Festivals of the Greek God Helios

by Kristy Ambrose

The gods of Greece and Rome enjoyed worship that went even beyond the elaborate temples and statues that have survived until the present day. The ancients ordered their calendar around festivals and feast days important to certain gods; the Greek god Helios enjoyed festivals in both his native Greece and in the Roman empire that adopted him.

The Cult of Helios

Worship of Helios was spread throughout several cities of ancient Greece, and each had their own feast days and festivals for the god. Korinthos -- the modern city of Cornith -- was a major center of worship for Helios and had two golden chariots permanently adorning its marketplace. Several other towns in southern Greece had altars dedicated to the god for festivals and private worship upon which animals, such as oxen and sheep, were sacrificed during festivals.

The Island of Rhodes

The Island of Rhodes was home to the Colossus, one of the world's ancient wonders and a 90-foot likeness of the god Helios. The god was a patron to the island, which was named for one his wives, the nymph Rhodes. The island's residents held many annual festivals in his honor, and the great statue was built as one of many votive offerings that once covered the island that also included altars and temples.

Offerings and Sacrifices

Throughout Greece -- in the north and south as well as among its islands -- festivals to Helios included sacrifices of white horses, oxen, sheep and burnt offerings of incense. Frankincense was the incense often used, and the rising vapors could be read by oracles or fortune tellers. White horses were chosen due to their association with the four-horsed chariot of Helios and were sacrificed for festivals, feasts and personal ceremonies. Sacrificial animals were led to the altar in full adornment as if ready for a parade.

Thrinacia and the Romans

Better known to us as Sicily, when the Greeks colonized this island they brought their religious practices with them. The island was considered sacred to Helios and also appeared in mythology as the place where his daughters tended the family cattle. In time, the Romans of the mainland adopted the Greek god Helios into their active calendar of festivals and feast days, often integrating him with other gods that were associated with the sun and earth, like Apollo and Vulcan.

About the Author

Kristy Ambrose enjoys writing about teaching, travel and pet care. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria.

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