Iris | Greek Goddess

Iris Greek Mythology

Iris (Greek Ἶρις) in Greek mythology, was the daughter of Taumas and Electra; Taumas was the son of Pontus and Gaia, and Electra was one of the Oceanids, the daughters of Oceanus and Thetis. Iris is married to Zephyrus. Her sisters were Arce and the harpies: Aelo, Celeno, and Oxypyte.

Iris was the personification of the rainbow and the messenger of the gods. Like the rainbow to unite the earth and the sky. Iris is the messenger of the gods to humans; in this context she is often mentioned in the Iliad, but never in the Odyssey, where Hermes takes her place.

Iris' marriage to Zephyrus (God of the wind) was intertwined with much passion. Iris and Hermes were rivals in everything, after they had loved each other for a long time and he cheated on her with Aphrodite. Then Iris and Hermes separated and she was seduced by Zephyrus.

Although married, Iris is considered a virgin. The rainbow deity not only followed Hera's orders, as much as she focused on connecting the mundane with the celestial on Mount Olympus, ultimately having no time for a love relationship.


Iris is depicted as a virgin with wings of gold, who moves with the lightness of the wind from one side of the world to the other, in the depths of the oceans and to the Underworld of Hades. She is especially the messenger of Hera, and is associated with Hermes.

Iris was often described as Hera's lady-in-waiting and personal messenger. On Greek vases, she is depicted as a beautiful girl with golden wings, a kerykeion (messenger's staff), and sometimes an oinichoe (wine jug). She usually appeared next to Zeus or Hera, sometimes serving the nectar from her jug. As the cupbearer to the Olympian gods, Iris is often indistinguishable from Hebe in art.

For the Greeks, who mostly lived near the sea, the rainbow was most often seen covering the distance between the clouds and the sea, and so they imagined that the Goddess replenished the rain clouds with seawater.

She was not a goddess considered evil, although in the stories she helped Hera along with Lyssa (The Madness) to wipe out Hercules' family.


Iris recurs as a symbol of the philosophical Annunciation in Platonic mythologies: in several passages, she is associated as evoking thauma, wonder, being representative of the divine vision of the Beautiful and of the initiatory epiphany in philosophy.

Plato places Taumas as the seeker of truth in Theetho, and Taumas is the father of Iris, according to Hesiod. In the myth of Er in The Republic 616b, Iris is identified as the shining column that holds up the Heavens and Earth, and the wondrous vision that souls have at the end of the cosmos on their journey;

throughout the dialogue, Plato makes her a symbol of the visions of beauty contemplated by the soul before its incarnation. In The Banquet 178a, Eros is called thaumastos, in association with Iris' function and also because she is considered his mother in some theogonies. Iris is the first messenger of the gods and has an intermediary role, as does Eros.

Plutarch, in Dialogue on Love 765e-f, will record a fragment of the poet Alceu of Mithilene, in which Eros is claimed to be the son of Iris:

The most fearsome of the gods
That Iris with fair sandals conceived
From the golden-haired Zephyr.

For Plutarch, Eros is an image of the Sun, and he explains that just as Iris begets Eros and refers to the vision of the Sun's splendor, the vision of beauty evokes Love in the soul; in analogy, the opinion of the sensible world is like a rainbow, which is a refraction of the Sun of the intelligible world:

"What happens to our vision when we see a rainbow is, of course, refraction, which occurs whenever the vision encounters a slightly moist but soft and moderately thick cloud and has contact with the sun by refraction. Seeing the brightness in this way produces in us the illusion that the thing we see is in the cloud. Now, the erotic artifice and sophistry applied to noble souls who love beauty is of the same kind: it refracts their memories of the phenomena of this world, which are called beautiful, to the wonderful beauty of that other world, that divine and blessed entity which is the true object of love."

Plutarch also states in another passage that myth is like a rainbow, for its varied symbolic colors refract the intelligence to higher realities.