Zetes and Calais and the harpies
The Harpies Driven from the Table of King Phineus by Zetes and Calais
Credit: François Verdier. The Met. Public domain.

Zetes and Calais

The Winged Boreads

Zetes and Calais were the sons of Boreas, the North Wind, in Greek mythology. They were known as the Boreads, the winged sons of the wind, and were prominent figures in the story of Jason and the Argonauts, the legendary crew of heroes led by Jason on their quest for the Golden Fleece.

Zetes and Calais were famous for their incredible speed and their ability to fly due to their wings, which they inherited from their father. Their wings were said to be as strong as those of birds, allowing them to soar through the air with great agility.

An engraving of the Boreads Calais and Zetes drive out the hideous harpies.
The Boreads Calais and Zetes drive out the harpies that plague King Phineus. Presumably, Lynceus stands by on watch.
Credit: Joseph Anton Koch, engraver. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Public domain.

During the Argonauts’ expedition, Zetes and Calais played an essential role in protecting the crew from numerous dangers they encountered on their journey. One of the most significant episodes involving the Boreads occurred on the island of the Harpies.

The Harpies were vile creatures with the upper bodies of women and the wings and talons of birds. They tormented King Phineus, a seer who was punished by Zeus for revealing divine secrets. The Harpies would swoop down and steal Phineus’ food every time he tried to eat.

When the Argonauts arrived on the island and learned of Phineus’ plight, Zetes and Calais used their wings to chase the Harpies away and end their torment. As a reward for their assistance, Phineus offered valuable advice to the Argonauts, guiding them on their further travels.

The Boreads’ bravery and assistance during the Argonauts’ quest earned them a place of honor among the legendary heroes. They were celebrated for their speed, flight, and courage in the face of adversity. The story of Zetes and Calais remains a significant part of Greek mythology, showcasing the prowess of the winged sons of Boreas.

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