Eos is a Greek goddess who shows up more often in literature, such as the Odyssey, than in actual religious practice. She remains reasonably famous in spite of that fact, mostly because one of her main myths was popular in Athens, which left more written records than most other parts of Greece.
Who Was She?
Many people say that Eos was the goddess of the dawn, but this only partly true. It’s much more accurate to say that she was the dawn. In Greek, eos refers to the goddess when it begins with a capital letter, but to the physical sunrise when it starts with a lowercase letter.
In Greek myth, she was one of the titans. They were the second generation of the gods, and were usually associated with natural phenomena. Eos, being the dawn, was the daughter of Hyperion, who was one of several Greek sun gods. This made her the sister of Selene, the moon, and Helios, another sun god.
Eos is an extremely old goddess, and she probably existed long before Greek culture developed. Linguists have found that her name is related to that of both the Sanskrit and Latin sun goddesses, and it appears to be descended from a Proto-Indo-European word for the dawn. That implies that most of the dawn goddesses that people in Europe and India worshiped originated as a single goddess. When the people that worshiped that goddess spread out and settled in the different parts of Europe and India, they took their goddess with them. The names and traditions surrounding her changed over time as the new populations developed their own culture, but clear similarities remained.
The Greeks rarely addressed their gods and goddesses purely by name. Instead, they used a variety of titles, which are called epithets. If a god filled multiple roles in society, worshipers would use these titles to distinguish between them. In literature, poets would use them as formulaic statements to help fill out lines in the appropriate meter.
Eos only has three epithets, and two of them closely related. She is most often called “rose-fingered” but some poets instead call her “rose-armed.” This is a reference to the colors of the sunrise, and it is more likely that it began as a poetic title than as a religious one. She is also occasionally called the “dawnbringer” which is only attested in poetry.
Culture and Worship
Greeks did not worship their gods purely out of devotion. When they made sacrifices, they expected to get something back in return, usually some sort of blessing, healing, or protection. They would often go to a temple to ask a god for a favor, and only make a sacrifice if they got what they wanted. Since Eos was the goddess of the dawn, she didn’t have much to offer to worshipers. That prevented her from becoming too popular in a religious context, so she usually received collective worship along with other gods when she got it at all.
On the other hand, she was very popular in art. As a titan, she plays a part in many of the creation myths about the world. For example, Hesiod credits her with creating the stars, and a later Roman poet named Ovid says that her tears formed dew.
She was also associated with love, with some sources saying that Aphrodite cursed her to feel constant desire. The most famous of those sources says that she carried off a man named Cephalus, but returned him to his wife with a curse after he started to pine for her. His wife, named Procris, later heard him singing and mistakenly thought he was lamenting his separation from Eos, so she spied on him as he hunted. Cephalus mistook her for an animal and killed her, thus fulfilling the curse. Since Cephalus came from Athens, the Athenians loved this story, and spread it all over Greece by decorating pots with images from it.