His story, which probably refers to thus emigration of a branch of the Aeolians to the west, is thus related: Melanippe declared to her father that she was with child by Poseidon, but her father disbelieving her statement, gave her to a stranger of Metapontum in Italy, who took her to his native town. Here she became mother of two sons, Boeotus and Aeolus, who were adopted by the man of Metapontum in accordance with an oracle. When they had grown up to manhood, they took possession of the sovereignty of Metapontum by force. But when a dispute afterwards arose between their mother Melanippe and their foster-mother Autolyte, the two brothers slew the latter and fled with their mother front Metapontum.
Aeolus went to some islands in the Tyrrhenian sea, which received from him the name of the Aeolian islands (see Aeolia), and according to some accounts built the town of Lipara.1 Here he reigned as a just and pious king, behaved kindly to the natives, and taught them the use of sails in navigation, and foretold them from signs which he observed in the fire the nature of the winds that were to rise. Hence, says Diodorus, Aeolus is described in mythology as the ruler over the winds, and it was this Aeolus to whom Odysseus came during his wanderings.
A different account of the matter is given by Hyginus.2
In these accounts Aeolus, the father of the Aeolian race, is placed in relationship with Aeolus the ruler and god of the winds. The groundwork on which this connexion has been formed by later poets and mythographers, is found in Homer.3 In Homer, however, Aeolus, the son of Hippotes, is neither the god nor the father of the winds, but merely the happy ruler of the Aeolian island, whom Cronion had made the ταμίης (tamiēs) of the winds, which he might soothe or excite according to his pleasure.4 This statement of Homer and the etymology of the name of Aeolus from ἀέλλω (aellō) were the cause, that in later times Aeolus was regarded as the god and king of the winds, which he kept enclosed in a mountain. It is therefore to him that Juno [Hera] applies when she wishes to destroy the fleet of the Trojans.5
The Aeolian island of Homer was in the time of Pausanias believed to be Lipara,6 and this or Strongyle was accordingly regarded in later times as the place in which the god of the winds dwelt.7 Other accounts place the residence of Aeolus in Thrace,8 or in the neighborhood of Rhegium in Italy.9
The following passages of later poets also showed how universally Aeolus had gradually come to be regarded as a god: Ovid. Metamorphoses i, 264, xii; 748 xiv, 223; Valerius Flaccus, i, 575; Quintus Smyrnaeus, xiv, 475.
Whether he was represented by the ancients in works of art is not certain, but we now possess no representation of him.
The musical instruments that produce sounds when the wind blows through, the Aeolian harps, are named after him.
- Diodorus Siculus, iv, 67; v, 7.
- Fabulae, 186.
- Odyssey x, 2 ff.
- ibid. x, 21 ff.
- Virgil. Aeneid i, 78.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece x, 11.3.
- Virgil. Aeneid viii, 416, i, 52; Strabo. Geography vi, 276.
- Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica i, 954, iv, 765; Callimachus. Hymn to Delos, 26.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 732; comp. Diodorus Siculus, v, 8.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.