THE CONSTELLATIONS AND GREEK MYTHOLOGY
Greek mythology and the Constellation Leo
The constellation Leo is of course the representation of a lion, and event today the name Leo is linked inextricably with the king of the animals.
In ancient sources it almost universally agreed that the constellation Leo in Greek mythology is the representation of the Nemean Lion, another of the monstrous beasts of Greek mythology.
The Nemean Lion was a child of Orthrus and the Chimera, and was trained by the goddess Hera for the specific task of killing Heracles, the illegitimate son of her husband Zeus.
The Nemean Lion was to be found in Nemea, in the Argolis, and from its cave it would ravage the surrounding lands.
Heracles would be dispatched by Eurystheus to kill it, but the skin of the Nemean Lion was impervious to weapons, and so Heracles would eventually have to wrestle with it, before Heracles killed the beast by strangling it.
In recognition of its attempt to kill Heracles, Hera would place its likeness amongst the stars.
Greek mythology and the Constellation Lepus
The constellation Lepus is the constellation also known as the Hare, but although there are tales from Greek mythology to explain the constellation’s existence, there is no agreement upon its origin, nor are the tales overly famous in Greek mythology.
The closeness of the constellation Lepus to that of Orion and his hunting dog has ensured that a connection is made between them; and so it is said by some that the hare was placed amongst the stars to ensure that Orion had something to hunt.
Others tell of the constellation Lepus being created by the messenger god Hermes to give recognition of the fertility of the animal.
Whilst others say the hare was placed amongst the stars as a warning after a pregnant hare was introduced to the Dodecanese island of Leros; the descendants of that original hare brought destruction to the island after they ate all the island’s vegetation.
Greek mythology and the Constellation Libra
The constellation Libra is most commonly said to be representative of a set of scales, and two stories from Greek mythology are given as to why scales are to be found in the night sky.
The more common tale from Greek mythology for the existence of Libra tells of the scales being those owned by Astraea, the Greek goddess of Justice.
The scales of justice are a common emblem even today with symbolism being the weighing of evidence. The goddess Astraea is often connected with Virgo.
Some tell of the scales, Libra, being owned by a different goddess, Tyche, the Greek goddess of fortune. Tyche would often work closely with the goddess Nemesis, to ensure that man’s life was balanced between good fortune and bad.
Greek mythology and the Constellation Lupus
Today, the constellation Lupus is linked with the wolf, for the name was given to it when the Latin translation of Ptolemy’s original work was created.
There is no story from Greek mythology to connect the wolf with the constellation Lupus though, and prior to Ptolomy the constellation of stars was said to be just an unidentified animal that had been impaled by Centaurus.