Helios is the god of the sun. He was the son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and as an all-seeing witness, he was often invoked in oaths. For example, in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Helios is one of the deities who heard Persephone’s call for help when Hades kidnapped her. The other was Hekate, who is traditionally associated with the moon. In her desperate search for her daughter, Demeter eventually decided to ask his advice on the matter of the culprit. So, she approached him along with Hekate and stood before his chariot. Demeter asked him to show her respect as a god to a goddess and reveal who took her “sweet young seedling”. She was well aware that since Helios ranges over all the earth and sea and looks down from the bright aether with his sunbeams, he was best placed to witness the event and tell her what she was so desperate to know.
Terracotta lekythos. Helios (the Sun) rises in his quadriga, Sappho Painter, ca. 500 BCE, vessel, The Metropolitan Museum of Art © 2000–2023 The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Public domain
Situla Form 2 (A: Helios on Quadriga) (1/5), Painter of Copenhagen 4223, ca. 340-330 BCE, vessel, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg © Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Helios did not disappoint. He felt great respect and sorrow for Demeter, so he told her that Zeus was responsible for the loss of Persephone since he permitted his brother, Hades, to take her as his beautiful wife. Therefore, searching for her would serve no purpose. Hades was, after all, a perfectly suitable son-in-law, the brother of Zeus and recipient of great honour from mortals and immortals alike. Moreover, his kingdom was vast and well-populated. Therefore, Persephone would be very happy with him as a betrothed. And thus, without further ado, Helios shouted to his horses and drove away on his speeding chariot, leaving the distraught mother behind.
Crater: Demeter, Helios, Pan, and Corybant (1/2), 310 BCE, vessel, Musée du Louvre © 2019 Musée du Louvre / Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines