Caerus (Kairós, Opportunity). Marble relief, reproduced in LCL No. 256 from Arch. Zeit. XXXIII. Pl. I. 1.
Caerus (??????, Kairós) is Opportunity, a
god that leaves as soon as he arrives.
"Thou strong seducer, opportunity!" (John Dryden, 1631-1700, The Conquest of Granada pt. i, IV. iii).
"The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise." (Ecclesiasticus 25.24 Apocrypha).
Caerus is the due measure that achieves the aim.
This god brings about what is convenient, fit, and
comes in the right moment. Sometimes it could be
the critical or dangerous moment, but more often
Caerus represents the advantageous, or favorable
occasion. Hence, what is opportune, or
"Opportunity". In the Hellenistic age (as P.
Chantraine informs us), the term was also used as
"time" or "season" (the good time, or good season).
According to Pausanias, there was an altar of
Caerus close to the entrance to the stadium at Olympia, for Opportunity
is regarded as a divinity and not as a mere
allegory. This indefatigable traveller also tells
us that Caerus was regarded as the youngest child
of Zeus in a hymn by Ion of
Chios (ca. 490-425 BC).
Caerus is represented as a young and beautiful
god. Opportunity obviously never gets old, and
beauty is always opportune, flourishing in its own
season. Caerus stands on tiptoe because he is
always running, and like Hermes, he has wings in
his feet to fly with the wind. He holds a razor, or
else scales balanced on a sharp
edgeattributes illustrating the fleeting
instant in which occasions appear and disappear.
A. Fairbanks (translator of Callistratus)
suggests that the type of the statue of Opportunity
was developed out of the form of the Hermes that granted
victory in athletic contests. And if someone were
to think of other resemblances between Opportunity
and Hermes, he might also
ask the proverbial question: "Who makes the thief?"
For just as Hermes has
been taken to be the protector of thieves,
Opportunity has been called their maker. And
persuaded that Caerus has a bad influence in the
matter of thefts, humans spent huge resources and
efforts in perfecting locks and keys and passwords
and every kind of safety measures, with the help of
which they hope to outwit Opportunity. But as they
lock some doors they inevitably leave others open.
And as expected, the god goes on flying as swiftly
as ever, providing amazing surprises to everyone,
and making not only thieves but also lovers. In
addition, he produces every kind of such humans as
are nicknamed "opportunists" on account of their
ability to quickly seize whatever advantage the
great seducer Caerus appears to offer them.
On the other hand, a man of sober judgement
usually thinks that things such as "opportunity"
are not entities, or powers, let alone divinities,
but the produce of diligent men. And being such
their nature (he reasons), they could be arranged
or put under control. That is also what Francis
Bacon appears to tell us when he writes: "A man must make his opportunity,
as oft as find it" (Advancement
of learning II.xxiii.3).
Caerus can easily be seized by the hair hanging
over his face"creeping
down over the eyebrows"when he is
arriving. But once he has passed by, no one can
grasp him, the back of his head being bald. The
moment of action is gone with his hair: a neglected
occasion cannot be recovered. The author of Ekphráseis (Descriptions ) found that the statue of Caerus at Sicyon resembled Dionysus 2, with his
forehead glistening with graces and a delicate
blush on his cheeks: "... though it was bronze, it blushed; and though it was hard by nature, it melted into softness." And like the statue is Opportunity himself: he melts into softness if caught by the forelock, but once he has raced by, he assumes his hard nature and rarely grants a second chance.
Another with identical name: Caerus 1 is one of the horses of Adrastus 1. For this
Caerus, see BESTIARY.