Iris: the Greek Goddess

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Goddess of the Rainbow:

In Greek mythology, Iris is the personified goddess of the rainbow. She is regarded as the messenger of the gods to humankind, and particularly of the goddess Hera whose orders she brought to humans. She is able to change shapes and when delivering messages to mortals Iris assumes the appearance of a mortal known to those who receive the message.

Iris is the daughter of the Titan Thaumas and the nymph Electra. Thaumas (his name means "wonder") is a Greek sea god and the son of Pontus and Gaia (Mother Earth). By the Oceanid Electra he fathered the Harpies and Iris.

Iris once saved her siblings from death. The Harpies were loathsome winged female creatures who daily would swoop down and eat and befoul the food of the blind seer Phineus. When the Argonauts Calais and Zetes, winged sons of the North Wind, Boreas, caught up with the Harpies and were about to kill them, Iris appeared and beseeched the sons of Boreas to spare the lives of the Harpies. She promised that if they let them live, the Harpies would never again bother Phineus.

One of her tasks is to deliver the sacred water of Styx. When quarrel arises among the gods, and when anyone among the Olympians lies, then Zeus sends Iris to the river Styx in the Underworld to bring in a golden jug the oath of the gods.

Zeus caused oaths to be sworn by the water of Styx. If any of the gods drinks of her water and is untrue, he/she lies breathless for a year, never tastes Ambrosia and Nectar and lies down spiritless and voiceless. After spending thus one year in sickness he/she is cut off for nine years from the gods' councils and feasts and cannot return until the tenth year.

In Homer's Iliad, Zeus sent Iris with a message for King Priam of Troy, instructing him to secretly come to the enemy Greek ships and, with the help of gifts, persuade Achilles to give up the body of Priam's son Hector, whom Achilles had slain in battle.

John Flaxman, Iris Appears Before King...
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