The myth of Boreas and Oreithyia

This myth revolves around the relationship between Boreas, the god of the North Wind, and Orithyia, an Athenian princess. It’s a story of passion, persuasion, and ultimately, a violent act, which is common in many ancient mythologies where deities interact with mortals.

Boreas and Orithyia in Greek mythology. Image: Boreas’ abduction of Oreithyia, Apulian red-figure oenochoe, 360 BC, Louvre, Paris

Boreas

Representing the North Wind in Greek mythology, Boreas is known for his cold and sometimes violent nature. His personality, like the icy gusts he commands, can be harsh and unpredictable.

Orithyia

An Athenian princess, she is a mortal woman known for her beauty, which attracted the attention of Boreas.

The abduction

Boreas was deeply attracted to Orithyia. His initial approach towards her was one of persuasion, where he tried to win her affections through entreaty.

The scene of the interaction between Boreas and Orithyia takes place near the river Ilisos in Athens. It is on the banks of this river where Orithyia was dancing when Boreas approached her.

When Boreas’s attempts at persuasion failed and Orithyia continued to spurn his advances, his temperament shifted. Giving in to his more violent and impulsive nature, he abducted her.

READ MORE: The Time when Boreas Saved the Athenians from the Persians

Concealment and Violence

Boreas enveloped Orithyia in a cloud, a representation of his divine and elemental powers, and committed an act of violence against her by raping her.

Image: Relief of Boreas in the Tower of the Winds, Athens.

Their offspring

From this union, Orithyia became the mother of four of Boreas’s children. Their children often had characteristics or stories that related to cold or wind, reinforcing the connection between their mother’s mortal world and their father’s elemental realm.

Interpretation of the myth

This myth, like many ancient tales, underscores the complex interactions between gods and mortals in Greek mythology. Gods, with all their powers, often displayed very human emotions and flaws, and their relationships with humans frequently reflected these complexities.

The story also demonstrates how Greek myths often blended elements of romance, violence, and divine intervention, reflecting both the wonders and the unpredictable nature of the world as the ancient Greeks understood it.

READ MORE: 15 Lesser-Known Deities in Greek Mythology

1 Response

  1. Rose Pryor says:

    This is actually so interesting! Greetings from Wales

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