Sun mythology, or solar mythology, is an important part of the mythology of diverse human cultures. Many cultures perceive, or have perceived, the sun as a divine being. Given the sun's prominence in the sky and importance in everyday life, the role it plays is often significant. Many cultures have or had some form of sun mythology attempting to answer basic questions about the sun. For example, the question of where the sun goes at night is a common subject, as is the issue of how it moves across the sky.
Sun mythology is more central to some religious systems than others. In ancient Egypt, for instance, many deities had solar attributes, and the sun god, Ra, was a central figure. When king Akhenaten attempted to reform Egyptian religion in the 14th century BC, he instituted the worship of a new god, Aten, the sun's disk. Similarly, in later Roman paganism, solar deities became more and more important, with the cult of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, becoming one of the most prominent faiths. Early Christianity drew on the symbolism of Sol Invictus.
In other areas, solar mythology is less prominent. Archaeological finds from Bronze Age Denmark seem to suggest that the image of the sun being pulled across the sky in a wagon by horses was important, but the limited written records describing Norse religion in the early medieval period give limited importance to solar deities, focusing instead on the deeds of Odin, god of kingship and magic, and Thor, god of thunder.
Sun mythology was also important in the Americas. The Inca empire of Peru had Inti, the god of the sun, as its patron deity. Similarly, in Aztec cosmology, Tonatiuh, god of the sun, was the ruler of heaven, a powerful deity who demanded sacrifices in exchange for his continued patronage.
The presence of sun mythology in so many cultures around the world led anthropologists and folklorists, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to look for examples of sun gods in all cultures. Some claimed that many religions, including Christianity, were based on the fundamental story of the sun descending into the underworld at sunset and returning at dawn. This view is now widely regarded as an incorrect generalization. Similarly, the pattern of a male sun god, like the Greek god Apollo, and a female earth goddess was believed to be fundamental to religion, despite the fact that many cultures, including Japan and pre-Christian Scandinavia, have female solar deities.