Phaethon’s Wild Ride Through the Sky

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Helios, the sun god, had an extremely important job. Every morning at dawn, he got into his golden chariot that was pulled by four fiery horses. He rose into the sky from the east and blazed across the sky to the west, where he guided the chariot back down below the horizon and handed the sky over to his sister Selene, the goddess of the moon. Helios enjoyed this job and was extremely reliable, repeating the journey on a daily basis. He liked that his work spread comfort and warmth to the Earth below.

Helios’ son, Phaethon, was sad that his father was never around. The other boys in the village teased him and didn’t believe that his father was the sun god. Tired of missing his father, Phaethon went in search of Helios one night and asked him to return home. Helios obviously could not do so, but told Phaethon that he would grant him one wish instead. Phaethon’s wish was that he could drive Helios’ chariot one day. Helios was concerned about granting the wish because it’s such a dangerous journey, but knew that he could not go back on his word.

As morning approached, Phaethon got ready for his ride. As his sisters harnessed the horses, Helios warned Phaethon of the trouble that he may encounter on his journey. The horses, known for fighting and bucking, needed to be controlled and guided directly across the sky. They could not go too high or too low.

As soon as the gates opened the horses did what Helios feared most and headed high into the sky. Since Phaethon wasn’t experienced, he could not control them. Before he could do anything the chariot swooped down low towards Earth that could not withstand this heat. Rivers and lakes began to boil, fields caught on fire, dry land cracked, and deserts developed. When Phaethon finally got the horses to go higher, they went up too high and Earth began to freeze. Far up in the sky the chariot went through the houses of the zodiac where they were tormented by the bull, scorpion, and lion.

Zeus saw all of this happen from Mount Olympus and was furious. He was concerned that the Earth would be destroyed if he didn’t take action. He flung a thunderbolt at Phaethon, which hit him in the head and killed him. Phaethon and the chariot crashed into the sea far below.

Hephaestus, the god of fire, metalwork, and building, spent all night repairing the chariot of the sun so that it would be ready by the next morning. Helios realized that he made a terrible mistake and promised Zeus that he would never again let anyone else drive the chariot.

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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