The liveliest cult of Helios in the ancient Greek world existed on the island of Rhodes. Each year during the Halieia festival which was celebrated with much splendor and with athletic contests, the Rhodians threw a team of four horses into the sea as a sacrifice to him. In honor of what was effectively their national deity and to commemorate their heroic defense against Demetrius Poliorcetes's array, the people of Rhodes commissioned the celebrated sculptor Chares of Lindos to create a huge statue of Helios.
This statue, which is known to us as the 'Colossus of Rhodes", was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was completed in 292 BC, twelve years after work began on it. It stood at the entrance of Rhodes's harbor and was over 35 meters tall. Helios was represented with a crown of sun-rays, a spear in his left hand and a flaming torch held aloft in his right, as depicted in the below illustration .
Descriptions of this ancient statue inspired the design of France's gift to the people of the USA in 1884 - the Statue of Liberty as the inscription at the base of this New York landmark acknowledges.
Less than a century after its completion (in 224 BC), an earthquake destroyed the statue and it was never again erected. The metal was finally sold for scrap in 653 AD.
The rays emanating from the sun god's head, as they must have appeared on the Rhodian statue's crown, and as we know them to actually be depicted on surviving works of art, reinforce the conviction that the inspiration for the Sunburst derives from the traditional representation of the Greek sun god Helios. It is not difficult to see that stylized rays emanating from a fiery core is in fact a shorthand reference to this solar deity rather than to a star.
In Late Antiquity a cult of Helios Megistos ("Great Helios") drew to the image of Helios a number of syncretic elements, which have been analysed in detail by Wilhelm Fauth by means of a series of late Greek texts, namely: an Orphic Hymn to Helios; the so-called Mithras Liturgy, where Helios rules the elements; spells and incantations invoking Helios among the Greek Magical Papyri; a Hymn to Helios by Proclus; Julian's Oration to Helios, the last stand of official paganism; and an episode in Nonnus' Dionysiaca.
- The Rays of the Sun God by macedoniansincanada.com
- Walter Burkett, Greek Religion
- Karl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks - "The Sun, the Moon and their Family"
- Wilhelm Fauth, Helios Megistos: zur synkretistischen Theologie der Spätantike (Leiden:Brill) 1995