Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Greek Myths and Legends - Their place in the stars

The star Constellations

There are lots of Greek Myths and Legends which have become famous because they are star constellations and I have been finding out about them because I think they are interesting.
Some of the Myths and Legends are part of the same story, Perseus , Andromeda and Pegasus which I have worked on mainly but others are mentioned - Cassiopeia and Cepheus who also are constellations in the same story.


Perseus was the son of Zeus, the King of the Gods and Danae, a human woman. In revenge, the womans husband Polydectes, King of Seriphos sent perseus on an impossible journey to kill Medusa who was a Gorgon whose face could turn anyone who looked at her to stone. Perseus begged the Gods for help and they gave him A polished shield from Athena who was Goddess of Wisdom; A pair of winged sandals by Hermes ( Mercury in Roman times) the messenger of the Gods; a magic helmet which made him invisible to her sisters who were also Gorgons and a magic bag to put the head in.

Perseus used the sandals to fly to where Medusa was . When he found her he used her reflection in the polished shield to cut off the head of the gorgon and as she dies the winged horse Pegasus was born from her blood.

Perseus is represented in the stars with a sword in one hand and the head of Medusa in the other It is near the star constellations of Andromeda Cassiopeia and Cepheus.


The constellations of Perseus and Pegasus are intertwined in Greek mythology.
According to Greek legend, Pegasus, son of the god of the sea Posiedon, was born out of the blood of the Medusa, who was killed by Perseus. He was later taken to Mount Helicon by Bellerophon and with one kick of his hoof, he made the spring of Hippocrene to flow.
In another myth, Bellerophon ordered Pegasus to fly him up to Mount Olympus, home of the Gods. This made Zeus angry and he sent an insect to sting Pegasus, who threw Bellerophon off his back. Bellerophon was killed in the fall .
Other myths have Pegasus as the Thundering Horse who carried lightning bolts for Zeus.


Andromeda was the beautiful princess of Ethiopia. Daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus. Cassiopeia was very vain and said the both she and Andromeda were more beautiful than the sea nymphs, the Nereids. The Nereids were upset by this and complained to Poseidon - the king of the sea - who sent a monster, the Kraken, to destroy the Kingdom, in order to fight back for his nymphs. Ammon, the Oracle, advised the King to sacrifice Andromeda to the Kraken by chaining her to a sea cliff to be eaten by the monster. She was spotted by Perseus, nephew of the king of Argos, who had just killed the Gorgon, Medusa - the woman with snakes for hair, whose stare could turn any human to stone. Perseus was flying on Pegasus the flying horse.
At first, Perseus thought Andromeda was a statue, but when the wind ruffled her hair, and he saw she was crying, he fell in love with her. Perseus asked her her name, and where she came from. She told him why she was there, that Cassiopeia had been too vain and had upset the Nereids before she had finished telling Perseus these things the Kraken rose from the sea and Andromeda screamed. Perseus told Cassiopaeia and Cepheus that he would kill the Kraken if tey let him marry Andromeda. They of course agreed and Perseus then killed the monster by showing it the head of the medusa and the monster turns to stone. Andromeda is set free and later marries Perseus. Perseus later becomes king of Tiryns and Mycenae.

The goddess Athena placed Andromeda's picture in the stars as a reward for keeping her parents promise.

Andromeda is represented in the sky as a figure of a woman with her arms outstretched and chained at the wrists.


Heracles is also known as Hercules. Herakles was famous in Greek legend for his strength and for his twelve labours.

Because Herakles killed his wife Megara when he was driven mad by Hera, he had to serve king Eurysthius and do 12 tasks for which he is most famous. They were:

1 He wrestled and killed the Nemean Lion ( Leo) in its den then used one of it's teeth to remove the lions skin. He wore the hide as protection because it was magic
2 He killed the Lernaean Hydra which was a poisonous monster which could re-grow it's head if it was chopped off, growing 2 new oneseach time it was cut off. hercules managed to kill it by cutting off the heads and burning the stumps straight away. One immortal head he buried under a rock. While he was fighting the Hydra a crab sent by Hera was nipping his feet.
3 He captured the Cerynean Hind, a stag with golden horns which was famous for running fast. It took him a year to catch it.
4 He captured the Erymanthian Boar and killed the centaurs who guarded it.
5 He cleaned the stables at Augean which had never been cleaned by diverting rivers through it. 3000 oxen had lived there for 30 years. Poo smelly!
6 He killed the Stymphalian Birds which ate humans.
7 He captured the bull in Crete
8 He captured the horses of Diomedes who ate humans by feeding their owner to them
9 He stole the girdle of Hippolyta queen of the Amazons
10 He stole the man eating cattle of Geryon
11 He stole the three headed guard dog Cerberus from the underworld
12 He got the golden apples of the Hespiredes and killed a dragon doing it.

Heracles is represented in the sky by a kneeling man with one foot on the head of the dragon Draco. He is holding a bow, and an arrow and the three headed dog. It is the 5th largest constellation in the sky but is not very bright.


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