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Iris - Greek Goddess


Iris. Attic lekythos, c. 500-490 B.C. From Tanagra.

Iris. Attic lekythos, c. 500-490 B.C. From Tanagra.

PD Bibi Saint-Pol. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who Is Iris?:

Iris was a swift messenger goddess in Greek mythology and a popular subject for vase painting, but better known as the goddess of the rainbow because Hermes (Mercury) is known as the messenger god.



Family of Origin:

Thaumas, son of the sea (Pontos), and Elektra, an Oceanid, are possible parents of Iris. Her sisters are the Harpiea Aello and Okypetes. In Early Greek Myth. Timothy Gantz (Early Greek Myth, 1993) says a fragment of Alcaeus (327 LP) says Iris mated with the west wind, Zephyros, to become the mother of Eros.

Iris in Roman Mythology:

In the Aeneid, Book 9, Hera (Juno) sends Iris to incite Turnus to attack the Trojans. In Metamorphoses Book XI, Ovid shows Iris in her rainbow-hued gown serving as a messenger goddess for Hera.


Iris is shown with wings, a (kerykeion) herald's staff, and a pitcher of water. She is a beautiful young woman described as wearing a multi-hued gown.

Appearances of Iris:

The Homeric Epics

Iris appears in the Odyssey when Zeus sends her to convey his orders to the other gods and to mortals, when Hera sends her to Achilles, and two other times when Iris seems to act on her own to convey information, unlike the other times, appearing disguised as a human. Iris also helps a wounded Aphrodite from the battlefield and to carry Achilles' prayer to Zephyros and Boreas. Iris does not appear in the Odyssey

Iris seems to have revealed to Menelaus the fact that his wife Helen left with Paris in the Kypria.

In the Homeric Hymns, Iris also serves as messenger, to bring Eileithuia to help with Leto's delivery and to bring Demeter to Olympus to deal with famine.


Iris goes to the Styx to bring water back for another god to swear an oath by.

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