The Greek God Aeolus: Mythology, Overview

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  • 0:01 Greek Mythology
  • 0:40 Aeolus
  • 1:20 The Odyssey
  • 2:19 Artwork
  • 2:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we will explore the Greek god Aeolus. Keeper of the wind and resident of the island Aeolia, the god's largest role in Greek literature or myth is in attempting to aid Odysseus home in Homer's Odyssey.

Greek Mythology

When was the last time you experienced a truly windy day—one where hats are blown off of men's heads, umbrellas are turned inside out, and plastic bags careen down the street like tumbleweeds? Chances are the weatherman ascribed the blustery conditions that day to an approaching low pressure system or some other meteorological phenomenon. The ancient Greeks, however, did not have the high-tech radar and general grasp of weather that we have today. When the winds kicked up and blew their ships and tarps about, they ascribed it to an act of the gods. According to Greek mythology, the god with the job of releasing the winds was Aeolus.

Aeolus

According to mythology, Aeolus was the son of a mortal king and an immortal nymph. Blessed with his mother's immortality but lacking the prestige of the Olympian gods, Aeolus was placed on the island Aeolia.

Locked within the island was the Anemoi Theullai: the four spirits of the four winds. When the gods wished to send storms upon ocean-faring vessels or island communities, they commanded Aeolus to release the four winds, wreaking havoc upon the targets of the gods' ire. The four winds were commonly depicted in ancient Greek literature and artwork as being horse-shaped, and therefore, Aeolus is sometimes referred to as Hippotades, meaning 'horse-reiner' in ancient Greek.

The Odyssey

Aeolus figures most prominently in Greek literature during one particular episode of The Odyssey. According to Homer, Odysseus and his men landed on Aeolia, lost yet again. Aeolus promised to help Odysseus and gave him an ox-skin bag containing the four winds. Aeolus explained how to correctly use the winds and which ones would safely guide Odysseus and his men back to Ithaca.

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