Helios (also named Zeus, Iuppiter, and Iovis) is the King of Heaven and the All, fathering our existence as we know it. He is the Celestial Demiurge, and as the Supreme Sovereign He is set over the whole order; singular in highest divinity; He is both the progenitor and the highest creator of all. His act of creation took place prior to the creation of time, and therefore creation is beyond the limits of time and is ultimately eternal; meaning the universe has no beginning or end in time. As our universe was created by Him, who is perfect, it was created perfect, and nothing may be added to it as that would be excess.
All the cosmos, Intelligible, Intellective and Generation, are ruled by a sun represented in three Hypostases respectively, starting with Aion as the Transcendent Sun (Intelligible), Zeus-Helios as the invisible Celestial Sun (Intellective), and finally, the Visible Helios which acts as the Celestial Demiurge’s material body (Encosmic). Zeus is not merely the highest divinity of Hellenism, but He is the highest and most supreme divinity in the entire Cosmos. Underneath Zeus-Helios are other individual Gods, also created by Him, who aid in the ontological hierarchy of the universe by participating in His divine essence, not being His competitors but rather His assistants.
Zeus-Helios is the God of creation and generation, the immaterial and material, the soldier and mystic, the simple and wise, the peasant and king, the mortals and Gods below Him. He is King of Olympus, Father of Gods and men, averter of evil. He is both a personal and impersonal God: a universal God who can still listen to and answer individual needs. Without the King of the Gods, practice and worship is not complete, for He is the one whom we naturally stretch out our hands towards when we turn to the heavens when we pray. If we have any notion at all of the divine, we turn heavenward. And it was very natural that men should feel this. Without Him, Hellenism is not complete. Hellenism is not Hellenism without the King of the Gods.
Role in the Cosmos
The One is the cause of beauty, existence, perfection, and oneness among the Intelligible Gods, also called the henads, which is the highest essence of the Gods’. The One connects these gifts and illuminates the Gods with a power which works for good (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 361). Through Aion, the One gives rise to the Celestial Demiurge, Zeus-Helios, who came into Being (Ousia, meaning “Substance” or “Essence”) along with the rest of the Gods (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 361). He is the principle of Intellect, where Intelligible reality is grasped by Him, the divine mind, also called Nous, meaning “Mind” or “Intellect.” He is the God behind our visible sun. He is a divine mean, connecting the Intelligible and Physical Realms.
Zeus-Helios is appointed by Aion as ruler of the Gods (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 361), and illuminates the same gifts that Aion grants the henads upon the Intellective Gods. This bestows upon them the faculty of thought and being comprehended by thought (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 397). This was done so the cause which resembles the Good may guide the Intellective Gods “to blessings for them all, and may regulate all things according to pure reason” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 361).
He is described as “creator of the cosmos.” Prior to Him, there was chaos, and everything was disorganized. It was only through Zeus-Helios, who received through Aion the creative power to shape the cosmos, that the cosmos were properly crafted. As such, He is a God of order and formation, being the one who fashions the World Soul (the literal soul of our Realm which connects all living beings) and the one who mixes the souls of the Phenomenal Gods, the Greater Kinds and humanity while also (through the divine Athene) ordering the Gods to place the physical realm in its proper order.
Furthermore, while it is the One who creates matter (hylē), it is the Demiurge who directs the Logoi (lower manifestations of the Forms as the Demiurge’s thoughts) to inform and give shape to the hylē, an empty receptive substance which forms into matter as we know once engage with the logoi, hence forming the cosmos.. There was no creatio ex nihilo (“creation from nothing”), but rather the ordering of the cosmos was creatio ex materia (“creation from [pre-existent] matter”) since the universe is infinite and there cannot be nothing. Zeus reigns as the King of the Gods and Heavens, and though there are a plethora of deities who partake in the divine act of creation, it is all under His direction.
The Visible Sun
The visible disc in our own skies is known as the “Eye of Zeus,” “Visible Helios,” “Encosmic Demiurge,” and the “Seven Rayed God.” Here the Celestial Demiurge acts through His pneumatic vehicle in the Intellective Realm and appears visible in the Encosmic Realm, our material universe, as our visible sun.
The status and functions of the Visible Sun here in the Sensible Realm is analogous to those of the Celestial Demiurge in the Intellective Realm: this is the expression of Helios that is visible and known for His centrality among the planets, giving us sustained life with His warmth, giving us sight which grants us clearance and mirrors goodness, and governs our Encosmic Realm by embracing matter within Himself to impose order on it. Through His radiance He blesses the Encosmic Gods with the same Intelligible gifts as He does the Intellective Gods, perfecting them and allowing them to be made visible in the universe (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 367).
His divine rays, undefiled incarnations of pure Nous (Flavius Claudius Iulianis, I 363), illuminate the universe and bring the souls of those who achieve henosis into union with the One. He is described by Hesiod as Zeus’ eye whose vision is divine (Hesiod, Work and Days, 267), and it is this aspect of the Demiurge who we pray to when we turn towards the heavens.
He produces for us “rain and wind and the clouds in the skies, by employing, as though it were matter, the two kinds of vapour,” for when He “heats the earth he draws up steam and smoke, and from these there arise not only the clouds but also all the physical changes on our earth, both great and small” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 415-417).
In total, Julian writes of King Helios that His functions are (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 367):
- “First His power to perfect, from the fact that He makes visible the objects of sight in the universe, for through His light He perfects them.”
- “Secondly, His creative and generative power from the changes wrought by Him in the universe.”
- “Thirdly, His power to link together all things into one whole, from the harmony of His motions towards one and the same goal.”
- “Fourthly, His middle station we can comprehend from Himself, who is midmost.”
- “Fifthly, the fact that He is established as king among the Intellective Gods, from His middle station among the planets.”
King Helios is a God that is worshiped in a wide variety of ways, and it’s hard to solidify on a single practice. Zeus-Helios’ sacred holiday is December 25th, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” during which His sacred temple in Rome was consecrated. Every four years starting from 274 ACE onwards, there would be games held in His honor, when Emperor Aurelian introduced the cult of Sol Invictus.
According to Macrobius, He is invoked with the words in mystery cults:
O All-ruling Sun!
Spirit of the World,
Power of the World,
Light of the World.
Iovis has many epithets under many names, though His most notable are:
- Pater, meaning Father
- Invictus, meaning Unconquerable
- Basileus, meaning King
Founder of Rome
Julian proclaims in his divine writings that King Helios was a founder (archegos) of Rome. This is notable by:
- Apollo, who is identified as Helios, has a house on the Palatine Hill, and thus does King Helios himself.
- Zeus, also identified as Helios, has a house on the Palatine Hill under the name Jupiter.
- The soul of Romulus emanated from and returned to Helios to fulfill His divine role of establishing the holy city.
- The She-Wolf whom Romulus suckled from as an infant, as wolves are animals representative of King Helios
- The Vestal Virgins tend the fire that is “begotten of the God.”
- The Roman calendar developed to be solar rather than lunar.
“This then we must declare, that King Helios is One and proceeds from one God, even from the intelligible world which is itself One; and that He is midmost of the intellective Gods, stationed in their midst by every kind of mediateness that is harmonious and friendly, and that joins what is sundered; and that He brings together into one the last and the first, having in His own person the means of completeness, of connection, of generative life and of uniform being: and that for the world which we can perceive He initiates blessings of all sorts, not only by means of the light with which He illumines it, adorning it and giving it its splendour, but also because He calls into existence, along with Himself, the substance of the Sun’s angels; and that finally in Himself He comprehends the ungenerated cause of things generated, and further, and prior to this, the ageless and abiding cause of the life of the imperishable bodies.”
-Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus / Julian the Great, Hymn to King Helios
“The clamour from both sides reached the sky and Zeus’ rays.”
-Homer, Iliad, 13.837
“[The sun is] The eye of Zeus, seeing all and understanding all, beholds these things too, if so He will, and fails not to mark what sort of justice is this that the city keeps within it. Now, therefore, may neither I myself be righteous among men, nor my son – for then it is a bad thing to be righteous – if indeed the unrighteous shall have the greater right. But I think that all-wise Zeus will not yet bring that to pass.
-Hesiod, Work and Days, 267
Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, and Wilmer Cave. Wright. The works of emperor Julian. London: Heinemann etc., 1962.
Hunter, Richard Lawrence. Hesiodic Voices: Studies in the Ancient Reception of Hesiod’s Works and Days. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Iamblichus, and Emma C. Clarke. Iamblichus on The mysteries. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.
Kupperman, Jeffrey S. Living theurgy: a course in Iamblichus philosophy, theology and theurgy. London: Avalonia, 2014.
Sallustius, “On the Gods and the Cosmos”, 4th Century AD, accessed May 17, 2017, http://www.platonic-philosophy.org/files/Sallustius%20-%20On%20the%20Gods%20(Taylor).pdf