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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

by
Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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p31

Andromeda! Sweet woman! why delaying

So timidly among the stars: come hither!

Join this bright throng, and nimbly follow whither

They all are going.

John Keats' Endymion.

Andromeda, the Woman Chained,

The Ἀνδρομέδη of Aratos and Ἀνδρομέδα of Eratosthenes, Hipparchos, and Ptolemy, represents in the sky the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of Aethiopia, chained in exposure to the sea monster as punishment of her mother's boast of beauty superior to that of the Nereids. Sappho, of the 7th century before Christ, is supposed to mention her, while Euripides and Sophocles, of the 5th, wrote dramas in which she was a character; p32but she seems to go far back of classical times, and we probably must look to the Euphrates for her origin, with that of her family and Cetus. Sayce claims that she appeared in the great Babylonian Epic of Creation, of more than two millenniums before our era, in connection with the story of Bēl Mardūk and the dragon Tiamat that doubtless is the foundation of the story of Perseus and Andromeda. She was noted, too, in Phoenicia, where Chaldaean influence was early felt.

As a constellation these stars have always borne our title, frequently with the added Mulier Catenata, the Woman Chained, and many of the classical Latins alluded to her as familiar and a great favorite. Caesar Germanicus called her Virgo Devota; a scholiast, Persea, as the bride of Perseus; while Manilius, and Germanicus again, had Cepheis, from her father.

In some editions of the Alfonsine Tables and Almagest she is Alamac, taken from the title of her star γ; and Andromada, described as Mulier qui non vidit maritum, evidently from Al Bīrūnī, this reappearing in Bayer's Carens Omnino viro. Ali Aben Reduan (Haly), the Latin translator of the Arabian commentary on the Tetrabiblos, had Asnade, which in the Berlin Codex reads Ansnade et est mulier quae non habet vivum maritum; these changed by manifold transcription from Alarmalah, the Widow, applied by the Arabians to Andromeda; but the philologist Buttmann said from Anroneda, another erroneous form of our word. The Antamarda of the Hindus is their variation of the classical name.

The original figure probably was, as Dürer drew it, that of a young and beautiful woman bound to the rocks, Strabo said at Iope, the biblical Joppa;a and Josephus wrote that in his day the marks of her chains and the bones of her monster foe were still shown on that sea-shore. But this author, "who did not receive the Greek mythology, observes that these marks attest not the truth but the antiquity of the legend."

Others, who very naturally thought her too far from home at that spot, located Iope in Aethiopia and made her a negress; Ovid expressing this in his patriae fusca colore suae, although he followed Herodotus in referring her to India. Manilius,1 on the contrary, in his version of the story described her as nivea cervice; but the Aethiopia of this legend probably was along the Red Sea in southwestern Arabia.

p33 Arabian astronomers knew these stars as Al Mar᾽ah al Musalsalah, their equivalent of the classical descriptive title, — Chilmead's Almara Almasulsala, — for Western mythological names had no place in their science, although they were familiar with the ideas. But they represented a Sea Calf, or Seal, Vitulus marinus catenatus, as Bayer Latinized it, with a chain around its neck that united it to one of the Fishes; their religious scruples deterring them from figuring the human form. Such images were prohibited by the Ḳur᾽ān; and in the oral utterances attributed by tradition to the Prophet is this anathema:

Woe unto him who paints the likeness of a living thing: on the Day of Judgment those whom he has depicted within rise up out of the grave and ask him for their souls. Then, verily, unable to make the work of his hands live, will he be consumed in everlasting flames.

This still is the belief of the Muslīm, for William Holman Hunt was warned of it, while painting his Scape Goat in the Wilderness, by the shaykh under whose protection he was at the time.

The Spanish edition of the Alfonsine Tables pictures Andromeda with an unfastened chain around her body, and two fishes, one on her bosom, the other at her feet, showing an early connection with Pisces; the Hyginus, printed at Venice anno salutiferi incarnationis, 7th of June, 1488, by Thomas de blauis de alexandria, with some most remarkable illustrations, has her standing between two trees, to which she is bound at the outstretched wrists; in the Leyden Manuscript2 she is partly clothed on the sea beach, chained to rocks on either side.

Caesius3 said that she represented the biblical Abigail of The Books of Samuel; and Julius Schiller, in 1627, made of her stars Sepulchrum Christi,4 the "new Sepulchre wherein was never man yet laid."

p34 The apparently universal impulse of star-gazers to find earthly objects in the heavens is shown in the Cross which is claimed for some of Andromeda's stars; βγ, and δ marking the upright, α and κ the transverse. But a much more noticeable group, an immense Dipper, is readily seen in following up its γ and β to the Square of Pegasus, far surpassing, in extent at least, the better-known pair of Dippers around the pole.

Andromeda is bounded on the north by Cassiopeia and Perseus; on the east by Perseus; on the south by Pisces and Triangulum; and on the west by Lacerta and Pegasus.

Milton's passage in Paradise Lost, where Satan surveys our world

from eastern point

Of Libra to the fleecy star that bears

Andromeda far off Atlantic seas

Beyond th' Horizon,

seems to have puzzled many; but the poet was only seeking to show the comprehensive view had by the arch-fiend east and west through the six signs of the zodiac from the Scales to the Ram with the golden fleece; Andromeda, above the latter, apparently being borne on by him to the westward, and so, to an observer from England, over the Atlantic.

Kingsley's Andromeda well describes her place:

I set thee

High for a star in the heavens, a sign and a hope for the seamen,

Spreading thy long white arms all night in the heights of the aether,

Hard by thy sire and the hero, thy spouse, while near thee thy mother

Sits in her ivory chair, as she plaits ambrosial tresses;

All night long thou wilt shine;

these members of the royal family, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Perseus, lying contiguous to each other, wholly or partly in the Milky Way.

The stars that mark her right arm may be seen stretching from σ to ι and κ; ζ marking the left arm with the end of the chain towards Lacerta; but in early days she was somewhat differently located, and even till recently there has been confusion here; for Smyth wrote:

Flamsteed's Nos. 51 and 54 Andromedae are ψ and υ Persei, though placed exactly where Ptolemy wished them to be — on the lady's foot: so also α in this asterism has been lettered δ Pegasi by Bayer, and β has been the lucida of the Northern Fish.

Argelander has 83 stars here, and Heis 138.

La Lande and Dupuis asserted that the Phoenician sphere had a broad Threshing-floor in this spot, with stars of Cassiopeia as one of the Gleaners p35in the large Wheat-field that occupied so much of that people's sky; its exact boundaries, however, being unknown to us.

α, Double, magnitudes 2.2 and 11, white and purplish.

Alpheratz, Alpherat, and Sirrah are from the Arabians' Al Surrat al Faras, the Horse's Navel, as this star formerly was associated with Pegasus, whence it was transferred to the Woman's hair; and some one has strangely called it Umbilicus Andromedae. But in all late Arabian astronomy taken from Ptolemy it was described as Al Rās al Mar᾽ah al Musalsalah, the Head of the Woman in Chains.

Aratos [Phaen. 205] designated it as ξῦνός ἀστήρ, i.e., common to both constellations, and it is still retained in Pegasus as the δ of that figure, although not in general use by astronomers.

In England, two centuries ago, it was familiarly known as Andromeda's Head.

With β Cassiopeiae and γ Pegasi, as the Three Guides, it marks the equinoctial colure, the prime meridian of the heavens; and, with γ Pegasi, the eastern side of the Great Square of Pegasus.

In the Hindu lunar zodiac this star, with αβ, and γ Pegasi, — the Great Square, — constituted the double nakshatra, — the 24th and 25th, — Pūrva and Uttara Bhādrapadās, the Former and the Latter Beautiful, or Auspicious, Feet; also given as Proshthapadās, Footstool Feet; while Professor Weber of Berlin says that it was Praṭishthana, a Stand or Support, which the four bright stars may represent.

With γ Pegasi, the determinant star, it formed the 25th sieu Pi, or Peih, a Wall or Partition, anciently Lek, and the manzil Al Fargu, from Al Farigh al Mu᾽aḣḣar, the Hindmost Loiterer; or, perhaps more correctly, the Hind Spout of the Water-Jar, for Kazwini called it Al Farigh al Thānī, the Second Spout; a Well-mouth and its accompaniments being imagined here by the early Arabs.

The Persian title for this lunar station, Miyan; the Sogdian, Bar Farshat; the Khorasmian, Wabir; and the Coptic, Artulosia, all have somewhat similar meanings.

In astrology α portended honor and riches to all born under its influence. It comes to the meridian — culminates — at nine o'clock5 in the evening of the 10th of November.

p36 β, 2.3, yellow.

Mirach was described in the Alfonsine Tables of 1521 as super mirat, from which has been derived its present title, as well as the occasional forms Mirac, Merach, Mirar, Mirath, Mirax, etc.; mirat probably coming from the 1515 Almagest's super mizar, the Arabic mi᾽zar, a girdle or waist-cloth. Scaliger, the great critical scholar of the 15th century,b adopted this Mizar as a title, and Riccioli followed him in its use, thus confounding the star with ζ Ursae Majoris. The Mirae of Smyth doubtless is a typographical error, although Mirae had appeared in Chilmead's Treatise6 of 1639 for the same word applied to β Ursae Majoris.

Hipparchos seems to refer to it in his ζώνη; and, synonymously, some have termed it Cingulum; others, Ventrale, from its former position in the figure, although now it is on the left hip. In later Arabian astronomy it marked the right side of Andromeda, and so was known as Al Janb al Musalsalah, the Side of the Chained Woman. β appeared in very early drawings as the lucida of the northern of the two Fishes, and marked the 26th manzil Al Baṭn al Ḥūt, the Belly of the Fish, or Al Ḳalb al Ḥūt, the Heart of the Fish; and the corresponding sieu Goei, or Kwei, the Man Striding, or the Striding Legs, anciently Kwet. In this location it was AI Risḣā, the Band, Cord, Ribbon, or Thread, as being on the line uniting the Fishes; but this title now belongs to α Piscium.

Brown includes it, with υφ and χ Piscium, in the Coptic lunar station Kuton, the Thread; and Renouf, in Arit, an asterism indigenous to Egypt. It lies midway between α and γ, about 15° distant from each; and in astrology was a fortunate star, portending renown and good luck in matrimony.

γ, Binary, — and perhaps ternary, 2.3, 5.5, and 6.5. orange, emerald, and blue.

This is Alamac in the Alfonsine Tables and 1515 Almagest; Riccioli's Alamak; Flamsteed's Alamech; now Almach, Almak, Almaack, and Almaac or Almaak; all from Al ʽAnaḳ al ʽArḍ, a small predatory animal of Arabia, similar to a badger, and popularly known there as Al Barīd. Scaliger's conjecture that it is from Al Mauk, the Buskin, although likely enough for a star marking the left foot of Andromeda, is not accepted; for p37Ulug Beg, a century and a half previously, as well as Al Tizini7 and the Arabic globes before him, gave it the animal's title in full. But the propriety of such a designation here is not obvious in connection with Andromeda, and would indicate that it belonged to very early Arab astronomy.

Bayer said of it, perperam Alhames, an erroneous form of some of the foregoing. Riccioli8 also mentioned this name, but only to repudiate it.

Muhammād al Achsasi9 al Muwakkit designated γ as Al Ḣāmis al Naʽāmāt, his editor translating this Quinta Struthionum, the 5th one of the Ostriches; but I have not elsewhere seen the association of these birds with this constellation.

Hyde gives another Arabian designation for γ as Al Rijl al Musalsalah, the Woman's Foot.

In the astronomy of China this star, with others in Andromeda and in Triangulum, was Tien Ta Tseang, Heaven's Great General. Astrologically it was honorable and eminent.

Its duplicity was discovered by Johann Tobias Mayer of Göttingen in 1778; and Wilhelm Struve,10 in October, 1842, found that its companion was closely double, less than 1″ apart at a position angle of 100°, and probably binary. The two larger components are 10″.4 apart with a position p38angle of 63°.3. The contrast in their colors is extraordinarily fine. William Herschel wrote of it in 1804:

This double Star is one of the most beautiful Objects in the Heavens. The striking difference in the colour of the two Stars suggests the idea of a Sun and its Planet, to which the contrast of their unequal size contributes not a little; but Webb thought them stationary.

It is readily resolved by a 2¼‑inch glass with a power of forty diameters, and it seems singular that its double character was not sooner discovered.

From its vicinity radiate the Andromedes II, the Bielid meteors of November, so wonderfully displayed on the 27th of that month in 1872 and 1885, and on the 23d in 1892, and identified by Secchi and others with the celebrated comet discovered by Biela in 1826, which, on its return in 1832, almost created a panic in France. The stream completes three revolutions in about twenty years, although subject to great perturbations from Jupiter, and doubtless was that noticed on the 7th of December, 1798, and in 1838. These objects move in the same direction as the earth, and so with apparent slowness, — about ten miles a second, — leaving small trains of reddish-yellow sparks. The radiant, lying northeast from γ, is remarkable for its extent, being from 7 to 10 degrees in diameter. The Mazapil iron meteorite which fell in northern Mexico on the 27th of November, 1886, has been claimed "as being really a piece of Biela's comet itself."

δ, Double, 3 and 12.5, orange and dusky.

Burritt added to the letter for this the title Delta, perhaps from its forming a triangle with ε and a small adjacent star.

It marks the radiant point of the Andromedes I of the 21st of July.

The components are 27ʺ.9 apart, at a position angle of 299°.3.

θ, a 4.7‑magnitude star, with ρ and σ, was the Chinese Tien Ke,11 the Heavenly Stable.

ξ, 4.9,

is Adhil, first appearing in the Almagest of 1515, and again in the Alfonsine Tables of 1521, from Al Dhail, the Train of a Garment, the Arabic equivalent of Ptolemy's σύρμα; but Baily thought the title better applied to the slightly fainter A, which is more nearly in that part of the lady's dress; and p39Bayer erroneously gave it to the 6th‑magnitude b, claiming — for he was somewhat of an astrologer, although the Os Protestantium of his day — that, with the surrounding stars, it partook of the nature of Venus.

φ, Binary, 4.9 and 6.5, yellow and green, and χ, 5,

in Chinese astronomy, were Keun Nan Mun, the Camp's South Gate; they lie in the train near the star σύρμα. The components of φ were observed by Burnham in 1879, 0ʺ.3 apart, at a position angle of 272°.4.

NGC12 224, or 31 M.,13

the Great Nebula, the Queen of the Nebulae,c just northwest of the star ν, is said to have been known as far back as A.D. 905; was described by Al Sufi as the Little Cloud before 986; and appeared on a Dutch star-map of 1500. But otherwise there seems to be no record of it till the time of Simon Marius (Mayer of Gunzenhausen), who, in his rare work De Mundo Joviali, tells us that he first examined it with a telescope on the 15th of December, 1612. He did not, however, claim it as a new discovery, as he is reported to have fraudulently done of the four satellites of Jupiter,14 when he gave them their present but rarely used names, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Kallisto, that are now known as I, II, III, and IIII, in the order of their distances from the planet. Halley, however, did so claim it in 1661 in favor of Bullialdus (Ismail Bouillaud), who, although he doubtless again brought it into notice as the nebulosa in cingulo Andromedae, expressly mentioned that it had been observed 150 years previously by some anonymous but expert astronomer.

Hevelius catalogued it in his Prodromus, and Flamsteed inserted it in his Historia as nebulosa supra cingulum and nebulosa cinguli; but Hipparchos, Ptolemy, Ulug Beg, Tycho Brahē, and Bayer did not allude to it, from which some have inferred an increase, or variability, in its light; but there is no positive evidence as to this, and it does not seem probable.

Marius said that it resembled the diluted light from the flame of a candle seen through horn,15 while others of our early astronomers described it differently; discordances probably owing to the different means employed. Its true character seems as yet undetermined, although astro-photography p40"has proved it to be a vast Saturniform body, a great, comparatively condensed nucleus, surrounded by a series of rings, elliptical as they appear to us, but probably only so from the angle under which they are presented to our view"; "masses of nebulous matter partially condensed into the solid form" — a new and enormous solar system in formation.

Its length, or diameter, about 3½°, is estimated at more than thirty thousand times the distance from the earth to the sun.

Its attendant companion, visible as a nebula in the same field if a low-power be used, is the star-cluster NGC 221, 32 M., discovered in 1749 by Le Gentil. It is nearly circular in form, and apparently, ⅛ the size of the Great Nebula. Sir William Huggins and others have suggested that the small nebulae near the latter may be planets in process of formation.

S Andromedae, the nova of 1885 that excited so much interest, was first seen about the middle of August, 16″ of arc to the southeast of the nucleus, and, for a brief period, of the 6th to the 7th magnitude; but it soon disappeared to ordinary glasses, and Hall last saw it with the 26‑inch refractor at Washington on the 1st of February, 1886, as of the 16th magnitude.


The Author's Notes:

1 Manilius, author of the Poeticon Astronomicon, frequently quoted throughout these pages, flourished under Augustus and Tiberius, and probably was the first Latin author to write at length on astronomy and astrology; but he adhered closely to Aratus' scheme of the constellations, making no mention of Berenice's Hair, Equuleus, or the Southern Crown. The text, as we have it, is from a manuscript exhumed in the 15th century from an old German library by Poggius, the celebrated Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini, who rescued so much of our classic literature from the dust of ages.

2 The figures in this old manuscript are spirited, many of them beautiful, and all studded with stars, but with no attempt at orderly arrangement; and, although in perfect preservation, high antiquity has been claimed for them as of ancient Roman times. Hugo Grotius reproduced them in his Syntagma Arateorum, and the Manuscript is still preserved in the University Library at Leyden.

3 The work of Caesius (Philip Zensen), the Coelum Astronomico-Poeticum, published by Johannes Blaeu at Amsterdam in 1662, is much quoted by La Lande, and is a most interesting source of information as to star-names and the mythology of the constellations, with many extracts from Greek and Roman authors. He mentions sixty-four figures, but some of his star-titles, as also perhaps those of other astronomical writers, would seem merely to be synonyms for the human originals erroneously assumed as for their sky namesakes.

4 This appeared in the Coelum Stellatum Christianum, which, according to its title-page, was the joint production of Schiller and Bayer, an enlarged reprint of the Uranometria of 1603: and Gould says that it was in reality the 2d edition of Bayer's work, almost ready for the press at the latter's death in 1625, but appropriated by Schiller to embody his own absurd constellation changes.

5 All culminations mentioned in this work are for this hour.

6 This book, a Learned Treatise on Globes, was a translation by Master John Chilmead, of Oxford, of two early Latin works by Robert Hues and Io. Isa. Pontanus. It is an interestingly quaint description of the celestial globes of that and the preceding century, with their stellar nomenclature.

7 The catalogue of this author, Muḥammād abu Bekr al Tizini al Muwakkit, was published at Damascus in 1533 with 302 stars, and from its long list of purely Arabic star-names was regarded as worthy of translation and republication by Hyde, in 1665, with the original text. The muwakkit of his title indicates that he was shaykh of the grand mosque.

8 This last author, to whom I shall make frequent reference, was Joannes Baptista Riccioli, of the Society of Jesus, whose Almagestum Novum of 1651 and Astronomia Reformata of 1665 were famous in their day, and are interesting in ours, as preserving to us much of the queer mediaeval stellar nomenclature, as well as of the general astronomical knowledge of the times. In the 2d volume of this last work is a long list of titles, curiosities in philology, with this heading: Nomina Stellarum Peregrinum & Plerumque Arabica; while the comment thereon, ne mirere Lector, si eidem Stellae diversa nomina videbis adscripta, pro diversitate Dialectorum aut codicum fortasse corruptorum, might well have served as a motto for this book. He is noted, too, as having drawn for his Almagest the 2d map of the moon, — Hevelius preceding him in this by four years, — and as having given the various names to its various features, more than two hundred of these being still in use, while all but six of those given by his justly more celebrated contemporary have been discarded. His lunar titles naturally were Jesuitical; nor was he overmodest, for his own name appears first in the list, and that of his colleague Grimaldi immediately succeeding.

9 The Arabic manuscript of this author, with its star-list of about the year 1650, has been reviewed by Mr. E. B. Knobel in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society for June, 1895. It contains 112 stars, perhaps taken from Al Tizini's catalogue of the preceding century. The Achsasi of his title was from the village of similar name in the Fayūm, doubtless his birthplace; and, like Tizini, he was shaykh of the grand mosque in Cairo, where his work was written.

10 Struve was the first director of the Russian National Observatory at Poulkowa, where he was succeeded by his son Otto; and two of the grandsons bear names already celebrated in astronomy.

11 The star-names of China that appear in this work are few in comparison with the total in the great number of that country's constellations. I occasionally cite them merely to indicate the general character of Chinese stellar nomenclature.

12 This is the New General Catalogue of Doctor J. L. E. Dreyer, published in 1887.

13 Messier's Catalogue.

14 This planet was known to the Greeks as Ζεύς, and as Φαέθων, the Shining One.

15 This reminds us of Dante's beautiful simile in the Paradiso, although of a different object:

So that fire seemed it behind alabaster.


Thayer's Notes:

a Strabo (I.2.35) doesn't say exactly that; rather he reports that some writers put Andromeda at Joppa. At any rate, the mention of this town reveals the connection between the chained woman Andromeda and the legend of St. George, rescuer of damsels in distress: Clermont-Ganneau, in his ground-breaking study on the myth of St. George, Horus et Saint Georges d'après un bas-relief inédit du Louvre, explores the matter in several places in his essay, especially in section IV (and several notes there).

b The elder Scaliger is meant, Julius Caesar Scaliger. His dates are 1484‑1558, and his life as a scholar began only in 1512: he is thus best characterized as "16th‑century".

c M31 is the Andromeda Galaxy: not a nebula or a solar system, but our sister galaxy, the nearest one like us. Allen is like a lens into our past: most of his astronomical discussion is wrong, superseded by 20c science; for example, the distance to M31 is 2.9 million light-years — not thirty thousand times, but roughly 190 billion times that to the Sun.

While I'm at it, the names commonly used for the four Galilean satellites of Jupiter, even in scientific contexts, are universally those given them by Marius.


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