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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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p75

 . . . the fleecy star that bears

Andromeda far off Atlantic seas

Beyond th' Horizon.

Milton's Paradise Lost.

Aries, the Ram

is Ariete in Italy, Bélier in France, and Widder in Germany — Bayer's Wider; in the Anglo-Saxon tongue it is Ramm, and in the Anglo-Norman of the 12th century, Multuns. The constellation is marked by the noticeable triangle to the west of the Pleiades, 6° north of the ecliptic, 20° north of the celestial equator, and 20° due south from γ Andromedae.

With the Greeks it was Κριός, and sometimes Ἀιγόκερως, although this last was more usual for Capricorn.

It was always Aries with the Romans; but Ovid called it Phrixea Ovis; and Columella, Pecus Athamantidos Helles, Phrixus, and Portitor Phrixi; others, Phrixeum Pecus and Phrixi Vector, Phrixus being the hero-son of Athamas, who fled on the back of this Ram with his sister Helle to Colchis to escape the wrath of his stepmother Ino. It will be remembered that on the way Helle fell off into the sea, which thereafter became the Hellespont, as Manilius wrote:

First Golden Aries shines (who whilst he swam

Lost part of's Freight, and gave the Sea a Name);

and Longfellow, in his translation from Ovid's Tristia:

The Ram that bore unsafely the burden of Helle.

p76 On reaching his journey's end, Phrixus sacrificed the creature and hung its fleece in the Grove of Ares, where it was turned to gold and became the object of the Argonaut's quest. From this came others of Aries' titles: Ovis aurea and auratus, Chrysomallus, and the Low Latin Chrysovellus.

The Athamas used by Columella was a classical reproduction of the Euphratean Tammuz Dum‑uzi, the Only Son of Life, whom Aries at one time represented in the heavens, as did Orion at a previous date, perhaps when it marked the vernal equinox 4500 B.C.

Cicero and Ovid styled the constellation Cornus; elsewhere it was Corniger and Laniger; Vervex, the Wether; Dux opulenti gregis; Caput arietinum; and, in allusion to its position, Aequinoctialis. Vernus Portitor, the Spring-bringer, is cited by Caesius, who also mentioned Arcanus, that may refer to the secret rites in the worship of the divinities whom Aries represented.

From about the year 1730 before our era he was Princeps signorum coelestium, Princeps zodiaci, and the Ductor exercitus zodiaci, continuing so through Hipparchos' time; Manilius writing of this:

The Ram having pass'd the Sea serenely shines,

And leads the Year, the Prince of all the Signs.

But about A.D. 420 his office was transferred to Pisces.

Brown writes as to the origin of the title Aries, without any supposition of resemblance of the group to the animal:

The stars were regarded by a pastoral population as flocks; each asterism had its special leader, and the star, and subsequently the constellation, that led the heavens through the year was the Ram.

Elsewhere he tells us that when Aries became chief of the zodiac signs it took the Akkadian titles Ku, I-ku, and I‑ku‑u, from its lucida Hamal, all equivalents of the Assyrian Rubū, Prince, and very appropriate to the leading stellar group of that date, although not one of the first formations.

He also finds, from an inscription on the Tablet of the Thirty Stars, that the Euphratean astronomers had a constellation Gam, the Scimetar, stretching from Okda of the Fishes to Hamal of Aries, the curved blade being formed by the latter's three brightest components. This was the weapon protecting the kingdom against the Seven Evil Spirits, or Tempest Powers.

Jensen thinks that Aries may have been first adopted into the zodiac by the Babylonians when its stars began to mark the vernal equinox; and that the insertion of it between Taurus and Pegasus compelled the cutting off a p77part of each of those figures, — a novel suggestion that would save much theorizing as to their sectional character.

The Jewish Nīsān, our March-April, was associated with Aries, for Josephus said that it was when the sun was here in this month that his people were released from the bondage of Egypt; and so was the same month Nisanu of Assyria, where Aries represented the Altar and Sacrifice, a ram usually being the victim. Hence the prominence given to this sign in antiquity even before its stars became the leaders of the rest; although Berōssōs and Macrobius attributed this to the ancient belief that the earth was created when the sun was within its boundaries; and Albumasar,1 of the 9th century, in his Revolution of Years wrote of the Creation as having taken place when "the seven planets" — the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — were in conjunction here, and foretold the destruction of the world when they should be in the same position in the last degree of Pisces.

Dante, who called the constellation Montone, followed with a similar thought in the Inferno:

The sun was mounting with those stars

That with him were, what time the Love Divine

At first in motion set those beauteous things.

To come, however, to a more precise date, Pliny said that Cleostratos of Tenedos first formed Aries, and, at the same time, Sagittarius; but their origin probably was many centuries, even millenniums, antecedent to this, and the statement is only correct in so far as that he may have been the first to write of them.

Many think that our figure was designed to represent the Egyptian King of Gods shown at Thebes with ram's horns, or veiled and crowned with feathers, and variously known as Amon, Ammon, Hammon, Amen, or Amun, and worshiped with great ceremony at his temple in the oasis Ammonium, now Siwah, 5° west of Cairo on the northern limit of Libyan desert. Kircher gave Aries' title there as Ταμετοῦρο Αμοῦν, Regum Ammonis. But there is doubt whether the Egyptian stellar Ram coincided with ours, although Miss Clerke says that the latter's stars were called the Fleece.

p78 As the god Amen was identified with Ζεύς and Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans, so also was Aries, although this popularly was attributed to the story that the classical divinity assumed the Ram's form when all the inhabitants of Olympus fled into Egypt from the giants led by Typhon. From this came the constellation's titles Jupiter Ammon; Jovis Sidus; Minervae Sidus, the goddess being Jove's daughter; the Jupiter Libycus of Propertius, Deus Libycus of Dionysius, and Ammon Libycus of Nonnus.

The Hebrews knew it as Telī, and inscribed it on the banners of Gad or Naphtali; the Syrians, as Amru or Emru; the Persians, as Bara, Bere, or Berre; the Turks, as Kuzi; and in the Parsi Bundehesh it was Varak; all these being synonymous with Aries. The unexplained Arabib, or Aribib, also is seen for it. The early Hindus called it Aja and Mesha, the Tamil Mesham; but the later followed the Greeks in Kriya.

An Arabian commentator on Ulug Beg called the constellation Al Kabah al ʻAlīf, the Tame Ram; but that people generally knew it as Al Ḥamal, the Sheep, — Hammel with Riccioli, Alchamalo with Schickard, and Alhamel with Chilmead.

As one of the zodiacal twelve of China it was the Dog, early known as Heang Low, or Kiang Leu; and later, under Jesuit influence, as Pih Yang, the White Sheep; while with Taurus and Gemini it constituted the White Tiger, the western one of the four great zodiac groups of China; also known as the Lake of Fullness, the Five Reservoirs of Heaven, and the House of the Five Emperors.

Chaucer and other English writers of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries Anglicized the title as Ariete, which also appeared in the Low Latin of the 17th century. It was about this time, when it was sought to reconstruct the constellations on Bible lines, that Aries was said to represent Abraham's Ram caught in the thicket; as also Saint Peter, the bishop of the early church, with Triangulum as his Mitre. Caesius considered it the Lamb sacrificed on Calvary for all sinful humanity.

Aries generally has been figured as reclining with reverted head admiring his own golden fleece, or looking with astonishment at the Bull rising backward; but in the Albumasar of 1489 he is standing erect, and some early artists showed him running towards the west, with what is probably designed for the zodiac-belt around his body. A coin of Domitian bears a representation of him as the Princeps juventutis, and appeared on those of Antiochus of Syria with head towards the Moon and Mars — an appropriate figuring; for, astrologically, Aries was the lunar house of that planet. In common with all the other signs, he is shown on the zodiacal rupees generally attributed to the great Mogul prince Jehangir Shah, but p79really struck by Nūr Mahal Mumtaza, his favorite wife, between 1616 and 1624, each figure being surrounded by sun-rays with an inscription on the reverse.

Its equinoctial position gave force to Aratos' description of its "rapid transits," but he is strangely inexact in his

faint and starless to behold

As stars by moonlight —

a blunder for which Hipparchos seems to have taken him to task. Aratos however, was a more successful versifier than astronomer.

Among astrologers Aries was a dreaded sign indicating passionate temper and bodily hurt, and thus it fitly formed the House of Mars, although some attributed guardianship over it to Pallas Minerva, daughter of Jove whom Aries represented. It was supposed to hold sway over the head and face; in fact the Egyptians called it Arnum, the Lord of the Head; while, geographically, it ruled Denmark, England, France, Germany, Lesser Poland and Switzerland, Syria, Capua, Naples and Verona, with white and red as its colors. In the time of Manilius it was naturally thought of as ruling the Hellespont and Propontis, Egypt and the Nile, Persia and Syria;a and, with Leo and Sagittarius, was the Fiery Trigon.

Ampelius [Lib. Mem. 4] said that it was in charge of the Roman Africus, the Southwest Wind, the Italians' Affrico, or Gherbino; but the Archer and Scorpion also shared this duty. Plinyb wrote that the appearance of a comet within its borders portended great wars and wide-spread mortality, abasement of the great and elevation of the small, with fearful drought in the regions over which the sign predominated; while 17th‑century almanacs attributed many troubles to men, and declared that "many shall die of the rope" when the suns in the sign; but they ascribed to its influence "an abundance of herbs."

Its symbol, , probably represents the head and horns of the animal.

The eastern portion is inconspicuous, and astronomers have mapped others of its stars somewhat irregularly, carrying a horn into Pisces and a leg into Cetus.

Argelander assigns to it 50 naked-eye components; Heis, 80.

The sun now passes through it from the 16th of April to the 13th of May.

nova is reported to have appeared here in May, 1012, described by Epidamnus,c the monk of Saint Gall, as oculos verberans.

p80 α, 2.3, yellow.

Hamal, from the constellation title, was formerly written Hamel, Hemal, Hamul, and Hammel; Riccioli having Ras Hammel from Al Rās al Ḥamal, the Head of the Sheep.

Burritt's El Nāṭh, from Al Nāṭiḥ, the Horn of the Butting One, is appropriate enough for this star, but in our day is given to β Tauri; still Burritt had authority for it, as Kazwini, Al Tizini, Ulug Beg, and the Arabic globes all used the word here; and Chaucer wrote, in 1374:

He knew ful wel how fer Alnath was shove ffro the heed of thilke fixe Aries above.

The title of the whole figure also is seen in Arietis, another designation for this star, as was often the case with many of the lucidae of the constellations.

In Ptolemy's and Ulug Beg's descriptions it was "over the head"; but both of these mentioned Hipparchos as having located it over the muzzle, and near to that feature it was restored by Tycho, in the forehead, as we now have it.

Renouf identified it with the head of the Goose supposed to be one of the early zodiacal constellations of Egypt.

Strassmaier and Epping, in the Astronomisches aus Babylon, say that there its stars formed the third of the twenty-eight ecliptic constellations, — Arku-sha-rishu‑ku, literally the Back of the Head of Ku, — which had been established along that great circle millenniums before our era; and Lenormant quotes, as an individual title from cuneiform inscriptions, Dil-kar, the Proclaimer of the Dawn, that Jensen reads As‑kar, and others Dil‑gan, the Messenger of Light. George Smith inferred from the tablets that it might be the Star of the Flocks; while other Euphratean names had been Lu‑lim, or Lu‑nit, the ram's Eye; and Si‑mal or Si‑mul, the Horn Star, which came down even to late astrology as the Ram's Horn. It also was Anuv, and had its constellation's titles I‑ku and I‑ku‑u, — by abbreviation Ku, — the Prince, or the Leading One, the ram that led the heavenly flock, some of its titles at a different date being applied to Capella of Auriga.

Brown associates it with Aloros, the first of the ten mythical kings of Akkad anterior to the Deluge, the duration of whose reigns proportionately coincided with the distances apart of the ten chief ecliptic stars beginning with Hamal, he deduces from this kingly title the Assyrian Ailuv, and the Hebrew Ayil; the other stars corresponding to the other mythical kings being Alcyone, Aldebaran, Pollux, Regulus, Spica, Antares, Algedi, Deneb Algedi, and Scheat.

p81 The interesting researches of Mr. F. C. Penrose on orientation in Greece have shown that many of its temples were pointed to the rising or setting of various prominent stars, as we have seen to be the case in Egypt; this feature in their architecture having doubtless been taken by the receptive, as well as "somewhat superstitious," Greeks from the Egyptians, many of whose structures are thought to have been so oriented six or seven millenniums before the Christian era, although our star Hamal was not among those observed on the Nile, for precession had not yet brought it into importance. Of the Grecian temples at least eight, at various places and of dates ranging from 1580 to 360 B.C., were oriented to this star; those of Zeus and his daughter Athene being especially thus favoured, as Aries was this god's symbol in the sky.

It was perhaps this prevalence of temple orientation, in addition to their many divinities and especially ὁ Ἄγνωστος Θεός, the Unknown God, which furnished an appropriate text for Saint Paul's great sermon on the Areopagus to the "men of Athens," when, in order to prove our source of being from Him, he quoted, as in Acts xvii.28, from the celebrated fifth verse of the Phainomena:

τοῦ γάρ καί γένος ἐσμίν2

(For we are also his offspring).

To this work this quotation is generally ascribed, and naturally so, for the poet and apostle were fellow-countrymen from Cilicia; but the same words are found in the Hymn to Jupiter by Cleanthes the Stoic, 265 B.C. As Saint Paul, however, used the plural τίνες in his reference, "certain even of your own poets," he may have had both of these authors in mind.

Hamal lies but little north of the ecliptic, and is much used in navigation in connection with lunar observations. It culminates on the 11th of December.

Vogel finds it to be in approach to our system at the rate of about nine miles a second. Its spectrum is similar to that of the sun.

β, 2.9, pearly white.

Sharatan and Sheratan are from Al Sharaṭain, the dual form of Al Sharaṭ, a Sign, referring to this and γ, the third star in the head, as a sign of the opening year; β having marked the vernal equinox in the days of p82Hipparchos, about the time when these stars were named. Bayer's Sartai is from this dual word.

These were the 1st manzil in Al Bīrūnī's list, the earlier 27th, but some added α to the combination, calling it Al Ashrāṭ in the plural; Hyde saying that λ also was included. Al Nāṭiḥ was another name for this lunar station, as the chief components are near the horns of Aries.

β and γ constituted the 27th nakshatra Açvini, the Ashwins, or Horsemen, the earlier dual Açvināu and Açvayujāu, the Two Horsemen, corresponding to the Gemini of Rome, but figured as a Horse's Head. α sometimes was added to this lunar station, but β always was the junction star with the adjoining Bharani. About 400 years before our era this superseded Krittikā as leader of the nakshatras. They were the Persian Padevar, the Protecting Pair; the Sogdian Bashish, the Protector; and the equivalent Coptic Pikutorion; while in Babylonia, according to Epping, they marked the second ecliptic constellation Marhū-sha-rishu‑ku, the Front of the Head of Ku.

α, β, and γ were the corresponding sieu Leu, or Low, the Train of a garment, β being the determinant.

γ, Double, 4.5 and 5, bright white and gray,

has been called the First Star in Aries, as at one time nearest to the equinoctial point.

Its present title, Mesarthim, or Mesartim, has been connected with the Hebrew Mᵋshārᵋtīm, Ministers, but the connection is not apparent; and Ideler considered the word an erroneous deduction by Bayer from the name of the lunar station of which this and β were members. In Smyth's index it is Mesartun; and Caesius had Scartai from Sharaṭain. αβ, and γ may have been the Jewish Shalisha, — more correctly Shālīsh, — some musical instrument of triangular shape, a title also of Triangulum. And they formed one of the several Athāfiyy, Trivets or Tripods; this Arabic word indicating the rude arrangement of three stones on which the nomad placed his kettle, or pot, in his open-air kitchen; others being in our Draco, Orion, Musca, and Lyra.

Gamma's duplicity was discovered by Doctor Robert Hooke while following the comet of 1664, when he said of it, "a like instance to which I have not else met in all the heaven";3 but it was an easy discovery, for the components are 8ʺ.8 apart, readily resolved by a low-power.

The position angle has been about 0° for fifty years.

p83 δ, 4.6.

Botein is from Al Buṭain, the dual of Al Baṭn, the Belly, probably from some early figuring, for in modern maps the star lies on the tail.

With ζ it was Tsin Yin in China.

δε, and ρ3 were considered the 28th manzil, Al Buṭain, but Al Bīrūnī substituted π for ρ3, and others, ζ; while still others located this station in our Musca, the faint little triangle above the figure of the Ram.

ε marks the base of the tail, and is the radiant point of the Arietids, the meteors of the 11th to the 24th of October. It is a double star of 5th and 6.5 magnitudes, 0.ʺ5 apart, and probably binary. Its present position angle is about 200°. Gould thinks it variable.

Williams mentions b, e, o, and z as the Chinese Teen Ho.


The Author's Notes:

1 This author, known also as ᾽Abū Ma᾽shar and Jaʻphar, was from Balḥ in Turkestan, celebrated as an astrologer and quoted by Al Bīrūnī, but with the caution that he was a very incorrect astronomer. The Lenox Library of New York has a copy of his Opus introductorii in astronomiā Albumazaris abalachi, Idus Februarii, 1489, published at Venice with illustrations. Its similarity to the Hyginus of the preceding year would indicate that they issued from the same press.

2 The Christian fathers Eusebius and Clement of Alexandria made this same quotation; while frequent references to Aratos' poem appear in the writings of Saints Chrysostom and Jerome, and of Oecumenius. The heathen Manilius similarly wrote,

 . . . nostrumque parentem

Stirps sua,

to prove the immortality of the soul.

3 Huygens is said to have seen three stars in θ1 Orionis in 1656, and Riccioli two in ζ Ursae Majoris in 1650.


Thayer's Notes:

a A completely different list is given by Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos, II.3). It should also further be noted — since there is a sort of slippage in our author here — that Ptolemy's system, like those of most astrologers, relates to the zodiacal signs, not the constellations.

For the astrological characteristics of the stars of Aries, see Ptolemy also (Tetr. I.9).

b I find nothing of the sort anywhere in Pliny, and the astrological effect of comets isn't his usual stomping grounds; I suspect Allen slipped and meant Ptolemy. If so, it's in the Almagest.

c The monk's name is almost universally spelled Hepidannus; Allen's source seems to be Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos. Furthermore, nothing is ever quite as simple as someone will make it out to be; here is the passage in E. C. Otté's English translation of Humboldt (Cosmos: A sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe, London, 1851), Vol. III, pp200‑201:

According to the statement of Hepidannus, the monk of St. Gall (who died A.D. 1088, whose annals extend from the year A.D. 709 to 1044), a new star of unusual magnitude and of a brilliancy that dazzled the eye (oculos verberans) was, for three months, from the end of May in the year 1012 to be seen in south, in the constellation of Aries. In a most singular manner it appeared to vary in size, and occasionally it could not be seen at all. "Nova stella apparuit insolitae magnitudinis, aspectu fulgurans et oculos verberans non sine terrore. Quae mirum in modum aliquando contractior, aliquando diffusior, etiam extinguebatur interdum. Visa est autem per tres menses in intimis finibus Austri, ultra omnia signa quae videntur in caelo." (See Hepidanni Annales breves, in Duchesne, Historiae Francorum Scriptores, t. III 1641, p477. Compare also Schnurrer, Chronik der Seuchen, th. I s201). To the manuscript made use of by Duchesne and Goldast, which assigns the phenomenon to the year 1012, modern historical criticism has, however, preferred another manuscript which, as compared with the former, exhibits many deviations in the dates, throwing them six years back. Thus, it places the appearance of this star in 1006. (See Annalesº Sangallenses majores, in Pertz, Monumenta Germaniae historica Scriptorum, t. I 1826, p81). Even the authenticity of the writings of Hepidannus has been called into question by modern critics. The singular phenomenon of variability has been termed by Chladni the conflagration and extinction of a fixed star. Hind (Notices of the Astron. Soc., vol. VIII 1848, p156) conjectures that this star of Hepidannus is identical with a new star, which is recorded in Ma‑tuan‑lin, as having been seen in China, in February, 1011, between σ and φ of Sagittarius. But in that case there must be an error in Ma‑tuan‑lin, not only in the statement of the year, but also of the constellation in which the star appeared.


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