FFFMM VII: Ixion: The Dark Horse of Djose!
Introduction: The Equine Experiment.

Within the pantheon of Final Fantasy’s summonable creatures Ixion does not often show himself (his first and most notable appearance being in FFX); yet he’s clearly made an impression and maintains a modest fanbase. Unless specified, this article shall mainly be discussing the FFX summon which set the standard on which other depictions of Ixion were based.

Ixion is presented as a robust unicorn possessing an elemental affiliation with lightning. When Ixion was introduced for the first time in FFX he represented the element of lightning among the pantheon of Aeons (summons) which the summoner Yuna collected. Lined up next to popular fan favourites (Ifrit, fire; Shiva, ice; Bahamut, non-elemental) it becomes apparent that Ixion has replaced FF’s staple lightning character: Ramuh. Ixion was used in his first appearance, it seems, as a trial seeing if fans would either warm to a new character or not notice the absence of an old favourite.

Why change? Could it be because Ramuh does not belong to a clear mythology of his own (except, perhaps, being indirectly based on Hindu mythology)? Ixion’s inclusion was not the first time that Square had parted ways with Ramuh in a major Final Fantasy title; FFVIII replaced Ramuh with the Mesoamerican winged serpent god Quetzalcoatl (named Quezacotl to fit the game’s character limit). It seems that Square went through a phase of experimenting with new lightning based characters pulled from recognisable mythologies, which the enigmatic character of Ramuh lacks. Since FFX marked the dawn of the PS2 era of Final Fantasy games, maybe the time had come to find a new thunderer.

The character which Square selected to replace Ramuh was Ixion: a relatively obscure character plucked out of Greek mythology. As shall be seen in this article, the ways that the mythic material was adapted and the creative form which the FF version of the Ixion character eventually took is unexpected.

Homicide and Horses: Ixion’s Place in Greek Mythology.

Rather than being a horse in Greek mythology, Ixion was instead a rather unsavoury human: a king of the Lapiths (a tribe of Thessaly). When Ixion refused to pay bridal gifts to his father-in-law (Deioneus), Deioneus stole some of Ixion’s horses. Enraged, Ixion then invited Deioneus to his home and threw him into a pit of fire (Diodorus Siculus, Library:4.69).

As a Greek parallel to the story of Cain and Abel, Ixion’s act as the first to kill kin and dishonour the appropriate guest-rights tainted Ixion, and his neighbours refused to perform cleansing rituals to salve his guilt. Zeus (the king of the gods) took pity; after purifying Ixion he invited him to dine with the gods on Mt. Olympus. Instead of being grateful and respecting his divine hosts, Ixion grew lustful towards Hera (Zeus’ wife) and intended to rape her. Noticing this, Zeus created a phantom image of Hera out of a cloud in order to test Ixion (Pindar, Pythian Odes:2.25-39; Apollodorus, Epitome:E.1.20.21). This cloud-Hera was named Nephele (literally ‘Cloud’).


Nephelai (cloud nymphs) on a 5th Century BC red-figure vessel in the shape of an astragalos (knucklebone), from The British Museum.
The Nephele of Ixion’s story was a cloud-phantom of Hera created by Zeus and not a nymph, but she was not unique among personifications of clouds.

Nephele was raped by Ixion and consequently Zeus banished Ixion from Olympus and blasted him with his thunderbolt. Hermes was ordered by Zeus to bind Ixion to a wheel which was to spin for eternity. Such was the punishment of this murderer and rapist, but Ixion’s atmospheric amorous adventure would sire a burden to humanity: centaurs.


A Roman wall painting from the House of the Vettii, Pompeii.
Left, Ixion and the wheel; Centre foreground, Nephele.

Sins of the Father: The Cloud-born Centaurs.

Following Ixion’s fornication in the firmament, the cloud-phantom Nephele fell pregnant and gave birth to the half-horse, half-man centaurs: one of the most iconic of Greek mythical monsters (Pindar, Pythian Odes:2.35-48; Hyginus, Fabulae:2.LXII). As is typical with Greek mythology, traditions vary, and Ixion and Nephele’s offspring are either the first centaurs directly, or a man named Centaurus who in turn mated with the wild Magnesian mares on Mt. Pelion to sire the race of centaurs. Regardless of the generation gap attested in some accounts, the centaurs were considered to be the direct result of Ixion’s actions.

Centaurs were notorious for their brutality and untamed lust (traits we can imagine they inherited from their ancestor). If we consider that Ixion was sometimes considered to be the son of the bloodthirsty war god, Ares, then Ixion can be imagined as inheriting some of these attributes (which include a degree of fierce madness less common in the more orderly Roman equivalent, Mars). Perhaps, in turn, the centaur offspring are explained as inheriting warlike brutality as well as Ixion’s tendency to rape.

Truly, the centaurs likely predated their Ixion ‘origin story’ in the Greek imagination; Ixion’s myth is an aetiological tale which helps to fit the centaurs into the mythological landscape and genealogical timeline. Some scholars suggest that the true origin of the centaur myth might lie with the moment when Greeks first started to encounter men riding horses (such as the Thessalians, Thracians, and Scythians). That these riders might appear, momentarily and from a distance, to be of one form might have struck early Greeks with horror was proposed as a theory for the centaur’s origin in antiquity too (Diodorus Siculus, Library:4.70.1). In the wider context of Greek imagination though, centaurs represented the untamed, un-Greek ‘other’.

In mythology centaurs were often fighting, but the most popular incident for literature and art in antiquity was the Centauromachy (a brawl at a Lapith wedding which started when drunk centaur guests attempted to rape the bride and other Lapith women). Remembering Ixion as a previous king of the Lapiths, we are reminded that the centaurs are imitating their ancestor in slaying kin (Homer, Iliad:2.742-745, Odyssey:21.295-305; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Epitome:E1.21; Diodorus Siculus, Library:4.70.2ff; Ovid, Metamorphoses:12.210ff).


Pair of Centaurs Fighting Wild Cats Mosaic from Hadrian’s Villa (c.130 AD),
Altes Museum Berlin. ©Carole Raddato.

Not all centaurs were bad; a handful of friendly centaurs (possessing more human wisdom than untempered animalistic urges) were imagined in mythology as tutors for heroes, and as doctors. Chiron (whose name means ‘handy’ in Greek) proved the most celebrated of friendly centaurs. Being the offspring of the Titan Cronus and Philyra, Chiron had a separate genealogy to Ixion’s brood (Pindar, Pythian Ode:3.1-5; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.2.4; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica:2.1231). The centaurs who represent the actions of Ixion’s sin lacked Chiron’s wisdom, and the bestial nature of these marked them out as foes whose purpose it was to be slain by heroes.

With the centaurs and the story of Ixion considered together it becomes clear why Square might have chosen to represent their own version of Ixion as a horse; it’s part of Ixion’s story. Yet why not go the distance and make Ixion a centaur in FFX?

Centaurs are themselves not common in the Final Fantasy franchise. Centaurs or centaur-like creatures are used only a handful times as enemy monsters in FF games (such as FFIV’s Centaur Knight). Instead, our electric equine is sporting a horn, drawing associations with a completely separate sort of mythical steed than the centaur, and one which Final Fantasy uses more often: the unicorn.

Backing the Wrong Horse: Ixion as a Unicorn.

FFX might be the first time that we see Ixion the thunder-horse, but it is not at all the first time that we see a unicorn in Final Fantasy. Since the series’ beginning unicorns have appeared as enemies (in FFI), items, and mounts (FFXIV), yet they are most notable as appearing as minor recurring summons (such as in FFV, FFVI, and the Tactics franchise).


The unicorn of FFV
As a summon in FF, Unicorn has healing abilities (either restoring HP and MP fully or removing harmful status ailments) reflecting directly on the unicorn’s place in mythology.

The unicorn’s origins appear to go back to ancient interpretations of natural history. Unicorns were considered by some ancient writers to be real creatures, often located in the vicinity of India (Ctesias, Indika; Aristotle, History of Animals:2.1; Pliny the Elder, Natural History:8.31). These natural history accounts may be garbled and misunderstood descriptions of rhinoceroses (animals which long suffered from both written and illustrative descriptive errors from antiquity onwards).

The popular folkloric image of a unicorn which is persistent today is the same image which later captured the imagination of European medieval bestiaries and illustrated manuscripts. Here, unicorns became increasingly white, graceful horses, but often located in wild woodlands. The unicorns became symbolic of purity, and they could only be tamed by a virgin (Physiologus: XXXVI; Isidore, Etymologies: XII.12-13). In folklore they sometimes had the ability to heal sickness and render poisoned waters safe to drink. FF’s own use of the unicorn tends to draw from this pool.


‘A Virgin with a Unicorn’ (1604-1605), by Domenichino.
Ixion, it must be stressed, makes quite a different unicorn, but the unicorn imagery helps to tone Ixion down, making him more familiar and less menacing to gamers as an ally. An angry centaur or a punished Ixion on a wheel might have distanced the player from the character, but anyone can get behind a unicorn. That considered, despite being a unicorn there are still numerous nods to the Ixion character from Greek mythology which did gain Square’s stamp of approval.

Changeable Like the Weather: Granting Ixion His Elemental Powers.

Although perhaps not the most striking element of Ixion’s story in Greek mythology (Ixion’s torture on the fiery wheel being the pervasive image), weather does in fact play an important role. As seen, Ixion has coitus with a cloud, Nephele, who is often imagined as giving birth by ‘raining’ the centaurs onto Mt. Pelion. Even the wheel which Ixion was fixed to as punishment for his transgressions was in some versions placed in the air to be eternally turned by the wind (pseudo-Apollodorus, Epitome:E.1.20).


Campanian amphora showing Ixion’s wheel, 4th Century BC;
From Сapua, The Provincial Museum of Campania.

The Ixion of mythology and the horse Aeon from FFX share this relationship with weather, and FF’s Ixion’s common attack ‘Aerospark’ is a move semantically linked with the sky. The most direct connection with the powers of our horse character would be that Zeus struck Ixion with his thunderbolt. Since the thunderbolt strike is not a unique or notable feature of Ixion’s myth (Zeus strikes many opponents in this way), it is necessary to recognise the other links to express the prevalence of weather in Ixion’s myth.

Shocking the Steed: Zeus and Ixion.

We might imagine that Zeus’ hurling of a thunderbolt at Ixion may have supercharged and energised the character with lightning based abilities. This is not the case in Greek mythology, but for the FF character it does seem that Zeus’ thunderbolt explains that which otherwise would be mystifying. This electric connection to Zeus transcends the simply elemental affinity and reaches the character design itself.


The unicorn Ixion’s horn doubles as an electrical conductor rod, and the creature uses it to charge energy for its attacks in battle and to channel the lightning element. Forming a zig-zag, the horn is also designed to physically resemble a bolt of lightning. Similar patterning is to be found on the body of the horse itself, cleverly disguised to resemble those of zebra or quagga, thus appearing natural on an equine body. Though the lightning shapes are to be expected given the choice to grant Ixion lightning abilities, they go far beyond aesthetics when we take a closer look at Ixion’s human Fayth form.

In Spiran lore (the world of FFX), the Fayth are humans who have sacrificed their souls to be sealed up so that they can dream. These dreams can manifest in the form of Aeons (summons). There are actually two depictions of Ixion’s Fayth in FFX. First, a ghostly character model who briefly speaks to the player appears to be dressed like a naval captain or admiral. This is irregular as Ixion lacks marine references other than the local Mushroom Rock geological formation being created by an ancient seabed, and perhaps the widespread general water themes of Spira as a whole.


If not explained by a breakdown in communication between departments, this is possibly the consequence of recycling character models as Square used various generic models for all Fayth (with the absence of Bahamut who plays a role in the story and can be considered a character in his own right, deserving his own model).

The second depiction of the Fayth is on the floor of the temple, and this depiction contains fascinating artistic choices by the developers which channel the myth of Ixion.


It just so happens that Ixion’s human form resembles the very likeness of Zeus himself! Not only does Ixion’s cloud-like grey-white hair colour reflect ways Zeus is now popularly depicted, but the locks of hair of both the human and horse forms of FF’s Ixion appear aesthetically authentic within an ancient Greek context. Although less popular by the classical period, men wearing long tresses of hair was fashionable in mythology and early Greek history, and cut locks were dedicated to gods or to honour the memory of fallen comrades (Homer, Iliad:23.141, Odyssey:24.43-46; Aeschylus, Libation Bearers:6-7).


The hair of the Kouros statue of Biton, 580 BC.
Photograph by Stelios Zacharias.

The most important aspect of the Fayth image to highlight would be the thunderbolt itself: the weapon of choice for Zeus which was forged by the cyclopes and smote many of his enemies, including Ixion (Hesiod, Theogony:501-506; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library:1.2). Although the design has been merged with striped seashells to fit with Spiran aquatic aesthetics, the practicalities of the design of the thunderbolt of the Fayth is itself surprisingly faithful to the thunderbolt of Zeus as depicted in Greek art. Zeus’ thunderbolt had varied designs but quite typically was represented as having prongs at each end, and with a narrowed middle section serving as a handle for ease of grip.


Zeus’ thunderbolt on an Attic Red Figure amphora, ca 470-460 BC; from the Louvre, Paris.
The Fayth is shockingly like Zeus to the extent that it almost seems like Square wanted Zeus to be the new lightning summon, but instead settled upon a more obscure (though related) character. Maybe Zeus would have been too famous for an FF summon, or perhaps the choice was determined by Square being able to manipulate the equine aspects of Ixion’s mythology to give us a non-human character as an Aeon.

Regrettably, Ixion does shed his Greek origins and experiences a mythological mismatch with his Overdrive (special attack): ‘Thor’s Hammer’. The battle animation has nothing to do with Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) other than sharing Thor’s element of thunder. Maybe Thor’s connotations were thought to be easily and instantly recognisable by players, but by using this name they chose something with little to do with Ixion’s source material.

Punished Pony: Turning the Wheel.

With the Zeus-like elements brought to the fore alongside the more positive associations of unicorns, it can seem that the dark side of the character Ixion from mythology (the tortured murderer-rapist who refused reformation) is obscured. However, Ixion does rear up his true self occasionally.


Depending on how you look at Ixion the mind can alternate between seeing positive and negative attributes. Though the Ixion unicorn’s well-built body and fluffy mane and tail make him look like a parade horse, there remains a malevolent look to the character. Ixion’s facial expression is one of angry brooding, and his thunderous, white eyes are featureless. This countenance befits a murderer jockeyed by the fury of Zeus. Also, the juxtaposition of the white mane and dark-blue body suggests the inner brewing of a stormy thundercloud. FFX's Ixion could also resemble some of the stormier and celestial representations of the Asian kirin (a mythological creature, often shown as unicorn-like, from which we might trace the pedigree of some of the summon's judgmental traits and possibly also the more jagged, sickle-sword shaped style of horn). Even the lightning-themed zebra stripes when glanced at in a different way, can appear to make the horse look skeletal: a character belonging in hellish Tartarus.

There were conflicting versions of Ixion’s myth regarding the placement of his punishment on the wheel. The cosmic interpretation placed his fiery wheel in the sky amongst the heavens where (as a celestial body) Ixion served as a reminder to all mortals to honour their benefactors (Pindar, Pythian Ode:2.20-30). The other popular version places Ixion and his wheel in Tartarus, the Greek Hell-like pit where several punished figures are tortured.


‘Ixion plunged into Hades’ (1876) by Jules-Elie Delaunay.
Djose Temple (which contains Ixion’s Fayth) is located near Mushroom Rock Road, and the geological formation that gives Mushroom Rock Road its name continues to encase the temple itself in a stony sepulchre. Whenever a summoner approaches the Fayth the rocks entombing the temple crack apart and hover suspended about the temple by sparks of lightning. This barren, hell-like landscape fits the image of Tartarus.



Etruscan bronze mirror (460-450 BC) representing Ixion’s wheel from The British Museum.
The item under his feet is sometimes interpreted as a fungus: fitting biota for Tartarus.

FFX’s Temple of Djose is verily a menacing place, and its interior also appears to share characteristics with Tartarus. The walls of Djose Temple’s ‘cloister of trials’ are easily overlooked, but they are painted with a fiery pattern. The walls of all temples are different, so this appears to be a conscious design choice.


Tartarus-like contraptions of torture may also be seen in the sharp-edged tangle of metal above the player’s head, which is used to conduct electricity into spheres to unlock the temple’s secrets doors.


The wheel of Ixion itself might also be represented by the Fayth glyph of Ixion (each Aeon possesses different seals), which is in the form of a four-spoked wheel on fire with lightning bolts also protruding from it.


Although many (not all) Fayth glyphs are circular there seems to be a logic behind their designs, drawing from the mythologies of the characters that they represent.

The tortured character from mythology, receiving his just deserts, has therefore not been entirely whitewashed, and Ixion remains an imposing figure within a dark setting.

Robot Unicorn Attack: The Future of Ixion.

Beyond FFX, although Ixion has been seldom used there have been a handful of further appearances of the character in minor roles and references in other games. In FFX-2 the same exact Aeon appears as a boss, this time augmented with machina. This mecha-Ixion is almost entirely robotic and, one assumes, this makes the electrical energy within him more potent.


In other FF games he plays no role in the plot, but sometimes appears as elite marks or rare monsters (such as in FFXI and FFXII). In FFXII: Revenant Wings Ixion returns as a summonable entity and gets a slight redesign, losing his horn, and gaining a more tattoo-like form of lightning markings on his body. Surrounded by a sparky aura, this Ixion looks increasingly like a mythological kirin.


Aside from a few additional references in FF spin-off titles (such as Dissidia 012), the character has become obscure again. The standard lightning character Ramuh remains a far more popular choice. One might worry that, with FFXIV’s Ramuh’s mount being Markab and not Ixion (a missed opportunity to reference the character), that Ixion has been forgotten. Ixion’s legacy has not entirely ended though, as FFXV’s Ramuh’s staff resembles Ixion. This is a nice nod to Ramuh’s rival for the elemental affinity of lightning.


Conclusion: Reining in.

In FF’s representation of Ixion we see an interesting take on an obscure character from Greek mythology; combining a form of Ixion’s punishment (the thunderbolt) with the creatures he sired (the half-horse centaurs). Like the mythical centaurs there is a duality to the FF character; Ixion is at one time a friendly ally (an interpretation which his unicorn associations and fluffy mane encourage), but on another level he is also heinous (being located in a hell-like landscape and possessing a menacing expression). It may be that this duality helped to decrease the malicious appearance of a character whose unrefined form may otherwise have too closely resembled Anima (another FFX summon whose entire image hinged on being the manifestation of torture).

Square subverts Ixion’s myth, pulling the latent weather themes of his story to the fore, whilst pushing the prominent themes of Ixion’s torture to the rear. These references may not all have been intentional, but some of them must have been, and Square is to be applauded for their creative experiment.

Have you any thoughts on Ixion? Are you glad that they chose to represent Ixion as a unicorn? Discuss! Earn CT for your comments!

Credit goes to Six for designing the banner and for help in resizing images.

For other current articles in the FFFMM series see the Mythology Manual Hub or the Mythology Manual article category.
Nice article, Dan! Great job on this.

Few things:

I definitely appreciate Ixion more than I do Quezacotl. FFVIII's lightning serpent was an odd-looking one and it took me awhile to understand what exactly I was looking at when I first played the game. Ixion's speed attack...you can really feel that through the animation. He was one of my favorite aeons to use because of it.

As for the Greek origins behind Ixion, wow...interesting stuff. Disturbing, even. I hope I don't start having nightmares again tonight.

I'm surprised there was no mention of Pegasus though. As soon as you mentioned Zeus and Hera's involvement, I immediately anticipated a symbolism of Pegasus, the white winged-stallion. I know Ixion doesn't fly, but still...I figured there was probably some sort of relation in there somewhere due to that Pegaus carries the thunder and lightning for Zeus in Mt. Olympus.

I must also admit that for some time now I speculated Ixion was somewhat derived from Ramuh's horse, but I guess not. You're right, it was a missed opportunity to tie that in together; would've somewhat appeased fans who were disappointed of Ramuh's absence in FFX.

Seriously though, I'm impressed how you managed to tie in FFX's tiniest details to the Greek mythology.
Wow. Pegasus slipped my mind when writing this, but you’re right.

Pegasus was sometimes tasked with carrying Zeus’ thunderbolts… I guess if we use that as a link this can also form a connection between the FFX character’s Fayth and the sea, since Poseidon was Pegasus’ father. I’m not sure if that’s what they were going for (probably not), but it’s interesting that it fits anyway. The navy captain appearance of the generic-model Fayth appears more relevant in this light.

As a side note, I find it interesting that in Disney's Hercules I seem to remember Zeus and Hera creating Pegasus out of a cloud so that they can give him as a gift to the baby Hercules (Pegasus being born to the gorgon Medusa while having her head cut off wouldn't have been good for Disney...). I wonder if Disney had the Ixion myth in mind here, with Zeus creating the cloud-Hera Nephele who would eventually give birth to centaurs.
If so, it might not be the first time that someone has thought "Well, Greek mythology and horses... Let's remove the unsavoury aspects of a myth and replace it with a happy Pegasus/unicorn which everyone loves".
Haha, I totally had something written about Disney's version and Zeus creating Pegasus out of a cloud when you mentioned cloud-Hera Nephele...I thought, "Wait, why does this sound so familiar?" But then I figured it was all too uncanny, mixing Disney and talks of raping clouds.

Ixion Activity 1:

Complete the following crossword and send your entry by PM to Dionysos.
Save the image and work on it in an image editing program or on paper if you wish.

Reward for completion = 3 CT
Reward for near-completion = 2 CT
Reward for an attempt = 1 CT

Crossword created with Puzzlemaker at DiscoveryEducation.com


4. Wild mares live here
6. Binder of Ixion
7. The name of Ixion's rape victim translates into this familiar word
11. Tribe of Ixion
13. Mountain abode of Ixion's brood
14. Greek Hell
15. True name of a weapon which lends its name to an Ixion attack
17. Ixion's element
20. A more familiar ally

1. Father-in-Law of Ixion
2. Ixion's common attack
3. Feathered serpent
4. Geological formation where Ixion's temple is located
5. Ixion's punishment
7. Mythical hippo-hominids
8. Ixion's temple
9. Weather phenomenon which is sometimes imagined as the way certain equine monsters were born
10. Chiron's mother
12. Misidentified rhinoceros
16. All Fayths have these
18. Wife of Zeus
19. Cloud animated by Zeus

If you have any questions feel free to PM Dionysos.
Thank you for working with this article, it's absolutely well-written and shockingly detealed! I loved to see the differences between the mythological and the Final Fantasy version of Ixion, it show how creative and innovative FF game developers are. And by reading your article we are able to see this transformation from the ideas/basic to the final form which appears in the game. It's really brilliant, it is worth the time you spent researching this topic! Thank you again for sharing with us!
(Can I ask how long did you work on this article? It could have been a really hard task to learn this much about Ixion and create this article! And why did you choose Ixion as the topic of your article?:D)

I love Greek mythology so I'm glad that I was able to learn more about it. (Is there a person in this world who doesn't care about the strange relationships of Greek gods?xD For example I love the love-hate relationship of Zeus and Hera, and the simple face that Greek gods are anthropomorph gods and behave like we humans do. It's fun!)
To be honest, I didn't know that Ixion even exist (but I think it's normal due to that fact that I didn't learn more about Greek mythology than we did in high school and little in the university), but now I know who he is.

I think that Ixion's concept is absolutely gorgeous! I really like the way the character looks like, it seems robust and noble in the same time. So I think it was a great decision to represent Ixion as a unicorn. I can't wait to see Ixion "in real life" when I play FFX! It'll be more fun as I feel that I now understand this character more. ^^
(Can I ask how long did you work on this article? It could have been a really hard task to learn this much about Ixion and create this article! And why did you choose Ixion as the topic of your article?:D)
Thanks for your kind words!

I probably worked on the article on-and-off for a couple of weeks, but I had a lot of other stuff going on in life and on the forums too. I was actually working on drafts for two other articles for several months before Ixion. These drafts are still in progress as I’ve struggled to structure them properly so far and so they remain unpublished and half-written for now.

Since I was struggling with other articles, something (I can't remember what) reminded me of Ixion and then I thought I might as well write a quick article about Ixion…. Turns out that the article was quite long as the more I thought about the character and looked into it, the more I discovered.

It was fairly easy for me to write about the Greek mythology aspects because that is a part of what I studied at university. I’m quite familiar with it and I know where to find the sources to check out the details.