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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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p222

Then both were cleans'd from blood and dust

To make a heavenly sign;

The lads were, like their armour, scour'd,

And then hung up to shine;

Such were the heavenly double-Dicks,a

The sons of Jove and Tyndar.

John Grubb, in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.

Gemini, the Twins.

The conception of a sky couple for these stars has been universal from remote antiquity, but our Latin title dates only from classical times, varied by Gemelli, which is still the Italian name. The Anglo-Saxons knew them as ge Twisan, and the Anglo-Normans as Frère;º the modern French as Gémeaux, and the Germans as Zwillinge, Bayer's Zwilling.

While on earth these Twins were sons of Leda, becoming, after their transfer to the sky, Geminum Astrum, Ledaei Fratres, Ledaei Juvenes, and Ledaeum Sidus; Dante calling their location Nido di Leda, the Nest of Leda. Cowley, the contemporary of Milton, wrote of them as the Ledaean Stars, and Owen Meredith of our day as

The lone Ledaean lights from yon enchanted air.

They also were Gemini Lacones, — Milton's Spartan Twins and William Morris' Twin Laconian Stars; Spartana Suboles from their mother's home, and Cycno generati from her story; Pueri Tyndarii, Tyndarides, Tyndaridae, and Horace's clarum Tyndaridae Sidus, from Tyndarus, their supposed father; while the Oebalii and Oebalidae of Ovid, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus are from their grandfather, Oebalus, king of Sparta. Manilius called them Phoebi Sidus as being under Apollo's protection.

p223 Individually they were Castor and Pollux, — Dante's and the Italians' Castore e Polluce; Apollo and Hercules [Varro, R. R. II.1.7], Triptolemus and Iasion, Theseus and Pirithoüs. Horace wrote Castor fraterque magni Castoris; Pliny, Castores; and Statius had alter Castor from their alternate life and death that the modern James Thomson repeated in the Summer of his Seasons:

Th' alternate Twins are fix'd.

But Welcke gave an astronomical turn to these titles by seeing in the first Astor, the Starry one, and in Pollux Polyleukes, the Lightful.

With the Greeks they were Δίδυμοι, the Twins, — Riccioli's Didymi, — originally representing two of the Pelasgian Κάβειροι, but subsequently the Boeotian Διόσκυροι, — Dioscuri in Rome, — the Sons of Zeus; as also Amphion and Zethus, Antiope's sons, who, as Homer wrote, were

Founders of Thebes, and men of mighty name,

strikingly shown on the walls of the Spada Palace in Rome, and with the Farnese Bull now in the Naples Museum. Plutarch called them Ἄνακες, Lords, — Cicero's Anaces, and Σιώ, the Two Gods of Sparta; Theodoretus, Ἑφέστιοι, the Familiar Gods; others, Dii Samothraces, from the ancient seat of worship of the Cabeiri; and Dii Germani, the Brother Gods.

In India they always were prominent as Açvini, the Ashwins, or Horsemen, a name also found in other parts of the sky for other Hindu twin deities; but, popularly, they were Mithuna, the Boy and Girl, the Tamil Midhunam, afterwards changed to Jituma, or Tituma, from the Greek title.

A Buddhist zodiac had in their place a Woman holding a golden cord.

Some of the Jews ascribed them to the tribe of Benjamin, although others more fitly claimed them for Simeon and Levi jointly, the Brethren. They called them Teōmīm; the Tyrians, Tome; and the Arabian astronomers, Al Tau᾽amān, the Twins; but in early Desert astronomy their two bright stars formed one of the fore paws of the great ancient Lion; although they also were Al Burj al Jauzā᾽, the Constellation of the Twins. From this came Bayer's Algeuze, which, however, he said was unrecht, thus making Riccioli's Elgeuzi and Gieuz equally wrong. Hyde adopted another form of the word, — Jauzah, the Centre, — as designating these stars' position in medio coeli, or in a region long viewed as the centre of the heavens; either because they were a zenith constellation, or from the brilliancy of this portion of the sky. Julius Pollux, the Egypto-Greek writer of our second century, derived the title from Jauz, a Walnut, as mentioned in his Onomasticon. But there is much uncertainty as to the p224stellar signification and history of this name, as will be further noticed under Orion.

The 1515 Almagest has the inexplicable Alioure, said to be from some early edition of the Alfonsine Tables.

The Persians called the Twins Du Paikar, or Do Patkar, the Two Figures; the Khorasmians, Adhupakarik, of similar meaning; and Riccioli wrote that they were the "Chaldaean" Tammech.

Kircher said that they were the Κλύσος, or Claustrum Hori, of the Egyptians; and others, that they represented the two intimately associated gods, Horus the Elder, and Horus the Younger, or Harpechruti, — the Harpocrates of Greece.

The Twins were placed in the sky by Jove, in reward for their brotherly love so strongly manifested while on earth, as in the verses of Manilius:

Tender Gemini in strict embrace

Stand clos'd and smiling in each other's Face;

and were figured as Two Boys, or Young Men, drawn exactly alike:

So like they were, no mortal

Might one from other know;

or as Two Infants, Duo Corpuscula. But Paulus Venetus and other illustrators of Hyginus showed Two Angels, and the Venetian edition of Albumasar of 1489 has two nude seated figures, a Boy and a Girl, with arms outstretched upon each other's shoulders.

The Leyden Manuscript shows two unclad boys with Phrygian caps, each surmounted by a star and Maltese cross; one with club and spear, the other with a stringed instrument. Bayer had something similar, Pollux, however, bearing a peaceful sickle.

Caesius saw here the Twin Sons of Rebecca, or David and Jonathan; while other Christians said that the stars together represented Saint James the Greater; or, to go back to the beginning of things, Adam and Eve, who probably were intended by the nude male and female figures walking hand in hand in the original illustration in the Alfonsine Tables. A similar showing appears, however, on the Denderah planisphere of 1300 years previous.

The Arabians drew them as Peacocks, from which came a mediaeval title, Duo Pavones; some of the Chaldaeans and Phoenicians, as a Pair of Kids following Auriga and the Goat, or as Two Gazelles; the Egyptians, as Two Sprouting Plants; and Brown reproduces a Euphratean representation of a couple of

p225 small, naked, male child-figures, one standing upon its head and the other standing upon the former, feet to feet; the original Twins being the sun and moon, when the one is up the other is generally down;b

a variant representation showing the positions reversed and the figures clothed.

Another symbol was a Pile of Bricks, referring to the building of the first city and the fratricidal brothers — the Romulus and Remus of Roman legend; although thus with a very different character from that generally assigned to our Heavenly twins. Similarly Sayce says that the Sumerian name for the month May-June, when the sun was in Gemini, signified "Bricks" (?).

In classical days the constellation was often symbolized by two stars over a ship; and having been appointed by Jove as guardians of Rome, they naturally appeared on all the early silver coinage of the republic from about 269 B.C., generally figured as two men on horseback, with oval caps, surmounted by stars, showing the halves of the egg-shell from which they issued at birth. On the denarii, the "pence" of the good Samaritan, they are in full speed as if charging in the battle of Lake Regillus, and the sestertii and quinarii have the same; but even before this, about 300 B.C., coins were struck by the Bruttii of Magna Graecia, in Lower Italy, that bore the heads of the Twins on one side with their mounted figures on the other. The coins of Rhegium had similar designs, as had those of Bactria.

For their efficient aid in protecting their fellow Argonauts in the storm that had nearly overwhelmed the Argo, the Gemini were considered by the Greeks, and even more by the Romans, as propitious to marines, Ovid writing in the Fasti:

Utile sollicitare sidus utrumque rati,

which moral John Gower, the friend of Chaucer, rendered:

A welcome couple to a vexed barge;

and Horace, in his Odes [Odes, 1.3.2], as translated by Mr. Gladstone:º

So Leda's twins, bright-shining, at their beck

Oft have delivered stricken barks from wreck.

In The Acts of the Apostles, xxviii.11, we read that the Twin Brothers were the "sign," or figurehead, of the ship in which Saint Paul and his companions embarked after the eventful fight that had ended in shipwreck on Malta; or, as Tindale rendered it in 1526:

a ship of Alexandry, which had wyntred in the Yle, whose badge was Castor and Pollux, —

p226 the Greek Alexandria, and Ostia, the harbor of Rome, specially being under the tutelage of the Twins, who were often represented on either side of the bows of vessels owned in those ports.

The incident of the storm in the history of the Twins seems to have associated them with the electrical phenomenon common in heavy weather at sea, and well known in ancient times, as it is now. Pliny described it at lengthº in the Historia Naturalis [H. N. II.101], and allusions to it are frequent in all literature; the idea being that a double light, called Castor and Pollux, was favorable to the mariner. Horace designated this as Fratres Helenae, lucida sidera, rendered by Mr. Gladstone "Helen's Brethren, Starry Lights"; Rabelais wrote:

He had seen Castor at the main yard arm;

and our Bryant:

resplendent cressets which the Twins

Uplifted in their ever-youthful hands.

A single light was "that dreadfull, cursed, and threatening meteor called Helena," — the sister of the Twins that brought such ill luck to Troy.

In modern times these lights are known as Composant, Corporsant, and Corpusant, from the Italian Corpo Santo; Pigafetta ending one of his descriptions of a dangerous storm at sea with "God and the Corpi Santi came to our aid"; and as the Fire of Saint Helen, Saint Helmes, or Telmes — San Telmo of Spain; or of San Anselmo, Ermo, Hermo, and Eremo, from Anselmus, or Erasmus, bishop of newspaper, martyred in Diocletian's reign. Ariosto wrote of it, la disiata luce di Santo Ermo; and in Longfellow's Golden Legend the Padrone exclaims:

Last night I saw Saint Elmo's stars,

With their glittering lanterns all at play

On the tops of the masts and the tips of the spars,

And I knew we should have foul weather to‑day.

The phenomenon also has been called Saint Anne's Light; and some one has dubbed it Saint Electricity. In recent centuries, with seamen of the Latin races, its has been Saint Peter and Saint Nicholas; the former from his walking on the water, and the latter from the miracles attributed to him of stilling the storm on his voyage to the Holy Land when he restored to life the drowned sailor, and again on the Aegean Sea. These miracles have made Nicholas the patron saint of all Christian maritime nations of the south of Europe, and famous everywhere. In England alone 376 churches are dedicated to him, — more than to that country's Saint George.

p227 In Eden's translation from Pigafetta's account of his voyage with Magellan, 1519‑1522, we read that when off the coast of Patagonia the navigators

were in great daungiour by tempest. But as soon as the three fyers cauled saynte Helen, saynte Nicolas, and saynt Clare, appered upon the cabels of the shyppes, suddeynely the tempest and furye of the wyndes ceased. . . the which was of such comfort to us that we wept for joy.

This Saint Clare is from Clara d'Assisi, the foundress the order of Poor Clares in the 13th century, by whose rebuke the infidel Saracens were put to flight when ravaging the shores of the Adriatic. Von Humboldt mentioned in Cosmos another title, San Pedro Gonzalez, probably Saint Peter of Alcantara, another patron saint of sailors, "Walking on the water through trust in God."

A few words as to Pigafetta may be not uninteresting. His work is described in Eden's Decades as

A briefe declaration of the vyage or navigation made abowte the worlde. Gathered owt of a large booke wrytten hereof by Master Antonie Pygafetta Vincentine [i.e. from Vincenza],º Knyght of the Rhodes and one of the coompanye of that vyage in the which, Ferdinando Magalianes a Portugale (whom sum calle Magellanus) was generall Capitayne of the navie.

Pigafetta was knighted after his return to Seville in the ship Victoria that Transilvanus wrote was "more woorthye to bee placed among the starres then that owlde Argo." And it was from Eden's translation of this "large booke" that Shakespeare is supposed to have taken his Caliban of the Tempest, whose "dam's god, Setebos," was worshiped by the Patagonians. Indeed Caliban himself seems to have been somewhat of an astronomer, for he alludes to Prospero as having taught him how

To name the bigger light, and how the less,

That burn by day and night.

The Gemini were invoked by the Greeks and Romans in war as well as in storm. Lord Macaulay's well-known lines on the battle of Lake Regillus, 498 B.C., one of his Lays of Ancient Rome, have stirred many a schoolboy's heart, as Homer's Hymn to Castor and Pollux did those of the seamen of earliest classical days. Shelley has translated this last:

Ye wild-eyed muses! sing the Twins of Jove,

.    .    .    .    .    .

.    .    .    mild Pollux, void of blame,

And steed-subduing Castore, heirs of fame.

These are the Powers who earth-born mortals save

p228 And ships, whose flight is swift along the wave,

When wintry tempests o'er the savage sea

Are raging, and the sailors tremblingly

Call on the Twins of Jove with prayer and vow,

Gathered in fear upon the lofty prow,

And sacrifice with snow-white lambs, the wind

And the huge billow bursting close behind,

Even then beneath the weltering waters bear

The staggering ship — they suddenly appear,

On yellow wings rushing athwart the sky,

And lull the blasts in mute tranquillity,

And strew the waves on the white ocean's bed,

Fair omen of the voyage; from toil and dread,

The sailors rest rejoicing in the sight,

And plough the quiet sea in safe delight.

They seem to have been a common object of adjuration among the Romans, and, indeed, as such have descended to the present time in the boys' "By Jiminy!" while the caricature of 1665, Homer A la Mode, had, as a common expression of that day, "O Gemony!" And theatre-goers will recall the "O Gemini!" of Lucy in Sheridan's Rivals.

Astrologers assigned to this constellation guardianship over human hands, arms, and shoulders; while Albumasar held that it portended intense devotion, genius, largeness of mind, goodness, and liberality. With Virgo it was considered the House of Mercury, and thus the Cylenius tourc of Chaucer; and a fortunate sign, ruling over America, Flanders, Lombardy, Sardinia, Armenia, Lower Egypt, Brabant and Marseilles; and, in ancient days, over the Euxine Sea and the river Ganges.d High regard, too, was paid to it in the 17th century as being peculiarly connected with the fortunes of the south of England and the city of London; for the Great Plague and Fire of 1665 and 1666 occurred when this sign was in the ascendant,e while the building of London Bridge and other events of importance to the city were begun when special planets were here. But two centuries previously it thought that whoever happened to be born under the Twins would be "ryght pore and wayke and lyf in mykul tribulacion." Chinese astrologers asserted that if this constellation were invaded by Mars, war and a poor harvest would ensue.

Ampelius [Lib. Mem. 4] assigned to it the care of Aquilo, the North Wind, the Greek Boreas that came from the north one third east.

Its colors were white and red like those of Aries, and it was the natal sign of Dante, who was born on the 14th of May, 1265, when the sun entered it for the first time in that year. He made grateful acknowledgment of this in the Paradiso:

p229 O glorious stars, O light impregnated

With mighty virtue, from which I acknowledge

All of my genius, whatsoe'er it be;

and called them gli Eterni Gemelli. How like this is to Hesiod's reference to the Muses!

To them I owe, to them alone I owe,

What of the seas, or of the stars, I know.

The sign's symbol, , has generally been considered the Etrusco-Roman numeral, but Seyffert thinks it a copy of the Spartans' emblem of their Twin Gods carried with them into battle. Brown derives it from the cuneiform zzz, the ideograph of the Akkad month Kas, the twins, the Assyrian Simānu, corresponding to parts of our May and June when the sun passed through it. The constellation was certainly prominent on the Euphrates, for five of its stars marked as many of the ecliptic divisions of that astronomy.

The Gemini were the Ape of the early Chinese solar zodiac, and were known as Shih Chin; Edkins, calling it Shi Chʽen, says that this title was transferred to it from Orion. Later on the constellation was known as Yin Yang, the Two Principles; and as Jidim, an important object of worship.

The Reverend Mr. William Ellis wrote, in his Polynesian Researches, that the natives of this islands knew the two stars as Twins, Castor being Pipiri and Pollux Rehua; and the whole figure Na Ainanu, the Two Ainanus, one Above, the other Below, with a lengthy legend attached; but the Reverend Mr. W. W. Gill tells the same story, in his Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, as belonging to stars in Scorpio. The Australian aborigines gave them a name signifying Young Men, while the Pleiades were Young Girls; the former also being Turree and Wanjil, pursuing Purra, whom they annually kill at the beginning of the intense heat, roasting him by the fire the smoke of which is marked by Coonar Turung, the Great Mirage. The Bushmen of South Africa know them as Young Women, the wives of the eland, their great antelope.

Aristotle has left an interesting record of the occultation, at two different times, of some one of the stars of Gemini by the planet Jupiter, the earliest observation of this nature of which we have knowledge, and made probably about the middle of the 4th century B.C.

The southern half of the constellation lies within the Milky Way, α and β, on the north, marking the heads of the Twins between Cancer and Auriga, and noticeably conspicuous over setting Orion in the April sky.

Argelander enumerates 53 naked-eye stars, and Heis 106.

p230 Starry Gemini hang like glorious crowns

Over Orion's grave low down in the west.

Tennyson's Maud.

α, Binary, 2.7 and 3.7, bright white and pale white.

Castor, Ovid's Eques, the Horseman of the Twins, and the mortal one as being the son of Tyndarus, is the well-known name for this star, current for centuries; but in later Greek days it was Ἀπόλλων, and Apollo with the astronomers even through Flamsteed's time.

It will be remembered that till toward the Christian era this name for the god of day was the title of the planet Mercury when morning star,1a its rapid orbital movement and nearness to the sun preventing its earlier identification with the evening star,1b which was designated, as now, after the gods of thieves and darkness. In Percy's Reliques Mercury is described as "the nimble post of heaven"; Goad, in 1686, called it

a squirting lacquey of the sun, who seldom shows his face in these parts, as if he were in debt;

while this same quick motion induced the alternative word of the chemists for quicksilver, as well as for the very uncomfortable human temperament that Byron described:

a mercurial man

Who fluttered over all things like a fan.

Notwithstanding, however, the supposed difficulty of seeing Mercury, — Copernicus died regretting that he had never observed it, although this was doubtless partly due to his high latitude and the mists arising from the Vistula at Thorn, — the canon Gallet, whom La Lande styled Hermophile, saw it 100 times, and Baily said that Hevelius observed it 1100 times! Indeed, it is easily visible in the latitude of New York City for several days, at its elongation, if one knows where to look for it.

But to return to our star Castor.

It was Ἀπέλλων in the Doric dialect, which degenerated into Afelar, Aphellon, Aphellan, Apullum, Aphellar, and Avellar; the Avelar of Apian2 of the 16th century subsequently appearing as Anelar, the Alfonsine Anhelar.

p231 Caesius had the synonymous Phoebus, and also cited Theseus, but this should rather be applied to β as another title of the original Hercules. Bayer gave Rasalgeuze; and Riccioli, Algueze vel potius Elgiautzi, but these also better belong to β.

The Babylonians used Castor to mark their 11th ecliptic constellation, Mash-mashu-Mahrū, the Western One of the Twins; while with Pollux the two constituted Mas-tab-ga-gal-gal, the Great Twins. In Assyria they were Mas-mas and Tuāmu, the twins, although that country knew other twin stars here as well as elsewhere in the sky. As an object of veneration Castor was Tur-us-mal-maχ, the Son of the Supreme Temple; but in astrology, everywhere, it has been a portent of mischief and violence.

When the Arabians adopted the Greek figures they designated this star as Al Rās al Taum al Muḳaḍḍim, the Head of the Foremost Twin; but, according to Al Tizini, the early and indigenous term was Al Awwal al Dhirāʽ, the First in the Paw or Forearm. Reference was made by this to the supposed figure of the enormous early Lion, the nomads' Asad, the Outstretched Forearm of which α and β marked as Al Dhirāʽ al Mabsuṭāt. This extended still further over Gemini, the other, the Contracted one, Al Maḳbūḍah, running into Canis Minor. The rest of this monstrosity included Cancer, part of our Leo, Boötes, Virgo, and Corvus, as was mentioned by Kazwini, and commented on by Ideler, who sharply criticized mistakes in its construction. Al Bīrūnī also described this ancient figure, especially complaining of the many errors and much confusion in the Arab mind as to the nomenclature of the two stars, although he himself used titles for them generally applied only to Sirius and Procyon. Ideler and Beigel attributed this exaggerated and incongruous formation to blunders of misunderstanding and transcription by early writers and copyists. Indeed, the former asserted that the whole was the creation of grammarians who knew nothing of the heavens, and arbitrarily misrepresented older star-names.

The two bright stars were the 5th manzil, Al Dhirāʽ, and the 5th nakshatra, Punarvarsū, the Two Good Again; Aditi, the sky goddess, mother of the Adityas, being the presiding divinity, and β marking the junction with Pushya, the next nakshatra. They also constituted the 5th sieu, Tsing, a Well, or Pit, anciently Tiam, although this was extended to include ε, d, ζ, λ, ξ, γ, ν, and μ, Biot making the last the determinant star.

α and β also were a distinct Chinese asterism, Ho Choo, and with γ and δ were Pih Ho.

As marking lunar stations, Brown thinks them the Akkadian Supa, Lustrous; the Coptic Pimafi, the Forearm; the Persian Taraha, the Sogdian Ghamb, and the Khorasmian Jiray, — these last three titles signifying the p232Two Stars. Hyde wrote that the Copts knew it as Πιμάι, or Πιμαίντεκεων, the Forearm of the Nile; κεων being for Gihon, a name for that river.

Castor is 7° north of the ecliptic, but, although literally heading the constellation, is now fainter than its companion, and astronomers generally are agreed that there has been inversion of their brilliancy during the last three centuries. It culminates on the 23d of February.

It is among

those double stars

Whereof the one more bright

Is circled by the other,

viewed by the Self-indulgent Soul of Tennyson's Palace of Art; and Sir John Herschel called it the largest and finest of all the double stars in our hemisphere; while the rapid revolution of its two components first convinced his father of the existence of binary systems. But Bradley had already noticed a change of about 30° in their angle of position between 1718 and 1759, and "was thus within a hair's breadth of the discovery of their physical connection," afterwards predicted, in 1767, by the Reverend John Mitchell, and positively made in 1802 by Sir William Herschel, who coined the word "binary" now applied to this class of stars. Burnham wrote in 1896 that we have only 36 pairs whose orbits can be said to be well determined, and about 230 other pairs probably binary systems; and there are 1501 other pairs, within 2ʺ of space between the components, from which the foregoing number may be increased; as well as other pairs now known only as having a common proper motion.3 Of course the stars observed till now have been almost entirely in the northern heavens, — within 120° of the pole, — so that these numbers may be largely added to as astronomers turn their attention to the southern skies with this object in view.

The orbit of Castor is such, however, that the observations of even a century do not enable us to calculate its size or period with any certainty; but the period certainly is long, — probably between 250 and 1000 years. The components at present are about 5ʺ.7 apart, equal to the angle subtended by a line an inch long at the distance of half a mile. Their position angle is about 227°.

The spectrum is of the Sirian type, and, according to the Potsdam observers, the star is approaching us at the rate of 18.5 miles a second. In 1895 Belopolsky announced that the larger star, like Spica, is a spectroscopic p233binary, completing its revolution in less than three days around the centre of gravity between it and an invisible companion, with a velocity of about 15½ miles a second.

Burnham thinks that the 9.5‑magnitude star, 73ʺ distant, forms, with the two larger, one vast physical system.

In 1888 Barnard found five new nebulae within 1° of Castor.

β, 1.1, orange,

is Pollux, formerly Polluces, the Greek Πολυδευκής; Ovid's Pugil, the Pugilist of the Two Brothers, and the immortal one as being son of Zeus.

As companion of Ἀπόλλων, this was Ἡρακλῆς and Ἡρακλέης, descending to Flamsteed's day as Hercules, and degenerating, in early catalogues, into Abrachaleus, that Caesius derived from the Arabic Ab, Father, and the Greek word; this being contracted by some to Aracaleus, by Grotius to Iracleus, by Hyde to Heraclus, and by Riccioli to Garacles. All these are queer enough, as are some of Castor's titles; but what shall be said of Riccioli's Elhakaac, that he attributes to the Arabs for α and β jointly, and Ketpholtsuman for β alone, and with no clue to their origin!

It was the early Arabs' Al Thānī al Dhirāʽ, the Second in the Forearm; but the later termed it Al Rās al Taum al Mu᾽aḣḣār, the Head of the Hindmost Twin, and Al Rās al Jauzā᾽, the Head of the Twin, — the Alfonsine Rasalgense and Rasalgeuze, that elsewhere is Rasalgauze. Riccioli cited Elhenaat, but this he also more properly gave to γ.

β was the determinant of the 12th Babylonian ecliptic asterism Mash-mashu-arkū, the Eastern One of the Twins; and individually Mu-sir-kes-da, the Yoke of the Inclosure.

It lies 12° north of the ecliptic, the zodiac's boundary line running between it and Castor; and Burnham has found five faint companions down to 13.5 magnitude.

Elkin gives its parallax as 0ʺ.057; and Scheiner, its spectrum as Solar; its rate of recession from us being about one mile a second.

It is one of the lunar stars made use of in navigation; and, in astrology, differed from its companion in portending eminence and renown.

Ptolemy characterized β as ὑπόκιρρος, a favorite word with him for this star-tint, and generally supposed to signify "yellowish" or "reddish," Bayer correctly following the former in his subflava; but the Alfonsine Tables of 1521 translated it quae trahit ad aerem, et est cerea. Miss Clerke, somewhat strongly, says "fiery red."

The two lucidae probably bore the present title of the constellation long p234antecedent to the latter's formation; they certainly were the Mas-mas, or twins, of the Assyrians, independent of the rest of the figure.

As a convenient measuring-rod it may be noted that α and β stand 4½° apart; and this recalls an early signification of their manzil title, Al Dhirāʽ, the Arabs' Ell measure of length that the stars were said to indicate. This naturally became the dual Al Dhirā᾽ān that also was used on the Desert for other similar pairs of stars.

γ, 2.2, brilliant white.

Almeisan, Almisan, Almeisam, and Almisam are from Al Maisan, the Proudly Marching One, its early Arabic name, which Al Firuzabadi, however, said was equally applicable to any bright star.

Riccioli called it Elhenaat, but Alhena is now generally given to it, from Al Hanʽah, the 4th manzil, γ, μ, ν, η, and ξ, in the feet of the Twins. This word, usually translated a Brand, or Mark, on the right side of a camel's, or horse's neck, was defined by Al Bīrūnī as Winding, as though the stars of this station were winding around each other, or curving from the central star; and they were Al Nuḥātai, the dual form of Al Nuḥāt, a Camel's Hump, itself a curved line. Some Arabic authority found in them, with χ1 and χ2 of Orion, the Bow with which the Hunter is shooting at the Lion.

In Babylonia γ marked the 10th ecliptic constellation, Mash-amshu-sha-Risū, the twins of the Shepherd (?), and, with η, probably was Mas-tab-ba-tur-tur, the Little Twins; and, with η, μ, ν, and ξ, all in the Milky Way, may have been the Babylonian lunar mansion Khigalla, the Canal, and the equivalent Persian Rakhvad, the Sogdian Ghathaf, and the Khorasmian Gawthaf.

δ, Double, 3.8 and 8, pale white and purple.

Wasat and Wesat are from Al Wasat, the Middle, i.e. of the constellation; but some have referred this to the position of the star very near to the ecliptic, the central circle.

In China it was Ta Tsun, the Great Wine-jar.

The components are 7ʺ apart, with a position angle of 203°, and may form a binary system.

Just north of δ lies the radiant point of the Geminids visible early in October; another stream of meteors bearing the same title appearing from the northeastern border of the constellation and at its maximum on the 7th of December.

p235 ε, Double, 3.4 and 9.5, brilliant white and cerulean blue.

Mesbuta is from Al Mabsuṭāt, the Outstretched, from its marking the extended paw of the early Arabic Lion, but now it is on the hem of Castor's tunic. Burritt had it Melucta in his Geography, and Mebusta in his Atlas; Professor Young, following English globes, has Meboula; and elsewhere we find Menita, Mesoula, and Mibwala.

ε, δ, λ, and others near by, were the Chinese Tung Tsing.

ζ, Variable, 3.7 to 4.5, pale topaz.

Mekbuda is from Al Maḳbūḍah, Contracted, the Arabic designation for the drawn-in paw of the ancient Asad; but some, with less probability, derive it from Al Mutakabbidah, a Culminating Star.

Its variations, discovered by J. F. Julius Schmidt at Athens in 1847, have a period of about ten days, but Chandler says that definitive investigation are not completed. Lockyer thinks it also a spectroscopic binary.

η, Binary and variable, 3.2 to 3.7, and 9.

Propus is from the Πρόπους of Hipparchos and Ptolemy, indicating its position in front of Castor's left foot, and is its universal title, with the equivalent Praepes. Riccioli wrote it Πρόπος, and Flamsteed gave both Πρόπους and Propus; but Tycho had applied this last to the star Fl. 1 among the extras of Gemini. This position of η similarly made it the Pish Pai of the Persians.

Bassus and Hyginus said Tropus, Turn, referring to the apparent turning-point the sun's course at the summer solstice, which now is more precisely marked by the star y just eastward from η; and Flamsteed also had Τρόπος.

Flammarion's assertion that Hipparchos knew η as a distinct constellation, Propus, does not seem well founded.

Tejat prior is from Al Taḥāyī, an anatomical term of Arabia by which it was known in early days; a name also applied to stars in the head of Orion. The Arabs included it with γ and μ in their Nuḥātai; the Chinese knew it as Yuë, a Battle-ax; and in Babylonia it marked the 8th ecliptic constellation, Maru-sha-pu-u-mash-mashu, the Front of the Mouth of the Twins.

It portended lives of eminence to all born under its influence.

The variability of η was discovered by Schmidt in 1865, and its period is now considered as 229‑231 days; in 1881 Burnham found it double, the components 1ʺ.08 apart, and likely to prove an interesting binary system.

p236 Near this star Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus on the 13th of March, 1781. He thought it a comet, and its discovery as such was communicated to the Royal Astronomical Society on the 26th of April. Its true nature, however, first suspected by Maskelyne, was announced in the succeeding year by Lexell of Saint Petersburg and by La Place; and Herschel then published it on the 7th of November, 1782, as the Georgium Sidus, thus following Galileo, who, till he knew their true nature, had named Jupiter's satellites Sidera Cosmiana and Sidera Medicea, after his patron the 2d Cosmo di Medici, and Tardé, who had called the sun-spots Borbonica Sidera. Continental astronomers designated the planet as Herschel, and this in a much varied orthography, strangely erroneous considering the fame of its discoverer. We find it thus with La Lande in 1792; indeed, Herschel appeared as an alternative title in our text-books as late as fifty years ago;f but Bode suggested the present Uranus to conform to the mythological nomenclature of the other planets, and because the name of the oldest god was specially applicable to the oldest — as the most distant — body then known in our system.

Uranus, however, had been observed and noted as a star twenty-two times previously by various observers; these are called "the ancient observations"; and Miss Clerke writes: "There is, indeed, some reason to suppose that he had been detected as a wandering orb by savage 'watchers of the skies' on the Pacific long before he swam into Herschel's ken."4

The 4th‑magnitude θ, and ι, ν, τ, and φ, collectively were Woo Chow Shih, or Woo Choo How, the Seven Feudal Princes of China.

ι is Propus in the Standard Dictionary, although it lies between the shoulders of the Twins.

μ, Double, 3.2 and 11, crocus yellow and blue,

occasionally has been known as Tejat posterior, and sometimes as Nuḥātai, from the manzil of that title of which it formed a part.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia apply to it the Pish Pai seen for η, yet appropriate enough for this similarly situated star; but in Flamsteed's edition of Tycho's catalogue we distinctly read of it, dicta Calx, the Heel.

It marked the 9th ecliptic constellation of Babylonia as Arkū-sha-pu-u-mash-mashu, the Back of the Mouth of the twins.

p237 In China it was included with Castor and others in the sieu Tsing.

The components are 80ʺ apart, at a position angle of 79°.

ξ, a 4th‑magnitude, was Al Bīrūnī's Al Zirr, the Button.

χ, a 5th‑magnitude, with μ Cancri, was the Chinese Tseih Tsing, Piled-up Fuel.


The Author's Notes:

1a 1b As morning and evening star in Egypt it was Set and Horus; in India, Buddha and Rauhinya; and in Greece Ἐρόεις, the Lovely One, Στίλβων, the Sparkling One. Its earliest observation, reported by Ptolemy as from Chaldaea, was on the 15th of November, 265 B.C., the planet then being between β and δ Scorpii.

2 This Apian was Pieter Bienewitz, whose surname was Latinized, after the fashion of his day, into Apianus; apis, our word bee, taking the place of the German Biene.

3 In a note from Professor Burnham, of the 19th of July, 1898, in regard to these figures, he says: "The statements I made a couple of years ago about binary systems will hold good generally at this time. . . . So far as well-determined orbits are concerned, I do not think anything could be added to the estimate I made."

4 The Burmans, too, thought that there was an 8th planet, Rahū, but invisible; and the Hindus named other imaginary planets Kethu, Rethu, and Kulican; and figured Sani, their god Saturn, with a circle around him of intertwined serpents ages before Galileo's day; although this has had a very different explanation.


Thayer's Notes:

a The word is pretty much obsolete now in the sense it has here, and had in the 16th thru the 19th centuries. Quoting the Oxford English Dictionary:

A familiar pet-form of the common Christian name Richard. Hence generically (like Jack) = fellow, lad, man, especially with alliterating adjectives, as desperate, dainty, dapper, dirty.

b A curious slip by Brown (Robert Brown, Jr., author of Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Babylonians, 2 vols., Williams & Norgate, London 1899‑1900 — one of Allen's main tertiary sources, for which see the contemporary review in the American Journal of Theology). The Sun and Moon move independently thru our skies, and if one is "up" the odds that the other is "down" are exactly 50%.

c The tower or stronghold of Cyllenius, Mercury/Hermes taking this name from Mt. Cyllene in Arcadia, his birthplace: see Ovid, Met. I.713 and II.720, 818.

d Both today and in Antiquity, the rulerships of countries and geographical regions were unsettled, every astrologer pretty much having their own set. Llewellyn George's A to Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator (1910 and subsequent printings), a standard astrological reference, gives the overlapping list, p672:

Northeast Coast of Africa, Armenia, Belgium, Brabant, Lower Egypt, Flanders, Lombardy, Sardinia, Tripoli, Wales, Western part of England.

plus a dozen towns, some of which, like Cordoba and Versailles, are not in those countries; as for Antiquity, Ptolemy's list for Gemini (Tetrabiblos, II.3, Cam.2 p73), was completely different from the one given by Allen. 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.

e The statement is nonsense, at least in part, since a sign remains in the ascendant for only two hours, more or less: so that the Great Fire of 1666 started with a specific sign in the ascendant is certain enough, since the initial flame could be traced to within two hours; that the ascendant sign was Gemini is also very likely, if one takes 1 A.M. on September 2 as the initial conflagration; but that a plague might be said to start at a certain time with a precision of two hours, while theoretically possible (the arrival in London of the first plague carrier, or better, the moment that carrier first communicated the disease to a person in London), is in fact unknowable.

f There is one small remaining trace of the 18c name even today: the glyph, astronomical and astrological, of the planet Uranus is , a stylized H for Herschel.


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