Roman Gods of the Wind

Let It Blow!

The Tower of the Winds in ancient Athens. Watercolor from Victoria and Albert Museum/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

The Romans personified the four winds, corresponding with cardinal relationships as gods, as did the Greeks. Both peoples gave the winds individual names and roles in mythology. 

Gettin' Windy With It

Here are the winds, according to their domains. They are called the Venti, the winds, in Latin, and the Anemoi in Greek.

  • Eurus (Greek)/Subsolanus (Latin) - East Wind
  • Zephyr (Greek)/Favonius (Latin) - West Wind

What's Up With the Winds?

The winds pop up all over Roman texts. Vitruvius identifies a whole lot of winds. Ovid, in his , recounts how the winds came to be: "The world’s maker did not allow these, either, to possess the air indiscriminately; as it is they are scarcely prevented from tearing the world apart, each with its blasts steering a separate course." The brothers were kept apart, each with his own job. 

Eurus/Subsolanus went back to the east, the realms of dawn, also known as "Nabataea, Persia, and the heights under the morning light." Zephyr/Favonius hung out with "Evening, and the coasts that cool in the setting sun." Boreas/Septentrio "seized Scythia and the seven stars of the Plough [Ursa Major]," while Notos/Auster "drenches the lands opposite [the northern lands of Boreas, a.k.a. the south] with incessant clouds and rain." According to Hesiod in his Theogony, "And from Typhoeus come boisterous winds which blow damply, except Notus and Boreas and clear Zephyr."

In Catullus's Carmina, the poet talks about his friend Furius's villa. He recites, "The blasts of Auster, Furius, miss your villa. Favonius, Apeliotes (a minor god of the southeast wind), Boreas skirt the estate…" That must've been a really good spot for a house! Poor Zephyr didn't merit a mention here, although he was involved in the love affairs of the god Apollo.

Both guys fell in love with the hunky youth Hyacinthus, and, angry at Hyacinthus favoring his other suitor, Zephyros caused the discus the hottie was throwing to hit him in the head and kill him.

    Bad Boy Boreas

    In Greek myth, Boreas is perhaps best known as the rapist and abductor of the Athenian princess Oreithyia. He kidnapped her while she was playing by the riverside. Oreithyia bore her husband "daughters, Cleopatra and Chione, and winged sons, Zetes and Calais," according to Pseudo-Apollodorus. The boys ended up becoming heroes in their own right as sailors on the Argo with Jason (and, eventually, Medea).

    Cleopatra married the Thracian king Phineus and had two sons with him, whom their father blinded when their eventual stepmother accused them of hitting on her. Others say that Phineus's in-laws, Zetes and Calais, saved him from the Harpies stealing his food. Chione had an affair with Poseidon and gave birth a son, Eumolpus; so her father wouldn't find out, Chione dumped him into the ocean.

    Poseidon raised him and gave him to his own half-sister, his daughter, to raise. Eumolpus ended up marrying one of his guardian's daughters, but he tried to get with his sister-in-law. Eventually, when war broke out between Eumolpus's allies, the Eleusinians, and his grandmother's people, the Athenians, the king of Athens, Erechtheus, Oreithyia's father, ended up killing Eumolpus, his great-grandson.

    Boreas kept up his kinship with the Athenians. According to Herodotus in his Histories, during wartime, the Athenians asked their windy in-law to blow the enemy's ships to pieces. It worked! Writes Herodotus, "I cannot say whether this was the cause of Boreas falling upon the barbarians as they lay at anchor, but the Athenians say that he had come to their aid before and that he was the agent this time." 

    -Edited by Carly Silver