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Useful weblinks: Phaethon


  • Lucretius 5.396-406:

Still, once fire prevailed, and once, so they say, water ruled the fields. For fire triumphed, consuming and burning many things, when the rapacious power of the horses of the sun charged off course, carrying Phaethon through the entire sky and past every land. But roused to fierce rage, the omnipotent Father quickly hurled high-spirited Phaethon from his horses down to the ground with a bolt of thunder. Sun met him as he fell and took from him the world’s enduring light, then pacified the scattered horses, and, as they trembled, put them in harness. He led them from there on their proper path and restored all things. That, at least, is what old Greek poets sang, although it is far removed from proper reasoning.


  • Helios and Zeus appear in this story. You can find bibliographies for them on this site.

Helios and his chariot

  • This sculpture of Helios is from the 4th century BC, with his crown distinguishing himself from depictions of Phaethon. 
  • Helios is still portrayed in modern pictures, such as this picture, as holding a lot of power (far too much for a mortal to bear!).

Nature vs Nurture

  • This myth seems to suggest that the reason Phaethon is more testy than his sisters is due to his parentage – specifically his father. This clearly adheres to the ‘nature’ side of the famous nature-nurture debate concerned with the question of how we turn out the way we do. Take a look at some of the links below, dealing with this large and still unresolved debate!
  • Today, there is a stereotype of men being more hot-headed than women. Although both men and women can be violent, prison statistics (summarised here) show that more men are incarcerated for violent crimes than women.
  • Who is responsible for violent behaviour?
  • In the US, this survey shows an overwhelming majority opinion on the responsibility of the parents.
  • This site leads the reader through the nature-nurture debate. It starts with a definition before examining ancient and contemporary views on the argument, including examples.
  • Here is a short clip from the BBC programme Bang Goes the Theory, taking a look at gender stereotypes and how much children are affected by their surroundings when growing up. It includes a study using monkeys and gender-stereotyped toys with a very interesting conclusion!
  • A longer look at the subject, Steve Jones gives a lecture entitled ‘Nature or Nurture?’ – Or perhaps that should be Nature and Nurture, as is the main gist of the talk! Containing some slight sexual references, this video should be used with students only if deemed appropriate by the teacher for the age group. There is a brilliant example of the combination of genetics and environment in the study of Siamese cats who, due to a specific gene they carry, have the colour of their fur determined by the temperature of the surroundings they live in!
  • Why can identical twins be so different? Is it all due to nurture?

Funny pictures


  • Almost everyone boasts at some point in their lives; some people want to whilst others can’t help it. Attitudes towards boasting vary. Some people strive to be modest and humble about their skills, others like to tell the world. Is it a matter of confidence, or of consideration for others? Sometimes boasting is even linked to the idea of imminent bad luck – hence the expression “pride comes before a fall” (see also the Daedalus and Icarus tale).
  • Check out these quotes, both for and against boasting:

Music and Art

  • The symphonic poem Phaéton was composed by Camille Saint-Saëns. Click here for an examination of the different sections and how they relate to the myth.
  • Christopher Rouse composed a piece for orchestra entitled ‘Phaethon’, but Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera Phaeton is more famous: read a long review of when it was performed at the Barbican in London. Phaethon is a popular theme for the opera - Niccolò Jommelli also composed an opera based on this myth, entitled Fetonte.
  • Gustave Moreau paints Phaethon being frightened by the constellations as the horses run wild.
  • This engraving also shows Phaethon being tormented by the terrible constellation-creatures (this time the scorpion). Notice the partial eclipse in the bottom left-hand corner.
  • A red-figure Athenian 5th century BC krater, now in the British Museum, shows Phaethon riding in the sun-chariot. He doesn’t actually look that scared or out of his depth here; the emotions are much more subtle.
  • The very famous painter Rubens created The Fall of Phaethon
  • In this engraving of the fall, Zeus can be seen holding his lightning bolt! Zeus also appears (sitting on an eagle!) in this other engraving by Thomas de Leu, and Phaethon’s sisters the Heliades, can be seen standing on the bank of the river he is falling into; the trees behind them foreshadow their own transformation.