Phaeton, Fall of

The Fall of Phaeton

Helios (Apollo), the Greek god who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky by day, had a son, Phaeton, by a human mother, Cleymene. With the rashness of youth, Phaeton tricked his father into letting him drive the chariot. Ignoring Helios’ stern warnings about his mortal frailty, Phaeton took the reins. The horses, sensing his weakness, bolted out of control, scorching everything in their path with the sun’s heat. The Seasons and Hours reacted in terror as the earth below burst into flame.

To save the earth from utter destruction, Zeus, the Greek king of the gods, threw a thunderbolt, often represented as a blinding shaft of light. As the chariot disintegrates and the steeds break free, Phaeton plunges to his death.

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