* Individual letters A – Z are to be found further below *
Introductory Note by Menelaos Christopoulos, Professor of Ancient Greek Literature & Founder of the Center for the Study of Myth and Religion in Greek & Roman Antiquity
When my colleagues and I created the Center for the Study of Myth and Religion in Greek and Roman Antiquity in the Department of Philology of the University of Patras, as early -or as late- as 2004, our intentions were, amongst other things, to promote scientific research on myth and religion in Greek and Roman antiquity through basic research, doctoral dissertations, conferences, lectures, data bases on specific subjects, printed and electronic publications or/and any means susceptible to serve these priorities. Providing a solid electronic database on mythical figures and themes appeared to us as an urgent necessity in view of supplying students and scholars working on ancient myth and religion with a complete, handy and academically reliable electronic tool. It was then to our immense pleasure that we received an unexpected and generous offer by Professor M. R. Wright conveyed to us through our colleague, Ass. Professor Efimia D. Karakantza, an old postgraduate student of Professor Wright; in her urge to support the Center’s activities, Professor M. R. Wright put to our Center’s disposal a fully compiled, wisely structured and elegantly written Dictionary of Classical Mythology on which she had spent years of work. This is actually the Dictionary of Classical Mythology by M. R. Wright, which all visitors of our Center’s site can ever since consult. The general concept, the way of consulting the Dictionary’s articles, and the method used for a complete survey of
mythological figures and themes are clearly presented in the Preface the author herself has composed. We took the initiative, in agreement with Professor M. R. Wright, to complete and revise some articles that
eventually needed slight modifications and, also, to adapt her text to the expedience of an electronic, online publication of our site. Our Center was, is and will always be extremely grateful to Professor M. R. Wright
for her kind gesture and we trust that her valuable work will keep finding, through our Center’s activities, the deep and learned attention it deserves.
This Dictionary of Classical Mythology marks a fresh start in the complex task of mapping, cataloguing and reporting on the body of material that guides the contemporary reader through the mythology of Ancient Greece and Early Rome. Different versions of the narratives and genealogies in this material are endemic to the study of the subject, since variations were preserved in the tradition of oral culture, and then adapted to the interests of family and city propaganda, the literary contexts of drama and poetry, the evolution of ritual and the expansion of knowledge of the physical and human aspects of the inhabited world. Yet, despite the variations, common themes of quests, vengeance and homecoming and patterns of character such as ‘first woman’, ‘youngest son’, ‘cruel stepmother’ and ‘shape-shifter’ persist through legend, folk-tale and saga, and have their most articulate expression in the myths (the μύθοι and ‘fabulae’) of Greek and Roman literature and art. And not only do we have the narratives preserved but also the ancient attempts to probe and interpret them through allegory, personification and euhemerism (an ancient form of reductionism), laced often with a healthy scepticism. Modern analysts continue the exercise, still searching for approaches to understanding through ritual, primitive conflict, structuralism, and, most famously, through studies of individual psychology and collective dream images.
We aim to present a reference work that will be attractive in its own right, encourage browsing, give a lead into reading the original stories in ancient epics and dramas and perhaps stimulate an interest in the languages in which they were written. In addition, because the primary sources have all been consulted anew, we hope that this project will prove useful to students and scholars with professional interest in the ancient world. The related myths of transformation into stars (known technically as ‘catasterism’) have cross-
references back to the main entries. The terrestrial landscape was also steeped in myth − many of the animals, birds and plants, springs and rivers, mountains and islands, had stories attached to them which explained their defining characteristics and location, and it is convenient to group these together in a summary of metamorphoses, which includes sex-changes. The most significant events for ancient mythology were the Theban and Trojan wars, and it is hoped that the entries relating to these will clarify the complexes
alliances and relationships involved. A major consequence of the fall of Troy was the escape of Aeneas and his companions to start a new life in the west, and so set in motion the train of events that would lead to the foundation of Rome; many Roman families liked to trace their ancestry back to Trojan origins, so that their names find a place in the entries.
There were two famous wall paintings at Delphi by the artist Polygnotus, which depicted the capture of Troy immediately after the fighting (and after the events described in the Iliad), and the visit of Odysseus to Hades from the eleventh book of the Odyssey; although the paintings have not survived, the detailed description of them by the Greek travel-writer Pausanias provides an invaluable source for the Greeks’ own presentation of their mythology. The focus in this Dictionary, however, is on surviving literary evidence; for the essential complementary support given by sculptures, vases and wall paintings The Oxford History of Classical Art, edited by John Boardman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993) should be consulted.
In the main body of the text the majority of the alphabetical entries are of individual people, but there are also significant groups, such as Amazons and Centaurs, events like the Theban wars, places important to myth such as Eleusis, Delphi and Olympus as well as meteorological phenomena (Rainbow and Winds for example), and the explanation of such sayings as ‘Cloudcuckooland’ and ‘Gordian Knot’. Each entry has its head-word in its most commonly recognized form, followed by the Greek term, and the Latin form where
appropriate; the meaning of the name is added in English where it is of interest. Multiple entries with the same headword are numbered and explained in approximate chronological order; long entries are divided into paragraphs, and Heracles (the longest of all) has the paragraphs flagged by letters for ease of cross-reference. The entries generally start with the family connections and geographical location, followed by the relevant narrative incorporating the main alternatives, and with occasional comment added. An asterisk marks a cross-reference to an entry which provides relevant supplementary information, and the main sources for the entry (in alphabetical order) are given in square brackets at the end. ‘See Constellation’ with a number italicized points to further information in an entry in the section on Constellation Myths.
The summary of sources gives more details on the references. Some sources are of major important and constantly recur − in Greek these are mostly Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, the tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides), Apollonius, Apollodorus, Diodorus, Pausanias and Plutarch; the chief authorities in Latin are Cicero (On the nature of the Gods), the first book of Livy’s History of Rome, Ovid (Metamorphoses and Fasti), Vergil (Georgics, Aeneid), Propertius and the compilations attributed to Hyginus. Philosophical interpretations are of special interest, so myths referred to by Plato and Lucretius in particular are noted. Related reference works and suggestions on contemporary approaches, comment and methodology relevant to the myths of Greece
and Rome are given under ‘Further Reading’.
In the compilation of this work I wish to acknowledge the assistance of my graduate student, Robin Hard, the encouragement of my home institution (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Lampeter) and the support from the University of Patras of Menelaos Christopoulos and Efimia Karakantza.
Aberystwyth, September 2012
Summary of sources
The main sources, which are listed as appropriate at the end of each entry, are given here with references to available translations. Most are to be found in Loeb editions, published by Harvard University Press (Cambridge Mass. USA) and Heinemann (London). Translations are set opposite the text in green bindings for Greek authors and red for Latin. Facing texts and translations can also be found in the Aris and Phillips series (Warminster), and translations of the main Classical authors are in the expanding Oxford World Classics series (OWC) or Penguin (Harmondsworth). Where no translation is given, there is usually a French version in the Budé series, otherwise texts (including the crucial volumes of Mythographi Graeci) will be found in the original languages in the Teubner series, and most are in Oxford Classical Texts. The Loeb for Hesiod is particularly useful, for, in addition to his Theogony and Works, it includes Homeric Hymns, Catalogue of Women and fragments of summary from the Epic Cycle (Titanomachy, Oedipus, Thebais, Epigoni, Cypria, Aethiopia, Little Iliad, Sack of Ilium, Returns, Telegony). Scholia refers to comments (informative and critical) written in the margins, between lines or at the end of the manuscripts of ancient authors; editors of texts mention them where significant. There are also the three main ancient dictionaries: Hesychius Lexicon, the anonymous Etymologicum Magnum and the Suda.
Aelian On the Nature of Animals (NA), Historical Miscellany (VH) Loeb.
Aeschylus Agamemnon, Choephoroe (Libation Beares), Eumenides, Persians, Seven against Thebes, Suppliants, and Prometheus (a play which may not be by Aeschylus but which is included among his works) Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Antoninus Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses trans F. Celoria, London 1992.
Apollodorus Library, Epitome Loeb, OWC.
Apollonius Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Aristophanes Birds, Clouds, Frogs, Peace, Pluto Loeb, Penguin, Aris and Phillips.
Augustine De Civitate Dei, Loeb.
Catullus Poems Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Cicero De Natura Deorum (ND) Loeb, OWC; Tusculan Disputations (Tusc) Loeb, Aris and Phillips.
Diodorus Diodorus Siculus, book 4, (Mythical History of Greece), Loeb.
Diogenes Diogenes Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers Loeb.
Dionysius Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae Loeb.
Eratosthenes ps-Eratosthenes Catasterismoi in T. Condos Star Myths (Phanes MI 1997).
Euripides Alcestis, Andromache, Bacchae, Cyclops, Electra, Hecuba, Helen, Heraclidae, Heracles, Hippolytus, Iphigenia at Aulis, Iphigenia in Tauris, Medea, Orestes, Phoenissae, Suppliants, Trojan Women Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Gellius Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae Loeb.
Herodotus History Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Hesiod Theogony, Works and Days, Loeb (with Shield of Heracles), OWC,
Homer Iliad, Odyssey Loeb, OWC, Penguin Homeric Hymns (to various gods and goddesses) Loeb (under
Horace Epistles, Epodes, Odes, Satires Loeb, Penguin.
Hyginus Fabulae tr M Grant (Kansas 1960).
Astronomica in T. Condos Star Myths (Phanes MI 1997).
Juvenal Satires Loeb, Penguin.
Livy History of Rome Loeb, Penguin.
Lucian Dialogi Deorum, Dialogi Mortuorum, Verae Historiae, Loeb.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Manilius Astronomica Loeb.
Nonnus Dionysiaca Loeb.
Ovid Amores, Ars Amatoria, Heroides, Metamorphoses Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Pausanias Descriptions of Greece Loeb, Penguin.
Pindar Isthmian, Nemean, Olympian, and Pyhian Odes Loeb, Penguin.
Plato Cratylus, Ion, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Republic, Symposium, Timaeus, in Plato Complete Works ed J. M. Cooper, (Indianapolis: Hackett 1997).
Pliny the Elder Natural History (NH) Loeb.
Plutarch Parallel Lives, Parallel Stories, Moralia Loeb.
Propertius Poems Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Quintus of Smyrna (Q Smyrnaeus) Posthomerica Loeb.
Seneca Tragedies Loeb, Penguin.
Servius Commentary on Vergil (Latin only).
Sophocles Ajax, Antigone, Electra, Oedipus, Oedipus at Colonus, Philoctetes,Trachiniae Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
Statius Achilleis, Thebaid Loeb.
Strabo Geographia Loeb.
Suetonius Lives of the Caesars Loeb.
Theocritus Bucolica Loeb.
Tibullus Poems Loeb, Penguin.
Valerius Flaccus Argonautica Loeb.
Varro De Lingua Latina (LL) Loeb.
Vergil Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid Loeb, OWC, Penguin.
DICTIONARY OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY
THE MYTHS OF THE CONSTELLATIONS
[The main sources for these myths are: Pseudo-Eratosthenes Catasterismi, Hyginus De astronomia, book 2, Aratus Phaenomena and Manilius Astronomica. For details see Summary of Sources]
I Constellations of the Northern Sky
1. Ursa Major (‘Great Bear’). The great and little Bears stand back to back on either side of the northern pole of the sky. 1. Ursa Major is *Callisto, an Arcadian companion of Artemis who was transformed into a bear by Artemis (or by Zeus, or Hera) after she was seduced by Zeus. Although there are several conflicting accounts of this star-myth two basic patterns can be distinguished. According to one, Callisto was killed by Artemis soon after her transformation, and Zeus placed her, or an image of her, in the heavens; according to the
other, Callisto survived, and her son *Arcas hunted her when he grew up without realizing that the bear was his mother. Zeus saved him from matricide by transferring both of them to the heavens, Callisto as the Bear, and Arcas as Bootes (4). The constellation circles the Pole and never sets into Ocean (i.e. below the horizon). 2. According to Aratus, the infant Zeus was nursed by bears for two years in a cave by Mount Dicte in Crete, and the god later rewarded them by placing them in the heavens as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Aratus names the bears as Helice and Cynosura (which were originally names for the constellations themselves). 3. In later astronomical sources, Helice and Cynosura are described as nymphs who reared the infant Zeus on Mount Ida in Crete. Zeus subsequently transferred them to the heavens (but it is not clear in this version why they should have been represented as bears). 4. For a Cretan tale in which Zeus transformed himself into a snake and his nurses into bears to conceal his presence from Cronus, see Draco (3.2). 5. If the constellation is pictured not as a bear but as a farm-wagon or a group of oxen, it forms a sky-picture with neighbouring Bootes (the ‘Oxherd’, 4), who is driving his ox-wagon or oxen through the sky. Hamaxa (the ‘Wagon’) was an early name for the constellation, attested by Homer; at Rome, the stars were known as the Septentriones (the ‘seven plough-oxen’).
2. Ursa Minor (‘Little Bear’). 1. For stories combined with the Great Bear, see Ursa Major (1.2-3) and Draco (3.2). 2. This is a second image of *Callisto (who had been transferred to the sky by Zeus as the ‘Great Bear’, see 1.1). The original tale can be reconstructed with some plausibility from three imperfect accounts: after Callisto had been seduced by Zeus, the jealous Hera transformed her into a bear, and Artemis hunted her down and killed her in ignorance of her true identity; but afterwards, when Artemis realized who the bear had been, she placed an image of her opposite Ursa Major and thus ensured that Callisto should be honoured twice over. 3. This is Callisto’s hunting-dog, which died with its mistress; this identification was probably suggested by a traditional name for the constellation, Cynosura (‘Dog’s tail’).
3. Draco (‘Dragon’). A contorted serpent whose tail passes between the two Bears. 1. This is the serpent that guarded the golden apples of the *Hesperides. After Heracles, here identified with the neighbouring constellation Engonasin (6), had killed it (see *Labours of Heracles 11), Hera transferred it to the sky. 2. According to a Cretan tale, Cronus came to Crete while he was searching for his infant son Zeus, who had been hidden on the island by Rhea, and Zeus concealed his presence by transforming himself into a snake and his two nurses into bears. After his rise to power, Zeus commemorated the incident by placing this image of the snake in the sky, together with images of his transformed nurses as Ursa Major (1) and UrsaMinor (2). 3. During the battle between the gods and the Giants, the Giants hurled a huge serpent at Athena, but she seized hold of it despite its contortions and hurled it towards the northern axis of the heavens, where its twisted form can still be seen, immobilized by the cold. 4. This is the Theban dragon killed by *Cadmus, or 5. it is *Python, the serpent killed by Apollo when he seized control of the Delphic oracle.
4. Bootes (‘Oxherd’), also known to the Greeks as Arctophylax (‘Guardian of the Bear’). 1. As the heavenly oxherd, Bootes forms a sky-picture with neighbouring Ursa Major (1) if the latter constellation is identified as the heavenly farm-wagon or as a group of oxen. He can be seen driving the ox-drawn wagon or his oxen through the sky. 2. Again in relation to Ursa Major (1.1), this is *Arcas, who was transferred to the heavens by Zeus when he hunted his mother Callisto in ignorance of her true identity after she had been transformed into a bear. 3. This is *Icarius who was killed by Athenian peasants after he had set out with his wagon to
spread knowledge of wine through Attica; he was transferred to the heavens by Zeus or Dionysus. His daughter *Erigone and his dog *Maera were also placed in the sky as Virgo (26) and Canis Major (36) or Sirius (36a); and the bowl that Icarius used when dispensing the wine became the constellation Crater (40). 4. The constellation represents *Philomelus, a son of Demeter and Iasion who lived as a farmer in Crete; Demeter transferred him to the sky to honour him for having invented the farm-wagon.
5. Corona Borealis (‘Northern Crown’). A wreath of foliage or of gold. 1. When *Ariadne married Dionysus on the island of Dia, Aphrodite and the Horae (Seasons) gave her this crown as a wedding gift, and Dionysus placed it in the sky after her death to commemorate his love for her, or else Dionysus gave it to her after he had first slept with her, and the gods later transferred it to the sky to gratify Dionysus. 2. Dionysus went to Crete before the arrival of Theseus to seduce Ariadne, and he won her consent by offering her this magnificent crown. It had been fashioned by Hephaestus from fiery gold and was set with precious stones from India. Because of it luminosity, Ariadne later gave it to *Theseus, who used it to light his way through the *labyrinth, and when he and Ariadne arrived safely in Naxos after their escape from Crete, the gods placed the crown in the heavens as a sign of their love for one another. 3. The crown was a wedding present from Aphrodite to *Amphitrite, who gave it to *Theseus when he visited the underwater palace of her husband Poseidon after he had plunged into the sea to prove to Minos that he was a son of Poseidon. Theseus passed it on to Ariadne, and Dionysus placed it in the sky after her death as in (1) or when he first met her on Naxos after she had been deserted by Theseus. 4. Before Dionysus descended to Hades to recover his mother Semele, he left this crown, which he had acquired as a gift from Aphrodite, at Stephanos (‘Crown’) in Argos to prevent it from being contaminated by contact with the dead. After he had brought his mother to the upper world, he placed the crown amongst the stars in her honour. 5. According to one account, neighbouring Engonasin (6) can be identified as *Prometheus, and this constellation is then the crown worn by Prometheus as expiation for his theft of fire, for Zeus told him to wear such a crown after he was released from his punishment by Heracles, and the custom was also adopted by human beings, who
had benefited from the theft of fire. 6. If however Engonasin is identified as *Ixion, this is the wheel on which he is whirled through the heavens as his punishment for having tried to seduce Hera.
6. Engonasin (‘Kneeler’, known later as ‘Heracles’). A kneeling figure; often identified as Heracles, with a club in his upraised right hand. 1. This is Heracles, raising his club against neighbouring Draco (3), which represents the dragon that guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides; see *Labours of Heracles 11. The tip of his left foot rests on the dragon’s head. 2. According to another story, Heracles was attacked by the Ligurians in what is now southern France as he was returning with the cattle of Geryon; see *Labours of Heracles 10. After shooting many of the Ligurians, he ran out of arrows and was wounded; but Zeus came to his aid by showering a huge quantity of stones from the sky; Heracles can be seen here kneeling down to throw them at his attackers. The stones still cover the Plaine de Crau, between Marseilles and the mouth of the Rhone. 3. This is the young *Theseus recovering the tokens of paternity which his father *Aegeus had left for him at Troezen, for Aegeus had placed a sword and some sandals under a rock, and the constellation shows Theseus kneeling down to lift up the rock. If this is Theseus, neighbouring Lyra (8) represents his lyre. Otherwise, Engonasin was identified as: 4. *Thamyris, who was blinded by the Muses after he had been
defeated by them in a singing contest, and is shown kneeling in the attitude of a suppliant. 5. *Orpheus, who was killed by the women of Thrace. It would seem that he is kneeling as a suppliant, or simply sinking to his knees under the force of the attack. This and the preceding identification were probably suggested by the proximity of Lyra (8), which was a suitable attribute for a musician. 6. *Prometheus, bound to the Caucasus as her suffers his punishment for the theft of fire; in this case, neighbouring Corona Borealis (5.5) represents his wreath. 7. *Ixion, who is whirled forever through the sky on a wheel, represented by Corona Borealis (5), as his punishment for having tried to seduce Hera. 8. *Tantalus, who also suffered perpetual punishment. 9. Ceteus, a son of Lycaon and the father of Megisto (otherwise known as *Callisto). He was so distressed when his daughter was turned into a bear (represented by Ursa Major 1.1) that he knelt down, as depicted in this constellation, and raised his arms to the heavens to pray that she should be restored to him.
7. Ophiuchus (‘Serpent-holder’). A man grasping a snake with both hands, viewed from behind. The snake, which extends to right and left of him, is now classed as a separate constellation (as indeed it was by some ancient authors, notably Ptolemy). 1. This is *Asclepius. Zeus struck him with a thunderbolt to punish him for reviving the dead, but later placed him in the sky as a conciliatory gesture to Apollo, the father of Asclepius; Asclepius is shown with a snake because that was his main attribute as a healing god. 2. When *Triptolemus was spreading Demeter’s gift of grain through the world, *Carnabon, a Thracian king, planned to murder him and killed one of the dragons that drew his chariot. Demeter came to the rescue of Triptolemus, and placed Carnabon in the sky with a snake as a deterrent to others. Although the relevant passage by Hyginus is unclear, it can be assumed that the constellation shows him under constant threat from the snake. 3. After *Triopas had torn down Demeter’s temple in Thessaly to provide roofing for his palace, the goddess afflicted him with insatiable hunger and then sent a serpent against him. After his death, she placed him in the heavens, where he can still be seen encircled by a serpent which seems to be inflicting an everlasting and well-deserved punishment on him. 4. This is *Phorbas, son of Triopas, who cleared Rhodes of snakes, including one of enormous size, after he had been driven to the island by a storm. He was a favourite of Apollo, who honoured him by placing him in the sky, where he can be seen with the huge snake that he had killed. 5. While Heracles was serving Omphale in Asia Minor, he killed a harmful snake by the banks of the Sangarius, a Lydian river; and Zeus honoured his bravery by placing this image of him in the sky.
8. Lyra (‘Lyre’). The infant *Hermes invented the lyre by stretching strings of cow’s gut across a tortoise’s shell, and he commemorated his invention by transferring the first lyre to the sky. Alternatively he gave the lyre to Apollo, who passed it on to *Orpheus, the finest musician amongst mortals, and the Muses (or Zeus at the request of the Muses) placed it in the sky in memory of Orpheus after he was torn apart by Bacchants in Thrace. 2. According to one tradition, neighbouring Engonasin (6) can be identified as Theseus, and Lyra thenrepresents his lyre. 3. In one account of the story of *Arion and the dolphin, Apollo transferred Arion’s lyre to the sky when he placed Arion’s dolphin in the sky as Delphinus (12).
9. Aquila (‘Eagle’). 1. This is the eagle that abducted *Ganymede for Zeus, who rewarded it by placing it amongst the stars. He considered it worthy of that honour, furthermore, because the eagle is the king of the birds and the only bird that can fly directly towards the sun. In one late account, this eagle was originally a beautiful youth called *Aetus, who was a companion of Zeus during his early life in Crete and was subsequently transformed into an eagle (aetos) by the jealous Hera. 2. According to a Naxian tale, the infant Zeus was secretly conveyed from Crete to Naxos and was reared on the island. When he came of age and wanted to launch his war against the Titans, he offered a sacrifice, and an eagle appeared. Recognizing this as a favourable omen, Zeus placed the eagle amongst the stars. 3. This was an eagle which brought nectar to the infant Zeus, who subsequently rewarded it by placing it in the sky. 4. Hermes once fell in love with Aphrodite, but she rejected him and he became disheartened. Zeus took pity on him and arranged that an eagle should steal Aphrodite’s slipper as she was bathing in the river Achelous and then take it to Hermes in Egypt. When the goddess came to recover it, Hermes achieved his desire and showed his gratitude to the eagle by placing it in the sky. (A version of the folk-tale usually associated with *Rhodopis.) 5. For a connection with the Swan, see Cygnus (11.1).
10. Sagitta (‘Arrow’). 1. When Zeus struck *Asclepius with a thunderbolt, the angry Apollo avenged his son’s death by shooting the *Cyclopes (who had fashioned the thunderbolt) with this arrow. Apollo hid the arrow in the land of the *Hyperboreans; but subsequently, when he and Zeus were reconciled, he caused it to fly back to Greece, and then placed it in the heavens to commemorate the episode. 2. This is the arrow used by Heracles when he shot the eagle that tormented *Prometheus. In ancient illustrations the Eagle is sometimes shown, though incorrectly, with the Arrow in its claws.
11. Cygnus (‘Swan’). 1. When *Nemesis tried to escape the advances of Zeus by transforming herself into many different forms and finally into a swan, Zeus accordingly changed himself into a swan and so raped her. He flew up into the sky afterwards while still in the form of a swan, and commemorated the episode by placing an image of himself in the heavens as the bird. In another version, he turned himself into a swan to seduce Nemesis, and told Aphrodite to pursue him in the form of an eagle. He pretended to take refuge with Nemesis who embraced him and then fell asleep; Zeus raped her while she was asleep and flew away. In
this case he placed two images in the sky, of himself as Cygnus and of Aphrodite as the neighbouring Eagle (9). In his Helen, Euripides tells a similar story of Zeus and Leda, and in some late sources, Zeus is said to have placed the image in the sky after having intercourse as a swan with *Leda. 2. Because swans are musical birds, a swan was place in the stars next to Lyra (8) in honour of Apollo. The reputed musicality of swans, which were said to sing most sweetly just before their death, was a feature of Greek folklore. 3. *Cycnus, king of Liguria, who was a gifted musician, so mourned for his dead friend *Phaethon that he aroused the pity of Apollo, who transformed him into a swan (as a musical bird and his namesake) and then transferred him to the heavens.
12. Delphinus (‘Dolphin’). 1. When some Tyrrhenian pirates abducted the young *Dionysus, he caused them to leap into the sea and turned them into dolphins; the god commemorated the episode by placing an image of a dolphin amongst the stars. 2. When *Amphitrite hid herself in the outer Ocean to avoid marrying Poseidon, a dolphin found her, and Poseidon placed himin the sky as a reward. 3. This is the dolphin that rescued the poet *Arion, which was placed in the sky by Apollo, the patron of lyric poets.
13. Equus (‘Horse’, known also as Pegasus). An incomplete figure of a horse, showing only its head, forefeet and the front half of its body. Although it was often identified as Pegasus, and Ptolemy referred to its wings, the constellation-figure was not given as winged in earlier Greek sources. 1. According to Aratus, this is the horse that created *Hippocrene (‘Horse’s Spring’) on Mount Helicon in Boeotia; the unnamed horse caused the spring to gush forth by stamping the ground with its forefoot. 2. This *Pegasus. When Bellerophon tried to fly up to the heavens on Pegasus, he was unwise enough to look downwards and fell off in a fright, but
the winged horse continued on his way and can still be seen in the sky. According to Hyginus, Zeus established him amongst the constellations after he arrived there. Although this was initially cited as an alternative identification to the previous, it was later assumed that Pegasus and the horse that created the spring were one and the same. Accordingly, it was said that Pegasus visited Mount Helicon after carrying Bellerophon back from his adventures in Asia Minor, and that he created the spring to quench his own or his master’s thirst. 3. This is the transformed *Hippe. Artemis turned her into a horse to prevent her from being discovered by her father Cheiron when she gave birth to illegitimate twins; the goddess then transferred her
to the heavens because of the piety of herself and her father, placing her in a part of the sky where she would be invisible to her father (represented by Centaurus, 42, in the southern sky).
14-17. Perseus and associated constellations. As *Perseus was returning to Greece with the Gorgon’s head, he rescued his future wife, Andromeda, from a sea-monster. All the main characters in the story are portrayed in this group of constellations. Andromeda’s mother Cassiopeia (15) boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids and so provoked Poseidon to send a sea-monster against the land. On the advice of an oracle from Zeus Ammon, Cepheus (16), the king of the Ethiopians, exposed his daughter Andromeda (17) by
the seashore. Seeing Andromeda tied to a rock by the shore, Perseus (14) fell in love with her and killed the monster with his sword or sickle; the monster himself, Cetus (33), can be found in the southern sky. Athena placed the figures in the sky to commemorate Perseus’ noble deed. As a constellation figure, Cassiopeia is seated on her throne as she watches the drama with her arms stretched out in alarm. Hyginus notes that she seems to be carried through the sky upside down as a punishment for her impiety in claiming to rival the Nereids. Cepheus is standing, and, in ancient illustrations, he too has his arms outstretched. The unfortunate
Andromeda is bound to a sea-cliff by her outstretched arms. Perseus has the Gorgon’s head in his left hand and the weapon (which looks more like a short sword than a sickle) raised in his right hand.
18. Triangulum (Triangle). 1. Hermes placed the Triangle in the sky to indicate the position of the first constellation in the zodiac, neighbouring Aries (21), which is very faint. He thus marked it with a Delta, the first letter of the stem of the name of Zeus in Greek. 2. As a three-sided figure, it commemorates the division of the universe into three realms. 3. It represents Egypt or Sicily.
19. Auriga (‘Charioteer’). 1. This is *Erichthonius, king of Athens, who was placed in the sky by Zeus because he was the first man to yoke horses together in a four-horse chariot. 2. It is *Trochilus, the inventor of the chariot according to the Argive tradition. 3. *Myrtilus, the charioteer of Oenomaus, who was transferred to the heavens by his father Hermes after he was killed by *Pelops. 4. *Oenomaus, who used to challenge his daughter’s suitors to a chariot race. 5. Cillus, the charioteer of Pelops (who finally defeated Oenomaus in such arace). 6. According to the tradition at Troezen as related to Pausanias, this is *Hippolytus. For the Troezenians rejected the usual story that he was killed when Poseidon sent a bull from the sea to panic his horses as he was driving his chariot along the shore, but claimed instead that the gods had placed him in the sky as the Charioteer and that he had never died. 7. This is *Phaethon, who was placed in the heavens after Zeus struck him with a thunderbolt because he was unable to control the chariot of the Sun.
19a. The Goat and the Kids. A star-group of popular origin. The brightest star in Auriga, the sixth brightest in the sky, was known to the Greeks as the Goat (Aix; now more familiar under its Latin name Capella, ‘She-goat’); the two stars nearby (zeta and eta Aurigi), which are much smaller but catch the eye because they are close together and of similar size, were identified as the two Kids of the Goat. According to the ancient astronomers, the Goat is perched on the left shoulder of the Charioteer and the two Kids on his left hand. 1. This was the goat that suckled the infant Zeus in Crete, or at Olenus in the northern Peloponnese. When Zeus rose to power, he showed his gratitude by placing it in the heavens as a star of exceptional brightness.
According to Ovid, it was owned by the nymph *Amaltheia, and it had two kids (a detail which was clearly introduced to explain the origin of the Kids in the sky, although Ovid makes no mention of them). Others said that this was the goat *Amaltheia owned by the daughters of Melisseus. 2. The account of this story ascribed to Musaeus is sufficiently remarkable to deserve separate treatment. Rhea entrusted the infant Zeus to Themis, and Themis passed him on to Amaltheia, who was the owner of an extraordinary goat, for it was a
child of Helius (the Sun), and the Titans had been so terrified by its appearance (apparently because of the blinding whiteness of its coat) that they had asked Gaia (Earth) to hide it away in a cave in Crete. It was under the charge of Amaltheia, who suckled Zeus on its milk. When Zeus came of age and was about to launch his war against the Titans, he received an oracle that he would be victorious if he made use of the fearsome and invulnerable skin of the goat (i.e. as his *aegis) and fixed the Gorgon’s head to it. After his victory, Zeus covered the bones of the dead goat with another skin and revived it, and then transferred it to the heavens as the Goat; the aegis was then given to Athena.
20. Canis Minor (‘Lesser Dog’ or Procyon – ‘the dog who comes earlier’). Identified later than Canis Major (36), this constellation had a similar history, for in both cases, a large star in the neighbourhood of the hunter Orion (35) was identified as Orion’s dog, and the constellation was seen as constructed around it. The Greeks applied the name Procyon to the star and constellation alike because they rose before the Great Dog. As with the larger Dog, Canis Minor forms a sky-picture with Orion, who can be seen hunting Lepus (‘Hare’, 37) through the sky. Because it was of secondary origin, it has no independent myths, but shares those of Canis Major. It should be noted, however, that the myths of Sirius (36a, the dog-star in Canis Major) relate to its specific nature as a scorching star, and for that reason cannot properly be transferred to the present constellation.
II The Constellations of the Zodiac
21. Aries ( Ram). The first constellation in the zodiac. 1. This was the golden-fleeced ram that carried *Phrixus to Colchis. After their safe arrival, Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus Phyxios (‘Escaper’) and gave its fleece to Aeetes, king of Colchis. The ram then flew up to the heavens, where it can still be seen; or it was placed there by Nephele, the mother of Phrixus. The constellation is very faint because the ram had been stripped of its golden fleece. 2. While Dionysus was campaigning in Africa he and his army ran out of water in the desert. At the critical time a ram suddenly appeared and led the soldiers to a pool of water at the oasis ofSiwa and then disappeared. Dionysus founded a temple there to Zeus Ammon, and made a statue of Zeus with ram’s horns (as Ammon was commonly represented); Dionysus (or Zeus at his request) showed his gratitude to the ram by placing it in the heavens. In another version, the ram appeared after Dionysus had prayed to Zeus for assistance, and it created the spring by stamping the ground with its hoof. 3. The ram was placed in the sky to honour Dionysus for having introduced sheep-rearing. No details are given.
22. Taurus (‘Bull’). The second constellation in the zodiac. The Bull seems to be kneeling, and only the front half of its body is shown. Two important star groups are in Taurus: (a) the Pleiades, which lie on the neck of the Bull, and (b) the Hyades, which form the outline of its face. 1. This is the bull that abducted *Europa for Zeus, who showed his gratitude by placing it in the sky as a bright constellation. Alternatively, the constellation represents Zeus himself in the form of a bull, the shape in which he abducted Europa to Crete; he commemorated the episode by placing an image of the bull in the sky. 2. The Cretan bull that mated with
*Pasiphae. 3. The bull of Marathon, which lived in Attica until it was killed by *Theseus. 4. Zeus honoured *Io, who was transformed temporarily into a cow, by placing an image of her in that form in the heavens; because the hind-quarters were indistinct, the gender was ambiguous. 5. It is suggested in one source that the Bull forms a sky-picture with neighbouring Orion (35) – the great hunter seems to be threatening it with his club.
22 a. The Pleiades (‘Seven Sisters’). A star-cluster on the neck of the Bull, the brightest open cluster in the sky. The Greeks believed that it contains seven stars, although more can be distinguished by observers with good eyesight and six are brighter than the rest. This striking cluster, which is mentioned by Homer, Hesiod and Sappho, was used for setting a calender date from an early period. 1. These are star-maidens who were identified as the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, namely Alcyone, Merope, Celaeno, Electra, Sterope, Taygete and Maia. They form a sky-picture with neighbouring Orion (35), who seems to be pursuing them through the sky. Orion met Pleione and her daughters in Boeotia and pursued them because he was after Pleione in particular; when the pursuit had lasted for seven years, or seemed likely to last forever, Zeus took pity on the seven maidens and transferred them to the sky as the Pleiades. In one account, the whole cluster represents Pleione herself. Alternatively Orion was pursuing them all and, just as he was about to catch up with them, they prayed to the gods; Zeus, out of pity, transformed them into doves (peleiades) and then transferred them to the heavens as the Pleiades. 2. According to a fragment by Aeschylus, they were transferred to the sky because of their distress at the grievous task imposed on their father Atlas, who had to support the sky. 3. The Pleiades, in one account, were sisters of the Hyades (22b1), and they were transferred to the heavens because of their grief at the death of their brother Hyas. 4. According to the Hellenistic poet Moiro, they were not maidens at all, but some doves which brought ambrosia from the streams of Ocean to the infant Zeus, who later rewarded them by placing them in the heavens. 5. Some authors appealed to mythology to explain why one star is less visible than the other six. The pale star is *Merope, the wife of
Sisyphus, who hid herself away because she was ashamed at having been the only Pleiad to marry a mortal, or it is *Electra, the mother of *Dardanus and the ancestor of the Trojan royal family, who veiled her face with clouds, or covered her face with her hand, because she could not bear to behold the destruction of Troy. In other versions she became either a comet with her hair, loosened as a sign of mourning, streaming behind her, or the little ‘Fox-star’ (now Alcor,) on the tail of the Great Bear.
22 b. The Hyades. A group of bright stars in the head of Taurus. There was disagreement as to which should be included, and estimates of their number varied accordingly from seven to three (or even two in one account). The brightest star in the Hyades, Aldebaran, is the fourteenth brightest in the sky. An early star-group of popular origin, the Hyades were used for calendar dating, and they are mentioned by Homer and Hesiod. 1. The Hyades were included in a joint star-myth with the neighbouring Pleiades. According to this story, Atlas had thirteen children by the Oceanid Aethra, twelve daughters and a son, Hyas; when Hyas
was killed by a snake or a lion in Libya, five of his sisters grieved so bitterly that they soon died, and Zeus transferred them to the heavens, naming them the Hyades after their brother. The seven remaining sisters, who were more restrained in their grief, died more slowly, but they too were transferred to the heavens, under the name of the Pleiades (because there were more of them, pleious). 2. These were the five or seven nymphs who reared the infant Dionysus. When *Lycurgus pursued Dionysus and his nurses down to the sea, Zeus took pity on the nurses and transferred them to the heavens, or the nymphs went to Thebes and delivered the child to *Ino through fear of Hera (who resented Dionysus as an illegitimate child of Zeus), and, when this was safely achieved, Zeus showed his gratitude by placing them in the sky. As nurses of Dionysus, the Hyades were said to have derived their name from one of the cult titles of Dionysus – ‘Hyes’. 3. These are the *Heliades, who so mourned the death of their brother *Phaethon, represented by Auriga (19), that they were transferred to the heavens (rather than transformed into poplars, as was the usual story). 4. They are the
three daughters of Erechtheus, king of Athens (who gave up their lives for their homeland, see*Hyacinthides). No details have survived of the astral myth. 5. The daughters of *Cadmus (who all became victims of tragedy during their life on earth). Again, no details have survived.
23. Gemini (‘Twins’). The third constellation in the zodiac. The pair were identified as: 1. Castor and Pollux, the *Dioscuri, who were placed in the sky by Zeus because they were the most faithful and affectionate of brothers. The magnificent pair of stars in the heads of the Twins are now known as Castor and Pollux. 2. The gods of Samothrace (the *Cabiri), who resembled the Dioscuri as spirits who brought aid to seafarers in distress, and were sometimes even identified with the Dioscuri. 3. *Zethus and *Amphion, another faithful pair of twins. 4. Heracles and Theseus, two heroes of comparable nature who performed deeds which benefited others. 5. *Triptolemus and *Iasion, two figures associated with Demeter, who presumably placed them in the sky. 6. Heracles and Apollo, the favourite identification in work of astrology.
24. Cancer (‘Crab’). The fourth constellation in the zodiac. While Heracles was trying to kill the hydra, he was bitten on the foot by this enormous crab; see *Labours of Heracles 2. In the standard version of the astral myth, the crab attacked Heracles of its own accord, and, when the angry hero crushed it with his foot, Hera honoured it by placing it in the sky as a sign of the zodiac because it alone of all beings had assisted the hydra against Heracles; according to most accounts however Hera herself sent the crab against Heracles.
24a. The Asses and the Manger. A Greek star-group of popular origin on the carapace of the crab, consisting of two stars of roughly equal size (gamma and delta Cancri) on either side of the star-cluster Praesepe (‘Manger’, now more familiar as ‘Beehive’). 1. In a burlesque account of the Gigantomachy, Zeus summoned all the gods to assist him against the *Giants, and Dionysus, Hephaestus, and the Satyrs and Sileni rode to his aid on asses. As they drew close to the Giants, but while they were still out of sight, the asses brayed, provoking panic amongst the Giants, who had never heard such a sound before. Two asses were subsequently placed in the sky, presumably by Zeus, to commemorate their part in the defeat of the Giants.
2. As Dionysus was travelling to the oracle at Dodona to seek a cure for the madness inflicted on him by Hera, he arrived at a huge and impassable swamp; he found two asses there, and one of them carried him safely across. After he was cured, Dionysus rewarded the ass by placing him in the sky with his companion, or he rewarded the ass by giving him a human voice. The ass used his new-found powers of speech to challenge Priapus to a contest on the size of his phallus. When Priapus won and then killed the ass, Dionysus took pity on him and placed him in the sky, or, as Priapus was about to kill the ass, Zeus substituted another, and subsequently transferred both asses to the sky.
25. Leo (‘Lion’). The fifth constellation in the zodiac. 1. Zeus placed a lion in the sky because the lion is the king of the beasts. 2. This is the Nemean lion, which was killed by Heracles despite its invulnerability; see *Labours of Heracles 1. Hera had arranged for it to be reared as a fearsome adversary for Heracles; and when Heracles killed it, she hated him all the more, and thought that the lion was worthy or a place in the heavens.
26. Virgo (‘Virgin’). The sixth constellation in the zodiac. 1. In an allegory by Aratus, the maiden in the stars is *Dike (Justice). In the time of the Golden Race, when human beings were righteous, Dike lived amongst them on earth; but when morals declined under the Silver Race, she no longer cared for their company and withdrew to the hills, only emerging at evening to address crowds of people and warn them to mend their ways. Finally, in the time of the Race of Bronze, when people turned to violence, crime and meat-eating, she abandoned the earth altogether to live in the heavens, where her image can still be seen as a silent admonition. 2. This is *Erigone, who hanged herself after the murder of her father *Icarius and was transferred to the heavens by Zeus or Dionysus together with Icarius, who became Bootes (4), and his dog, who became Canis Major (36) or Sirius (36a). 3. The Virgin in other versions is Thespeia, daughter of Asopus, who was granted three gifts by Apollo, to become the eponym of a city on earth (Thespiae in Boeotia), to become the Virgin in the heavens, and to deliver prophecies, or 4. Parthenos (‘Maiden’), daughter of Apollo and Chrysothemis, who was placed in the sky by Apollo when she died prematurely. 5. A variety of authors identified her with many other figures without providing a constellation myth. She is Demeter because
she is holding an attribute of the goddess, the ear of corn in her right hand associated with the splendid star Spica (Ear of Corn’, Greek Stachys), or *Tyche (Fortune), because the stars in her head are so pale that she seems to be headless (for Tyche, who represents a notoriously inconstant and unpredictable force, was sometimes imagined as blind or blindfolded), or she is Isis, Atagartis, or Cybele; or Eileithyia, Aphrodite, or Athena; or in Latin poetry, Pudicitia (Modesty), Virtus (Virtue), or Pax (Peace).
26a. Vindemiator (‘Vintager’). A star of the third magnitude (‘epsilon Virginis’) on the right shoulder of Virgo, also known as Vindemiatrix. Its early rising was the sign for the beginning of the vine-harvest. *Ampelus was transferred to the sky as this star by Dionysus after he fell from a tree while cutting grapes.
27. Libra ( ‘Scales’). The seventh constellation in the zodiac, which was devised at a relatively late period. Its stars originally formed the claws of Scorpio (28). As a sign of the zodiac, it was often depicted with a male or female bearer. The only myth associated with Libra was clearly suggested by such representations, for, according to Nigidius Figulus, this was ‘Mochos’ (i.e. Stathmouchos, ‘Balance-bearer’), the inventor of scales and weights who was raised to the heavens because of his exceptionally useful invention.
28. Scorpio (Scorpion). The eighth constellation in the zodiac. This was said to be the huge scorpion which killed Orion. Because the Scorpion rises as neighbouring Orion sets, it seemsto chase Orion through the sky. The myths of Orion and the scorpion follow two basic patterns: Orion either boasted that he would kill all the animals on the earth, provoking Gaia (Earth) to send the scorpion against him, or he tried to rape Artemis, his companion in the hunt, provoking Artemis to send the scorpion. See Orion.(35.3-6).
29. Sagittarius (‘Archer’). The ninth constellation in the zodiac. The Archer was depicted either as a four-footed Centaur or as a Silenus (with a horse’s hooves and tail, but only two legs). 1. Although scientific astronomers generally depicted the constellation as a Centaur, Eratosthenes argued against this on mythological grounds, saying that Centaurs never used bows and arrows, prefering to fight with more primitive weapons, such as rocks or uprooted trees. In Latin sources, however, Sagittarius was often identified as the wise Centaur Cheiron (which meant that another identification had to be found for the constellation Centaurus, see 42.2). 2. As a Silenus, Sagittarius was identified as Crotus, the personification of clapping.
According to a humorous myth derived from a Satyr play, he was the son of Eupheme (‘Reverent Silence’), the nurse of the Muses, and he lived with the Muses on Mount Helicon in Boeotia. He liked to listen to their singing and invented clapping as a sign of his approval, and also as a signal for others to show theirs; the Muses were so delighted by his invention that they asked Zeus to place him in the heavens. He was represented as a Silenus with a horse’s legs and tail because he had been an enthusiastic horseman, and he is shown with a bow because he had invented the bow and had used it during his hunting trips. Hyginus (who does not refer to clapping!) suggests that Zeus represented him with arrows as an indication of his acuteness and swiftness, and gave him a Satyr’s tail because the Muses took as much pleasure in his company as Dionysus did in that of the Satyrs.
30. Capricornus. The tenth constellation in the zodiac, which represents a ‘goat-fish’ with the forequarters of a horned goat and the tail of a fish. Its name (a Latin translation of Greek Aigokeros) means ‘Goat-horn’. This monster of eastern origin had no equivalent in Greek mythology. When devising constellation myths, the Greeks inevitably thought of Pan, who also had goat-like features, but special stories had to be invented for the unusual form of Capricorn. 1. Aegipan (Goat-Pan) was a son of the extraordinary goat that suckled Zeus (see 19a). He was suckled together with Zeus, who later transferred him to the sky. 2. When the gods fled to Egypt to escape *Typhon and concealed themselves from him by transforming themselves into animals, Pan threw himself into the Nile and turned the lower part of his body into that of a fish and the rest of it into that of a goat. Zeus so admired his ingenious disguise that he place an image of the transformed Pan amongst the stars.
31. Aquarius (‘Water-pourer’). The eleventh constellation into the zodiac, representing a male figure pouring water from an urn. 1. This was usually considered to be an image of *Ganymede, who was abducted to Olympus to act as cupbearer to Zeus and the gods. In that case, he would be pouring nectar rather than water (or wine). 2. This is *Cecrops, the first king of Athens, who ruled at a period when wine had not yet been introduced, and would thus have used water rather than wine when poring libations at sacrifices. 3. If this is *Deucalion, his water-pouring has a symbolic meaning, as an allusion to the great flood which took place in his time. 4. This is the daemon of the Nile, a gigantic being who stood at the source of the river and regulated the seasonal variations in its flow by the positioning of his feet. 5. The gods thought that *Aristaeus deserved to be placed into the heavens because he introduced so many rustic arts and inaugurated rites to moderate the heat of Sirius, the dog-star (36a).
32. Pisces (‘Fishes’). The twelfth constellation in the zodiac – two fishes whose tails are linked by a ribbon of stars. Because fishes played almost no part in Greek myth or cult, themythographers resorted to stories associated with the Syrian goddess Derceto (Atagartis) to account for these two fishes and also for Piscis Austrinus (‘Southern Fish’, 46). Fish were kept in sacred pools in front of her temples, and it was said that Syrians abstained from eating fish because of their association with the goddess, but rather honoured gilded images of them as their household gods. Two of the astral myths associated with the fishes are simple tales about the Syrian goddess, and in the two others, she is identified with Aphrodite and features are introduced from Greek myth. 1. When Derceto fell into a pool by night at Bambyce (Hierapolis) in Syria, she was rescued by a fish. To show her gratitude, she placed the fish in the sky as Piscis Austrinus (46) together with her two children as Pisces. 2. These were two fishes from the Euphrates who discovered an egg of extraordinary size in the river and rolled it ashore. It was then brooded by a dove, and the Syrian goddess hatched out of it a few days later; she asked Zeus to reward the two fishes by placing them in the sky. 3. As Aphrodite and
Eros, here described as her son, were once visiting the banks of the Euphrates, the monstrous *Typhon suddenly appeared, and the two of them plunged into the river and turned themselves into fishes to escape him. Although the end of the story is lost, it is clear that Aphrodite (or Zeus at her request) placed images of the two fishes in the sky to commemorate the incident. 4. In the more elaborate version in Ovid’s Fasti, Dione (i.e. Aphrodite) fled with Cupid (Eros) to the Euphrates to escape Typhon when the monster made war on Zeus and the gods. The goddess took refuge on the river-bank, but took fright when the foliage rustled in
the wind; so she jumped into the river with Cupid in her arms, calling to the nymphs for help. The pair were rescued by twin fishes, which took them onto their backs and conveyed them to safety; the fishes were subsequently rewarded by being transformed into the constellation.
III The Constellations of the Southern Sky
33. Cetus (‘Sea-monster’). The sea-monster was depicted either as a sea-dragon, a giant fish or large whale- like; it is the monster killed by Perseus. The other constellations associated with the story are all in the northern sky; see Perseus (14-17).
34. Eridanus. The Eridanus was a mythical river in western Europe which was later identified with the Po. Zeus placed an image of it in the sky after *Phaethon plunged to his death in it. Although most authors followed Aratus in identifying the constellation as Eridanus, the Greeks generally referred to it by the vaguer name of Potamos (‘River’), and alternative identifications were suggested for it. It is an image of the Ocean, the mythical stream that encircles the earth, or, some argued, it would be more appropriate to identify it as
an image of the Nile because it flows from the south (i.e. from the southern pole of the sky) and also because the star Canopus, which bore the same name as a city at the mouth of the Nile, lies at the end of it.
35. Orion. 1. As part of a sky-picture, *Orion is hunting Lepus (‘Hare’, 37) through the heavens with the aid of one or both of the neighbouring dogs, Canis Major (36) and Canis Minor (20). 2. Again as part of a sky- picture, he is pursuing the neighbouring star-maidens, the Pleiades (22a), through the sky. Although it was said that Zeus transferred the Pleiades to the sky to save them from Orion (22a.1), it was not suggested, obviously, that he placed Orion there at the same time. 3. Alternatively, Orion himself is being pursued through the sky by Scorpio (‘Scorpion’, 28), and this was explained by a variety of stories. According to one,
Orion spent the latter part of his life hunting in Crete in the company of Artemis and Leto, and, when he threatened to kill every animal on the earth, Gaia (Earth) caused his death by sending a giant scorpion against him. Zeus then transferred him to the heavens at the request of Artemis and Leto, and the scorpion was placed there at the same time to commemorate theepisode. 4. Alternatively Artemis sent the scorpion against him (or, less satisfactorily, shot him with her arrows) because he tried to rape her while he was clearing Chios of wild animals. Zeus placed him in the sky with the scorpion, either to commemorate his remarkable strength or to warn others against impious behaviour. 5. In another version Artemis sent the
scorpion against Orion because he mocked her skills as a hunter while he was hunting on Mount Pelion in Thessaly, so Zeus placed them both in the sky. 6. According to Ovid (Fasti 5.538-44) Gaia sent the scorpion against Leto, and Orion interposed himself to save the goddess, who rewarded him by placing him in the sky. The reason for Gaia’s action is not explained (nor is it clear why Leto should have needed the help of a mortal). 7. Artemis loved Orion and wanted to marry him, much to the displeasure of her brother Apollo, who tried unsuccessfully to dissuade her. One day, Apollo noticed the head of Orion bobbing in the sea as he was swimming offshore, and he challenged Artemis to hit the indistinct object in the distance with one of her arrows.. She did so, and unwittingly killed her beloved. When his body was washed ashore, she was filled with remorse and transferred him to the sky.
36. Canis Major (‘Greater Dog’). Sirius, the brightest star in this sky, came to be known as Orion’s dog because it lies near the feet of Orion, and the present constellation was then constructed around the star. The myths of Canis Major can also be referred to the other dog, Canis Minor (20). 1. The Dog forms a sky-picture with Orion (35), who is using it to hunt Lepus (‘Hare’, 37) through the sky. 2. This was the wonder dog, sometimes called *Laelaps, which was owned by *Cephalus. It caught whatever it chased, and, when Amphitryon set it in pursuit of the *Teumessian Fox (which escaped whatever pursued it), Zeus resolved the contradiction by turning the fox to stone and removing the dog to the heavens. (In the original story, Zeus turned both animals to stone.) 3. This was a dog, sometimes named as *Maera, and owned by *Icarius. After Icarius had been killed by Athenian peasants, the dog led his daughter *Erigone to his body, and, when she hanged herself in grief, the dog either died of starvation or killed itself by jumping into a well. Taking pity on their fate, Zeus (or Dionysus) transferred all three to the stars, the dog as Canis Major (or Sirius specifically, 36a.1), Erigone as Virgo (26), and Icarius as Bootes (4). 4. Canis was also identified as the dog of *Alcyoneus. No details are given, but he may have been transferred to the sky after his master was killed by Heracles. 5. Or he was the dog of Isis, see Sirius, 36a.3).
36a. Sirius. The dog-star, which rose at the hottest time of the year in the dog-days of summer. It was believed that it caused the heat, and so brought with it drought and disease. The star was originally identified as the dog of Orion, and later, when the constellation of the Dog was developed around it, the myths associated with Canis Major could also be referred to Sirius. There were, however, two Greek myths which were specifically associated with Sirius in its nature as the scorching dog-star. 1. The murderers of *Icarius (see Bootes, 4.3) fled from Attica to Ceos, a small island off the southern tip of Attica. His dog *Maera died or
committed suicide soon afterwards and was transferred to the heavens by Zeus (or Dionysus) to become the dog-star, and, in his new form, he scorched Ceos to avenge his master, spoiling the crops and bringing disease to the islanders. *Aristaeus, their king, consulted his father Apollo, who advised him to offer sacrifices to appease Icarius, and to establish annual rites on the island to appease Sirius and summon the cooling Etesian winds. 2. Long ago, when stars still made visits to the earth, Sirius was sent as an envoy to Opora, the goddess of the harvest-time and its fruits; he fell in love with her, and glowed all the hotter because his love could never be satisfied. Although the people on earth prayed to the gods for relief from the heat, and the Etesian winds were sent to provide a measure of relief every year, Sirius still glows every summer at harvest-time with the heat of his frustrated love. 3. Because the early rising of the dog-star was associated with the swelling of the Nile, the Egyptians regarded it as a beneficent star. It was sacred to *Isis, and Greek sources sometimes refer to it as the star (or even dog) of Isis.
37. Lepus (‘Hare’). 1. This constellation was devised to provide Orion (35) with some prey; for the great hunter can be seen pursuing it through the sky with his dog (Canis Major, 36, or Minor, 20). Some questioned, however, whether a hare was the appropriate prey for such a mighty hunter. 2. Hermes placed the Hare in the sky because he so admired the swiftness and extraordinary fertility of hares, which, unusually, conceive new young before they have given birth to their previous litter. 3. When hares were first introduced to Leros, they aroused such admiration that everyone began to breed them, but they multiplied so rapidly that they ate all
the vegetation, and the Lerians had to band together to eliminate them from their island. Afterwards, they devised this constellation to remind people that nothing is so desirable in life that it cannot bring more sorrow than delight.
38. Argo. An incomplete image of a ship, showing only the back section from the stern to the mast. Since the constellation was exceptionally large, it has since been divided into three separate constellations: Carina (‘Keel’), Puppis (‘Stern’) and Vela (‘Sail’). As its name would indicate, this is *Argo, the ship of the Argonauts, which was placed in the sky by Athena because it was the first large sea-going ship. According to Plutarch, the Egyptians called it the ship of Osiris; the suggestion that it was the ship of *Danaus first appears in a medieval commentary on Aratus.
39. Hydra (‘Water-snake’). 1. Because Crater (‘Bowl’, 40) and Corvus (‘Crow’, 41) seem to be positioned on the back of the water-snake, the three constellations share a common myth. One day, when Apollo wanted to make a sacrifice, he sent his special bird, the crow, to fetch some water for a libation. But there were some fig-trees by the spring and the crow waited there for several day until the fruit had ripened. When he finally returned with a bowl full of water, he also brought the snake which inhabited the spring, and told Apollo that he had been delayed because the snake had been drinking all the water (or that it had prevented him from drawing the water, or that it had blocked the spring). Apollo, who knows everything, realized that this was a lie and punished the crow by making him perpetually thirsty at that time of year, for it was thought that the hoarse croaking of crows implies that they are suffering from thirst. The Crow now stands on the back of Hydra behind the Bowl, and we can see him pecking at the Hydra’s back, as if he were asking to be given access to the bowl to quench his thirst. 2. This is the Lernaean hydra killed by Heracles in his second *Labour. Although the proximity of Cancer (24), which represents the crab which came to the aid of the hydra, might favour such an identification, the constellation depicts an ordinary snake, not a many-headed monster like
the Lernaean hydra. 3. It was said that the Egyptians identified this sinuous constellation with the Nile. In support of this identification, an ingenious scheme was developed in which different stretches of the constellation were aligned to different signs of the zodiac (which runs roughly parallel to the Hydra over part of its course) and so to different periods of the year and thence to the level of the Nile at each period. By this means, it could be shown that the head of the snake marks the beginning of the river’s rise, the middle its fullest spate, and the tail its decline. 4. Although Manilius suggests in his astrological poem that the Hydra was the serpent which guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, he may have confused this constellation with Draco (3), which was commonly identified with that serpent.
40. Crater (‘Bowl’). This is properly a mixing-bowl, the form of bowl used by the Greeks when they mixed water with their wine, as was their usual custom. The Bowl seems to rest on the back of Hydra (39). 1. Because of its position, it shares a common myth with Hydra and Corvus; see 39.1. 2. This was the bowl used by *Icarius when he was spreading knowledge of wine in Attica. 3. Some late authors refer to this constellation as the bowl of Dionysus (but that may be an allusion to the previous story, since Icarius was a propagating a gift of Dionysus). 4. This was the bowl used by *Mastusius when he mixed the blood of the daughters of Demophon into some wine and gave it to their father to drink. Demophon punished him by throwing him into the sea together with the bowl – the early astronomers were said to have represented the bowl in the sky to point a moral lesson about the persistence of hatred. 5. This was the jar used by the *Aloads when they imprisoned Ares; according to the Iliad, it was a large bronze jar, and Ares was kept in it for thirteen months.
41. Corvus (‘Crow’). The Crow is standing on Hydra and seems to be pecking at its back. It appears in only a single myth, shared with Hydra and Crater; see 39.1.
42. Centaurus (‘Centaur’). According to the ancient representation, the Centaur carries a forward-leaning thyrsus (a staff tipped with a pine-cone ornament) in his left hand and an unidentified animal in his right hand. In the standard modern depiction, which can already be seen in Durer’s chart of the southern sky, he holds a downward-facing lance rather than the thyrsus, and the animal is impaled on it; this animal is now known as Lupus (‘Wolf’). 1. This is the Centaur Chiron, tutor to Asclepius, Achilles and other great heroes, who was transferred to the sky because of his surpassing goodness. According to one account, Zeus transferred
him after he had wounded himself on one of Heracles’ poisoned arrows. As part of a sky-picture, the pious Centaur can be seen carrying an animal (Lupus, 43) to sacrifice at the neighbouring altar (Ara, 44). 2. In some accounts, Centaurus was identified as the other noble Centaur, *Pholus, an alternative identification necessary if Sagittarius (29) was identified as Chiron.
43. Lupus (‘Wolf’). This is effectively an attribute of the neighbouring Centaur (see 42.1), and has no myths of its own.
44. Ara (‘Altar’). This constellation was depicted either as an altar or as a censer. 1. This was the first altar, forged by the *Cyclopes before the *Titanomachy, the war between Zeus and the Titans. The Cyclopes concealed their fire behind it to prevent the Titans from seeing the power of Zeus’ thunderbolt. Zeus and his fellow gods swore their alliance by it before the war, and placed it in the heavens after their victory. 2. This constellation appears in a sky-picture together with Centaurus (42) and Lupus (43), for Chiron can be seen carrying an animal to sacrifice at the altar. See 42.1. 3. Also in connection with Centaurus, it was suggested in one source that the Altar is a symbol of the marriage between *Peleus and Thetis, which was celebrated in Chiron’s home.
45. Corona Australis (The Southern Crown). A constellation identified relatively late; it has no mythology in ancient sources, although two narratives, which rightly belong to Corona Borealis, (5.5-6), were referred to it. Hyginus suggests that this circlet of stars at the foot of Sagittarius (29) represents his crown, which he has thrown aside.
46. Piscis Austrinus (‘Southern Fish’). For the only myth associated with this constellation, see Pisces (32).
SUMMARY OF TRANSFORMATIONS * cross-reference to main entry
Ant. *Myrmex, by Athena, to punish her for revealing the goddess’ invention of the plough to the Athenians as if it had been her own invention. (The *Myrmidones were ‘ant people’ because of their industry and diligence.)
Apes. The *Cercopes, by Zeus, to punish them for their lying and cheating.
Bats. The *Minyads, by Dionysus, for scorning the god and his rites (in Ovid’s version only; in other accounts one of the sisters becomes a bat and the other two become birds). See Birds, multiple transformations.
Bear. *Callisto, by Artemis, to punish her for having become pregnant; or by Hera, in anger at Zeus’ love for her; or by Zeus, to conceal her from Hera. 2. When Cronus visited Crete while searching for the young Zeus, Zeus turned himself into a snake and his nurses *Helice and *Cynosura into bears to conceal their presence.
Bee. *Melissa, by Zeus, in unknown circumstances.
Bulls. The *Cerastae, by Aphrodite, to punish them for sacrificing human victims to Zeus.
Cicada. *Tithonus, by his lover *Eos, when he was incapacitated by old age.
Cow. *Io, by Zeus, to conceal their love affair from Hera, or by Hera, to prevent her from having intercourse with Zeus. Zeus returned her to her original form after her arrival in Egypt.
Deer. 1. *Actaeon, by Artemis, to cause him to be hunted down by his own dogs, because he had seen the goddess naked, or had boasted that he was a better hunter than her, or had angered Zeus by courting Semele. 2. *Taygete temporarily, by Artemis, to save her from being raped by Zeus. 3. *Arges, by Helius (the Sun), for saying that she would catch a stag that she was hunting even if it ran as fast as the Sun.
Dog. *Hecuba, after the fall of Troy; an enigmatic story.
Dolphin. Some Tyrrhenian pirates, by the young god Dionysus, to punish them for trying to abduct him.
Fish. 1. *Pompilus, by Apollo, to punish him for trying to save a Samian maiden, Ocyrhoe, from the god’s attentions. 2. *Scylla, daughter of Nisus, was changed into a ‘ciris’ after she had caused the death of her father. In one version, she was turned into the fish (rather than the bird) of that name. 3. Ovid alludes to an otherwise unknown story in which a naiad used herbs and incantations to turn some boys into fishes, and finally became a fish herself.
Fly. *Muia, by Semele, because Muia competed with her for the love of Endymion and tried to wake him from his perpetual sleep.
Frogs. 1. Some Lydian herdsmen, by *Leto, to punish them for driving her away from a spring when she wanted to bathe her new-born children. 2. Some nymphs on Melos, by Zeus, because they buried *Euphorion after the gods had struck him with a thunderbolt.
Gecko. *Ascalabus, by Demeter, to punish him for mocking her when she was quenching her thirst with a barley-drink.
Horse. 1. *Hippe (or Hippo, or Ocyrhoe), by Artemis, to save her from being discovered by her father while pregnant, or to punish her for ceasing to join the goddess in the hunt, or for revealing the plans of the gods to mortals, or for using charms to cure mortals. 2. Odysseus, by Artemis, in unknown circumstances.
Lions. *Atalanta and her husband *Melanion or *Hippomenes, by Zeus or Cybele, to punish them for having intercourse in a sacred precinct.
Lynx. *Lyncus, king of the Scythians, by Demeter, to punish him for trying to kill *Triptolemus.
Mole. According to Oppian, Helius caused moles to arise from the blood of the dead *Phineus. Seal. The grandson of Cephisus, by Apollo, in unknown circumstances.
Sea-snail. *Nerites, by his lover Aphrodite, for refusing to abandon the sea to accompany her to Olympus, or, in an imperfectly preserved story, by Helius because he drove his chariot so swiftly.
Shape-shifters. There were two mortals who could transform themselves into different animals at will, *Mestra and *Periclymenus. Both acquired this power from their father Poseidon.
Sheep. *Theophane, by Poseidon. After Poseidon had abducted her to the island of Crumissa, her suitors arrived in pursuit; the god turned her and the islanders into sheep and himself into a ram. When the suitors began to feed on the transformed islanders, he transformed them into wolves.
Snakes. *Cadmus and *Harmonia, at the end of their life in Illyria. The original significance of the transformation is uncertain, although late authors suggest that this was to punish Cadmus for having killed the Theban dragon.
Spider. *Arachne, by Athena, to punish her for challenging the goddess as a weaver, or else Athena turned Arachne and her brother Phalanx into spiders to punish them for committing incest.
Stag-beetle. *Terambus (or Cerambus), by local nymphs, to punish him for insulting them.
Tortoise. *Chelone, by Hermes, to punish her for choosing to remain at home when invited to the wedding of Zeus and Hera.
Weasel. *Galinthias, by the Moirae (Fates), to punish her for her deception in preventing them and Eileithyia from continuing to hinder the birth of Heracles.
Wolf. 1. *Lycaon, by Zeus, to punish him for serving human flesh to the god or for sacrificing a child on his altar. 2. The suitors of *Theophane; see Sheep.
Bee-eater. *Botres, by Apollo, out of pity for the grief of his family after his father had struck him in anger and killed him because he had misbehaved at a sacrifice. Ceux. See Halcyon (1).
Chalchis. When *Harpalyce was forced into an incestuous union by her father, she served the flesh of her brother to him and then prayed to be removed from human company; she was turned into the nocturnal bird of prey of this name.
Ciris. *Scylla, daughter of Nisus, was turned into this mythical bird after she had caused the death of her father. The transformation was usually regarded as a punishment by the gods. In some accounts, her father pursued her afterwards as a sea-eagle.
Cock. *Alectryon, by Ares, for failing to warn Ares of the coming of the dawn when the god was making an illicit visit to Aphrodite.
Combe. See Crow (2).
Crane. A *pygmy woman named Gerana or Oenoe, by Hera, for failing to honour Hera and Artemis.
Crow. 1. A daughter of Coroneus in Phocis (perhaps named *Coronis), by Athena, to save her from being raped on the sea-shore by Poseidon. 2. *Combe was transformed into a combe (identified as a crow by Hesychius), apparently to save her from being killed by her children in unknown circumstances.
Diver. According to Ovid, *Aesacus was transformed into a diver (mergus) by Tethys when he threw himself into the sea after accidentally causing the death of a nymph he loved.
Dove. 1. *Ctesilla, in a story explaining the origin of a local cult. 2. The *Pleiades. Zeus took pity on them when they were pursued by Orion, and in one version of the story, he transformed them into doves before transferring them to the sky. 3. Pelia, by Aphrodite, out of pity when she hanged herself after the suicide of her husband *Melus. 4. The nymph *Peristera, by Eros, for helping Aphrodite to defeat Eros in a flower-gathering contest.
Eagle. 1. *Merops, by Rhea or Hera, out of pity because he so mourned for his dead wife. 2. *Periphas, by Zeus, in anger because his subjects had been honouring him as Zeus. 3. *Aetus, a beautiful young man who had been a companion of Zeus during the god’s childhood in Crete, was later turned into an eagle by the jealous Hera. See Sea-eagle.
Guinea-fowl. The *Meleagrides, by Artemis, because they so mourned the death of their brother Meleager.
Halcyon. 1. When *Alcyone threw herself into the sea after her husband *Ceux was killed in a shipwreck, the gods or Thetis took pity on them and transformed them into halcyons, or, in an earlier version of their story, Zeus turned Alcyone into a halcyon and Ceux into a semi-mythical bird, the ceux, to punish them for calling one another Zeus and Hera. 2. The daughters of *Alcyoneus, by Aphrodite, when they threw themselves into the sea after their father was killed by Heracles. 3. The daughters of *Cinyras, when they threw themselves into the sea after the death of their father, here said to have been killed by Apollo after the god had defeated him in a musical contest. 4. *Alcyone, daughter of Sciron, when her father threw her into the sea because she had offered herself to any man who asked her, after he had told her to seek a husband.
Hawk. 1. *Hierax, by Poseidon, to punish him for helping the Trojans when the god caused a famine in their land. 2. *Daedalion, by Apollo, out of pity when he threw himself from a mountain after the death of his daughter Chione.
Hoopoe. *Tereus. See Multiple bird transformations (1).
Jackdaw. *Arne, to punish her for betraying her native island.
Kite. Ictinus, as a punishment, after his incestuous desire for his daughter *Side had caused her to kill herself.
Magpies. According to Ovid, the *Pierides were turned into magpies by the Muses, because they insulted the Muses after being defeated by them in a singing contest. See Multiple bird transformations (3).
Nightingale. 1. *Aedon, wife of Zethus, by Zeus. She prayed to become a bird after she accidentally killed her son Itylus while trying to kill a son of her sister-in-law Niobe. 2. Procne (or Philomela). See Multiple bird transformations (1). 3. *Aedon, wife of Polytechnus, as part of a multiple transformation – a Hellenistic adaptation of (2) set in Asia Minor. 4. *Aedon, wife of Zetes. When she killed her son because she suspected that he was helping her husband to conduct a love affair, Aphrodite felt pity for her and transformed her.
Owl. 1. *Ascalaphus, by Demeter or Persephone, to punish him for revealing that Persephone had eaten a pomegranate in the Underworld. 2. *Nyctimene, by Athena, out of pity after her father Epopeus had committed incest with her. 3. *Nyctaea, who contrived to sleep with her father Nycteus with the help of her nurse. She was transformed when her father realized her identity and tried to kill her. See Chalchis, Multiple bird transformations (2).
Partridge. *Perdix, by Athena, to save him when his uncle Daedalus, who was jealous of his inventions, threw him from the acropolis.
Peacock. 1. *Argus Panoptes. After his death, a peacock rose up from his blood, or he was turned into a peacock, or Hera put his many eyes into the tail of the peacock. 2. *Erinona temporarily, by Artemis, out of pity after she had been raped by Adonis.
Pheasant. *Itys, in some Latin sources, after his mother had fed him to his father Tereus. See Multiple bird transformations (1).
Sea-eagle. *Nisus. His daughter *Scylla was turned into a ciris (either a bird or a fish) after killing him; in some accounts, Nisus himself was transformed into a sea-eagle which pursued her afterwards.
Shearwater. See Unidentified birds (4). Stork. *Antigone, daughter of Laomedon, by Hera, to punish her for claiming to rival the goddess in beauty, or by the gods out of pity for her after Hera had punished her by turning her hair into snakes.
Swallow. Philomela (or Procne). See Multiple transformations (1).
Swan. 1. *Cycnus, son of Apollo, by Apollo, out of pity when he drowned himself after his suitor Phylius had deserted him. In one version, his mother Thyrie drowned herself after his death and was also transformed into a swan. 2. *Cycnus, son of Ares, by Ares, after he was killed by Heracles. 3. *Cycnus, king of the Ligurians, by Apollo, because he so mourned the death of his friend *Phaethon. 4. According to Ovid, *Cycnus, son of Poseidon, was turned into a swan by his father, after he was killed by Achilles.
Woodpecker. *Picus, by Circe, to punish him for rejecting her advances.
Wryneck. *Iunx, by Hera, for bewitching Zeus into having intercourse with Io or with herself.
Multiple Bird Transformations. 1. *Tereus. After Tereus had raped Philomela, the sister of his wife Procne, the two women fed his son Itylus to him; as he was pursuing them, they prayed to the gods to be transformed – Philomela was turned into a swallow, Procne into a nightingale (or vice-versa in some Latin sources) and Tereus into a hoopoe. Some said that Itylus was turned into a pheasant. 2. The *Minyads were turned into creatures of the night by Dionysus to punish them for rejecting his rites. They became a bat, a glaux and a byssa (two forms of owl) or a bat, a glaux and a crow; in Ovid’s version, all three became bats. 3. The *Pierides were turned into birds of nine kinds by the Muses to punish them after they were defeated by the Muses in a singing contest, or, in Ovid’s version, they were turned into magpies. 4. The other multiple transformations are highly artificial stories ascribed to the Hellenistic author ‘Boios’. Many of the birds mentioned cannot be identified with any
certainty, if at all. The tales are summarized in the main text under the titles given to them by our source, Antoninus Liberalis. See Aedon, wife of Polytechnus, Aegypius, Anthus, Clinis, Polyphonte and Honey-thieves (originally simply as Thieves).
Unidentified Birds. 1. The followers of *Diomedes were changed into birds. 2. After the death of *Memnon, his companions were transformed into birds which fought an annual battle above his tomb, or the birds arose from the ashes on Memnon’s pyre. See Memnonides. 3. According to Apollodorus, *Aesacus so mourned the death of his wife Asterope that he was turned into an unnamed birth (but in Ovid’s version he became a diver in different
circumstances). 4. According to Ovid, some of the companions of *Ino were transformed into birds by Hera for reviling the goddess after the disappearance of Ino. A Greek catalogue of transformations from a papyrus suggests that they were turned into aithuiai (possibly shearwaters). 5. The king and Queen of Calauria in unknown circumstances. 6. In Ovid’ account, *Caeneus was transformed after his death into a yellow bird, the only one of its kind.
PLANTS AND FLOWERS
Almond. In one account, *Phyllis was turned into a leafless almond tree when she hanged herself in grief after she was deserted by *Demophon; when Demophon later returned and embraced the trunk of the tree, it put out leaves (phylla, hence their name).
Anemone. As a flower with blood-red petals which are blown off by the slightest wind, it was associated with *Adonis who died a bloody and premature death. The anemone first sprang from the blood of the dead Adonis, or, in Ovid’s version, his lover Aphrodite caused it to arise by sprinkling his blood with nectar, or anemones sprang from the tears of Aphrodite as she mourned his death (and roses from the blood of Adonis), or the anemone’s petals were first turned red by the blood of Adonis.
Apple. When *Melus hanged himself from an apple-tree (melos, named after him) in grief at the death of his friend Adonis, Aphrodite transformed him into its fruit.
Bindweed. See Crocus.
Crocus. *Crocus and Smilax (or Milax) were two lovers who were transformed into the flowers that bore their names, the autumn or saffron crocus and bindweed respectively.
Cypress . 1. *Cyparissus, a Cean. When he accidentally killed a tame stag which he greatly loved he prayed to the gods to be allowed to mourn forever, and his lover Apollo turned him into a tree associated with mourning. 2. *Cyparissus was a beautiful Cretan youth who was transformed into a cypress after he fled to Syria to escape the advances of Apollo or Zephyrus.
Fir. 1. *Elate, because she so mourned the death of her brothers, the *Aloads. 2. Two unnamed girls who told the local people that *Dryope had been abducted by nymphs were turned into fir trees by the nymphs.
Fruit. *Carpus was turned into the fruit of all things by Zeus after his premature death.
Heliotrope. When *Clytia was spurned by her former lover Helius (the Sun), she refused to eat or drink and finally turned into a heliotrope, a plant which always turns its flowers towards the sun.
Hyacinth. The Greek hyacinth may have been a form of iris. The AIAI marking on its petals could be interpreted as an expression of sorrow (cf. ‘ah me!’). After Apollo accidentally killed *Hyacinthus, the god caused the flower to spring from his blood or ashes, or, according to one late source, he even turned him into the flower. Alternatively, it was said that the flower commemorated *Ajax, or that it sprang from his blood. In that case, the marking on its petals spelt out the first letters of his name (Aias in Greek).
Incense-tree. In anger at her love affair with Helius, *Leucothoe’s father buried her alive; after her death, Helius sprinkled her body and the surrounding soil with nectar, causing an incense-tree to grow from it.
Ivy. *Cissus, a young man from the retinue of Dionysus, was turned into ivy, a plant closely associated with Dionysus, after his premature death.
Laurel. *Daphne, by Zeus, to save her from being raped by Apollo, or she prayed to the earth for help – it swallowed her up and sent up a laurel in her place.
Lime. *Baucis. See Oak. (The Oceanid *Philyra was also transformed into a lime in one version of her story.)
Lotus. *Lotis, by the gods, to save her from being raped by Priapus.
Marjoram (Ama’rakon). Amaracus, a mixer of unguents, was transformed into this herb which was named after him.
Mint. *Minthe (or Menthe), a former mistress of Hades, transformed by the jealous Persephone, or else Demeter trampled her into the earth and the plant sprang up in her place.
Myrrh-tree. *Myrrha (or Smyrna), by Zeus. She prayed to be removed from human sight when her father realized her identity (and in some accounts, pursued her with a sword) after she had contrived to sleep with him.
Myrtle. 1. Myrsine, an athlete and favourite of Athena, transformed by the goddess after she was murdered by fellow athletes. 2. Myrene, a virgin priestess of Aphrodite. When someone wanted to take her in marriage, Aphrodite killed him and turned her into a myrtle (a plant sacred to the goddess).
Narcissus. After the death of *Narcissus, his body vanished and a narcissus was found in its place, or the flower sprang from his blood, or he was transformed into it. Nut-tree. When Dionysus fell in love with *Carya and her sisters tried to obstruct him, he turned them to stone and transformed Carya herself into a nut-tree (karya, a vague term covering hazels, walnuts and the like).
Oak. As the wish granted to them by Zeus, *Philemon and *Baucis asked to die together; when the time of death came for them in their old age they were transformed into intertwined trees, an oak and a lime respectively.
Olive. 1. When Elaea, an athlete and favourite of Athena, was murdered by fellow athletes, Athena transformed her into an olive-tree (a plant closely associated with the goddess). 2. An unnamed shepherd who insulted the nymphs of Messapia (Calabria) and mocked their dancing was transformed by them into a wild olive tree.
Pine. The nymph *Pitys. Various sources imply that she was transformed when fleeing from Pan, or that the earth sent up a pine after she was killed by Boreas, who had competed with Pan for her love.
Plane-tree. Platanus and her sister *Elate were turned into a plane and a fir respectively because they mourned inconsolably for their dead brothers, the *Aloads.
Pomegranate. When *Side killed herself to escape the incestuous advances of her father Ictinus, a pomegranate tree sprang up from her blood, and her father was turned into a kite, a bird which was said to avoid pomegranate trees.
Poplar. 1. When nymphs abducted *Dryope to make her one of their companions. they caused a poplar to spring up in her place. 2. The *Heliades so mourned the death of their brother *Phaethon that Zeus or the gods took pity of them and turned them into poplars. They still weep tears of amber. 3. When *Leuce died, her lover Hades caused the white poplar to spring up in the Elysian Fields.
Poppy (Μήκων). Mecon, an Athenian favourite of Demeter, was transformed by Demeter into this flower which was given his name.
Reed. 1. *Syrinx, by water-nymphs, to save her when she was pursued by Pan. 2. Calamus, by Zeus, when he prayed to join his dead beloved *Carpus in death.
Rose. In one late account, *Adonis was transformed into a rose by Aphrodite after his premature death, or roses sprang from the blood of the dead Adonis
Tamarisk. Myrike, a daughter of *Cinyras, so mourned the death of Adonis that she was turned into a tamarisk, presumably by Aphrodite.
Vine. 1. *Ampelus, a favourite of Dionysus, by Dionysus, after his premature death. 2. Ambrosia, a nurse of Dionysus, when the god and his attendants were pursued by *Lycurgus.
Unnamed Trees. 1. When some Messapian (Calabrian) shepherds boasted that they were better dancers than the local nymphs, the nymphs defeated them in a dancing contest and then transformed them into some trees which could be heard to lament at night. 2. According to Ovid, the Thracian woman who killed Dionysus were turned into trees by Dionysus.
STONES, including islands, mountains and statues
Aconteus. When Perseus used the Gorgon’s head against *Phineus and his company, they were all turned to stone, including Aconteus, Perseus’ companion, who looked at it inadvertently.
Aglaurus. When the jealous *Aglaurus tried to prevent Hermes from entering her sister *Herse’s bedroom, Hermes turned her to stone.
Alcmena. Acccording to a tradition associated with her cult at Thebes, Hermes secretly transferred *Alcmena to the Isles of the Blessed after she died at Thebes, substituting a stone for her in her coffin. Anaxerete. When the hard-hearted *Anaxarete spied on the funeral of Iphis, who had hanged himself because she had spurned him, Aphrodite turned her to stone.
Arsinoe. Another version of the Anaraxete story, in which *Arsinoe’s rejected suitor, Arceophon, starved himself to death and was turned to stone by Aphrodite.
Aspalis. After *Aspalis had hanged herself to escape rape by the local ruler, her body vanished and a statue appeared in place of it, next to an image of Artemis.
Atlas. In some accounts, Perseus used the Gorgon’s head against *Atlas, here a local ruler or shepherd, because he tried to block his way, and so turned him into the African mountain of that name.
Battus. Although *Battus had sworn not to reveal Hermes’ theft of Apollo’s cattle, he betrayed the secret when Hermes returned in disguise to test him, and the god turned him to stone.
Britomartis. When a fisherman tried to rape *Britomartis after bringing her to Aegina she jumped overboard and hid in a grove there. She then vanished, and a statue appeared in her place in the sanctuary of Artemis.
Cadmus and Harmonia. Some said that they were petrified after they were transformed into snakes.
Cercopes. Zeus turned the *Cercopes to stone because they were liars and cheats or because they had tried to deceive Zeus himself, or they were turned into apes.
Cinyras’ daughters. According to Ovid, Hera turned them into the steps of her temple in Cyprus.
Cragaleus. When asked to arbitrate in a dispute between Apollo, Artemis and Heracles over the possession of Ambracia, Cragaleus judged in favour of Heracles, much to the anger of Apollo, who turned him to stone.
Daphnis. *Daphnis was blinded by his lover, a nymph, because he was unfaithful to her, and in one account, she then turned him to stone.
Haemon. *Haemon and *Rhodopis were turned into two Thracian mountains named after them because they called one another Zeus and Hera.
Hecuba. In one late account, she was turned to stone after being transformed into a dog.
Ino’s companions. When they reviled Hera after the disappearance of *Ino, the goddess turned some of them to stone and others into unnamed birds.
Iodama. *Iodama was turned to stone by the Gorgon’s head on Athena’s aegis when the goddess showed herself to Iodama in her temple near Coroneia in Boeotia.
Lethaea. Ovid alludes to an otherwise unknown story in which a certain Lethaea was turned to stone because she had boasted of her beauty, with her lover Olenus, who tried to take the blame.
Lichas. When *Lichas was hurled to his death by Heracles, he turned to stone and became a rock off the coast of Euboea.
Lyco and Orphe. When these jealous sisters of *Carya tried to obstruct her lover Hermes, the god turned them to stone.
Niobe. After she had lost her many children, Zeus transferred *Niobe into a rock on Mount Sipylus in Asia Minor.
Olenus. See Lethaea.
Pandareus. Zeus turned *Pandareus to stone to punish him for stealing a golden dog from a shrine of Zeus in Crete.
Perimele. She was turned into the island of that name by Poseidon at the request of *Achelous – her father had thrown her into the sea after her rape by Achelous.
Phineus. When *Phineus tried to rob Perseus of his bride Andromeda, Perseus used the Gorgon’s head to turn him and his companions to stone. Polydectes. Perseus used the Gorgon’s head to petrify *Polydectes and his company because Polydectes had mistreated his mother and was plotting against him.
Proetus. According to Ovid, Perseus used the Gorgon’s head against *Proetus because he had banished Acrisius, the Perseus’ father.
Propoetides. Aphrodite turned the *Propoetides to stone because they denied her divinity.
Pyrrhus. An otherwise unknown figure who tried to rape the goddess Rhea and was turned into a stone which stood next to that of Niobe on Mount Sipylus.
Rhodopis. See Haemon.
Unnamed. 1. Some nymphs who forgot *Achelous when making offerings to local deities were swept out to sea by Achelous and apparently became the Echinadian islands. 2. According to Ovid, a man was turned to stone when he saw Cerberus (brought by Heracles from the Underworld as his last labour).
SPRINGS AND RIVERS
Acis. After *Acis was killed by Polyphemus, his lover Galatea caused the river Acis beneath Mount Etna to spring from his blood and Acis himself to become the god of the river, or else Acis was transformed into the river.
Alope. *After Alope was killed by her father for giving birth to a bastard child, her lover Poseidon transformed her into the spring near Eleusis which took her name.
Alpheius. In one version of the story of *Alpheius and *Arethusa, he was originally a Peloponnesian hunter, and was transformed into the river of that name after Arethusa had fled to Sicily to escape his advances.
Arethusa. Artemis transformed *Arethusa into the Syracusan spring of that name to save her from the pursuit of the Peloponnesian river-god Alphaeus.
Aura. When *Aura went mad, and ate one of her children and then jumped into the river Sangarius, Zeus transformed her into an unnamed spring.
Byblis. When *Byblis tried to throw herself from a cliff in shame at her passion for her brother, she was rescued by nymphs who turned her into a nymph, and a spring (the Tears of Byblis, at Miletus) appeared in place of her, or the spring was formed from her tears when she hanged herself, or else she wept ceaselessly when spurned by her brother and so turned into the spring.
Clite. The spring of that name at Cyzicus in Asia Minor was formed from the tears of *Clite as she wept for the death of her husband Cyzicus, or from the tears of the local nymphs who wept for her after she hanged herself in distress.
Cyane. When *Cyane, the nymph of the Sicilian spring of that name, tried to prevent Hades from abducting Persephone, he rode into the Underworld through her spring, and she wept so bitterly that she dissolved into her own waters.
Daphnis. In one version of the story of *Daphnis, his father Hermes took him up to heaven after he was blinded, and caused the Sicilian spring of that name to rise up in his place.
Dirce. According to some late sources, *Dirce was transformed into the Theban spring of that name (rather than merely thrown into it), or it was formed from her blood.
Egeria. *Egeria wept ceaselessly for the dead Numa until Diana took pity on her and transformed her into a spring at Aricia near Rome.
Hyria. In Ovid’s account, Hyria, the mother of *Cycnus by the god Apollo, wasted away with weeping after the death of her son and turned into a lake which bore her name (or she became a swan.)
Lamia. See Sybaris. Manto. There was a spring at Claros in Asia Minor which was said to have been formed from the tears of *Manto.
Marsyas. The Phrygian river of that name was formed from the blood of the dead *Marsyas, or from the tears of the local people and the nymphs and satyrs who mourned his death, or he was transformed into the river.
Pirene. *Pirene so mourned the death of her son that she turned into the spring of that name at Corinth.
Pyramus. See Thisbe.
Rhodopis. When *Rhodopis (or Rhodope), a companion of Artemis who had sworn to remain a virgin, broke her oath, Artemis transformed her into the spring known as the Styx at Ephesus.
Sangas. *Sangas was transformed into the river Sangarius in Asia Minor because of his insult to Rhea.
Selemnus. Aphrodite took pity on *Selemnus when he was deserted by his lover, a sea-nymph, and turned him into the river Selemnus in the northern Peloponnese.
Sybaris. When Sybaris (also known as Lamia) was thrown to her death, she vanished, and the spring of that name under Mount Parnassus appeared in her place.
Thisbe. In one version of the story of *Pyramus and *Thisbe, they were both transformed after their suicide, Pyramus into the Cilician river of that name, and Thisbe into a spring which flowed into it.
Caineus. *Caineus was originally a girl, Cainis, who asked her lover Poseidon to transform her into an invulnerable warrior.
Coronides. According to Ovid, the *Coronides, the two daughters of Orion, were cremated after they had killed themselves to save their city, and two young men known as the Coronae rose up from their ashes, or, according to the earlier Greek version, the two were turned into comets.
Hermaphroditus. *Hermaphroditus was originally a beautiful youth who aroused the love of the water-nymph Salmacis. She drew him into her spring, clung to him, and prayed to the gods that they should never be separated; they were therefore fused into the bisexual hermaphrodite.
Iphis. The mother of *Iphis pretended that she was a boy because her husband had told her that they could not afford to raise a girl; when he chose a bride for his supposed son, Isis changed her sex to male in answer to her mother’s desparate prayers in their dilemma.
Leucippus. Another version of the previous story. *Leucippus was originally a girl whose mother prayed to Leto to transform her into a male when she was an adult, and it seemed likely that the deception would be discovered.
Mestra. *Mestra was sometimes said to have taken the form of a man to escape back to her father; in Ovid’s account, Poseidon turned her into a fisherman to enable her to escape when her father first sold her into slavery, and then gave her powers as a shape-shifter.
Siproetes. A Cretan who was turned into a woman because he happened to see Artemis bathing while he was out hunting.
Sithon. According to Ovid, *Sithon (a figure associated with Macedonia or Thrace) used to change sex and lived alternately as man and woman. Although the nature of Ovid’s allusion suggests that this was a famous story, nothing further is known of it.
Teiresias. *Teiresias was turned into a woman when he struck a pair of copulating snakes with his staff, and was turned into a man again some years later when he struck another pair of snakes. The gods asked in which form he had had the greater pleasure from sex, and, when he replied that it was nine times as good as a woman; Hera promptly blinded him for this answer, and Zeus countered with the gift of prophecy in compensation.
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- Eliade, M. (1949) The Myth of the Eternal Return Paris/Princeton University Press.
- ——— (1964) Myth and Reality London: Allen and Unwin.
- Galinsky, G.K. (1972) The Herakles Theme Oxford: Blackwell.
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- Kirk, G.S. (1973) Myth, its meaning and function, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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- Leeming, D.A. (1990) The World of Myth Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Levi-Strauss, C. (1969) The Raw and the Cooked New York: Harper.
- Lincoln, B. (1986) Myth, Cosmos and Society Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.
- Ogilvie, R.M. (1969) The Romans and their Gods London: Chatto and Windus.
- Perowne, S. (1983) Roman Mythology revised ed. Feltham: Newnes.
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- Note: The most comprehensive account of each entry is to be found in Pauly Wissowa Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft in 80 volumes from the nineteenth century, and currently being revised. More accessible is the abridged version, known as Der Kleine Pauly, edited in 5 volumes by Walter Sontheimer and Konrat Ziegler (1964), Stuttgart: Alfred Druckenmiller.