Phaethon in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

(Φαέθων), that is, the shining. 1. This name occurs in Homer (ll. 11.735, Od. 5.479) as an epithet or surname of Helios, and is used by later writers as a real proper name for Helios (Apollon, Rhod. 4.1236; Virg. Acn. 5.105); but it is more commonly known as the name of son of Helios by the Oceanid Clymene, the wife of Merops. The genealogy of Phaethon, however, is not the same in all writers, for some call him a son of Clymenus, the son of Helios, by Merope (Hyg. Fab. 154), or a son of Helios by Prote (Tzeiz. Chil. 4.127). or, lastly, a son of Helios by the nymph Rhode or Rhodos. (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. 6.131.) He received the signifieant name Phaethon from his father, and was afterwards also presmnptouus and ambitious enoug to request his father one day to allow him to drive the chariot of the sum across the heavens. Helios was induced by the entreaties of his son and of Clymene to yield, but the youth being too weak to cheek the horses, came down with his chariot, and so near to the earth, that he almost set it on fire. Zeus, therefore, killed him with a flash of lightning, so that he fell down into the river Eridanus or the Po. His isters, who had yoked teh horses to the chariot, were metamorphosed into poplars, and their tears into amber. (Eurip. Ilippol. 737, &c.; Apoolon. Rhod. 4.598, &c.; Lueian, Dial. Dcor. 25 ; Hygin, Fab. 152, 154; Verg. Ecl. 6.62, Aen 10.190; Ov. Met. 1.755, &c.) - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.