Although the Greeks considered Apollo to be the god of solar light, the sun itself was personified by a special divinity, Helios.
In Greece the cult of Helios was very ancient and was practised throughout the land, at Elis, at Apollonia, on the Acropolis of Corinth, at Argos, at Troezen, on Cape Taenarum, at Athens, in Thrace and finally, and especially, in the island of Rhodes which was sacred to him. In Rhodes could be seen.the colossal statue of HeIios, the renowned work of the sculptor Chares. It was about thirty yards high, and ships in full sail could pass between the god's legs.
It was related that Helios was drowned in the ocean by his uncles, the Titans, and then raised to the sky, where he became the luminous sun.
Every morning Helios emerged in the east from a swamp formed by the river-ocean in the far-off land of the Ethiopians. To his golden chariot, which Hephaestus had fashioned, the Horae harnessed the winged horses. They were of dazzling white, their nostrils breathed forth flame and their names were Lampon, Phaethon, Chronos, Aethon, Astrope, Bronte, Pyroeis, Eous and Phlegon. The god then took the reins and climbed the vault of heaven.
'Drawn in his swift chariot, he sheds light on gods and men alike; the formidable flash of his eyes pierces his golden helmet; sparkling rays glint from his breast; his brilliant helmet gives forth a dazzling splendour; his body is draped in shining gauze whipped by the wind.'
At midday Helios reached the highest point of his course and began to descend towards the West, arriving at the end of the day in the land of the Hesperides, where he seemed to plunge into the Ocean. In reality, there he found a barque or a golden cup, made by Hephaestus, in \yhich his mother, wife and children were awaiting him. He would sail all night and in the morning regain his point of departure.
The abode of Helios was also said to be on the isle of Aeaea where his children Aeetes and Circe lived. Again it was said that his horses rested on the islands of the Blessed, at the western extremity of the earth, where they browsed on a magic herb.
Helios possessed other domains on earth. When the gods had divided up the world Helios was absent and was forgotten. He complained about this to Zeus and obtained an island which was just beginning to emerge from the waves. He called it Rhodes after the nymph Rhode, whom he loved.
A dispute arose one day between Helios and Poseidon for the possession of the Isthmus of Corinth. The giant Briareus, who was chosen to arbitrate, awarded the Isthmus to Poseidon but gave Acrocorinth to Helios, who later relinquished it to Aphrodite.
As well as his horses, Helios owned on the isle of Thrinacia seven herds of oxen and seven flocks of ewes with beautiful fleece, each herd and flock being of fifty head. This number always remained constant, like the three hundred and fifty days and three hundred and fifty nights of the primitive year. Two daughters of the god, Phaetusa and Lampetia, guarded these animals. When Odysseus and his companions landed on the isle of Thrinacia the men, in spite of their chiefs warning, laid hands on the sacred cattle.
'Chasing before them the handsome broadbrowed heifers which grazed not far from the azure- prowed vessel, they cut their throats, then cut up the flesh in morsels which they fixed to their skewers.' When Helios was told by Lampetia what had occurred he complained to the gods and threatened to shut himselfup in the kingdom of Hades and shed his light on the dead. Zeus calmed him by promising to strike these foolish mortals with a thunderbolt.