Aeolus, Keeper of the Winds

eoloAeolus was the god and ruler of the winds in Greek mythology. He lived on Aeolia island. In the Odyssey he gave Odysseus a bag of winds. He was appointed as regent or keeper of the winds by the gods. The mythical island of Aeolia was hollow inside and its numerous caves were the holding areas for the storm winds. It is said that the island floated freely and was surrounded by a wall of bronze, presumably to contain the winds. When commanded by the gods or on their whims, gales, stormy winds, light breezes etc would be released by Aeolus.

In some tales and stories, Aeolus holds the title of Hippotades (reiner of the horses). The four winds were perceived as mighty horse-formed spirits or beasts and they were controlled and contained solely by Aeolus.

Aeolus’s fame is majorly due to his part in Homer’s Odyssey. In his struggle to make his way home to his wife, Odysseus was lost at sea and he and his crew land on Aeolus’s island. Aeolus shows them hospitality for 1 month and was quite sympathetic to their plight. To help them, he confined all unfavourable or adverse winds in a bag and gifted Odysseus and his men, the favourable west wind Zephyros, which would safely bear them home. But on-board, while Odysseus was asleep, his sailors suspected him of hoarding riches in the bag and opened it out of curiosity. Alas, the strong and uncontrollable storm winds were unleashed. They melded together to form a powerful storm and took Odysseus’s ship right back to Aeolus’s island. On meeting Odysseus for the second time, Aeolus regarded it as a sign of the God’s Will and refused to help them. Instead he advised them to leave the island and never return.

Another origin story of Aeolias  depicts him as the son of Poseidon and Arne. This Aeolus had a twin brother Boeotus. They were raised by the King of Icaria, Metapontus. During a quarrel, they killed their wicked stepmother and ran away from the kingdom. This event led to Aeolus founding the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Most Italians know of Aeolus’s ‘Scirocco’ (Sirocco in English), the hot wind that originates from the African Sahara which develops into hurricane speeds in Spring and Summer, but Aeolus was the keeper of four winds that are common in the Strait. The cliffs on the Tyrrhenian house the Mistral wind from the Rhone Valley (strong, cold and northwesterly from France), The Libeccio (is the westerly or south-westerly wind which predominates in northern Corsica all year round) and the Ostro (southerly).