Aeolus (Aiolos)

god and ruler of the winds

Aiolos, Latinized as Aeolus, Eolus, Aeolos, or Aiolus, was the name of three personages in Greek Mythology. These three personages are often difficult to tell apart, and even the ancient mythographers appear to have been perplexed about which Aeolus was which.

Diodorus made an attempt to define each of these three (although it is clear he also became muddled), and his opinion is followed here.

Briefly, the first Aeolus was a son of Hellen and founder of the Aeolian race; the second was a son of Poseidon, who led a colony to the Tyrrhenian sea; and the third Aeolus was a son of Hippotes who is mentioned in the Odyssey as Keeper of the Winds in Greek Mythology.

All three men named Aeolus appear to be connected genealogically, although the precise relationship is often ambiguous. The traditions regarding the second and third Aeolus are especially entangled.

His home has been traditionally identified as one of the Aeolian Islands (there is little consensus as to which), near Sicily, on a mountain. An alternative location has been suggested at Gramvousa off the north west coast of Crete.

Aeolus (son of Hellen)

This Aeolus was son of Hellen and the nymph Orseis, and a brother of Dorus, Xuthus and Amphictyon. He is described as the ruler of Aeolia (later called Thessaly) and held to be the founder of the Aeolic branch of the Greek/Hellenic nation. Aeolus married Enarete, daughter of Deimachus (otherwise unknown).

Aeolus and Enarete had many children, although the precise number and identities of these children vary from author to author in the ancient sources. Those listed as the sons of Aeolus and Enarete include Cretheus, Sisyphus, Deioneus, Salmoneus, Athamas, Perieres, Cercaphas and perhaps Magnes (who is usually regarded as a brother of Macedon).

Another son is named Mimas, who provides a link to the third Aeolus (see below) in a genealogy that seems very contrived. Calyce, Peisidice, Perimele and Alcyone were counted among the daughters of Aeolus and Enarete. This Aeolus also had an illegitimate daughter named Arne, begotten on Melanippe, daughter of the Centaur Cheiron. This Arne became the mother of the second Aeolus, by the god Poseidon. Aeolus is often described as god of Wind.

Aeolus (son of Poseidon)

This Aeolus was a son of Poseidon by Arne, daughter of Aeolus. He had a twin brother named Boeotus. Arne confessed to her father that she was with child by the god Poseidon; Aeolus, however, did not believe her, and handed her over to a man named Metapontus, King of Icaria.

When Boeotus and Aeolus were born, they were raised by Meta-pontus; but their stepmother (Autolyte, wife of Metapontus) quarrelled with their mother Arne, prompting Boeotus and Aeolus to kill Autolyte and flee from Icaria. Boeotus (accompanied by Arne) went to southern Thessaly, and founded Boeotia; but Aeolus went to a group of islands in the Tyrrhenian sea, which received from him the name of the Aeolian Islands; according to some accounts this Aeolus founded the town of Lipara.

Although his home has been traditionally identified as one of the Aeolian Islands (there is little consensus as to which), near Sicily, an alternative location has been suggested at Gramvousa off the northwest coast of Crete. Aeolus had six sons and six daughters, and the family lived happily together - that is until the day Aeolus learned that one of his sons, named Macareus, had committed incest with his sister Canace.

Horrified, Aeolus expelled Macareus (Canace killed herself in shame) and threw the child borne of this incestuous union to the dogs. (Other accounts claim that the child, a daughter named Amphissa, was rescued and later beloved by Apollo.)

Aeolus (son of Hippotes)

This Aeolus is most frequently conflated with Aeolus, the son of Poseidon. It is difficult to delineate this Aeolus from the second Aeolus, as their identities seem to have been merged by many ancient writers.

The father of this third Aeolus is given as Mimas, a son of the first Aeolus (son of Hellen). According to some accounts, Mimas married the same Melanippe who was the mother of Arne! This Aeolus lived on the floating island of Aeolia and was visited by Odysseus and his crew in the Odyssey. He gave hospitality for a month and provided for a west wind to carry them home.

Unfortunately he also provided a gift of a bag containing each of the four winds, which Odysseus's crew members opened just before their home was reached. They were blown back to Aeolia, where Aeolus refused to provide any further help. (Odyssey X, 2; Virgil I, 52). This Aeolus was perceived by later authors (i.e., after Homer) as a god, rather than as a mortal and simple Keeper of the Winds (as in the Odyssey).

In Roman mythology, this Aeolus also instigates a storm at the request of Juno (Hera) at the beginning of the Aeneid.



[1] "Hellenica"

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