Boreas was the Greek god of the wind from the north. His name translates directly to “north wind.” He was one of four seasonal wind gods. In addition, he was the god of winter. According to mythology, he would sweep down from the Thrake mountains and bring the cold with him, causing the air to chill through the use of his icy breathing. Beyond his home in the mountains was Hyperborea, which was a mythological land where spring lasted forever, untouched by the icy breath of the god.
At one point, Boreas wanted a wife. He chose to carry off Oreithyia, whose name translates as “mountain gale.” She was the daughter of a king of Athens, King Erekhtheus. At the time, the girl had been playing by the riverside in a meadow. Boreas had multiple children with her, including Khione and the Boreades. Khione was the goddess of snow, while the Boreades were a pair of heroes with wings.
In many pieces of classical art and literature, Boreas and the other seasonal wind gods were pictured in the shape of horses. One old Greek folktale stated that Boreas would sweep down as a wind upon mares toward the end of winter, and that the mares would be fertilized. Horses born from a coupling of Boreas and a mare would be the finest and swiftest.
When Boreas is depicted on vases, he’s sometimes shown to be a winged and striding god. In some depictions, his beard and hair both have ice spikes. Meanwhile, mosaics tend to depict him as a head blowing gusts of wind among the clouds, his cheeks bloated. This is the kind of imagery that is often found in old maps that were created in later periods.
Though the name Boreas simply means “north wind,” some experts theorize that the word derived from the verb “borao,” which means “to devour.”
The Family Members of Boreas
His parents were the gods Eos and Astraios
His siblings were the other wind gods of the seasons
The snow goddess Khione was his daughter
Oreithyia was his wife
Zetes and Kalais, the Boreades, were his sons
Myths of Boreas
Boreas was said to have lived in a cave deep inside mount Haemus, located in Thrace. In many instances, his myths concur with early myths and legends in Attica. When he carried off the Athen king’s daughter Oreithyia, he had multiple children including Calais, Zetes, and Cleopatra. Cleopatra later became the wife of the hero Phineus.
In the Persian war, Boreas sided with the Athenians and showed a friendliness toward them by destroying barbarian ships. In addition, he helped the Megalopolitans resist and defeat the Spartans. For this feat, Megalopolis held annual festivals in his honor.
There is a Homeric myth stating that Boreas fathered twelve horses by coupling with the mares belonging to Erichthonius. For the most part, though, this belief was figurative rather than literal. It was just a way of saying that the horses were unusually fast.
Cypselus had armor that depicted his act of carrying off his wife. On this armor, Boreas had serpent tails instead of legs.
Festivals honoring Boreas were held annually not only in Megalopolis, but also in Athens and other cities around Greece.
Link/cite this page
If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.
Link will appear as Boreas: https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net - Greek Gods & Goddesses, June 12, 2018