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Greek Gods and Goddesses



Phaethon, son of Apollo


The Story of Phaethon

            Phaethon, son of Apollo, was talking to a boy named Epaphus.  Epaphus challenged him that he was not the son of Apollo, and that he could not drive the chariot that brings the sun across the sky.  Phaethon, being the boaster that he is, took up this challenge, and set off to find Apollo.  He lost his way at the edge of the wood, though, so Apollo sent his sun hawk to rescue him.  When Phaethon found himself to be in the presence of his father, he told him that he had been taunted by Epaphus.  Apollo told his son that he would do anything in his power to help him.  Phaethon then asked him to drive the sun across the sky, alone.  Apollo eventually agreed to this wish.  He gave Phaethon one warning: keep the middle way.

            Phaethon started out very well.  But then he thought that he would have to go down so that Epaphus could see that it was he driving and not his father.  But as soon as he drove down, the earth began to burn.  Phaethon, seeing the error of his ways, rose back up, but this time, he rose too high, and the earth began to freeze.  Again Phaethon dropped lower, and the ice and snow that had formed began to melt, and the earth began to flood.  By this time, Phaethon had lost all power of his horses and they were going every which way they could.  Zeus, looking down on the earth and seeing the turmoil that Phaethon had caused, killed Phaethon on the spot with his thunderbolt.  The horses drove themselves back to their stables.

            Still, there are traces of Phaethon’s ride.  The ends of the earth are still covered with icecaps, and mountains still rumble, trying to spit out the fire started in their bellies by the diving sun.

Phaethon’s Genealogy

Son to Apollo

Son to Clymene

Brother to the Heliads

Created by Angie Briese