Phaethon

by Edith Hamilton, Mythology - timeless tales of gods and heroes - details used not for mere decoration but to heighten the effect.

The palace of the Sun was a radiant place. It shone with gold and gleamed with ivory and sparkled with jewels. Everything without and within flashed and glowed and glittered. It was always high noon there. Shadowy twilight never dimmed the brightness. Darkness and night were unknown. Few among mortals could have long endured that unchanging brilliancy of light, but few had ever found their way thither.

Nevertheless, one day a youth, mortal on his mother's side, dared to approach. Often he had to pause and clear his dazzled eyes, but the errand which had brought him was so urgent that his purpose held fast and he pressed on, up to the palace, through the burnished doors, and into the throne-room where surrounded by a blinding, blazing splendor the Sun-god sat. There the lad was forced to halt He could bear no more.

Nothing escapes the eyes of the Sun. He saw the boy instantly and he looked at him very kindly. "What brought you here?" he asked. "I have come," the other answered boldly, "to find out if you are my father or not. My mother said you were, but the boys at school laugh when I tell them I am your son. They will not believe me. I told my mother and she said I had better go and ask you." Smiling, the Sun took off his crown of burning light so that the lad could look at him without distress. "Come here, Phaethon," he said. "You are my son. Clymene told you the truth. I expect you will not doubt my word too? But I will give you a proof. Ask anything you want of me and you shall have it. I call the Styx to be witness to my promise, the river of the oath of the gods."

No doubt Phaethon had often watched the Sun riding through the heavens and had told himself with a feeling, half awe, half excitement, "It is my father up there." And when he would wonder what it would be like to be in that chariot, guiding the steeds along that dizzy course, giving light to the world. Now at his father's words this wild dream had become possible. Instantly he cried, "I choose to take your place, Father. That is the only thing I want. Just for a day, a single day, let me have your car to drive."

The Sun realized his own folly. Why had he taken that fatal oath and bound himself to give in to anything that happened to enter a boy's rash young head? "Dear lad," he said, "this is the only thing I would have refused you. I know I cannot refuse. I have sworn by the Styx. I must yield if you persist. But I do not believe you will. Listen while I tell you what this is you want. You are Clymene's son as well as mine. You are mortal and no mortal could drive my chariot. Indeed, no god except myself can do that. The ruler of the gods cannot.

Consider the road. It rises up from the sea so steeply that the horses can hardly climb it, fresh though they are in the early morning. In mid heaven it is so high that even I do not like to look down. Worst of all is the descent, so precipitous that the Sea-gods waiting to receive me wonder how I can avoid falling headlong. To guide my horses, too, is a perpetual struggle. Their fiery spirits grow hotter as they climb and they scarcely suffer my control. What would they do with you?

"Are you fancying that there are all sorts of wonders up there, the city of the god full of beautiful things? Nothing of the kind. You will have to pass beasts, fierce beasts of prey, and they are all you will see. The Bull, the Lion, the Scorpion, and the great Crab, each will try to harm you. (These are the same constellations given in Seneca's Thyestes) Be persuaded. Look around you. See all the gods the rich world holds. Choose from them your heart's desire and it shall be yours. If what you want is to be proved my son, my fears for you are proof enough that I am your father."

But none of all this wise talk meant anything to the boy. A glorious prospect opened before him. He saw himself proudly standing in that wondrous car, his hands triumphantly guiding those steeds which Jove himself could not master. He did not give a thought to the dangers his father detailed. He felt not a quiver of fear, not a doubt of his own powers. At last the Sun gave up trying to dissuade him. It was hopeless, as he saw. Besides, there was no time. The moment for starting was at hand. Already the gates of the east glowed purple, and Dawn had opened her courts full of rosy light. The stars were leaving the sky; even the lingering morning star was dim.

There was the need for haste, but all was ready. The seasons, the gatekeepers of Olympus, stood waiting to fling the doors wide. The horses had been bridled and yoked to the car. Proudly and joyously Phaethon mounted it and they were off. He had made his choice. Whatever came of it he could not change now. Not that he wanted to in that first exhilarating rush through the air, so swift that the East Wind was outstripped and left far behind. The horses' flying feet went through the low-banked clouds near the ocean as through a thin sea mist and then up and up in the clear air, climbing the height of heaven. For a few ecstatic moments Phaethon felt himself the Lord of the Sky.

But suddenly there was a change. The chariot was swinging wildly to and fro; the pace was faster; he had lost control. Not he, but the horses were directing the course. That light weight in the car, those feeble hands clutching the reins, had told them their own driver was not there. They were the masters then. No one else could command them. They left the road and rushed where they chose, up and down, to the right, to the left. They nearly wrecked the chariot against the Scorpion; they brought up short and almost ran into the Crab. (This indicates the sun may have moved 180° in November when the sun is normally in Scorpius. Note how the sun is depicted to move 180° from Scorpius past the Crab to Eridanus.

(The ancients knew the sun did not pass through the constellations of the ecliptic each day, but each year. Then they knew the sun moved 180° on this exceptional day.) By this time the poor charioteer was half fainting with terror, and he let the reins fall.

That was the signal for still more mad and reckless running. The horses soared up to the very top of the sky and then, plunging headlong down, they set the world on fire. The highest mountains were the first to burn, Ida and Helicon, where the Muses dwell, Parnassus, and heaven-piercing Olympus. Down their slopes the flame ran to the low-lying valleys and the dark forest lands, until all things everywhere were ablaze. The springs turned into steam; the rivers shrank. It is said that it was then the Nile fled and hid his head, which still is hidden.

In the car Phaethon, hardly keeping his place there, was wrapped up in thick smoke and heat as if from a fiery furnace. He wanted nothing except to have this torment and terror ended. He would have welcomed death. Mother Earth, too, could bear no more. She uttered a great cry which reached up to the gods. Looking down from Olympus they saw that they must act quickly if the world was to be saved. Jove seized his thunderbolt and hurled it at the rash, repentant driver. (Phaethon was a mere mortal, a sinner) It struck him dead, shattered the chariot, and made the maddened horses rush down into the sea.

Phaethon all on fire fell from the car thought the air to the earth. The mysterious river Eridanus, which no mortal eyes have ever seen, received him and put out the flames and cooled the body. ["Eridanus, where Phaethon is alleged finally to have plunged (or last been seen), is mainly in Aries and just beyond the longitude of the Pleiades. It is also quite well to the south of both the celestial equator and the ecliptic" - right beside Orion. Eridanus is just east of the Crab. Possibly they observed that the sun moved 180° to the Crab.

"It's difficult now to identify which river the constellation represents. Some writers claimed it was the Tigris or Euphrates, others the Nile. Homer called it an "ocean stream". Since Roman times the river Po was even taken to be the locale."] The Egyptians identified the cycles of the Nile flood with the Bennu or phoenix. The naiads, in pity for him, so bold and so young to die, buried him and carved upon the tomb:

"Here Phaethon lies who drove the Sun-god's car.
Greatly he failed, but he had greatly dared
His sisters, the Heliades, the daughters of Helios, the Sun, came to his grave to mourn for him. There they were turned into poplar trees, on the bank of Eridanus,
(the River Eridanus is a constellation consisting of a long string of stars running north-south)
Where sorrowing they weep into the stream forever.
And each tear as it falls shines in the water
A glistening drop of amber.
(Amber are bright yellow stones found on the shores of Greece said to have come from the sun)

Phaethon

The Classic Myths: Myths of the Great Divinities of Heaven

"...Forthwith the agile youth sprang into the chariot, stood erect, and grasped the reins with delight, pouring out thanks to his reluctant parent. But the steeds soon perceived that the load they drew was lighter than usual; and as a ship without ballast is tossed hither and thither on the sea, the chariot, without its accustomed weight, was dashed about as if empty. The horses rushed headlong and left the traveled road. (he kept swaying from side to side.) Then, for the first time, the Great and Little Bears were scorched with heat, and would fain, if it were possible, have plunged into the water; and the Serpent which lies coiled round the north pole, torpid and harmless, grew warm, and with warmth felt its rage revive.

"Bootes, they say, fled away, though encumbered with its plow and unused to rapid motion."

When the hapless Phaethon looked down upon the earth, now spreading in vast extent beneath him, he grew pale, and his knees shook with terror. He lost his self command and knew not whether to draw tight the reins or throw them loose; he forgot the names of the horses. But when he beheld the monstrous forms scattered over the surface of heaven, -- the Scorpion extending two great arms, his tail, and his crooked claws over the space of two signs of the zodiac, -- when the boy beheld him, reeking with poison and menacing with fangs, his courage failed, and the reins fell from his hands.

The horses, unrestrained, went off into unknown regions of the sky in among the stars, hurling the chariot over pathless places, now up in the high heaven, now down almost to the earth. The moon saw with astonishment her brother's chariot running beneath her own. The clouds began to smoke. The forest clad mountains burned, --Athos and Taurus and Tmolus and Oete; Ida, once celebrated for fountains; the Muses' mountain Helicon, and Haemus; Etna, with fires within and without, and Parnassus, with his two peaks, and Rhodope, forced at last to part with his snowy crown. Her cold climate was no protection to Scythia; Caucasus burned Ossa and Pindus, and, greater than both, Olympus, --the Alps high in the air, and the Apennines crowned with clouds.

Phaethon beheld the world on fire and felt the heat intolerable. Then, too, it is said, the people of Ethiopia became black because the blood was called by the heat so suddenly to the surface; and the Libyan desert was dried up to the condition in which it remains to this day. The Nymphs of the fountains, with disheveled hair, mourned their waters, nor were the rivers safe beneath their banks; Tanais smoked, and Caicus, Xanthus, and Meander; Babylonian Euphrates and Ganges, Tagus, with golden sands, and Cayster, where the swans resort. Nile fled away and hid his head in the desert, and there it still remains concealed. Where he used to discharge his waters through seven mouths into the sea, seven dry channels alone remained.

The earth cracked open, and through the chinks light broke into Tartarus and frightened the king of shadows and his queen. The sea shrank up. Even Nereus and his wife Doris with the Nereids, thier daughters, sought the deepest caves for refuge. Thrice Neptune essayed to raise his head above the surface and thrice was driven back by the heat. Earth, surrounded as she was by waters, yet with the head and shoulders bare, screening her face with her hand, looked up to heaven, and with husky voice prayed to Jupiter, if it were his will that she should perish by fire, to end her agony at once by his thunderbolts, or else to consider his own Heaven, how both the poles were smoking that sustained his palace, and that all must fall if they were destroyed.

Earth, overcome with heat and thirst, could say no more. Then Jupiter, calling the gods to witness that all was lost unless some speedy remedy were applied, thundered, brandished a lightning bolt in his right hand, launched it against the charioteer, and struck him at the same moment from his seat and from existence. Phaethon, with his hair on fire, fell headlong, like a shooting star which marks the heavens with its brightness as it falls, and Eridanus, the great river, received him and cooled his burning frame. His sisters, The Heliades, as they lamented his fate, were turned into poplar trees on the banks of the river; and their tears, which continued to flow, became amber as they dropped into the stream. The Italian Naiads reared a tomb for him and inscribed these words upon the stone: "Driver of Phoebus' chariot, Phaethon,

Struck by Jove's thunder, rests beneath this stone. He could not rule his father's car of fire, Yet was it much so nobly to aspire."

Ovid's Phaethon: "The earth bursts into flame, the highest parts first, and splits into deep cracks, and its moisture is all dried up. The meadows are burned to white ashes; the trees are consumed, green leaves and all, and the ripe grain furnishes fuel for its own destruction...Great cities perish with their walls, and vast conflagration reduces whole nations to ashes.

The woods are ablaze with the mountains...Aetna is blazing boundlessly...and twin peaked Parnassus...Nor does its chilling clime save Scythia; Caucasaus burns...and the heaven-piercing Alps and cloud-capped Apennines.

He can no longer bear the ashes and whirling sparks, and is completely shrouded in the dense, hot smoke. In this pitchy darkness he cannot tell where he is or whither he is going.

Then also Libya became desert, for the heat dried up her moisture...The Don's waters steam; Babylonian Euphrates burns; the Ganges, Phasis, Danube, Alpheus boil; Spercheos' banks are aflame. The golden sands of Tagus melt in the intense heat, and the swans...are scorched...The Nile fled in terror to the ends of the earth...the seven mouths lie empty, filled with dust; seven broad channels, all without a stream. The same mischance dries up the Thracian rivers, Hebris and Strymon; also the rivers of the west, the Rhine, Rhone, Po and the Tiber...Great cracks yawn everywhere...Even the sea shrinks up, and what was but now a great watery expanse is a dry plain of sand. The mountains, which the deep sea had covered before, spring forth, and increase the numbers of the scattered Cyclades."

"Causing all things to shake with her mighty trembling, she sank back a little lower than her wonted place."

"If we are to believe the report, one whole day went without the sun. But the burning world gave light."

A major change in the weather and an earthquake. Just what one would expect if the sun moved 180° east to set suddenly on Europe and Africa even China. Perhaps earth shifted on its axis to point to what was perceived as a lower pole star. "The flood of Deucalion is described by Greek authors as being simultaneous with the conflagration of Phaethon." when summer is turned into winter. Or perhaps winter turned into a summer like season of forest fires as is currently happening in California - November 2003. The circle stars of precession are below the pole star at sunset February 3600 BC, below also at sunrise August 3600. Then if the sun moved 180° from Eridanus in February to Scorpius as depicted, earth must shift nearly 180° down to Vega. The Chinese short day often taken as the earliest recorded eclipse may have been the sun suddenly moving 180° back to Scorpius in October.

Then the circle of precession would after appear above the pole star, giving the impression of the earth "sank". That is the sun may have moved 180° from Scorpius on March 30, 3598 BC and earth twisted slightly and flowed out of the reverse orbit of the sun perhaps as depicted by this Phaethon legend the counter to the sun miracle perhaps March 29, 3597 BC of the Flood. Then the sun moved again on Yao/Joseph's long day, March 31, 2316 BC and back one year later. Then the sun moved again beginning the seven years of drought in Egypt - and Phaethon's dried up rivers - on March 29, 2309 BC and earth flowed into a reverse orbit of the sun for a reverse orbit year. Then the sun moved 180° back one year later and earth flowed out of the reverse orbit of the sun.

All the rivers dried up. Thus Phaethon must most likely be the sun moving 180° east from Scorpius to Taurus March 29 2309 BC to mark the seven years of drought in Egypt as per Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh Unas' dream matching Egyptian records and the dust layer at the top of Mount Kilimandjaro 2300 BC. The unicorn recorded by Yao in 2309 BC.

Plato wrote of Phaethon: "There have been and there will be many and divers destructions of mankind, of which the greates are by fire and water, and lesser ones by countless other means. For in truth the story that is told in your country as well as ours, how once upon a time Phaethon, son of Helios, yoked his father's chariot, and because he was unable to drive it along the course taken by his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth and himself perished by a thunderbolt -- that story, as it is told, has a fashion of a legend, but the truth of it lies in the occurrence of a shifting of the bodies in the heavens which move around the earth, and a destruction of the things on the earth by fierce fire, which recurs at long intervals."
Plato, Timaeus 22 C-D

When the sun moved 180° the stars of the night sky would be visible where the sun had been the day before and the sun progress through the stars in reverse through the year. Also earth's reverse orbit must shift to keep earth in the same season. This was evident in the stars marking the seasons. Thus "a shifting of the bodies in the heavens which move around the earth." If the sun moved from the winter solstice zodiac, to the summer solstice zodiac; this would be the same as twisting the base of a globe of earth 180° to keep earth in the same season. It was the sun that moved, up or down after moving 180°, not the earth. If the sun moved on the spring or fall equinox, earth would not have to twist = the sun would not have to move up or down.

Thus, if the sun moved on the winter solstice, 90 days before the spring equinox, earth would need to twist 180° to keep in the same season. Thus, the number of days before the spring equinox would equal 2 X the degrees earth would have to shift. There are 26,000 years for earth the equinoxes to precess 360°. Then the stars would mark the seasons for the age of the precession. So, if the sun moved 180° April 1, 2315 BC, this would be 10 days before the spring equinox April 11, 2315 BC. This would equal 2 X 10 degrees = 20°. 20 / 360 X 26000 = 1400 years. Thus, Yao's canon, the four stars that He and Ho chose to determine the four seasons marked the age 1400 years more recent than that age in 2315 BC = 1000 BC. He and Ho could not even see three of those four stars at sunset in their season in 2315 BC.

See Joshua's Long Day

Copy Right © November 30, 1999 - 2016 Copy Right Registration Number 1058489. Andrew Bennett. All Rights Reserved.