Notes: Eos – the Dawn goddess and the abduction of Cephalus

Eos and the slain Memnon on an Attic red-figure cup, ca. 490–480 BCE, the so-called "Memnon Pietà" found at Capua (Louvre).

Eos and the slain Memnon on an Attic red-figure cup, ca. 490–480 BCE, the so-called “Memnon Pietà” found at Capua (Louvre).

Eos is a Dawn goddess cognate to Vedic Sanskrit ‘Ushas‘ and Latin Aurora, both goddesses of dawn, and all three considered derivatives of a PIE stem *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), “dawn”, a stem that also gave rise to Proto-Germanic*AustrōOld Germanic Ôstara and Old English Ēostre/Ēastre.

Eos is often pictured on Attic vases as a beautiful woman, crowned with a tiara or diadem and with the large white-feathered wings of a bird.

In Greek literature, Eos is described thus:

The dawn goddess Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers (ῥοδοδάκτυλος,rhododáktylos) or rosy forearms (ῥοδόπηχυς, rhodópēkhys) as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise.[2] In Homer,[3] her saffron-coloured robe is embroidered or woven with flowers;[4] rosy-fingered and with golden arms, she is pictured on Attic vases as a beautiful woman, crowned with a tiara or diadem and with the large white-feathered wings of a bird.

From The Iliad:

Now when Dawn in robe of saffron was hastening from the streams of Oceanus, to bring light to mortals and immortals, Thetis reached the ships with the armor that the god had given her.
Iliad xix.1
But soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, then gathered the folk about the pyre of gloriousHector.
Iliad xxiv.776

Quintus Smyrnaeus pictured her exulting in her heart over the radiant horses (Lampus and Phaëton) that drew her chariot, amidst the bright-haired Horae, the feminine Hours, climbing the arc of heaven and scattering sparks of fire.[5]

She is most often associated with her Homeric epithet “rosy-fingered” (rhododactylos), but Homer also calls her Eos Erigeneia:

That brightest of stars appeared, Eosphoros, that most often heralds the light of early-rising Dawn (Eos Erigeneia).
Odyssey xiii.93

Hesiod wrote:

And after these Erigeneia [“Early-born”] bore the star Eosphoros (“Dawn-bringer”), and the gleaming stars with which heaven is crowned.
Theogony 378-382

Thus Eos, preceded by the Morning Star, is seen as the genetrix of all the stars and planets; her tears are considered to have created the morning dew, personified as Ersa or Herse.

Eos is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia and sister of Helios the sun and Selene the moon, “who shine upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless#.

Eos kidnapped Cephalus when he was hunting and took him to Syria. The second-century CE traveller Pausanias was informed that the abductor of Cephalus was Hemera, goddess of Day.[12] Although Cephalus was already married to Procris, Eos bore him three sons, including Phaeton and Hesperus, but he then began pining for Procris, causing a disgruntled Eos to return him to her — and put a curse on them. In Hyginus’ report,[13] Cephalus accidentally killed Procris some time later after he mistook her for an animal while hunting; in Ovid’s Metamorphoses vii, Procris, a jealous wife, was spying on him and heard him singing to the wind, but thought he was serenading his ex-lover Eos.

Among the Etruscans, the generative dawn-goddess was Thesan. Depictions of the dawn-goddess with a young lover became popular in Etruria in the fifth century… On an Etruscan mirror Thesan is shown carrying off a young man, whose name is inscribed as Tinthu.

The Roman equivalent of Eos is Aurora, also a cognate showing the characteristic Latin rhotacism. The Dawn became associated in Roman cult with Matuta, later known as Mater Matuta. She was also associated with the sea harbors and ports, and had a temple on the Forum Boarium. On June 11, the Matralia was celebrated at that temple in honor of Mater Matuta; this festival was only for women during their first marriage.

#Possible lineage origins or genealogy:

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 14. 3 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Kephalos, Eos (the Dawn) loved and carried off, and consorting with him in Syria bore a son Tithonos, who had a son Phaethon, who had a son Astynoos, who had a son Sandokos, who passed from Syria to Kilikia and founded a city Kelenderis, and having married Pharnake, daughter of Megassares, king of Hyria, begat Kinyras.
This Kinyras in Kypros, whither he had come with some people, founded Paphos; and having there married Metharme, daughter of Pygmalion, king of Kypros, he begat Oxyporos and Adonis, and besides them daughters, Orsedike, Laogore, and Braesia. These by reason of the wrath of Aphrodite cohabited with foreigners, and ended their life in Aigyptos (Egypt).” (Source: Pymaglion (Theoi Greek Mythology)

Source: Extracted in parts from Eos (A Wikipedia entry)

Editorial note:

Although our study of this myth is focused primarily on the elements of the myth relating to the similarities in points between the Eos myth and the Hoori and the Undersea goddess or daughter of the Ryujin sea dragon myth:

  • Eos (the Dawn goddess*) also became associated with the Matralia sea goddess cult
  • The pairing of a divine goddess with a mortal man and their romance

… we are also minded that female sea deities are enshrined in many places in Japan, and that Michael Witzel has reconstructed for us the similarities and juxtaposed many characteristics between the Japanese sun deity Amaterasu and RgVeda’s Dawn Usas as well as other Eurasian and Indo-Aryan counterparts, in his seminal article Vala and Iwato The Myth of the Hidden Sun in India, Japan and beyond.


Other readings:

Toshio, Akima. The Myth of the Goddess of the Undersea World and the Tale of Empress Jingu’s Subjugation of Silla. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1993 20/2-3

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