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Helios, the Sun Himself, Invincible

Helios, the Sun Himself, Invincible

This illustration of Helios, the Sun, ascending the heavens, is taken from a Greek vase painting, 5th century BC . Phoebus, Hyperion and Apollo, different representations of the popular Sun god, were identically represented driving the chariot of the Sun.

Helios was closely associated with the Moon goddesses, Selene and Circe, either as father, brother or husband, as the traditions freely developed in various localities and times.

Homer describes ‘"The all-seeing, all-hearing sun god Helios.” – Odyssey 11. 102 and Helios fulfils the role of a god who watches over everything done on Earth, guarantor of oaths, much as we still swear by God in court with a similar understanding that there is One who knows all.

The most famous myth of Helios tells how he disastrously let his young son, Phaethon, drive the chariot of the Sun. In an account of this myth from the 5th century AD ‘Dionysiaca’ of Nonnus, Helios describes for his son his usual course through the zodiac constellations with impressive astrological and astronomical knowledge.

One of the Seven Wonders of the World in ancient times was the Colossus of Rhodes. A massive bronze statue of the god Helios, the special protector of the island, it stood at the harbour (probably not bestriding it as legend suggests) towering over a 100 feet high. Built about 280 BC , the Colossus was destroyed by an earthquake in 224 BC .

Helios is an early model of the radiant halo, also an early feature of Buddhist portraits.

In Rome, Helios was later associated with Mithras as Sol Invicta, the Unconquered Sun and in a surviving mural in burial vaults beneath St Peter’s in Rome, it is believed Christ is portrayed as Helios, or Sol. Perhaps the Sun’s rising at dawn, and his annual ‘rebirth’ at the winter solstice, made an effective metaphor for the promise offered in Christ’s Resurrection. Constantine remained committed to the great pagan deity of Sol, the Sun, (Helios’ Roman translation) even after his conversion to Christianity and this mural may represent an attempt to build bridges.

In modern times it is not only the coincidence of the English words which has promoted a persistent identification of the Son with the Sun. It is natural to identify the major deity with the overwhelming solar benevolence and even Sir Isaac Newton found the mystery of the Trinity, Three in One, impenetrable and impossible to accept. One of the titles of Helios was ‘Soter,’ Saviour. In Egypt, Osiris,  the closer equivalent of the Christian King, was the Sun at Midnight. Deeply defining this Resurrection spirit on the Tree of Life. (see The Principal Egyptian Gods on Tree of Life.)

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