Not very far away from the quiet realm of Somnus and Mors, but on the
surface of the earth, were the Æolian Islands, now known as the Lipari
Islands, where Æolus, god of the storm and winds, governed a very
unruly and turbulent population.
He is said to have received his royal dignity from the fair hands of
Juno, and he was therefore specially eager to obey all her behests. He
is commonly reputed to have married Aurora, or Eos, who gave him six
sons i.e., Boreas, the north wind; Corus, the northwest wind; Aquilo,
the west wind; Notus, the southwest wind; Eurus, the east wind; and
lastly, Zephyrus, the gentle and lovable south wind, whose mission it
was to announce to mortals the return of ever-welcome spring.
[Sidenote: Æolus' children.]
Æolus' five elder sons were of a noisy, roving, mischievous, turbulent
disposition, and peace and quiet were utterly impossible to them. To
prevent their causing serious disasters, he therefore ruled them with
a very strict hand, kept them very closely confined in a great cave,
and let them loose only one at a time, to stretch their limbs and take
a little exercise.
"Æolus in a cavern vast
With bolt and barrier fetters fast
Rebellious storm and howling blast.
They with the rock's reverberant roar
Chafe blustering round their prison door
He, throned on high, the scepter sways,
Controls their moods, their wrath allays."
Virgil (Conington's tr.).
Although very unruly indeed, the winds always obeyed their father's
voice, and at his command, however reluctant, returned to their gloomy
prison, where they expended their impotent rage in trying to shake its
According to his own mood, or in conformity with the gods' request,
Æolus either sent the gentler winds to play among the flowers, or,
recalling them, let the fiercest of all his children free, with orders
to pile up the waves mountain-high, lash them to foam, tear the sails
of all the vessels at sea, break their masts, uproot the trees, tear
the roofs off the houses, etc.,--in short, to do all the harm they
"Now rising all at once, and unconfin'd,
From every quarter roars the rushing wind:
First, from the wide Atlantic Ocean's bed,
Tempestuous Corus rears his dreadful head,
Th' obedient deep his potent breath controls,
And, mountain-high, the foamy flood he rolls;
Him the Northeast encountering fierce, defied,
And back rebuffeted the yielding tide.
The curling surges loud conflicting meet,
Dash their proud heads, and bellow as they beat;
While piercing Boreas, from the Scythian strand,
Plows up the waves and scoops the lowest sand.
Nor Eurus then, I ween, was left to dwell,
Nor showery Notus in th' Æolian cell,
But each from every side, his power to boast,
Ranged his proud forces to defend the coast."
Æolus, king of the winds, shared with Dædalus the honor of inventing
the sails which propel the ships so swiftly over the tide. It was he,
too, who, according to Homer, bound all his children but one in a
leather bag, which he gave to Ulysses when the latter visited Æolia.
Thanks to this gift, Ulysses reached the shores of Ithaca, and would
have landed in safety, had not his men, in view of port, untied the
sack to investigate its contents, and thus set free the angry winds,
who stirred up the most frightful tempest in mythic annals.
[Sidenote: Temple of Æolus.]
The ancients, and especially the Athenians, paid particular attention
to the winds, to whom they dedicated a temple, which is still extant,
and generally known as the Tower of the Winds, or the Temple of Æolus.
This temple is hexagonal, and on each side a flying figure of one of
the winds is represented.
Eurus, the east wind, was generally depicted "as a young man flying
with great impetuosity, and often appearing in a playful and wanton
humor." Notus, or Auster, the southwest wind, "appeared generally as
an old man, with gray hair, a gloomy countenance, a head covered with
clouds, a sable vesture, and dusky wings," for he was considered the
dispenser of rain and of all sudden and heavy showers. Zephyrus, mild
and gentle, had a lapful of flowers, and, according to the Athenian
belief, was wedded to Flora, with whom he was perfectly happy, and
visited every land in turn. Corus, the northwest wind, drove clouds of
snow before him; while Aquilo, dreadful in appearance, caused cold
shivers to run down one's back at his mere sight. Boreas, rough and
shivering too, was the father of rain, snow, hail, and tempests, and
was therefore generally represented as veiled in impenetrable clouds.
His favorite place of abode was in the Hyperborean Mountains, from
whence he sallied forth on wild raids. During one of these excursions
he carried off Orithyia, who always fled at his approach. But all her
fleetness could not save her: she was overtaken, and borne away to the
inaccessible regions of snow and ice, where he detained her, and made
her his wife. She became the mother of Zetes and Calais,--who took
part in the Argonautic expedition, and drove away the Harpies (p.
267),--and of two daughters, Cleopatra and Chione.
On another occasion, Boreas, having changed himself into a horse and
united himself to the mares of Dardanus, King of Troy, became the
father of twelve steeds so swift that none could overtake them.