Praying to the Winds

Run away with me Michelle CurielAnemoi – Venti

THE ANEMOI were the gods of the four directional winds–Boreas the North-Wind, Zephryos the West-Wind, Notos the South-Wind, and Euros the East-Wind. They were closely connected with the seasons : Boreas was the cold breath of winter, Zephyros the god of spring breezes, and Notos the god of summer rain-storms.

The Wind-Gods were represented as either winged, man-shaped gods, or horse-like divinities, which grazed the shores of the river Okeanos or were stabled in the caverns of Aiolos Hippotades, “the Horse-Reiner,” king of the winds.

Homer and Hesiod distinguish the four seasonal Anemoi (Winds) from the Anemoi Thuellai, (Storms-Winds and Hurricanes). The latter were housed in the caverns of Aiolos or the pit of Tartaros where they were guarded by the Hekatonkheires. Later authors, however, blurred the distinction between the two.

The female counterparts of the Anemoi were the Aellai Harpyiai (or Harpies). Mating, with these they sired swift, immortal horses.



Eight Wind-Gods were depicted on the Tower of the Winds in Athens dating from the C1st B.C. They were:–

BOREAS The god of the North-Wind is depicted with shaggy hair and beard, with a billowing cloak and a conch shell in his hands.
KAIKIAS The god of the North-East Wind is represented as a bearded man with a shield full of hail-stones.
APELIOTES The god of the East Wind appears as a clean-shaven man, holding a cloak full of fruit and grain.
EUROS The god of the South-East Wind who is sculpted as a bearded man holding a heavy cloak.
NOTOS The god of the South Wind pours water from a vase.
LIPS The God of the South-West Wind is represented holding the stern of a ship.
ZEPHYROS God of the West-Wind is depicted as a beardless youth scattering flowers from his mantle.
SKIRON The god of the North-West is a bearded man tilting a cauldron, signifying the onset of winter.



Hesiod, Theogony 378 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
“And Eos (Dawn) bare to Astraios (the Starry) the strong-hearted Anemoi (Winds), brightening Zephyros (West), and Boreas (North), headlong in his course, and Notos (South). And after these Erigenia (the Early-Born) bare the star Eosphorus (Dawn-bringer) [i.e. the planet Venus], and the gleaming stars with which heaven is crowned.”

[N.B. In the time of Hesiod, the Greek recognized only three seasons–spring, summer and winter. In the same fashion there were three seasonal winds–Zephyros, Notos and Boreas.]



VENTI (Anemoi), the winds. They appear personified in the Homeric poems. The master and ruler of all the winds is Aeolus, who resides in the island Aeolia (Virg. Aen. i. 52, &c.; comp. Aeolus) ; but the other gods also, especially Zeus, exercise a power over them. (Hom. Il. xii. 281.) Homer mentions Boreas (north wind), Eurus (east wind), Notus (south wind), and Zephyrus (west wind). When the funeral pile of Patroclus could not be made to burn, Achilles promised to offer sacrifices to the winds, and Iris accordingly hastening to them, found them feasting in the palace of Zephyrus in Thrace. Boreas and Zephyrus, at the invitation of Iris, forthwith hastened across the Thracian sea into Asia, to cause the fire to blaze. (Hom. Il. xxiii. 185, &c. ; comp. ii. 145, &c., v. 534, ix. 5, Od. v. 295.) Boreas and Zephyrus are usually mentioned together by Homer, just as Eurus and Notus. (Comp. Boreas and Zephyrus.) According to Hesiod (Theog. 378, &c., 869, &c.), the beneficial winds, Notus, Boreas, Argestes, and Zephyrus, were the sons of Astraeus and Eos, and the destructive ones, as Typhon, are said to be the sons of Typhoeus. Later, especially philosophical writers, endeavoured to define the winds more accurately, according to their places in the compass. Thus Aristotle (Meteor. ii. 6), besides the four principal winds (Boreas or Aparctias, Euris, Notus, and Zephyrus) mentions three, the Meses, Caicias, and Apeliotes. between Boreas and Eurus ; between Eurus and Notus he places the Phoenicias ; between Notus and Zephyrus he has only the Lips, and between Zephyrus and Boreas he places the Argestes (Olympias or Sciron) and the Thrascias. It must further be observed that according to Aristotle, the Eurus is not due east, but south east.

In the Museum Pio-Clementinum is a marble monument upon which the winds are described with their Greek and Latin names, viz. Septentrio (Aparctias), Eurus (Euros, or southeast), and between these two Aquilo (Boreas), Vulturnus (Caicias) and Solanus (Apheliotes). Between Eurus and Notus (Notos) there is only one, the Euroauster (Euronotus); between Notus and Favonius (Zephyrus) are marked Austro-Africus (Libonotus), and Africus (Lips); and between Favonius and Septentrio we find Chrus (Iapyx) and Circius (Thracius). See the tables of the winds figured in Göttling’s edit. of Hesiod, p. 39.

The winds were represented by poets and artists in different ways; the latter usually represented them as beings with wings at their heads and shoulders (Ov. Met. i. 264, &c.; Philostr. Icon. i. 24). On the chest of Cypselus, Boreas in the act of carrying off Oreithyia, was represented with serpents in the place of legs (Paus. v. 19. § 1). The most remarkable monument representing the winds is the octagonal tower of Andronicus Cyrrhestes at Athens. Each of the eight sides of the monument represents one of the eight principal winds in a flying attitude. A moveable Triton in the centre of the cupola pointed with his staff to the wind blowing at the time. All these eight figures have wings at their shoulders, all are clothed, and the peculiarities of the winds are indicated by their bodies and various attributes. (Hirt, Mythol. Bilderb. p. 140, &c.)

Black lambs were offered as sacrifices to the destructive winds, and white ones to favourable or good winds. (Aristoph. Ran. 845; Virg. Aen. iii. 117.) Boreas had a temple on the river Ilissus in Attica (Herod. vii. 189; comp. Paus. viii. 27. § 9), and between Titane and Sicyon there was an altar of the winds, upon which a priest offered a sacrifice to the winds once in every year. (Paus. ii. 12. § 1.) Zephyrus had an altar on the sacred road to Eleusis. (i. 37. § 1.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.



The four Winds were often represented as horse-shaped divinities. Individual Winds, such as Boreas and Zephyros, were the sires of immortal horses.


Zeus, god of storms, was sometimes described as driving a chariot drawn by the four horse-shaped winds.

Plato, Phaedrus 246 (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
“A pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the winged horses and the charioteers of the gods are all of them noble and of noble descent . . . Zeus, the mighty lord, holding the reins of a winged chariot, leads the way in heaven, ordering all and taking care of all; and there follows him the array of gods and demigods, marshalled in eleven bands [the twelve Olympians].”

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 12. 189 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
“Zeus, at the utmost verge of earth, was ware of all: straight left he Okeanos’s stream, and to wide heaven ascended, charioted upon the Anemoi (Winds), Euros (the East), Boreas (the North), Zephyros (the West-wind), and Notos (the South) : for Iris rainbow-plumed led ‘neath the yoke of his eternal ear that stormy team, the ear which Aion (Time) the immortal framed for him of adamant with never-wearying hands.”
[N.B. Presumably the yoked Winds are horses.]

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 2. 392 & 524 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
“[In the battle between Zeus and the monster Typhoeus :] The four Winds, allied with Kronion [Zeus], raised in their air columns of sombre dust; they swelled the arching waves, they flogged the sea until Sikelia (Sicily) quaked . . . from Typhaon’s hands were showered volleys against the unwearied thunderbolts of Zeus. Some shots . . . whirling through the air with sharp whiz, the Winds blew away by counterblast . . . Zeus breasting the tempests with his aegis-breastplate swooped down from the air on high, seated in Khronos’s (Time’s) chariot with four winged steeds, for the horses that drew Kronion were the team of the Winds . . .
He [Typhoeus] suffered the fourfold compulsion of the four Winds. For if he turned flickering eyes to the sunrise [the East], he received the fiery battle of neighbouring Euros. If he gazed towards the stormy clime of the Arkadian Bear [the North], he was beaten by the chilly frost of wintry whirlwinds. If he shunned the cold blast of snow-beaten Boreas, he was shaken by the volleys of wet and hot together. If he looked to the sunset [the West], opposite to the dawn of the grim east, he shivered before Enyo and her western tempests when he heard the noise of Zephyros cracking his spring-time lash; and Notos [in the South], that hot wind, round about the southern foot of Aigokeros [Capricorn] flogged the aerial vaults, leading against Typhon a glowing blaze with steamy heat.”


Aelian, On Animals 4. 6 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
“Horse-keepers frequently testify to mares being impregnated by the Wind, and to their galloping against Notos (the South Wind) or Borras (the North). And the same poet [Homer] knew this when he said ‘Of them was Boreas enamoured as they pastured.’ Aristotle too, borrowing (as I think) from him, said that they rush away in frenzy straight in the face of the aforesaid Autai (Winds).”

Virgil, Georgics 3. 267 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
“But surely the madness of mares surpasses all. Venus [Aphrodite] herself inspired their frenzy, when the four Potnian steeds tore with their jaws the limbs of Glaucus. Love leads them over Gargarus and over the roaring Ascanius; they scale mountains, they swim rivers. And, soon as the flame has stolen into their craving marrow (chiefly in spring, for in spring the heart returns to their breasts), they all, with faced turned to Zephyrus (the West Wind), stand on a high cliff, and drink the gentle breezes. Then oft, without any wedlock, pregnant with the wind (a wondrous tale!) they flee over rocks and crags and lowly dales, not towards your rising, Eurus (East Wind), nor the Sun’s, but to Boreas (the North), and Auster (the Northwest), or thither whence rises blackest Notus (the South), saddening the sky with chilly rain.”



In the Orphic Hymns the Winds were hymned as the gods of the seasons–Zephyros was spring, Notos summer, and Boreas winter. The early Greeks only recognised three, rather than four, seasons. The fourth Wind, Euros, is similarly absent from Homer and Hesiod.

Orphic Hymn 80 to Boreas (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
“To Boreas (North-Wind), Fumigation from Frankincense. Boreas, whose wintry blasts, terrific, tear the bosom of the deep surrounding air; cold icy power, approach, and favouring blow, and Thrake awhile desert, exposed to snow: the air’s all-misty darkening state dissolve, with pregnant clouds whose frames in showers resolve. Serenely temper all within the sky, and wipe from moisture aither’s splendid eye.”

Orphic Hymn 81 to Zephyrus :
“To Zephyros (West-Wind), Fumigation from Frankincense. Sea-born, aerial, blowing from the west, sweet Breezes (Aurai), who give to wearied labour rest. Vernal and grassy, and of murmuring sound, to ships delightful through the sea profound; for these, impelled by you with gentle force, pursue with prosperous fate their destined course. With blameless gales regard my suppliant prayer, Zephyros unseen, light-winged, and formed from air.”

Orphic Hymn 82 to Notus :
“To Notos (South-Wind), Fumigation from Frankincense. Wide-coursing gales, whose lightly leaping feet with rapid wings the air’s wet bosom beat, approach, benevolent, swift-whirling powers, with humid clouds the principles of showers; for showery clouds are portioned to your care, to send on earth from all-surrounding air. Hear, blessed power, these holy rites attend, and fruitful rains on earth all-parent send.”



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