Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online

THE RUINS, OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES

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THE CONSTELLATIONS.


SIRIUS, the Dog Star.--A bright star of the first magnitude in the mouth of the constellation Canis Major. This is the brightest star that appears in our firmament, and is supposed by some to be the nearest.

LEPUS.--One of the southern constellations, placed near Orion, according to Grecian fable, because it was one of the animals which he hunted.

ERIDANUS.--A winding southern constellation, near the Cetus, containing the bright star Achemar.

CETUS, the Whale.--A southern constellation, and one of the forty- eight old asterisms. It is fabled to have been the sea monster sent by Neptune to devour Andromeda, which was killed by Perseus.

CRATER, the Cup.--A southern constellation, near Hydra. This is supposed by Hyainus to be the cup which Apollo gave to the Corvus, or Raven.

CORVUS.--One of the old constellations in the southern hemisphere, near Sagittarius. This bird is fabled to have been translated to heaven by Apollo for discovering to him the infidelity of the nymph Coronis.

ARGO NAVIS, the Ship.--A constellation near to the Canis Major, and the name of the ship which carried Jason and his fifty-four companions to Colchis in quest of the golden fleece, and was said to have been translated into the heavens.

CANOPUS.--The name formerly given to a star in the second bend of Eridanus. A bright star of the first magnitude in the rudder of the ship Argo, which, according to Pliny, was visible at Alexandria in Egypt.

CENTAURUS.--One of the forty-eight old constellations in the southern hemisphere, represented in the form of half man and half horse, who was fabled by the Greeks to have been Chiron, the tutor of Achilles.

AVA, or ALTAR.--One of the old constellations, and fabled to have been that at which the giants entered into their conspiracy against the gods; wherefore Jupiter, in commemoration of the event, transplanted the altar into the heavens.

PEGASUS.--One of the forty-eight old constellations of the northern hemisphere, figured in the form of a flying horse.

DELPHINUS, or DOLPHIN.--A northern constellation, near Pegasus. The Dolphin is fabled to have been translated to heaven by Neptune.

AQUILA, the Eagle.--In the Arabic Altair, but in the Persian tables the Flying Vulture. This is one of the old constellations, situated near Delphinus in the northern hemisphere. According to Grecian fable, Aquila represented Ganymede or Hebe, who was transported to heaven and made cup-bearer to Jupiter.

SAGITTA--the Dart or Arrow, called by the Arabians Schahan. One of the old constellations in the northern hemisphere, near Aquila and Delphinus. It is fabled to have been the arrow with which Hercules slew the vulture that was devouring the liver of Prometheus who was, like Jesus, crucified for loving mankind.

CYGNUS, the Swan.--An old constellation in the milky-way, between Equus and the Dragon. This is fabled to be the swan into which Jupiter transformed himself in order to deceive the virtuous Leda, wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. The Grecian matron, like the Jewish virgin, thus became the mother of a God.

LYRA.--A northern constellation between Hercules and Cygnus, containing a white star of the first magnitude.

MILKY-WAY.--Galaxy, or Via Lactia.--A broad luminous path or circle encompassing the heavens, which is easily discernible by its white appearance, from which it derives its name. It is supposed to be the blended light of innumerable fixed stars, which are not distinguishable with ordinary telescopes.

HYDRA, the Serpent.--A southern constellation of great length, which is drawn to represent a serpent. The Hydra is fabled to have been placed in the heavens by Apollo, to frighten the Raven from drinking.

ORION, the hunter.--A constellation of the southern hemisphere with respect to the ecliptic, but half southern and half northern with respect to the equinoctial. It is placed near the feet of the bull, and is composed of seventeen stars in the form of a sword, which has given occasion to the poets to speak of Orion's sword. He was described by the Greeks as a "mighty hunter," who for his exploits was placed in the heavens by Jupiter, between the Canis and the Lepus. He is believed by many to have been the "mighty hunter" spoken of in the bible, under the name of Nimrod. (See Gen. x: 8, 9; 1 Chron. i: 10; Micha v: 6, Job ix, 9; Amos v, 8.)

PERSEUS.--This constellation is named from Perseus, the son of Jupiter by Danae, who was translated into the heavens by the assistance of Minerva, for having released Andromeda from her confinement on the rock to which she was chained. He is represented in the preceding illustration holding a drawn sword in his right hand and in his left the head of Medusa, the Gorgon, whose terrifying appearance changed all who beheld her into stone, and whom he had destroyed with the assistance of the wings he had borrowed from Mercury, the helmet from Pluto, the sword from Vulcan, and the shield from Minerva.

JOSEPH'S STABLE; AURIGA, the Wagoner:--A northern constellation between Perseus and Gemini, represented by the figure of an old man supporting a goat. He is said to have been taken to heaven by Jupiter after the invention of wagons.

URSA MAJOR, the Bear.--One of the prominent northern constellations, situated near the north pole. It contains the stars called the Dipper. Ursa Minor contains the pole-star, which is shown in the extremity of the tail of the bear.

ANDROMEDA.--A northern constellation, represented by a woman chained; as, according to Grecian fable, Andromeda, the daughter of Cassiopia, was bound to a rock by the Nereides, and afterwards released by Perseus. Minerva changed her into a constellation after her death, and placed her in the heavens.

DRACO OR DRAGON.--A northern constellation, supposed to represent the Dragon that guarded the Hesperian fruit, and was killed by Hercules. It is said that Juno took it up to heaven and placed it among the constellations.

BOOTIS, the Ox driver: so called because this constellation seems to follow the Great Bear as the driver follows his oxen. Bootis is represented as grasping in his right hand a sickle and in his left a club, and is fabled to have been Icarius, who was transported to heaven because he was a great cultivator of the vine; for when Bootes rises the works of ploughing and cultivation go forward.

CORONA BOREALIS. Northern Crown.--One of the old northern constellations, between Hercules and Bootes.

CORONA AUSTRALIS--Southern Crown.--One of the old constellations in the southern hemisphere, between Sagittarius and Scorpio. The Corona were fabled to be Menippe and Metioche, two daughters of Orion, who sacrificed themselves at the suggestion of an oracle, to protect Boeotia, their native country, from the ravages of a pestilence: it being the belief of idolatrous nations that an angry god could be propitiated by human sacrifices, and that the death of the innocent might atone for the sins of the guilty. The deities of Hades were astonished, it is said, at the patriotism and devotion of these Grecian maidens, who had so generously and uselessly sacrificed their lives. After their death two stars were seen to issue from the altars that still smoked with their blood, and these stars were placed in the heavens in the form of a crown or coronet.

CEPHEUS AND CASSIOPIA.--One of the old asterism in the northern hemisphere, near the pole. According to Grecian fables, Cassiopia and her husband Cepheus, king of Etheopia, were placed among the constellations to witness the punishment inflicted on their daughter, Andromeda.

TRIANGULARIUM.--A name for both one of the old and new constellations in the northern hemisphere, between Andromeda and Aries.

SERPENTARIUS, called Ophiucus, is a constellation in the northern hemisphere, between Scorpio and Hercules.

HERCULES, one of the old northern constellations. In Grecian mythology it was taught and believed that Hercules, the Theban, was born of a human mother and an immortal father, like other so-called saviours of mankind. His mother, the fair Alcmena, wife of Amphitryon, having found favor in the eyes of the god Jupiter, soon fell an unwilling victim to his celestial wiles. The life of the infant Hercules, born of this unnatural union, was threatened by the jealous Juno, the same as the life of the infant Jesus was threatened by the tyrant Herod. Like Jesus, Hercules devoted his life to the benefit of the human race, and like Jesus he was also worshipped after his death as a God in heaven. He is shown in the astrological chart, enveloped in the skin of the lion he has slain, with his club upraised, and his foot placed threateningly above the head of the Dragon, as if about to fulfill the scriptural prophecy, that "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head."


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