Aether | Greek God

Aether Greek Mythology

Ether (Greek: Αἰθήρ, transl.: Aíthēr, from the verb αἵθω, aíthô, "to burn"), in Greek mythology, is the personification of the concept of "higher heaven," the "boundless sky," different from Uranus.

It is the high, pure and bright air breathed by the Olympian gods, as opposed to the obscure air, aér (ἀήρ), that mortals breathed, being unknown god of matter, in consequence the air molecules that form air and its derivatives.

He is considered by Hesiod to be the son of Erebo and Nix, with Hemera as his sister. The Roman poet and mythographer Hyginus says that Ether was the son of Chaos and Caligus (Darkness). According to Jan Bremmer,

"Hyginus ... began his Fabulae with a strange mixture of Greek and Roman cosmogonies and ancient genealogies. It begins as follows: Ex Caligine Chaos. Ex Chao et Caligine Nox Dies Erebus Aether (Praefatio 1).

His genealogy looks like a derivation from Hesiod, but it begins with the non-Hesiodic and non-Roman Caligo, 'Darkness'. Darkness probably occurred in a cosmogonic poem by Alcman, but it seems fair to say that it was not prominent in the Greek cosmogonies.

Hyginus' list attributes him as children of his union with Dies (Hemera), Terra (Gaia), Coelum (Uranus) and Mare (Thalassa), and then with Terra, of Dolor (pain), Dolus, (deceit), Ira (fury), Luctus (mourning), Mendacium (lies), Jusiurandum (oath), Ultio (punishment), Intemperantia (intemperance), Altercatio (altercation), Oblivio (forgetfulness), Socordia (sloth), Timor (fear), Superbia (haughtiness), Incestum (incest), and Pugna (strife). Cicero attributes to him paternity over Uranus. He was also considered by Aristophanes to be the father of the Nepheles, cloud nymphs.

Just as Erebo, which personifies the upper darkness, has as its correspondent Nix, the superficial darkness (and, in some versions, the latter appears as the son of the former), it can be interpreted that Ether has its correspondent in Uranus (of whom he appears sometimes as son, sometimes as father).

The classical element name ether, which according to Aristotle is the component of the region above the sky, is associated with him, and the fifth Orphic hymn, dedicated to Ether, describes the substance as "the reigning and ever indestructible power of Zeus," "the best element," and "the vital spark of all creatures." 

Although attributed to the mythological poet Orpheus who lived before the time of Homer, the likely composition of the hymns in the 6th to 4th centuries BCE made them contemporary with natural philosophers such as Empedocles, who theorized the material forces of nature identical to the gods and superior to the anthropomorphic deities of Homeric religion.


Derived from the verb aítho, "to burn", "to make shine", it is used generically in Hellenism for "sunburnt". Thus, depending on the context, it can mean either "to make shine" or "to become dark as soot". Ether is between Uranus and air. Because it personifies the upper sky, its layer is considered purer than that near the earth.

However, Aether is light that burns by illuminating. There is a tension in the verb from which it derives. It means both "to make light" and "to darken", depending on the context. In Uranus, this specific dynamic is absent.

Junito Brandão makes the approximation with the Sanskrit i-n-dddhé, "it ignites", édha, "forest on fire", and with the Latin aedes, "fireplace", aestas, "summer, estio", aestus, "ardor", "burning heat".

Carlo Rusconi relates the root of the Ethiopian word to its origin: ahithou, "to burn", going back to the root aidh, which in Greek would be aith.