Iris: the Goddess of the Rainbow
Not just a phenomenon...
Dear Classical Wisdom Kids,
Well, we have been traveling quite a bit this week! In fact, we only arrived in our new accommodations here in Italy a few hours ago. After having two overnight flights and a 12 hour layover in Miami, we are very tired and probably quite smelly, but still extremely excited.
We’ll be writing about awesome ancient stuff as we travel (First stop: Hadrian’s Palace!) including postcards from Frida… but we need to do some boots on ground research first.
In the meantime, please enjoy learning about Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow. She’s much more than just a beautiful phenomenon, as you’ll find out below.
Classical Wisdom Kids Club Members, we’ll be sending out printables, activities, games, etc in a day or two… Also, we’ll be setting up some cool live events straight from the archeological sites. So watch your inbox!
All the best,
Founder and Director
If you haven’t joined our Kids Club, make sure to do so now to enjoy all our resources and support our mission of bringing ancient Wisdom to Future Minds:
Iris: the Goddess of the Rainbow
By Sean Kelly
In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow. She was a very special goddess! She was the messenger of the gods, and she worked for Hera, the Queen of the Gods. She was Hera’s friend and helper. She wore bright, colourful clothes, was very beautiful, and even had golden wings!
Iris had a really interesting family. Her parents were both sea gods, and she was married to a Zephyr, a wind god. Her sisters were the Harpies. Lots of people thought of the Harpies as being monsters, yet Iris loved her sisters very much and would always defend them from people being mean to them.
The name “Iris” in Greek actually meant rainbow. Nowadays we use the name in lots of different ways. For example, the colourful part of a person’s eye is called the iris. There is also a type of flower named after her, the iris.
Iris could do things the other gods couldn’t. She could travel between the home of the gods, high up on Mount Olympus, down to the world of humans very easily. She did this by using rainbows. She could fly very, very fast, so she travelled far and wide to deliver messages for the gods. Whenever she flew from the sky down to earth, or back up, she would leave the rainbow as a trail behind her. If people saw rainbows in the sky, they knew it meant that Iris had been nearby.
Iris was also a goddess of the sea and of the sky. The Greeks thought that one of her special jobs was to make sure that clouds had rain in them. They would see rainbows going from the sea up into the clouds. So they thought that Iris was filling up the clouds with sea water.
Iris did lots of important work for Hera. She would send messages from Hera to humans to help them out. Iris was a link between worlds, between gods and humans, and between the sea and the sky. It makes sense that she attended a very special wedding.
It was between the sea nymph Thetis and the human Peleus. It was very unusual for a goddess to marry a human! Peleus and Thetis went on to have a son called Achilles, who became one of the greatest of all the Greek heroes when he grew up. In fact, lots of people think he was the greatest of them all... yet even he needed help sometimes.
Iris always looked out for Achilles and helped him lots of times. Achilles couldn’t have done some of the great things he did without the help of Iris. It was Iris who encouraged him when times were tough, and it was Iris that helped Achilles resolve a big fight that he was having with King Priam, the last King of Troy.
King Priam and Achilles had been on opposite sides of a long war, but Iris encouraged them to sit down and have a meal together... and when they did this, they finally decided to forgive each other. Even though they were famous for being warriors and important leaders, this was maybe the greatest thing either of them ever did.
Iris was great at joining things together. Whether it was places or people, it didn’t matter if they were far apart. It didn’t matter to her if people were different, if they fought on opposite sides of a war, or if people thought they were monsters.
Her special gift was more than being fast or giving messages, but bringing different worlds closer together.
So whenever you see a rainbow in the sky, think of Iris!
Who was Iris?
What were her special jobs?
What were her special abilities?
Who were her family members?
What does the word ‘Iris’ mean today?
Iris Appearing to Turnus by Bartolomeo Pinelli (1781 – 1835).
Allegory of Air (c 1700) by Antonio Palomino (1655–1726),
Venus Wounded in the Hand Conducted by Iris to Mars, 1792-3