Zephyrus, also sometimes known as Zephyros or simply Zephyr in English, is the god of the west wind. One of four seasonal wind gods, or Anemoi, Zephyrus is the brother of Notus, the god of the south wind, Eurus, the god of the east wind, and Boreas, the god of the east wind. The offspring of Astraeus and Eos in some versions of myth, and Gaia in other stories, Zephyrus had various wives, depending on the story in which he was featured.
In some stories, he is reported to be the husband of Iris, the goddess of the rainbow. Lyric poets attribute Zephyrus’s marriage to Iris with the creation of Pothos, the god of passion. In other stories he is believed to have abducted the nymph Chloris, or Khloris, who Zephyrus then transformed into the goddess of flowers upon their marriage. Karpos, directly translated as “fruit” in Greek, is the son of Zephyrus and Chloris; Chloris is associated with spring, greenery, and especially flowers. Zephyrus himself is also associated with spring and greenery. The god of the west wind was favored by the Greeks as a beneficial god, as the west wind became more prevalent in the springtime, heralding the end of winter and the begining of new growth.
As such, Zephyrus is also sometimes considered a god of spring. A third wife, Podarge the harpy, also known as Celaeno, is attributed to Zephyrus in some tales; the children that resulted from this marriage, Balius and Xanthus, are the immortal horses that drew Achilles’s chariot during the Trojan War. Because of Zephyrus’s equine offspring, this god is often associated with horses, or, in some cases, with tigers. By some accounts, Zephyrus is believed to reside in a cave on Mount Haemus in Thrace.
The most famous tale centered on Zephyrus is that of Hyacinth, a Spartan youth renowned for his beauty and athleticism. This alluring prince became the subject of Zephyrus’s affection, and the god attempted to woo him. However, Hyacinth’s beauty had also caught the eye of Apollo, the god of sun and light, who competed fiercely with Zephyrus to win the boy’s love. In the end, Apollo won out, and Zephyrus was left heartbroken at the loss of Hyacinth. Stung by rejection, Zephyrus came upon Apollo and Hyacinth throwing a discus, and, overcome with anger, sent a a great gust of wind at the happy couple, causing the discus to strike Hyacinth forcefully in the head, killing him. Mourning the loss of his lover, Apollo created the hyacinth, or larkspur, flower from Hyacinth’s blood to commemorate the beautiful boy. Enraged by Zephyrus’s actions, Apollo sought revenge against him, but Zephyrus was protected by Eros, god of love, as the Hyacinth’s tragic death was caused by an act of love. In return for this protection, Zephyrus must pledge to serve Eros from that point onward. In a lesser role, Zephyrus, now indebted to Eros, is tasked with transporting Psyche, a beautiful woman, to Cupid for marriage. Additionally, Zephyrus is said to have guided Odysseus in his travels and Aphrodite to the seas of Paphos.
Often depicted as youthful and handsome, the image of Zephyrus sports wings on many of the mosaics or vases of ancient Greece. In other depictions Zephyrus is portrayed as amorphous, shapeless winds, or, in a tribute to his role as a god of spring, a basket of unripe fruit.
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