BPK BILDAGENTUR/MUSEUM FÜR VOR- UND FRÜHGESCHICHTE, BERLIN/JOHANNES LAURENTIUS/ART RESOURCE, NY
SUN CELEBRATIONS. The Greek sun god, Helios, drives his chariot, pulled by four horses, across the sky. This third century B.C. relief comes from the Temple of Athena at Troy. Centuries later, the feast of Sol—the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Helios—came to be celebrated on December 25, to mark the sun’s “birth” and victory over darkness, specifically over the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. The feast was instituted in Rome no earlier than 274 A.D. by Emperor Aurelian, though it may have been instituted at a later point. Whatever the date, however, patristic writings had already connected Jesus’s birth to the winter solstice.