Orithyia, the Athenian princess (her five-syllable name Ōrithyīa makes up the last two feet of a hexameter), was snatched away by Boreas to Thrace, where they lived in wedlock. It was a love match on his side at least: but he had been unsuccessful in his suit to her father Erechtheus, and so decided to use force instead.

The few stories of actual marriage between mortal and immortal were a fascination in the ancient world, and so this one gets repeatedly mentioned, and it became a theme of sculptors and painters: not least in the 19th century. This painting by Oswald von Glehn appears in Sotheby’s catalogue:

Another exploit of Boreas recounted by the ancients was his taking the form of a horse so that he could mate with the mares of Dardanus, and the resultant steeds were able to skim over the main like winds.

The story of Orithyia is mentioned in the Phaedrus, when Socrates and a student stop at the spot where she is supposed to have disappeared; and the Athenians apparently revered Boreas, partly because he had helped them to destroy the Persian fleet.

But at the moment it is Eurus who is a preoccupation in England, where he is forecast to blow steadily from the east well into the month of March, cracking the skin on people’s hands and making them generally unwell.

Eurus is a wind who has no stories attaching to him. He is seemingly a god whom no one wants to contemplate—including Gimli in Lord of the Rings, who declines to sing a song about him after the death of Boromir, although his three companions have evoked the other three winds. It is just as well, says Aragorn: in his country, people endure the East Wind, but do not invoke him.

Hesiod likewise mentions the other three winds, but not Eurus.

In the book of Genesis, and elsewhere in scripture, the east wind is terrible, and often the result of divine anger. Pharaoh dreams of the seven ears of corn thin and shrivelled by the east wind (Chapter 41); and in Exodus 10, in response to Moses stretching out his staff over the land of Egypt, an east wind brings a plague of locusts. And Hosea (Chapter 13) prophesies an east wind to punish Ephraim, a blast that will cause springs to fail and fountains to run dry.

In contrast there were the kindly winds: the Etesian breezes, gently blowing from the north-west in midsummer, that would carry Italians softly across to Greece; and Zephyrus (Italian name Favonius), blowing delightfully from the west in spring, bringing health for people and fertility for the land.

A wind known to the Victorians was The Cape Doctor, which blows on to the southern coast of Africa: in pre-Suez Canal days it brought healing and disinfection to the luminaries of the East India Company on their voyage back to England.

Of interest: