Further Mythical Motifs

Contemplating the Sun-god's daily round, poets embellished it with imaginative anthropomorphic and domestic detail. In Indic, Greek, and Baltic tradition its tireless continuity is remarked on. Everything else that moves rests, but the waters and Surya always keep coming forth (RV 10. 37. 2). The sun comes unceasing, aramati-, 2. 38. 4; unflagging, ajasra-, 10. 12. 7; atandrita-, MBh. 3. 160. 35; 5. 29. 8. Similarly in Homer he is ┬┐Kapas, unwearying. Mimnermus in the poem quoted above writes:

For Helios must toil day after day:

there's never any break or rest for him or for his horses, once rosefinger Dawn leaves Ocean's stream and climbs into the sky. (fr. 12. 1-4)

Some of the Latvian songs deny that Saule ever sleeps (LD 6702, 33812 f. = Jonval nos. 218-20). Her horses do not sweat or tire, and she does not let them rest (LD 33914 f. = Jonval nos. 172 f.). They cross the world without eating or drinking, but she takes them to the sea to drink at morning and night (LD 33994, 33944 f. = Jonval nos. 27, 174 f.).

Surya keeps strictly to his appointed daily programme, but when he has completed his journey he rests with his horses (RV 3. 30. 12). Mimnermus describes how the golden bowl carries Helios on his nocturnal voyage evSovW apnaXews, 'sleeping pleasantly'. In Stesichorus he crosses Oceanus in it 'to the holy deeps of Night, to his mother, his wedded wife, his dear children' (PMGF S17 = 185). In the Old English poem Guthlac (1214) the Sun, sinking in the west at evening, is setlgonges fus, 'eager to settle'. In medieval German verse too the Sun is portrayed as being tired and going to rest, to bed, etc.57

55 I have cited Sumerian and other Near Eastern material in West (1997), 507. On the Hittite hymn there mentioned see G. Wilhelm in W. Burkert-F. Stolz (edd.), Hymnen der alten Welt im Kulturvergleich (Freiburg/Schweiz-Gottingen 1994), 65 f. Add a reference to Shamash's swift mules in Gilgamesh III 96 with A. R. George's note, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic (Oxford 2003), 814.

56 Egypt: Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 638 n. 41. China (from the Tocharians): E. G. Pul-leyblank, JRAS 1966, 31-6.

A simile in the Iliad implies that Sirius shines brightest when he comes up XeXov/evos &Keavoio, 'washed in Oceanus' (5. 6). Another passage refers to the 'baths of Oceanus' that most of the stars pass through (18. 489 = Od. 5. 275). That the Sun takes this bath is not explicitly mentioned. But at Od. 3. 1 he is said to rise from a beautiful Xi/v-q (body of water, usually a lake or lagoon), and a tragedian wrote of a Red Sea and an Aethiopian Xi/vy, 'where Helios the all-seeing ever relieves his immortal body and his horses' fatigue in warm springs of gentle water'.58 The idea recurs in Baltic tradition. A sixteenth-century investigator of Lithuanian beliefs recorded that 'Perkuna tete [Perkunas' mother] is the mother of lightning and thunder; she bathes the tired and dusty Sun and sends him out the next day clean and shining'. A Latvian song has Mary heating the bathwater for 'the orphan girls', that is, the stars, the children abandoned by the Sun and Moon after their separation.59 The Sun's cleansing bath is also a Slavonic motif.60 The notion that the sun actually plunges into the sea is presupposed in Posidonius' report of a belief that the Celts living by the western ocean, being closer to it, see it larger when it sets and hear a hissing sound as its fire is put out. The audible sound has its counterpart in the one heard at sunrise in the Baltic east according to the report of Tacitus cited earlier.61

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