Selene, or Selena (Greek: Σελήνη, Selíní, "moon"), in Greek myth, was the personification of the moon. She is the daughter of the titan Hyperion with the titaness Téa, and sister of Helios, personification of the sun, and of Eos, personification of the dawn. Selena's equivalent in Roman myth was Luna.
The etymology of Selene is uncertain, but if the name is of Greek origin, it is likely to connect to the word selas (σέλας), meaning "light."
Just as Helios, from her identification with Apollo, is called Phoebo ("bright"), Selene, from her identification with Artemis, is also commonly referred to by the epithet Phoebe (feminine form).
The original Phoebe of Greek mythology is Selene's aunt, the Titanid mother of Leto and Asteria, and grandmother of Apollo, Artemis, and Hecate. Also from Artemis, Selene was sometimes called "Cynthia."
Selene was also called Mene. The word from men (feminine mene), means the moon, and the lunar month. It was also the name of the Phrygian moon-god Men.
It is from Selene that comes the academic term selenolatry, which denotes the worship and subsequent cults of the moon and lunar deities, regardless of origin or nationality.
Myths and Attributes
Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion. In classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, just as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. Both Selene and Artemis were also associated with Hecate, and all three were considered to be moon goddesses, although only Selene was considered to be the personification of the moon itself.
In Arcadia, she was united with Pã, who seduced her by disguising himself with a sheepskin and then gifted her with a herd of entirely white oxen that she used to pull his night chariot.
With Antiphemus or Eumolpus, Selene had the son Museum, a renowned soothsayer and great musician, able to heal the sick with his art, who was an inseparable friend, disciple or even master of Orpheus.
His most famous lover, however, was the young and handsome Endymion - a hunter or shepherd, according to most variants, or a king, according to Pausanias. According to Apollonius, at Selene's request, Zeus promised Endymion that he would immediately grant her one wish, however difficult, and he asked for eternal sleep, so that he could remain young forever.
Wonderfully beautiful, he remained asleep on the side of a mountain in the Peloponnese, or on Mount Latmos in Cary, near Miletus. Night after night, Selene would come down behind the hill to visit him and cover him with kisses.
The Moon Car
Just as Helios drives the sun's chariot until nightfall to bathe his horses in the ocean, Selene finishes bathing hers and drives them with the moon's chariot through the heavens until daybreak.
Variant of the Endymion myth
A variant told by Cicero relates that the magical sleep was the work of the goddess herself. She fell asleep, singing, so that she could meet him and caress him whenever she wished.
From this passion were born fifty daughters, the menas (one of which was Naxos, the nymph of the island of the same name) representing the fifty lunar months that exist in an Olympiad, the four-year period that governed the Greek calendar.
There was a shrine to Endymion at Herakleia on the southern slope of Latmos, a horseshoe-shaped chamber with an entrance vestibule and an atrium supported by pillars.
This myth contrasts with that of Eos, Selene's sister who asked Zeus for immortality for her lover Titono, but forgot to ask for eternal youth as well. Unable to die, poor Titono aged and shrank into a desiccated insect.
In ancient Greece, besides being a proper name for the moon, Selena was also a substitute for mênê, a synonym for moon that was also used to denote "month", probably because of a linguistic taboo, since the moon was linked to a dangerous and evil world, as attested by the ancient Greek verb and coiné selêniazein, "to be wounded by the moon, to become lunatic, that is, epileptic, thus becoming a diviner or sorcerer.
With the incorporation of Greek myths by the Roman world, beliefs such as the lunar curses were inevitably included.
Evidence of the belief in the lunar evil powers was recorded by the ancient evangelists in two important passages in Matthew's Gospel, Matthew 4:24 and Matthew 17:15.
In the first, the text reads, "and his (Jesus') fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all who had any disease, possessed with various ailments and pains, the possessed, the lunatics , the paralytics, and he healed them." In the second, "having gone away to the people, there came to him a man who fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is suffering greatly.