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What Were the Names the Romans Used for the Winds?


Rape of Oreithyia by Boreas

Rape of Oreithyia by Boreas. Detail from an Apulian red-figure oenochoe, ca. 360 BC.

PD Courtesy Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.
Question: What Were the Names the Romans Used for the Winds?
Answer: The Romans personified the winds giving names to them corresponding with the four cardinal directions.

The winds were named:

  • Boreas - North Wind
  • Auster - South Wind
  • Eurus - East Wind
  • Zephyr - West Wind
Among other places, they are named in Ovid's Metamorphoses I.61-66.

The architect Vitruvius writes about the winds:

The 4 Winds of Vitruvius

4. Some have held that there are only four winds: Solanus from due east; Auster from the south; Favonius from due west; Septentrio from the north. But more careful investigators tell us that there are eight. Chief among such was Andronicus of Cyrrhus who in proof built the marble octagonal tower in Athens. On the several sides of the octagon he executed reliefs representing the several winds, each facing the point from which it blows; and on top of the tower he set a conical shaped piece of marble and on this a bronze Triton with a rod outstretched in its right hand. It was so contrived as to go round with the wind, always stopping to face the breeze and holding its rod as a pointer directly over the representation of the wind that was blowing.

The 8 Winds

5. Thus Eurus is placed to the southeast between Solanus and Auster: Africus to the southwest between Auster and Favonius; Caurus, or, as many call it, Corus, between Favonius and Septentrio; and Aquilo between Septentrio and Solanus. Such, then, appears to have been his device, including the numbers and names of the wind and indicating the directions from which particular winds blow.

The 16 Winds

10. So we often have Leuconotus and Altanus blowing respectively to the right and left of Auster; Libonotus and Subvesperus to the right and left of Africus; Argestes, and at certain periods the Etesiae, on either side of Favonius; Circias and Corus on the sides of Caurus; Thracias and Gallicus on either side of Septentrio; Supernas and Caecias to the right and left of Aquilo; Carbas, and at a certain period the Ornithiae, on either side of Solanus; while Eurocircias and Volturnus blow on the flanks of Eurus which is between them. There are also many other names for winds derived from localities or from the squalls which sweep from rivers or down mountains.
Translated by Morris Hicky Morgan, (1914)

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