Pure, Invincible, Magical Pure, Invincible, Magical
Total Eclipse of the Sun, The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings (1881–1882), E. L. Trouvelota (1827–1895) / Rawpixel, Flickr (CC BY 4.0)
Dreams and Visions

Pure, Invincible, Magical

Ancient Tales of the Sun
Paweł Janiszewski
time 8 minutes

The ancient Greeks and Romans looked at the same sun as we do, but they saw it a little differently. These seven tales will help us see it through their eyes.

Father and son

This is one of the most archetypal stories. Its protagonists are Helios and his son Phaeton. Every day, the radiant sun god travels across the horizon from east to west, racing in a chariot harnessed with four steeds. He wears a bright crown that we perceive as the sun’s disc. It bestows light and heat on the whole world, causing plants to grow and ensuring all forms of life.

In a fleeting romance with Clymene, the daughter of Oceanus the Titan, Helios fathered a son, Phaeton. But the god took no part in his upbringing, being completely absorbed by his never-ending mission. The boy was therefore raised by his mother, who only told him about his father when he’d become an adult. Phaeton then went to see his father, who, in order to assuage his guilt, promised to grant him one wish. The young man asked to drive the solar chariot for a day. Horrified, Helios strongly advised against it, knowing he was the only one who could control the skittish horses, but Phaeton insisted on getting his own way, to prove he was worthy of being his father’s son. We all know


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Daniel Mróz – drawing from the archives (no. 503/1954)
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Nature’s Heat Survival Strategies
Szymon Drobniak

To survive heat, lizards dance on hot sand and beetles hunt tiny pieces of fog at dawn. People shelter under trees, and trees under their bark.

Heaven has broken into two uneven pieces. The higher one is an exhausted, worn-out, faded blue blurred into a beautiful gradient ending in a deep azure over my head. Heat pours down from it. The smaller part, squeezed in right over the grey space spreading out in all directions, is as thick as the sweet local wine. It undulates like crazy, breaking into vibrating frills, the light rays rushing over the horizon. I sit under a spreading cork oak, Quercus suber. Both of us pretend we’re doing well. Me, by telling myself this Portuguese hell is a well-deserved rest from the nearby scientific conference. The oak, in the hopelessness of its motionlessness, becomes even more motionless, freezing the frames of photosynthesis and biochemical cycles and holding its breath, squeezing shut its billions of microscopic mouths. On the back of my head (yes, you talk with a tree by feeling its fixity on your back and the back of your head) I sense the nodes of cork bark, puffed out by years of growth, surprisingly not warm on this inferno of a day. It doesn’t surprise me at all; after all, how could it? Instead, I admire the engineering genius and foresight that, without reading even a single chapter about the secrets of thermodynamics, allowed evolution to get carried away, clothing the oak in a climate-controlled caftan.

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