privilege to drive Helios' chariot for a single day, causing his father to immediately regret his gift.

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Helios then takes his anger out on his four horses, whipping them in fury for causing his son's death.

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Nonnus of Panopolis presented a slightly different version of the myth, narrated by Hermes; according to him, Helios met and fell in love with Clymene, the daughter of the Ocean, and the two soon got married with her father's blessing; Merops does not factor at all, and their son Phaethon is born within marriage.

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At any point, Helios recovered the reins in time, thus saving the earth and keeping it from burning to a cinder due to the flames from the chariot.

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In one version of the myth, Helios conveyed his dead son to the stars, as a constellation.

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Helios saw and stood witness to everything that happened underneath him where his light shone.

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When Hades abducted Persephone, Helios, who was characterized with the epithet Helios Panoptes, was the only one to witness it, while Hecate only heard Persephone's screams as she was snatched away.

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Demeter is not slow to approach him, and Helios then tells her not to waste time, and seek out for "the queen of the third world", the bride of Zeus's brother.

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In Book Eight of the Odyssey, the blind singer Demodocus describes how the illicit lovers committed adultery, until one day Helios caught them in the act, and immediately informed Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus.

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Once again Helios informed Hephaestus, who came into the room and trapped them in the net.

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Helios then called the other gods to witness the humiliating sight.

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Helios made him fall for a mortal princess named Leucothoe, forgetting his previous lover the Oceanid nymph Clytie for her sake.

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Helios would watch her from above, even making the winter days longer so he could have more time looking at her.

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Helios came too late to rescue her, his grief over her death compared to the one he had over Phaethon's fiery end, and could not revive her, so instead he poured nectar into the earth, and turned the dead Leucothoe into a frankincense tree, so that she could still breathe air instead of rotting beneath the soil.

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At first the stories of Leucothoe and Clytie might had been two distinct myths concerning Helios that were later combined along with a third story, that of Helios discovering Ares and Aphrodite's affair and then informing Hephaestus, into a single tale either by Ovid himself or his source.

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In Sophocles' play Ajax, Ajax the Great, minutes before committing suicide, calls upon Helios to stop his golden reins when he reaches Ajax' native land of Salamis and inform his aging father Telamon and his mother of their son's fate and death, and salutes him one last time before he kills himself.

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Helios sided with the other gods in several battles; during what appears to have been the Titanomachy, Zeus sacrificed a bull to him, Gaia, and Uranus, and in accordance they revealed to him the will of the gods in the affair, the omens indicating the victory of the gods and a defection to them of the enemy.

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Helios took part in the Giant wars; it was said by Pseudo-Apollodorus that during the battle of the Giants against the gods, the giant Alcyoneus stole Helios' cattle from Erytheia where the god kept them, or alternatively, that it was Alcyoneus' very theft of the cattle that started the war.

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At some point during the battle of gods and giants in Phlegra, where the battle took place, Helios took up an exhausted from the fight Hephaestus on his chariot.

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Helios attempted to chase Circe away from the island, only to be killed by Helios, who defended his daughter.

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Helios is depicted in the Pergamon Altar, waging war against Giants next to his sisters Eos and Selene and his mother Theia in the southern frieze.

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Helios is riding his four-horse chariot against a Giant, while another lays dead under the hooves of his steeds, wearing a long chiton, holding a torch on his right hand and the reins in his left.

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At first Aelian writes that Helios was resentful of the boy's speed, but when trying to explain why he changed his form, he suggests that perhaps Poseidon and Helios were rivals in love, and the sun god wished the youth would run among the constellations, rather than be with the sea monsters.

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Helios shone bright then, and the traveller, overcome with the heat, removed his cloak, giving him the victory.

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Pseudo-Oppian wrote that Helios' wrath was due to some obscure victory of the prophet; after Calais and Zetes slew the Harpies tormenting Phineus, Helios then turned him into a mole, a blind creature.

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Angered, Helios hurled his blazing rays at him, melting the wax and plunging Icarus into the sea to drown.

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Later, it was Helios who decreed that said sea would be named after the unfortunate youth, the Icarian Sea.

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Helios, offended by the girl's words, changed her shape into that of a doe.

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Helios owned seven herds of cows and many sheep as well; each flock numbered fifty beasts in it, totaling 350 cows and 350 sheep—the number of days of the year in the early Ancient Greek calendar; the seven herds correspond to the week, containing seven days.

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Aristotle, who connected the number of cattle to the number to days, suggested that the reason Helios did not see the companions stealing his cattle could be explained a number of ways, such as he sees everything but not at once, or that Lampetia being the messenger is symbolic for light being messenger of sight, or that her account is similar to oath-swearing on his name.

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Helios is featured in several of Lucian's works beyond his Dialogues of the Gods.

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Claudian wrote that in his infancy, Helios was nursed by his aunt the water goddess Tethys, back in the old days when his light was not as strong and his rays had not grown yet.

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God Helios is the head of a large family, and the places that venerated him the most would typically claim both mythological and genealogical descent from him; the Cretans traced the ancestry of their king Idomeneus to Helios through his daughter Pasiphae.

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Helios distributed the land between Aloeus and Aeetes; the former received Sicyon, the latter Corinth, but Aeetes not desiring the land, decided to make his kingdom in Colchis.

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Ioannes Tzetzes adds Calypso, otherwise the daughter of Atlas, to the list of children Helios had by Perse, perhaps due to the similarities of the roles and personalities she and Circe display in the Odyssey as hosts of Odysseus.

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Helios brought Aeetes to Colchis, his eventual kingdom, on his chariot; in the same ride he transferred Circe to her own abode, Aeaea.

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At some point Helios warned his son of a prophecy that stated he would suffer treachery from one of his own offspring.

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Helios bestowed several gifts on his son, such as a chariot with swift steeds, a golden helmet with four plates, a giant's war armor, and robes and a necklace as a pledge of fatherhood.

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Later, after Medea has caused the deaths of Glauce and Glauce's father King Creon, as well as her own children by Jason, Helios helps her escape Corinth and her impious husband Jason by offering her a chariot pulled by flying dragons.

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In some rare versions, Helios is the father, rather than the brother, of his sisters Selene and Eos.

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Scholarly focus on the ancient Greek cults of Helios has generally been rather slim, partially due to how scarce both literary and archaeological sources are, and of the scattered throughout the ancient Greek world and handful cults the three siblings received, Helios was undoubtedly awarded the lion's share.

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Tension between the mainstream traditional religious veneration of Helios, which had become enriched with ethical values and poetical symbolism in Pindar, Aeschylus and Sophocles, and the Ionian proto-scientific examination of the sun, a phenomenon of the study Greeks termed meteora, clashed in the trial of Anaxagoras c 450 BC, in which Anaxagoras asserted that the Sun was in fact a gigantic red-hot ball of metal.

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Helios was not worshipped in Athens until the Hellenistic period, in post-classical times.

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Skiron is a large sunshade under which the priestess of Athena, the priest of Poseidon, and the priest of Helios walk as it is carried from the acropolis to a place called Skiron.

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In Rhodes, Helios seems to have absorbed the worship and cult of the island's local hero and mythical founder Tlepolemus.

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Priesthood of Helios was, at some point, appointed by lot, though in the great city a man and his two sons held the office of priesthood for the sun god in succession.

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Helios was an important god in Corinth and the greater Corinthia region.

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Helios was invoked in an oath of alliance between Knossos and Dreros.

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Helios had a cult in the region of Thessaly, attested in antiquity several times, such as in a dedication from Krannon, and a fragmentary inscription from Pherae.

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Helios is depicted on first century BC coins found at Halicarnassus, Syracuse in Sicily and at Zacynthus.

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Helios is a god who both sees and hears everything, who can spy among gods and mortal men alike.

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Gods were often called upon by the Greeks when an oath was sworn; Helios is among the three deities to be invoked in the Iliad to witness the truce between Greeks and Trojans.

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Helios is often appealed to in ancient drama to witness the unfolding events or take action, such as in Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and Euripides's Medea.

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Helios was thus seen as an emblem and guarantor of cosmic order, who can witness and avenge injustice happening under the sunlight.

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Helios was often invoked in funeral imprecations, ranking third in terms of frequency, after chthonic and lunar gods, and usually in the company of another lunar deity.

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Helios might have been chosen for this sort of magic because as an all-seeing god he could see everything on earth, even hidden crimes, and thus he was a very popular god to invoke in prayers for vengeance.

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Some magic rituals were associated with the engraving of images and stones, as with one such spell which asks Helios to consecrate the stone and fill with luck, honour, success and strength, thus giving the user incredible power.

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Helios was associated with love magic, much like Aphrodite, as there seems to have been another but rather poorly documented tradition of people asking him for help in such love matters, including homoerotic love and magical recipes invoking him for affection spells.

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Accordingly, a scholium on Theocritus claims that Pindar wrote that lovesick young men would pray to Helios for help as lovesick young women would pray to his sister Selene.

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Helios wrote that the sun god was an auspicious sign for the poor.

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Julian's theological conception of Helios has been described as "practically monotheistic", in contrast to earlier Neoplatonists like Iamblichus, though he included the other traditional gods worshiped around the ancient Mediterranean as both distinct entities and certain principles or manifestations that emanate from Helios.

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Helios figured prominently in the Greek Magical Papyri, a collection of hymns, rituals, and magic spells used from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD all around the Greco-Roman world.

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Helios is said to take the form of 12 animals representing each hour of the day, a motif connected with the 12 signs of the zodiac.

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Helios is described as "seated on a lotus, decorated with rays", in the manner of Harpocrates, who was often depicted seated on a lotus flower, representing the rising sun.

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Helios is assimilated with Mithras in some of the Papyri, as he was by Emperor Julian.

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Helios is described as "restraining the serpent", likely a reference to Apophis, the serpent god who, in Egyptian myth, is said to attack Ra's ship during his nightly journey through the underworld.

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In many of the Papyri, Helios is strongly identified with Iao, a name derived from that of the Hebrew god Yahweh, and shares several of his titles including Sabaoth and Adonai.

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Helios is assimilated as the Agathos Daemon, who is identified elsewhere in the texts as "the greatest god, lord Horus Harpokrates".

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Helios is called the son of Hyperion, the brother of Luna, the father of Circe and Pasiphae, and the only epithet he shares with Apollo is "Phoebus", which Otfried Muller and Farnell argued it is not related to the Sun, but was applied to him because it made for a fitting epithet; and besides, Fontenrose argues, Ovid is unlikely to have thought Latona, Circe, Pyrrha and Diana as the same figure simply because he uses "Titania" for all four.

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Helios's name appears on the bronze liver of Piacenza, next to Tiur, the Moon.

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Helios appears, rising out of the sea, with a fireball in either outstretched hand, on an engraved Etruscan bronze mirror in late Archaic style, formerly on the Roman antiquities market.

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Helios is sometimes conflated in classical literature with the highest Olympian god, Zeus.

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Helios is referred either directly as Zeus' eye, or clearly implied to be.

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Frequent joint dedications to "Zeus-Serapis-Helios" have been found all over the Mediterranean, for example, the Anastasy papyrus equates Helios to not just Zeus and Serapis but Mithras, and a series of inscriptions from Trachonitis give evidence of the cult of "Zeus the Unconquered Sun".

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An offering made to Zeus-Helios, who had an established cult in Anatolia, was found in a votive inscription east of ancient Sinope, and in Ostia, Serapis was depicted on a disc sporting a corona radiata, in the manner of Helios.

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Julian observed that in the Odyssey, when Helios threatened Zeus to shine among the dead in the Underworld should his wishes not be heard after his sacred cows had been devoured, Zeus gave in straight away, and did not boast of his strength and superior power as he did when he confronted the other Olympian gods in the Iliad, and instead tells Helios to continue shedding his light to the world.

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Helios seems to have been connected to some degree with Hades, the god of the Underworld.

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Plouton Helios is mentioned in other literary sources as well; he is associated with Koure Selene and Helios Apollon; the Sun on its nighttime course, while coming back from the west, was sometimes envisioned as travelling through the Underworld on its return to the east for the next day.

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Helios was presented as a young man clad in tunic, with curling hair and wearing buskins.

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Just like Selene, who is sometimes depicted with a lunar disk rather than a crescent, Helios too has his own solar one instead of a sun crown in some depictions, which radiates, unlike Selene's own which does not.

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Helios is often present at the abduction of Persephone, the Judgement of Paris, and Heracles shooting arrows at him.

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Helios adorned the east pediment of the Parthenon; he along with Selene framed the scene of the birth of Athena, he, with only his head and arms shown, driving his quadriga on the left as he rises from the ocean, while she in her biga descending into the sea on the far right.

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Helios framed the birth of Aphrodite on the base of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Judgement of Paris, and possibly the birth of Pandora on the base of the Athena Parthenos statue.

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Helios appears infrequently in gold jewelry before Roman times; extant examples include a gold medallion with its bust from the Gulf of Elaia in Anatolia, where he's depicted frontally with a head of unruly hair, and a golden medallion of the Pelinna necklace.

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Helios's iconography, used by the Ptolemies after representations of Alexander the Great as Alexander-Helios, came to symbolize power and epiphany, and was borrowed by several Egyptian deities in the Roman period.

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Helios was frequently depicted in mosaics, usually surrounded by the twelve zodiac signs and accompanied by Selene.

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At the Beth Alpha synagogue, Helios is at the centre of the circle of the zodiac mosaic, together with the Torah shrine between menorahs, other ritual objects, and a pair of lions, while the Seasons are in spandrels.

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The frontal head of Helios emerges from the chariot box, with two wheels in side view beneath, and the four heads of the horses, likewise frontal, surmounting an array of legs.

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Orinos Helios is the name of a brand of wine in Greece, produced in Domaine Helios in Nemea.

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