The figures of the Eight Winds seen on the Radcliffe Observatory appeared on the original Tower of the Winds in Athens.
They were used by the sculptor John Bacon (1740-99) as the basis for his designs for the flying figures round the top of the stonework of the Observatory. Bacon also designed the two statues (in cast iron) of Atlas and Hercules who support the globe on the roof.
Euros, God of the east wind, the folds of whose garments indicate heavy clouds.Kaikias was the Greek deity of the north-east wind. He is shown as a bearded man with a shield full of hailstones, and his name derives from the Greek κακíα, meaning ‘badness’ or ‘evil’.Apeliotes was the Greek deity of the south-east wind. As this wind was thought to cause a refreshing rain particularly beneficial to farmers, he is often depicted carrying fruit, draped in a light cloth concealing some flowers or grain.Lips (or Livos) was the Greek deity of the south-west wind. He was often portrayed as a young man holding a ship’s stern-post, because the south-west wind blew straight into the harbour of Piraeus, preventing ships from sailing.Notos, the God of the south wind, was associated with desiccating hot wind after midsummer, and was thought to bring the storms of late summer and autumn. He was feared as a destroyer of crops, and depicted with water pouring from his pitcher.Boreas was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter, with warm clothes against the cold, holding a conch which indicates the howling of the wind.His name meant ‘North Wind’ or ‘Devouring One’. Boreas was very strong, with a violent temper to match.Skiron is depicted as a bearded man tilting a cauldron, indicating that the north-west wind dries up vegetation and represents the onset of winter.Zephryos was the Greek god of the west wind. The gentlest of the winds, Zephyrus is known as the fructifying wind, the messenger of spring, with flowers signifying a mild light breeze. It was thought that Zephyrus lived in a cave on Thrace.Atlas and Hercules support the globe on top of the Tower of the Winds.