Exploring Sun Mythology: From Ancient Egypt to the Aztec Empire

Exploring Sun Mythology: From Ancient Egypt to the Aztec Empire


Since the dawn of the modern human, mankind has recognised the importance of the Sun and its varying location on the daytime sky. It would, after all, determine the availability of food and shelter by bringing seasons. Even now, the solstices and equinoxes are still important in many cultures.

In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the chief god was Ra, the god of the Sun and creator of the universe – he has the head of a falcon and carries the Sun on his head. It was believed that the motion of the Sun in the sky was Ra sailing across it in a boat.

In early ancient Greece, the Sun was believed to be pulled across the sky by a horse-drawn chariot driven by either the Titan Helios or the god Apollo. You may have heard the word Apollo in relation to space before, as Apollo was the name of the NASA spaceflight missions that landed 12 men on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. The name choice for the mission was bizarre, as Apollo was the god of the Sun, not the Moon. NASA’s next crewed mission to the Moon, Artemis, has a far more sensible name, as in Greek mythology Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the Moon.

There is a large overlap between ancient Greek mythology and that of ancient Rome. Much like the Greek gods Apollo and Artemis, the Romans also believed in a sibling pair of a god and goddess of the Sun and Moon. For the Romans, these were Sol and Luna.

The existence of a Sun deity was not just a European and northern African phenomenon either. Sun gods were worshipped all over the world, from ancient China to the Incas and pre-Islamic Arabia. In northern Mexico, the people of the ancient Aztec Empire also worshipped a Sun god – Huitzilopochtli. For the Aztecs, Huitzilopochtli was the deity of war, the Sun, and human sacrifice. They believed human sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli was necessary in order for him to rise the next day and protect them from the infinite night.


Today we have access to a wide range of technology that has increased our understanding of the Sun. The Sun by Dr Ryan French explores history, science and modern observations to uncover the mysteries of our closest star.

Get your copy to learn more about cutting-edge space observations of the Sun and how to look at it yourself safely from your own back garden using off-the-shelf solar telescopes, DIY pin-hole cameras and solar projectors.