In Greek mythology Iris was the messenger of the gods (a female counterpart to Hermes), symbolized by the rainbow (she was the personified goddess of the rainbow)
which touches both heaven and earth, the connection between gods and mortals. She is regarded as the messenger of the gods to mankind, and particularly of the
goddess Hera (who was the wife and sister of Zeus, Queen of Heaven) whose orders she brought to humans. It is told that she used to sleep under Hera's throne with her
winged sandals on, ever ready to bear messages. In ancient Greece, every time a rainbow appeared, it was believed that a message was being carried from Olympus to a
mortal or to a God who was away. She is often shown gliding down a rainbow to deliver her messages to mortals, who looked on her as a guide and adviser. Her name
also means "rainbow," thus implying that her presence is a sign of Hope.
She plays an essential role in The Iliad as the messenger of Zeus. She is also loyal to other immortals, such as Aphrodite. When Aphrodite was wounded at Troy, Iris
helped her into Aires's war chariot and drove the injured goddess to Olympus to be treated for her wounds.
Among the duties of the Greek Goddess Iris was that of leading the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields. In token of that faith the Greeks planted purple Iris on the
graves of women. The Greek symbolism for the iris comes down to us by word of mouth in the form of a myth that was old in Homer's day. In Hesiod's works, at least,
she had the additional duty of carrying water from the River Styx in an ewer whenever the gods had to take a solemn oath. The water would render unconscious for one
year any god or goddess who lied. Farmers paid tribute to her for lifting water from lakes or streams to the clouds so it could fall again to water their crops.
In surviving ancient Greek art, she appears mainly on Greek vases. She is often portrayed as a young woman with wings and her attributes are a herald's staff and a water
pitcher. She was frequently represented with golden wings wearing a long flowing tunic with a rainbow above her or wearing winged sandals much like Hermes with a
According to Hesiod, she was the daughter of Thaumas and the ocean nymph Electra. Iris is also a sister of the Harpies and in some literary works called Thaumantias.
Some literature has Iris, married to Zephyrus, the west wind; other works mention her as the counterpart of Hermes only.
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