Phaethon, by Thomas de Leu, after Antoine Caron
Dear readers, this wonderful Tuesday, let’s talk a bit about mystery. No, no, we are not going to make a magic. We are going to talk about myths and legends. By this post, we are starting a completely new series in our blog – Gemstone origins: Myths and Legends.
Thousands of years ago, humanity was fascinated by gemstones in the same way we now are. Scientists and philosophers all around the world were struggling to understand the appearance and origins of every precious stone known to them by that time and this gave a rise to some of the most beautiful legends known now to the humanity. So sit back, relax and enjoy reading one of the most fantastic and the most incredible legends about origins of stones since the history of mankind.
Ancient Greece – Legend of Phaethon
One beautiful and sunny day, in the times when Gods had just recently created the life on Earth, the young son of Sun God Helios and sea nymph Climene – Phaeton, having the extremely wayward and capricious adolescent character doubted its own parentage and voyaged far to the East to question his native father.
In the day of his arrival – the day they first met, incredibly glad Helios welcomed wholeheartedly his own beloved son. The son he was missing for so many years, but could never visit due to its never-ending responsibility of bringing people all over the world dawns and sunsets day after day.
Unfortunately, his dreams of father and son reunion were not fated to come true. Unpleasantly surprised by the doubts of his own beloved sun, Helios gently promised as a proof of his parenthood to grant any boon Phaeton might ask. To his greatest fright, youth rashly demanded permission to drive the sun chariot through the sky for one day and although this idea seemed terrible to Helios, he had no option as to agree on that.
Phaeton immediately jumped into the chariot and spurred the horses without even listening to the advises of his wise father! And the sun chariot driven by the wild horses brought the dawn to the humanity, starting a new day and warming up the the Earth after the dark night.
As he was moving along the sky, more and more people all around the world were welcoming the beginning of a new day and praying to the Sun God for a blessed new day. Unfortunately, it did not take long for the wild horses pulling the chariot to realize that they were being driven by an inexperienced hand. So, exactly as father predicted and was trying to warn his son, but he didn’t bother to listen at the beginning of his journey, horses bolted and Phaeton was not anymore able to control them.
They drove chariot and the sun behind it, closer and farther from Earth either making planet incredibly cold or turning much of Africa into a desert, drying up rivers and lakes and shrinking the sea. People were frightened, praying to all Gods of Olympus, begging them for help and so, the Supreme God – Zeus had no other choice but to intervene and strike down the chariot with one of his thunderbolts to save the entire Earth from destruction.
The result was a disastrous cosmic fire that broke out along the all visible to the human eye sky and many saw how the young Phaeton’s body, the body of the beautiful child of the Sun God and Sea Oceanide fell dead into the legendary Eridanus River.
His three sisters, the Heliades (daughters of Helios), broken by the death of their youngest beloved brother, stood on the banks of that river, weeping ceaselessly day after day and night after night. Wasting away on the riverbank, their bodies eventually took roots and became covered with bark. Their arms became branches and the three beautiful sisters turned into forever crying poplar trees.
Thereafter, through the years to come, the tears of forever grieving Heliades fell as drops of precious amber onto the sunny banks, to be washed into river and eventually borne off on the waters to become an ornament one day for young and beautiful girls as well as everlasting reminder of the true sisters’ love and youth folly.