iris by naleeya



Greek goddess of the rainbow and winged messenger goddess of the Olympian
gods. Daughter of Electra (daughter of Oceanus) and Thaumas (son of Gaia
and Pontus). Sister to the Harpies, who are also winged. Classical
sources are the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (102–114), Apollonius of Rhodes’s
Voyage of the Argonauts (2.283– 300, 4.753–779), Callimachus’s Hymns
(4.228– 239), Hesiod’s Theogony (265–269, 780–787), Homer’s Iliad (3.121–
140, 8.397–425, 15.143– 217, 18.165–202), and Virgil’s Aeneid (4.693–
705, 5.605–615, 9.1–25). Next to Hermes, Iris is the most important
herald of the Olympian gods. Hesiod, Homer, and the Homeric Hymns give
her the epithet “swift” or “swift-footed.” Iris flies across the sky
delivering messages or providing summons to immortals and mortals (she
will at times assume mortal shape for this purpose). In Ovid’s
Metamorphoses, she conveys the wishes of both Zeus and Hera, but in the
Aeneid, she is the particular envoy of Hera.

In the Theogony, Iris has a specific ceremonial function, in a ritual
oath of truth telling. She travels to the river Styx and brings its
waters back to Olympus in a golden jug. The waters are used as a libation
by which the gods swear an oath of truth. In the Homeric Hymn to Delian
Apollo, the goddesses assisting Leto during her labor persuaded Iris,
with the promise of a necklace of golden thread, to summon Eileithyia,
goddess of childbirth, whom Hera had kept away until then to prevent the
births of Apollo and Artemis. But in the same episode recounted in
Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argonauts and in Callimachus’s
Hymns, Iris is shown to be loyal to Hera; in the latter, Iris does not
leave Hera’s side except at her command. Her loyalty to Hera is again
shown in Euripides’ Heracles, where, on Hera’s behalf, Iris commands
Lyssa, daughter of Nyx and goddess of madness, to afflict Zeus’s son
Heracles with a fit of madness during which he murders his sons. In the
Iliad, by contrast, Iris represents Zeus’s interests against Hera and
Athena, who support the Trojans. Also in the Iliad, Iris answers
Achilles’ prayers to summon Boreas, the North Wind, and Zephyrus, the
West Wind, to ignite the funeral pyre of Patroclus. Given that her domain
is the sky, Iris is associated with the Anemoi, or winds.

One source attributes the parentage of Eros to Iris and Zephyrus, but in
other texts, she has no love interests. In Apollonius’s Voyage of the
Argonauts, Iris defends her sisters the Harpies from the Boreadae Calais
and Zetes. She is treated satirically in Aristophanes’ The Birds and
comically in Lucian’s Dialogues of the Sea- Gods. In visual
representations of antiquity, Iris can be identified either by a pair of
winged sandals or by wings sprouting from her back. She sometimes carries
a messenger’s staff, or kerykeion, and is fully clothed, as in an Attic
red-figure stamnos from ca. 480 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris) in which Zeus is
flanked by Iris and Hermes. She appears on the François Vase from ca. 570
b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence) carrying a staff and
accompanying Chiron. In postclassical periods she is shown with her
attribute the rainbow, as in François Le Moyne’s Juno, Iris, and Flora
from ca. 1737 (Louvre, Paris).

To top