The dark side of the sun

Several passages in the Rigveda and Atharvaveda hint more or less riddlingly at a doctrine stated more explicitly in the Yajurveda and Brahmanas, namely that the sun has a bright and a dark side: he never sets, but on reaching the western horizon turns his bright side away from us and returns invisibly across the sky to the east in the course of the night.53 In post-Vedic cosmology this curious theory was replaced by the idea that the sun and stars disappear behind the mythical Mt Meru when they set, and pass behind it to reach the east again.

The Trundholm sun-disc too has a bright and a dark side. One side was gold-plated, on the other the dull bronze was left uncovered. This might be accounted for by saying that the group was intended to be displayed somewhere where it would be seen from only the one side, with the horse to the right, as it were pulling the sun westwards. But the dark side of the disc is covered with the same fine, elaborate pattern of ornamentation as the bright

51 Stes. PMGF S17 = 185; Aesch. fr. 69; Pherecydes fr. 18a Fowler; Antim. fr. 86 Matthews. Cf. 'Eumelus' fr. 10 West, Pisander fr. 5 W., Panyassis fr. 12 W. (fyiaA-q in Athenaeus' paraphrase), Theolytus FGrHist 471 F 1 (Ae Vs); LIMC ii Astra 61, v Herakles 2546, v (add.) Helios 2. A late fourth-century Apulian volute krater, LIMC iv (add.) Demeter 459, shows Helios with Demeter in his quadriga, springing out of a ship.

52 LD 33860, 33910, 33908, 33878 = Jonval nos. 221-4. According to Biezais-Balys (1973), 450 f., its nocturnal voyage takes it by the land of the dead.

53 E. Sieg, NGG 1923, 1-23; cf. Gershevitch (1959), 38 f.

side, with concentric circles and spirals; it only lacks the outer ring of radial lines that encircles the gold side and suggests rays of light going out in all directions. It is therefore tempting to explain the design by reference to the old Indian theory, and to suppose that the bright face, displayed when the horse was going to the right, represented the daytime sun, and the dark face, shown when the horse was going to the left, represented the night-time sun that travels unseen across the sky from west to east.

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