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Greek Mythology and the Constellations
Andromeda Aquila Ara Argo Navis Aries Auriga BoŲtes Cancer Canis Major Cassiopeia Centaurus Cepheus Cetus Corona Borealis Corvus Crater Cygnus Delphinus Draco Eridanus Gemini Hercules Hydra Leo Lepus Lupus Lyra The Milky Way Ophiuchus Orion Pegasus Perseus Pisces Piscis Austrinus Pleiades Sagitta Sagittarius Scorpius Taurus Triangulum Ursa Major Ursa Minor Virgo

Perseus of Argolis Andromeda   The Princess
She is the beautiful daughter of Queen Cassiopeia and King Cepheus of Ethiopia (aka Philistia). The Queen, being very vain, boasted about her own beauty, saying she was even more beautiful than the Nereids (sea nymphs). This angered Poseiden. To cool his anger, Cassiopeia chained her daughter to a rock on the beach as a sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus, also known as The Kraken. Andromeda was saved at the last minute by her hero and love interest, Perseus, who killed Cetus by showing him the severed head of Medussa and thus turning him to stone. Andromeda eventually married Perseus and went on to become the mother of Perses who founded the kingdom of Persia, and she is also became the great grandmother of Hercules.

Aquila   The Eagle
This is a bird who has the power to bring rain and is the keeper of Zeus' lightning bolts.

Ara   The Altar
It was predicted that Cronus would die at the hand of his own child so he swallowed five of them as they were born. His wife, Rhea, and his mother-in-law, Gaia, protected the sixth child, Zeus, by giving Cronus a stone wrapped in a blanket instead of the baby. When Zeus grew up he poisoned his father which caused him to vomit up the other children. Then Zeus and his brothers fought a war with Cronus and the other Titans. During the war Zeus freed some Titans that Cronus had imprisoned. These allies included the Cyclopes who were expert metal workers. During a battle, the Cyclopes built an altar and burned a sacrifice so that the smoke would hide Zeus and his brothers as they attacked Cronus and the Titans. In gratitude, Zeus placed the altar in the sky at the horizon, under the Milky Way which now appears to be the rising smoke.

Argo Navis   The Ship (Carina, Puppis, Vela)
The Argo is the ship whose captain is Jason, and the crew is the Argonauts. The ship was a gift from Athena. Its maidenhead had the power of speech and advised Jason on occasions during his adventures.

Aries   The Ram
The story of the ram begins with Zeus and Hera. Hera was courted by Ixion. Zeus tricked him into impregnating a cloud named Nephele that had been formed to look like Hera. Then, as punishment, Ixion was strapped to a flaming wheel and rolled around the sky for eternity (the ecliptic). The cloud Nephele had a child which was the first centaur.

Nephele later had two children with Athamas, king of BŲeotia. Athamas eventually tried to have the children killed. Hera sent a golden ram so the children could escape by riding its back. One of the children, Helle, fell off and died in the sea at a place called Hellespont. The other child, Phrixus, eventually sacrifice the ram to Zeus. The skin of the ram developed special powers and is the same relic the is later sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

Auriga   The Charioteer
Hephaestus impregnated Mother Earth with a child, Erichthonius, who was born with the lower body of a snake. Athena pitied the boy and raised him as her own son in the city of Athens where he eventually became king. He became famous for developing the four horse chariot. Often defending Athena's honor, Erichthonius the charioteer was eventually placed in the sky as a reward.

BoŲtes   The Bear Chaser
Icarius was the first person to cultivate grapes and then make them into wine. After his death he was placed in the sky as the constellation BoŲtes by Dionysus in honor of his discovery. His dog, Maera, became the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor.

Cancer the Crab Cancer   The Crab
The crab is one that pinched Hercules on the foot while he was fighting the Hydra. This pleased Hera who later placed him in the sky.

Canis Major   The Greater Dog
He is one of two hunting dogs belonging to Orion the hunter. The dogs were placed in the sky along with Orion when he was killed by the scorpion.

Cassiopeia   The Queen
She is the very beautiful and very vain Queen of Ethiopia (Philistia). Gazing at herself in a mirror, she proclaimed to be more beautiful than the Nereids, which were sea nymphs. As punishment Poseiden demanded that the princess Andromeda be sacrificed to the sea monster, Cetus. After her daughter was saved by Perseus, Cassiopeia plotted with her daughter's ex-fiancťe Agenor to kill Perseus. Perseus used the Medusa's head to turn Cassiopeia, Agenor, and his men to stone. The constellations of Queen Cassiopeia and King Cepheus are facing each other's feet so they cannot speak to each other. Because the Queen insulted the sea nymphs, she never sets below the surface of the sea (as seen from northern latitudes. The name "Cassiopeia" is a Phoenician phrase that means the "Rose-Colored Face."

Centaurus   The Centaur
Chiron the centaur studied health and medicne until being accidentally shot by Hercules with an arrow that was poisoned by being dipped in the blood of Hydra. Chiron was in great pain. Meanwhile, Prometheus was being punished for giving mankind the knowlege of how to fire. Prometheus was bound to a rock in Tartarus where a vulture continuously pecked his liver. Prometheus could only be release if someone voluntarily took his place. Hercules asked that Prometheus be released and Chiron take his place so that only one of them would have to suffer. After Chiron took the place of Prometheus, Hercules shot the vulture with an arror, ending the torture. Chiron was later placed in the sky as a constellation by Zeus.

Cepheus   The King
He is the king of Ethiopia (Philistia) and his wife the Queen is Cassiopeia. He was also one of the Argonauts that adventured with Jason.

Cetus   The Sea Monster
The monster Cetus is the mother of Phorcids who gave birth to many other monsters; the serpent-guard in the Garden of the Hesperides, the Gorgons, Cerberus the three-headed dog guardian of Hades, the Hydra, the Chimera and several others.

Corona Borealis   The Northern Crown
Theseus went to Crete to kill the Minotaur with the help of his fiance princess Ariadne. She gave him a big ball of string. As he walked through the Labyrinth, Theseus unrolled the string. After he slew the Minotaur, he followed the string out of the maze. The crown was made for Princess Ariadne as a wedding present by the master smith Hephaestus. The seven stars in the constellation represent the seven maidens and seven youths that had been sacrificed to the Minotaur. It was placed in the sky after her death.

Corvus the Crow Corvus   The Crow
Apollo sent the crow to get some pure water for a sacrifice he was preparing for Zeus. The crow stopped to eat some figs but they weren't very ripe so he waited for them to ripen. The crow returned with a water snake and claimed the snake was the reason for the delay. Apollo knew the crow was lying and was angry. He turned the crow from white to black. Then he cursed the crow so it would always get a sore throat when the figs are ripe. Apollo placed the crow in the sky as a constellation to warn to others who might dare to to lie to him.

Crater   The Cup
The people of the city of Eleusis were struck by a plague. To appease the gods and avoid the plague, a sacrifice was of a noble maiden was made each year. The king, Demonphon, didn't include his own daughters in the lottery. He got away with this for awhile but then a nobleman, Mastusius, objected. Demonphon sacrificed one of Mastusius' daughters without drawing lots. Mastusius sent an invitation to dinner to the king. When the king arrived, Mastusius served him a cup of wine that he had mixed with the blood of the king's daughters, whom he had murdered. When the murders were discovered, Mastusius was killed and thrown into the sea. The cup was placed in the sky to remind men that their evil deeds will not go unpunished.

Cygnus   The Swan
PhaŽthon died when he fell out of the chariot of the Sun and into the River Eridanus. His brother Cygnus repeatedly dove in search of PhaŽthon. In mercy, The gods transformed him into a swan.

Delphinus   The Dolphin
Poseidon tried to convince one of the Nereids, Amphirite, to marry him. She hid in the Atlas mountains (Morocco) so Poseidon sent a dolphin to plead his case and she finally agreed to be a bride. The dolphin was rewarded with a place in the sky.

Draco   The Dragon
The dragon protected the golden apples of the Hesperides, and the Golden Fleece in the Garden of Ares.

Eridanus   The River
PhaŽthon, son of Helios the Sun, tried to convince his father that he was able to drive the chariot of the Sun across the sky. His father knew that the idea was foolish and refused. PhaŽthon took the reins anyway and tried to drive the chariot and its four firey horses. The horses felt the novice hand at the reins and raced across the sky, sometimes too high, sometimes too low, alternately freezing and burning the land below. Zeus hurled one of his thunderbolts knocking PhaŽthon out of the chariot. PhaŽthon fell to earth and landed in the river Eridanus and drowned. The gods placed the river in the sky in memory of the event.

Gemini   The Twins
The fraternal twins Castor and Pollux are the sons of Leda (the wife of a mortal named Tyndareus). Zeus had disguised himself as a swan and seduced Leda, who laid an egg from which Helen and Pollux were born. At the same time she also gave birth to Castor and Clytaemnestra, children of her husband Tyndareus. Since Pollux was the son of a Zeus, he was immortal, but Castor was mortal. The brothers grew close. At the Olympic games Castor was killed. Pollux asked Zeus to permit him to die so they could remain together. Zeus placed both of the boys in the sky.

Hydra the Multi-headed Monster Hercules   The Hero
Hercules is the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmene, the granddaughter of Perseus and Andromeda. Hera, Zeus' wife, was jealous of Alcmene and attempted to kill Hercules many times but always failed. Hercules performed many great feats which made him famous. He liberating Thebes from the Minyans, for which he was given the hand of Megara, Princess of Thebes. They had three sons. Then Hera had her revenge. She made Hercules temporarily insane and he killed his wife and the children. In punishment for the crime Hercules was given twelve impossible tasks. Only if he completed these tasks would he be a free man.

One example of the tasks is that Hercules had to slay the Nemean lion who terrorized the valley of Nemea. But the task was to slay it bare handed. It took 30 days to strangle the animal. He skinned the beast and nailed the body to the sky (Leo). He wore the skin as a trophy.

Another example is that he had to battle the Hydra, a multi-headed sea snake who lived in the marsh of Lerna. When he cut off one head, two more heads would grow in its place. Instead of cutting them, Hercules burned the heads off.

Another task of Hercules was the theft of the golden apples of the Hesperides. They were guarded by Ladon, the dragon. Unable to safely approach the dragon, Hercules asked Atlas for help. Atlas was an immortal and the father of the Hesperides, so he could manage the dragon. It was Atlas who was holding up the heavens on his shoulders so Hercules offered to hold the heavens for awhile in exchange for the help. Atlas got the apples, but then refuse to take back the burden. Hercules asked Atlas if he could just take it back briefly, so some padding could be found to make it more comfortable. Atlas took the heavens back, but Hercules picked up the apples and left.

Hydra   The Multi-Headed Monster
As one head was severed by Hercules, two more took its place. Hercules burned each head to keep them from regenerating, until he reached the final head which he discovered is immortal. This one he buried under a rock.

Leo the Lion Leo   The Lion
Hera ordered the creation of the lion. It lived in a cave in the Nemean Mountains and killed people and cattle down in the valley. Hercules strangled the lion as one of his tasks. He wore the skin as a trophy.

Lepus   The Rabbit
After importing a single pregnant hare to the island of Leros, the animals began breeding beyond control and soon led to a major infestation. The people of Leros eventually exterminated them from the island. The gods placed the hare in the sky as a reminder.

Lupus   The Wolf
The she-wolf is sometimes the lover of the god Apollo, and at other times the lover of the centaur.

Lyra   The Harp
Apollo invent the lyre using a turtle shell strung with strips of cow gut. He gave it to the god to Orpheus whose beautiful music could tame wild animals. Orpheus' wife Eurydice was chased by Aristaeus, a beekeeper, who was trying to kidnap her. Eurydice was bitten on the ankle by a snake and died. Orpheus descended to the realm of the dead to retrieve her soul. His song and music charmed the three-headed dog Cerberus, the ferry boatman Charon, and other creatures of the underworld. Persephone agreed to release the soul of his wife if Orpheus agreed to walk in front of her and take it on faith that she was following him. Just as he reached the light of the world Orpheus turned to see if Eurydice was behind him and she disappeared in a puff of smoke. After Orpheus died Zeus placed his lyre in the sky as a tribute.

Milky Way   The Galaxy
Cronus swallowed most of his children in an attempt to prevent the prophecy of his demise. In order to save one of them (Zeus), Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to her husband to swallow instead. Cronus asked her to nurse the baby one more time before he swallowed it. Pressing the rock against her, the spurting milk became the Milky Way.

Ophiuchus   The Physician
Asclepius (Ophiuchus) was raised by the centaur Chiron and was taught the art of medicine and healing. Asclepius became a great physician. He learned to make medicines from the poisons of snakes and plants. One of his remedies even caused the recently deceased to come back to life. This infuriating the god of the dead. Hades asked Zeus to stop Asclepius and he was struck with a thunderbolt. Then, in pity Zeus restored him to life and made him immortal. He was placed in the sky with a serpent.

Orion   The Hunter
Orion was given as an infant to a poor shepherd, Irieus, who had showed hospitality to Zeus and Poseidon without knowing they were gods. Orion grew into a great hunter. He eventually fell in love with Artemis, the moon goddess. Her brother Apollo became upset with her as she spent more and more time with Orion. It was her job to guide the moon across the sky and she began to neglect her duty. Apollo convinced Gaia that Orion and Artemis were killing too many anmials so Gaia sent the Scorpius the scorpion. Orion and Scorpius had a great battle and in the end both had been killed. Zeus placed Orion in the winter sky and Scorpius in the summer sky so they cannot see each other an thus not fight.

Pegasus   The Winged Horse
Pegasus the famed winged mount of Perseus, was originally tamed by Bellerophone. One day Bellerophone tried to reach Mount Olympus, home of the gods, on the back of the winged horse. To stop him, Zeus sent a horsefly to sting Pegasus. The horse bucked and threw Bellerophone from his back.

Pegasus the Winged Horse Perseus   of Argolis
There were two brothers, Acrisius and Proetus, who always quarreled with each other. Proetus became infatuated with his niece, Acrisius' daughter, DanaŽ. Acrisius locked his daughter in a tower after hearing a prophecy that she would bear a son who would someday cause his death. Zeus fell in love with DanaŽ and she bore him a son, Perseus. Thinking that the child's father to be his brother, Acrisius locked both mother and child in a wooden ark and put them out to sea. The boat drifted to the island kingdom of Seriphos, which was ruled by Polydectes, The kind's brother Dictys, a fisherman, rescued them, and fell in love with DanaŽ. When Perseus grew up he had to defend his mother from king Polydectes who wanted DanaŽ for his wife. Polydectes pretended he was going to be married to another maiden, and asked Perseus to give him the head of the Medusa as a wedding gift. He assumed that attempting to kill the Medussa would be the end of Perseus.

Perseus set about the task with the help of Athena and other gods. Athena gave him a shield that was shiny like a mirror. By walking backwards and looking at Medussa's reflection intead of gazing upon her directly, he avoided being turned to stone. When Perseus severed her head, two winged horses flew from her neck, Pegasus, and Chrysaor.

Flying on Pegasus, he saw below the beautiful princess Andromeda chained to a rock, about to be sacrificed to Cetus, a sea monster also known as The Kraken. Andromeda's mother, Cassiopeia, had angered Poseiden by claiming her beauty was greater than that of the Nereids. Appeasing the monster with the princess was the only way for Cepheus the king and Cassiopeia the queen to spare Ethiopia (Philistia). Perseus offered to kill Cetus in exchange for Andromeda's hand in marriage. After dispatching the monster, Perseus married Andromeda and flew her back to Seriphos.

King Polydectes assumed that Perseus would be killed and decided to kidnap DanaŽ and force her into marriage. She hid in the temple of Athena. The king had the temple surrounded. Perseus used the head of Medussa to turn Polydectes and his generals to stone. The king's brother, Dictys the fisherman, became king. Perseus took his wife and mother back to his birth home of Argolis where he became king as his grandfather Acrisius fled. Many years later, during the funeral games of a neighboring king, Perseus threw a discus that landed in a crowd of spectators, kiling Acrisius, thus fulfilling the prophesy that Acrisius would die at the hand of DanaŽ's son.

Pisces   The Fishes
Typhon was a monster who was in love with the beautiful goddess Aphrodite. He pursued her one day while she and her son Eros were walking along the bank of the Euphrates River. Some river nymphs protected them by transforming them into fishes. To show eternal appreciation, fishes were placed in the sky.

Piscis Austrinus   The Southern Fishes
Aphrodite cast her spells on the goddess Derceto which made her fall in love with a mortal man. She had a daughter, Semiramis. Later, when the spell wore off, Derceto killed her husband, abandoned Semiramis and threw herself into a lake to drown. She was transformed into a fish and placed in the southern sky.

Pleiades   The Sisters
Atlas and a sea nymph named Pleione had seven daughters. Six of them were married to gods. One of them, Merope, was married to a mortal named Sisyphus. On their journey to Boeotia the sisters were pursued by Orion the hunter. Zeus turned them into doves and they flew into the sky. Orion continued to chase them for years up until his death. Zeus placed them in the sky just to the west of Orion where he can see them, but never catch up to them.

Sagitta   The Arrow
The centaur Chiron was accidentally shot by his friend Hercules with an arrow dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. Chiron was immortal and could not die but suffered endless pain from the poison. Hercules negotiated a plan for Chiron to trade places with Prometheus who was bound to a rock in Tartarus with a vulture eternally pecking at his liver. Prometheus could only be released if another immortal took his place. Hercules shot the vulture with an arrow thus ending the torture, and Chiron took his place. The arrow that killed the vulture was placed in the sky.

Sagittarius   The Archer
Crotus is a centaur and the son of Pan. He Lived on Mount Helicon and was a friend of the Muses. He invented the concept of applause as a sign of appreciation for a performance. The Muses asked Zeus to honor him with a constellation.

Scorpius   The Scorpion
The scorpion was sent by Gaia to battle Orion because she felt the hunter was killing too many animals. When Orion and Scorpius killed each other, Zeus maintained peace in the sky by placing the hunter in the winter and the beast in the summer, so they can never see each other.

Taurus   The Bull
Zeus turned himself into a large white bull and kidnapped Europa. He hid her on the island of Crete where she bore him several children, including King Minos. The constellation commemorates the adventure of Europa's abduction.

Triangulum   The Triangle
Hades gave the island of Sicily to Ceres as compensation after he had abducted her daughter Proserpine as she was gathering flowers. The constellation is shaped liked the island and reminds Ceres the Hades loves Proserpine.

Ursa Major the Greater Bear Ursa Major   The Greater Bear
In the land of Arcadia, Zeus fell in love with the beautiful nymph Callisto. Hera, upon hearing that Callisto had given Zeus a son named Arcas, turned Callisto into a bear. One day Callisto saw her son in the woods and attempted to approach but could only growl. Seeing the bear, Arcas drew his spear and prepared to attack. To protect Callisto, Zeus changed Arcas into a bear also and then placed them both in the northern sky swinging them up by their tails. This is why the tails are so long.

Ursa Minor   The Lesser Bear
Arcas was about to kill his own mother, Callisto, who was transformed into a bear by Hera. Tragedy was avoided when he was also transformed into a bear, by Zeus, who then placed mother and son in the sky.

Virgo   The Young Maiden
The maiden is Demeter (aka Ceres), goddess of crops, vegetation, fertility, and harvest. Her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped by Hades as she gathered flowers. Demeter retaliated by stopping the growth of all green plants. Zeus appointed the goddess Hecate to arbitrate a solution. Hecate ruled that if Core had not eaten any food while in the realm of the dead, she must be returned to her mother. Unfortunately Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds. Demeter persisted with the suspension of plant growth until Zeus interfered again. He ordered that Persphone stay with Hades for only three months per year and the rest of the year she could spend with her mother. During the three months with Hades, the growth of plants is suspended which is winter. The appearance of the constellation in the spring signals the return of Persephone to Demeter and the new growth of crops.