Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Phaethon A Greek god who the phrase "a boy Doing a man's job" comes from.
Or see [Phaeton]
Phaeton bragged to his friends that his father was the sun-god. His friends refused to believe him and so Phaeton went to his father Helios, who promised him anything he should ask for. Phaeton wanted to drive his chariot (the sun) for a day. Though Helios tried to talk him out of it, Phaeton was adamant. When the day came, Phaeton panicked and lost control of the white horses that drew the chariot. First it veered too high, so that the earth grew chill. Then it dipped too close, and the vegetation dried and burned. He accidentally turned most of Africa into desert; burning the skin of the Ethiopians black. Eventually, Zeus was forced to intervene by striking the runaway chariot with a lightning bolt to stop it, and Phaëthon plunged into the river Eridanos (the Po). His friend, Cycnus, grieved so, that the gods turned him into a swan. His sisters, the Heliades, also grieved and were turned into alder trees, or poplars according to Virgil; their tears became amber.
The moral of the tale is a later addition. In earlier, Homeric references, (Iliad xi:735; Odyssey v:479) Phaëthon is simply another name for Helios himself. The substitution of Apollo for Helios as sun god occurred later than this legend.
The motif of the fallen star must have been familiar in Israel, for Isaiah referred to it in admonishing the king of Babylon for his pride (Isaiah 14:12ff). The Jewish Encyclopedia reports that "it is obvious that the prophet in attributing to the Babylonian king boastful pride, followed by a fall, borrowed the idea from a popular legend connected with the morning star". The falling star image reappears in John's Apocalypse without a name. In the 4th century Jerome's translation of the "morning star" as "Lucifer" carried the fallen star myth-element into Christian mythology. For fuller details, see Lucifer.
- Robert Graves, The Greek Myths
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