Constellations

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CONSTELLATIONS


Sagittarius, the Archer

Some scholars associate this constellation with the centaur Chiron, who was known for his marksmanship as well as for his expertise in medicine and music. Others maintain that Chiron was too civilized a model for Sagittarius and associate Chiron with the constellation Centaurus.


Ursa Major, the Greater Bear

Zeus fell in love with Callisto, daughter of Lycaon (see under Lupus) and by her had a son, Arcas. In order to spare Callisto from the wrath of Hera, Zeus changed her into a bear to hide her identity.


Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear

Hera, discovering the tryst Zeus had had with Callisto (see Ursa Major), convinced Arcas to hunt after his mother, who had been changed into a bear by Zeus. To protect Callisto, Zeus changed Arcas into a bear and carried them both by their tails to the heavens, where they became constellations. Annoyed at this honor, Hera convinced Poseidon not to allow the bears to bathe in the sea. For this reason, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor never sink below the horizon.


Cassiopeia

The wife of Cepheus and the mother of Andromeda, When she rejected to the marriage of Perseus to her daughter, Perseus displayed the head of Medusa and turned his enemies, including Cassiopeia, to stone. Neptune placed her in the sky, but in order to humiliate her, arranged it so that at certain times of the year, she would appear upside-down.

Draco, the Dragon

Some myths name Draco as Pythos, the dragon Apollo slew in order to win Delphi. In honor of his victory, he placed his trophy among the stars. Other myths name Draco as the dragon slain by Cadmus, brother of Europa, who had been carried off by Zeus. Athena instructed Cadmus to build a great city by planting the teeth of the dragon. An army grew and immediately started to attack each other. All but five died, and the survivors helped Cadmus to build the city of Thebes.

Scorpius, the Scorpion

According to a popular myth, Apollo, concerned about his sister Artemis' virginity, sent the scorpion to kill Orion the hunter, who had been spending a great deal of time with Artemis. Both Orion and Scorpius were placed as far from one another as possible to avoid further troubles between them, but Scorpius continues to pursue Orion across the celestial sphere.


Orion, the Hunter

When this giant met Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, her brother Apollo feared for her virginity. Apollo sent Scorpius, the Scorpion, to attack Orion, who lept into the sea to escape. Apollo then tricked his sister into shooting at a dark spot on the waves, which was actually Orion. The goddess tried to have Asclepius (see Ophiuchus revivie Orion, but he


had already been killed by Zeus' thunderbolt. Artemis then placed Orion in the heavens, where he continues to be hunted by the scorpion.
Cepheus

King of Ethiopia and father to Andromeda.


Auriga, the Charioteer

No story really explains the figure that this constellation is suppose to define -- a charioteer without the chariot and horse, holding reins in his right hand, a goat on his left shoulder, and two small kids in his left arm. One myth associates Auriga with Erecthonius, the lame son of Vulcan and Minerva. Erecthonius invented the chariot, which allowed him to get around and also earned him a place in the stars.


Cetus, the Whale

This sea monster was sent by Neptune to punish Ethiopia for the boasts of their queen, Cassiopeia. The whale was killed by Perseus on his way back from killing Medusa.

Leo, the Lion

This is the Nemean Lion that Hercules battled as the first of his Labors. No weapon could pierce its skin, but Hercules killed the lion by strangling it. After killing the lion, Hercules used its own claws to skin it. Hercules wore the skin as a cloak, and it became his trademark.

Taurus, the Bull

Zeus disguised himself as a snow-white bull in order to attract Europa, Princess of Phoenicia. Drawn to his beauty, she climbed onto his back and Zeus swam with his passenger to the island of Crete. There he revealed his true identity and made love to her.


Boötes, the Herdsman

According to one myth, Boötes was placed in the heavens as a reward for inventing the plow.


Hercules

The most famous of all the Greek heroes. He is best known for having completed his Twelve Labors, which included fighting the Hydra and the Nemean Lion (see Leo). Hercules had killed Nessus, a centaur, with his poisoned arrows after Nessus had tried to carry off his wife Deianira. Before he died, Nessus told Deianira to save some of his blood, and to to use it as a love charm should Hercules ever lose interest in her. Some time later, fearing that Hercules had fallen for another woman, Deianira rubbed the blood of Nessus on Hercules' robe. Putting the robe on, Hercules' body immediately began to burn; when he tried to remove the robe, his skin came off. He built a funeral pyre and mounted it himself. As it was lit, a flash of lightning was seen, the pyre burnt out, and Hercules' body could not be found. It was assumed that his father Zeus carried him up to Olympus.


Cygnus, the Swan

In one myth, this constellation is related to the story of Phaethon, a mortal son of Helios, the sun god. Phaethon got his father to agree to let him drive his sun chariot, and his reckless driving threated to destroy the earth. Zeus intervened and hurled a thunderbolt at Phaethon, who fell into the Eridanus River. Phaethon's devoted friend, Cygnus, dived into the water in search of the body. Apollo took pity on Cygnus and changed him into a swan, placing him in the heavens.

Gemini, the Twins

Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces in Greek), the famous twins of Leda. Castor was the son of Tyndarus, King of Sparta, but Pollux was the son of Zeus, who won over Leda in the form of a swan. After Castor's death, Pollux (immortal because of his father) was so overcome with grief that Zeus reunited them by placing them together in the heavens.


Lyra, the Lyre

This is the instrument given to Orpheus by Apollo. It was said Orpheus could play to make the stones weep. When his wife Eurydice died, Orpheus went to the underworld and moving Hades' queen Persephone to tears with his music, recieved the following agreement from Hades: Orpheus could bring back his wife from the underworld provided that he not look back at her until she was in the light of the sun. Orpheus led her out, and feeling sunlight on his face, looked back before Eurydice had reached the sunlight. She was lost forever. For the rest of his life, he refused the advances of all the women who tried to win his love. One day a group of women whom he had scorned attacked him, tore him apart, and threw his head and lyre into the river. Apollo intervened and buried Orpheus' head at the foot of Mount Parnassus, home of the Muses, and placed the lyre in the the sky.


Canis Major, the Greater Dog

This constellation is offened recognized as the dog of Orion, the hunter. Orion loved to hunt wild animals, and his dog can be seen ready to pounce on Lepus, the hare situated at Orion's feet.


Libra, the Scales

The only non-animal member of the Zodiac, the two brightest stars of Libra were identified by Arabic astrologers as part of Scorpius. The constellation was later identified with the scales held by Astraea, goddess of justice.


Perseus

Armed with a polished shield from Artemis, winged sandals from Hermes, and a cap of invisibility from Hades, Perseus killed Medusa, the only one of the Gorgons who was mortal. The three Gorgons were monsters that turned any that looked upon them to stone. Using his shield as a mirror, Perseus was able to kill Medusa without looking on her directly. With the head of Medusa, Perseus was able to kill the monster Cetus, and save the princess Andromeda, whom he married. Athena took the head of Medusa from Perseus and placed it on her shield, Aegis.



Pegasus

This winged horse sprung up from the blood of Medusa after Perseus killed her. Pegasus was tamed by Bellerophon, who used Pegasus in defeating the fire-breathing monster, Chimera. Bellerophon died while trying to fly up to Mount Olympus to see the gods. Zeus sent a gadfly which stung Pegasus, when bucked and threw Bellerophon to his death. Pegasus continued to fly up the mountain, and earned a place among the stars.


Aquila, the Eagle

This is the bird that Jupiter sent to carry off Ganymede to serve as cupbearer to the gods.


Andromeda

Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, King and Queen of Ethiopia. When Cassiopeia boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than that of the Nerieds, sea nymphs, they asked Neptune to send the monster Cetus to ravage Ethiopia. Consulting an oracle, Cepheus found that the only way to appease Cetus was to sacrifice his daughter to the monster. Andromeda was chained to a rock by the sea to be sacrificed, but Perseus arrived from killing the Medusa, and turned turned Cetus into stone with the head of Medusa.

Capricornus, the Sea Goat

From early antiquity, this constellation has been depicted as having the body of a goat with the tail of a fish. According to one interpretation, the goat, and expert climber, represents the sun's climb from its lowest position in the sky, which is this this constellation. The fish's tail may represent the seasonal rains.

Aries, the Ram

The golden fleece of this ram was the prize ultimately carried off by Jason, leader of the Argonauts.


Delphinus, the Dolphin

A dolphin convinced Amphritrite to marry Poseidon, and as a reward, Poseidon placed Delphinus among the stars.


Aquarius, the Water Carrier

This constellation is depicted as a man or boy pouring water from a bucket. It may represent the rainy seasons.


Pisces, the Fish

Venus and Cupid escaped from the monster Typhon (see under Pisces Austrinus) by disguising themselves as these fish and jumping into the Euphrates River.


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