Greek Constellations

The Greeks had a fascination with the stars. From a very early time they were able to find patterns in the stars that formed different symbols, figures and animals. It is through this initial fascination that they started to associate the stars with the Gods. From that point, they developed dozens of constellations. Each of these constellations was accompanied by the mythology of the creature that they found in the stars. It was the Greek’s belief that the Gods lived in a large bronze dome and the constellations were fixtures upon this dome.

Slowly these constellations started to take the form of heroes favored by the gods, those punished by the gods, and beasts of legend. By about 500 B.C., the Greeks had developed a fully functioning mythology system based on the constellations and their back story. It is said the Greek myths were all written by a few prominent writers, such as Hesiod, Phercydes, Aratus and Hynginus. The stories created by these writers were very elaborate pieces of myth. For this reason, relatively simple looking constellations could have great meaning. The crater constellation for example is a simple drinking cup, but is actually a symbol of the dangers of fraud. The myth states that a crow was sent to fetch water and instead of completing the task in a prompt nature, the lazy bird took many bouts of rest. In order to explain for the delay in its journey, the crow decided to take a water snake back as well. The god Apollo, not fooled by the crow’s tale angrily cast the crow, bird and watering cup into the sky. The crow was found in the constellation Corvus, the snake hydra and the cup was of course, Crater. In some cases, overlapping or alternate myths could be attributed to one constellation. In the case of the constellation hydra, which was explained by the story of the crow, had an alternative story. It is also identified as the water beast with multiple heads faced by Hercules as one of his twelve labors. There were 12 constellations that fell on the same plane as planets orbiting the sun. These twelve constellations are Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Caner, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius, which became known as the zodiac constellations. Though established thousands of years ago, today these constellations are still used to determine horoscopes. The Greek constellations have heavily influenced the accepted constellations of modern astronomy and many of the names are directly derived or remained unchanged from their time.

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