The Titans (page 33)

Chapter 1: The Early Gods

Previous Page    Table of Contents    Next Page

Palaiphatos 52Mythographi Graeci 2, pp. 93-94, ed. N. Festa. Leipzig 1902.

Phaethon:  Phaethon the child of Helios was gripped by an irrational desire to go up in his father’s chariot, and after many tears and supplications persuaded him. When he mounted the chariot and began to spur on the horses, not knowing how to handle the reins well, nor able to ride sitting steady and unshakable, he was carried off by his horses, who were incited to great brashness and arrogance. Coming too close to the ground, he was thrown out by the Eridanus river and drowned, while most parts of the surrounding area were consumed by fire.  Latin Text

Apollonios of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.595-611

And far on sped Argo under sail, and entered deep into the stream of Eridanus; where once, smitten on the breast by the blazing bolt, Phaethon half-consumed fell from the chariot of Helios into the opening of that deep lake; and even now it belcheth up heavy steam clouds from the smouldering wound. And no bird spreading its light wings can cross that water; but in mid-course it plunges into the flame, fluttering. And all around the maidens, the daughters of Helios, enclosed in tall poplars, wretchedly wail a piteous plaint; and from their eyes they shed on the ground bright drops of amber. These are dried by the sun upon the sand; but whenever the waters of the dark lake flow over the strand before the blast of the wailing wind, then they roll on in a mass into Eridanus with swelling tide. Greek Text

Diodoros Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica 5.23.2-4

For many poets and historians give the story that Phaëthon, the son of Helius, while yet a youth, persuaded his father to retire in his favour from his four-horse chariot for a single day; and when Helius yielded to the request Phaëthon, as he drove the chariot, was unable to keep control of the reins, and the horses, making light of the youth, left their accustomed course; and first they turned aside to traverse the heavens, setting it afire and creating what is now called the Milky Way, and after that they brought the scorching rays to many parts of the inhabited earth and burned up not a little land. Consequently Zeus, being indignant because of what had happened, smote Phaëthon with a thunderbolt and brought back the sun to its accustomed course. And Phaëthon fell to the earth at the mouths of the river which is now known as the Padus (Po), but in ancient times was called the Eridanus, and his sisters vied with each other in bewailing his death and by reason of their exceeding grief underwent a metamorphosis of their nature, becoming poplar trees. And these poplars, at the same season each year, drip tears, and these, when they harden, form what men call amber, which in brilliance excells all else of the same nature and is commonly used in connection with the mourning attending the death of the young. But since the creators of this fictitious tale have one and all erred, and have been refuted by what has transpired at later times, we must give ear to the accounts which are truthful; for the fact is that amber is gathered on the island we have mentioned and is brought by the natives to the opposite continent, and that it is conveyed through the continent to the regions known to us, as we have stated. Greek Text

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.396-505

For fire o’ermastered
And licked up many things and burnt away,
What time the impetuous horses of the Sun
Snatched Phaethon headlong from his skiey road
Down the whole ether and over all the lands.
But the omnipotent Father in keen wrath
Then with the sudden smite of thunderbolt
Did hurl the mighty-minded hero off
Those horses to the earth. And Sol, his sire,
Meeting him as he fell, caught up in hand
The ever-blazing lampion of the world,
And drave together the pell-mell horses there
And yoked them all a-tremble, and amain,
Steering them over along their own old road,
Restored the cosmos,- as forsooth we hear
From songs of ancient poets of the Greeks. Latin Text

Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.750-2.400

Now Phaethon, whose father was the Sun,
was equal to his rival, Epaphus,
in mind and years; and he was glad to boast
of wonders, nor would yield to Epaphus
for pride of Phoebus, his reputed sire.
Unable to endure it, Io’s son
thus mocked him; “Poor, demented fellow, what
will you not credit if your mother speaks,
you are so puffed up with the fond conceit
of your imagined sire, the Lord of Day.”

shame crimsoned in his cheeks, but Phaethon
withholding rage, reported all the taunts
of Epaphus to Clymene his mother:
“’Twill grieve you, mother, I, the bold and free,
was silent; and it shames me to report
this dark reproach remains unchallenged. Oh,
if I am born of race divine, give proof
of that illustrious descent and claim
my right to Heaven.” Around his mother’s neck
he drew his arms, and by the head of Merops,
and by his own, and by the nuptial torch
of his beloved sisters, he implored
for some true token of his origin.

Or moved by Phaethon’s importuned words,
or by the grievous charge, who might declare?
She raised her arms to Heaven, and gazing full
upon the broad sun said; “I swear to you
by yonder orb, so radiant and bright,
which both beholds and hears us while we speak,
that you are his begotten son.—You are
the child of that great light which sways the world:
and if I have not spoken what is true,
let not mine eyes behold his countenance,
and let this fatal moment be the last
that I shall look upon the light of day!
Nor will it weary you, my son, to reach
your father’s dwelling; for the very place
where he appears at dawn is near our land.
Go, if it please you, and the very truth
learn from your father.” Instantly sprang forth
exultant Phaethon. Overjoyed with words
so welcome, he imagined he could leap
and touch the skies. And so he passed his land
of Ethiopia, and the Indies, hot
beneath the tawny sun, and there he turned
his footsteps to his father’s Land of Dawn.   Continue    Latin Text

Hyginus, Fabulae 154

PHAETHON OF HESIOD: Phaethon, son of Clymenus, son of Sol, and the nymph Merope, who, as we have heard was and Oceanid, upon being told by his father that his grandfather was Sol, put to bad use the chariot he asked for. For when he was carried too near the earth, everything burned in the fire that came near, and, struck by a thunderbolt, he fell into the river Po. This river is called Eridanus by the Greeks; Pherecydes was the first to name it. The Indians became black, because their blood was turned to a dark color from the heat that came near. The sister of Phaethon, too, in grieving for their brother, were changed into poplar trees. Their tears, as Hesiod tells, hardened into amber; [in spite of the change] they are called Heliades [daughters of Helios]. They are, then, Merope, Helie, Aegle, Lampetia, Phoebe, Aetherie, Dioxippe. Moreover, Cygnus, King of Liguria, who was related to Phaethon, while mourning for his relative was changed into a swan; it, too, when it dies sings a mournful song. Latin Text

Hyginus, Fabulae 152A

PHAETHON Phaethon, son of Sol and Clymene, who had secretly mounted his father’s car, and had been borne too high above the earth, from fear fell into the river Eridanus. When Jupiter struck him with a thunderbolt, everything started to burn. In order to have a reason for destroying the whole race of mortals, Jove pretended he wanted to put out the fire; he let loose the rivers everywhere, and all the human race perished except Deucalion and Pyrrha. But the sisters of Phaethon, because they had yoked the horses without the orders of their father, were changed into poplar trees. Latin Text

Scholion to Odyssey 17.208 – Scholia Graeca in Homeris Odysseam, ed. W. Dindorf, vol. 2, pp. 639-40. Oxford 1855.

Greek Text

Previous Page    Table of Contents    Next Page

Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, University of Georgia, July 2020

 1,441 total views,  1 views today