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In classical mythology, Phaeton (or Phaethon), was the son of Phoebus, Helios or Clymenus by Merope or Clymene.

Phaeton bragged to his friends that his father was the sun-god. His friends refused to believe him and so Phaeton went to his father (usually Helios), who promised him anything he should ask for. Phaeton wanted to drive his chariot (the sun) for a day. Though Helios tried to talk him out of it, Phaeton was adamant. When the day came, Phaeton panicked and lost control, falling into the river Eridanus. He accidentally turned most of Africa into desert; burning the skin of the Ethiopians black. Eventually, Zeus was forced to intervene by striking the runaway chariot with a lightning bolt to stop it. His friend, Cycnus, grieved so hard the gods turned him into a swan. His sisters, the Heliades, also grieved and were turned into poplar trees; their tears became amber.

Phaeton was also a villainous Adolf Hitler-esque character in the cartoon Exosquad. He was the leader of the Neosapians and very nearly destroyed Earth.

Phaeton is also a less successful automobile edition by VW. See VW Phaeton.

3200 Phaethon is a small asteroid, or possibly a comet with some characteristics normally associated with asteroids. Fragments from this body shed when it approaches the Sun are responsible for the Geminids meteor shower occurring in mid-December.