. . . that cold animal
Which with its tail doth smite among the nations.
Longfellow's translation of Dante's Purgatorio.
was the reputed slayer of the Giant (Orion), exalted to the skies and now rising from the horizon as Orion, still in fear of the Scorpion, sinks below it; p361although the latter itself was in danger, — Sackville writing in his Inductionº to the Mirror of Magistrates, about 1565:
Whiles Scorpio, dreading Sagittarius' dart
Whose bow prest bent in flight the string had slipped,
Down slid into the ocean flood apart.
Classical authors saw in it the monster that caused the disastrous runaway of the steeds of Phoebus Apollo when in the inexperienced hands of Phaethon.
For some centuries before the Christian era it was the largest of the zodiac figures, forming with the Χηλαὶ, its Claws, — the prosectae chelae of Cicero, now our Libra, — a double constellation, as Ovid wrote [Met. II.197]:
Porrigit in spatium signorum membra duorum;
and this figuring has been adduced as the strongest proof of Scorpio's great antiquity, from the belief that only six constellations made up the earliest zodiac, of which this extended sign was one.
With the Greeks it universally was Σκορπίος; Aratos, singularly making but slight allusion to it, added Μεγαθηρίον, the Great Beast, changed in the 1720 edition of Bayer to Μελαθυρίον; while another very appropriate term with Aratos was Τέρας μέγα, the Great Sign. This reputed magnitude perhaps was due to the mythological necessity of greater size for the slayer of great Orion, in reference to which that author characterized it as πλειότερος προφανείς, "appearing huger still."
The Latins occasionally wrote the word Scorpios, but usually Scorpius, or Scorpio; while Cicero, Ennius, Manilius, and perhaps Columella gave the kindred African title Nepa, or Nepas, the first of which the Alfonsine Tables copy, as did Manilius the Greek adjective Ὀπισθο-βάμων, Walking Backward. Astronomical writers and commentators, down to comparatively modern times, occasionally mentioned its two divisions under the combined title Scorpius cum Chelis; while some representations even showed the Scales in the creature's Claws.
Grotius said that the Arabians called the Claws Graffias, and the Latins, according to Pliny, Forficulae.
In early China it was an important part of the figure of the mighty but genial Azure Dragon of the East and of spring, in later days the residence of the heavenly Blue Emperor; but in the time of Confucius it was Ta Who, the Great Fire, a primeval name for its star Antares; and Shing Kung, a Divine Temple, was applied to the stars of the tail. As a member p362of the early zodiac it was the Hare, for which, in the 16th century, was substituted, from Jesuit teaching, Tien He, the Celestial Scorpion.
Sir William Drummond asserted that in the zodiac which the patriarch Abraham knew it was an Eagle; and some commentators have located here the biblical Chambers of the South, Scorpio being directly opposite the Pleiades on the sphere, both thought to be mentioned in the same passage of the Book of Job with two other opposed constellations, the Bear and Orion; but the original usually is considered a reference to the southern heavens in general. Aben Ezra identified Scorpio, or Antares, with the Kᵋsīl of the Hebrews; although that people generally considered these stars as a Scorpion, their ʽAḳrabh, and, it is claimed, inscribed it on the banners of Dan as the emblem of the tribe whose founder was "a serpent by the way." When thus shown it was as a crowned Snake or Basilisk. A similar figure appeared for it at one period of Egyptian astronomy; indeed it is thus met with in modern times, for Chatterton, that precocious poet of the last century, plainly wrote of the Scorpion in his line,
The slimy Serpent swelters in his course;
and long before him Spenser had, in the Faerie Queen:
and now in Ocean deepe
Orion flying fast from hissing snake,
His flaming head did hasten for to steepe.
But the Denderah zodiac shows the typical form.
Kircher called the whole constellation Ἰσιας,º Statio Isidis, the bright Antares having been at one time a symbol of Isis.
The Arabians knew it as Al ʽAḳrab, the Scorpion, from which have degenerated Alacrab, Alatrab, Alatrap, Hacrab, — Riccioli's Aakrab and Hacerab; and similarly it was the Syrians' Akrevā. Riccioli gave us Acrobo Chaldaeis, which may be true, but in this Latin word he probably had reference to the astrologers.
The Persians had a Scorpion in their Ghezhdūm or Kazhdūm, and the Turks, in their Koirūghi, Tailed, and Uzun Koirūghi, Long-tailed.
The Akkadians called it Girtab, the Seizer, or Stinger, and the Place where One Bows Down, titles indicative of the creature's dangerous character; although some early translators of the cuneiform text rendered it the Double Sword. With later dwellers on the Euphrates it was the symbol of darkness, showing the decline of the sun's power after the autumnal equinox, then located in it. Always prominent in that astronomy, Jensen thinks that it was formed there 5000 B.C., and pictured much as it now is; p363perhaps also in the semi-human form of two Scorpion-men, the early circular Altar, or Lamp, sometimes being shown grasped in the Claws, as the Scales were in illustrations of the 15th century. In Babylonia this calendar sign was identified with the eighth month, Arakh Savna, our October-November.
Early India knew it as Āli, Viçrika, or Vrouchicam, — in Tamil, Vrishaman; but later on Varāha Mihira said Kaurpya, and Al Bīrūnī, Kaurba, both from the Greek Scorpios. On the Cingalese zodiac it was Ussika.
Dante designated ita as Un Secchione,
Formed like a bucket that is all ablaze;
and in the Purgatorio [Purg. IX.5‑6] as Il Friddoº Animal of our motto, not a mistaken reference to the creature's nature, but to its rising in the cold hours of the dawn when he was gazing upon it. Dante's translator Longfellow has something similar in his own Poets' Calendar for October:
On the frigid Scorpion I ride.
Chaucer wrote of it, in the Hous of Fame, as the Scorpioun; his Anglo-Norman predecessors, Escorpiun; and the Anglo-Saxons, Throwend.
Caesius mistakenly considered it one of the Scorpions of Rehoboam; but Novidius said that it was
the scorpion or serpent whereby Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was enforced to let the children of Israel depart out of his country;
of which Hood said "there is no such thing in history." Other Christians of their day changed its figure to that of the Apostle Bartholomew; and Weigel, to a Cardinal's Hat.
In some popular books of the present day it is the Kite, which it as much resembles as it does a Scorpion.
Its symbol is now given as ♏, but in earlier times the sting of the creature was added, perhaps so showing the feet, tail, and dart; but the similarity in their symbols may indicate that there has been some intimate connection, now forgotten, between Scorpio and the formerly adjacent Virgo (♍).
Ampelius [Lib. Mem. 4] assigned to it the care of Africus, the Southwest Wind, a duty which, he said, Aries and Sagittarius shared; and the weather-wise of antiquity thought that its setting exerted a malignant influence, and was accompanied by storms; but the alchemists held it in high regard, for only when the sun was in this sign could the transmutation of iron into gold be performed. Astrologers, on the other hand, although they considered it a fruitful sign, "active and eminent," knew it as the accursed constellation, p364the baleful source of war and discord, the birthplace of the planet Mars, and so the House of Mars, the Martis Sidus of Manilius. But this was located in the sting and tail; the claws, as Ζυγός, Jugum, or the Yoke of the Balance (Libra), being devoted to Venus, because this goddess united persons under the yoke of matrimony. It was supposed to govern the region of the groin in the human body, and to reign over Judaea, Mauritania, Catalonia, Norway, West Silesia, Upper Batavia, Barbary, Morocco, Valencia, and Messina; the earlier Manilius claiming it as the tutelary sign of Carthage, Libya, Egypt, Sardinia, and other islands of the Italian coast. Brown was its assigned color, and Pliny asserted that the appearance of a comet here portended a plague of reptiles and insects, especially of locusts.
Although nominally in the zodiac, the sun actually occupies but nine days in passing through the two portions that project upwards into Ophiuchus, so far south of the ecliptic is it; indeed, except for these projections, it could not be claimed as a member of the zodiac.
Scorpio is famous as the region of the sky where have appeared many of the brilliant temporary stars, chief among them, perhaps, that of 134 B.C., the first in astronomical annals, and the occasion, Pliny said [II.XXIV.95], of the catalogue of Hipparchos, about 125 B.C. The Chinese She Ke confirmed this appearance by its record of "the strange star" in June of that year, in the sieu Fang, marked by β, δ, π, ρ, and others in Scorpio. Serviss thinks it conceivable that the strange outbursts of these novae in and near Scorpio may have had some effect in causing this constellation to be regarded by the ancients as malign in its influence. But this character may, with at least equal probability, have come from the fiery color of its lucida, as well as from the history of the constellation in connection with Orion, and the poisonous attributes of its earthly namesake.
In southern latitudes Scorpio is magnificently seen in its entirety, — nearly 45°, — Gould cataloguing in it 184 naked-eye stars.
Along its northern border, perhaps in Ophiuchus, there was, in very early days, a constellation, the Fox, taken from the Egyptian sphere of Petosiris, but we know nothing as to its details.
. . . capricious Antares
Flushing and paling in the Southern arch.
Willis' The Scholar of Thebet Ben Khorat.
Antares, the well-nigh universal title for this splendid star, is transcribed from Ptolemy's ἀντάρης in the Syntaxis, and generally thought to be from p365ἀντί Ἄρης, "similar to," or the "rival of," Mars, in reference to its color, — the Latin Tetrabiblos [cf. Tetr. I.9] had Marti comparatur; or, in the Homeric signification of the words, the "equivalent of Mars," either from the color-resemblance of the star to the latter, or because the astrologers considered the Scorpion the House of that planet and that god its guardian. Thus it naturally followed the character of its constellation, — perhaps originated it, — and was always associated with eminence and activity in mankind.
Grotius, however, said that the word signifies a Bat, which, as Vespertilio, Sophocles perhaps called it;b but Bayer erroneously quoted from Hesychios Ἄνταρτης, a Rebel, and Tyrannus. Caesius appropriately styled the constellation Insidiata, the Lurking One.c
Others say that it was Antar's Star, — but they forget Ptolemy, — the celebrated Antar or Antarah who, just previous to the time of Muḥammād, was the mulatto warrior-hero of one of the Golden Muʽallaḳāt.1
Our word, however, is sometimes written Antar, which Beigel said is the Arabic equivalent of "Shone"; but the Latin translator of the 1515 Almagest connected it with Natar, Rapine, and so possibly explaining the generally unintelligible expression tendit ad rapinam applied to Antares in that work and in the Alfonsine Tables of 1521; or the expression here may refer to the character of Ἄρης, the god of war.d The Rudolphine Tables designated it as rutilans, Pliny's word for "glowing redly."
The Arabians' Ḳalb al ʽAḳrab, the Scorpion's Heart, which probably preceded the Καρδία Σκορπίου and Cor Scorpii of Greece and Rome respectively, became, in early English and Continental lists, Kelbalacrab, Calbalacrab, Calbolacrabi, Calbalatrab, and Cabalatrab; Riccioli having the unique Alcantub, although he generally wrote Kalb Aakrab. Antares alone constituted the 16th manzil, Al Ḳalb, the Heart, one of the fortunate stations; but the Chinese included σ and τ, on either side, for their sieu, the synonymous Sin, anciently Sam, σ being the determinant; although Brown says that this Heart refers to that of Tsing Lung, the Azure Dragon, one of the four great divisions of their zodiac. They also have a record of a comet 531 B.C., "to the left of Ta Shin," which last Williams identified with Antares; while, as the Fire Star, Who Sing, it seems to have been invoked in worship centuries before our era for protection against fire. With some adjacent it was one of the Ming t'ang, or Emperor's Council-hall; his sons and courtiers, other stars, standing close by, to whom Antares, as Ta Who, announced the principles of his government.
p366 The Hindus used α, σ, and τ for their nakshatra Jyesthā, Oldest, also known as Rohinī, Ruddy, from the color of Antares, — Indra, the sky-goddess, being regent of the asterism that was figured as a pendent Ear Jewel.
It was one of the four Royal Stars of Persia, 3000 B.C., and probably the Guardian of the Heavens that Dupuis mentioned as Satevis; but, as their lunar asterism, it was Gel, the Red; the Sogdians changing this to Maghan sadwis, the Great One saffron-colored. The Khorasmians called it Dharind, the Seizer; and the Copts, Kharthian, the Heart.
It pointed out to the Babylonians their 24th ecliptic constellation, Hurru, of uncertain meaning, itself being Urbat according to an astrolabe discovered in the palace of Sennacherib and interpreted by the late George Smith; Brown, however, assigns this title to stars in Lupus. Other Euphratean names were Bilu-sha‑ziri, the Lord of the Seed; Kak-shisa, the Creator of Prosperity, according to Jensen, although this is generally ascribed to Sirius; and, in the lunar zodiac, Dar Lugal, the King, identified with the god of lightning, Lugal Tudda, the Lusty King. Naturally the inscriptions make much of it in connection with the planet Mars, their Ul Suru, showing that its Arean association evidently had very early origin; and from them we read Masu (?) Sar, the Hero and the King, and Kakkab Bir, the Vermilion Star. Brown identifies it with the seventh antediluvian king, Ἐυεδώρανχος, or Udda-an‑χu, the Day‑heaven-bird.
From his Assyrian researches Cheyne translates the 36th verse from the 38th chapter of the Book of Job:
Who hath put wisdom into the Lance-star?
Or given understanding to the Bow-star?
Jensen referring this Lance-star to Antares. Hommel, however, identifies it with Procyon of Canis Minor.
In Egyptian astronomy it represented the goddess Selkit, Selk‑t, or Serk‑t, heralding the sunrise through her temples at the autumnal equinox about 3700-3500 B.C., and was the symbol of Isis in the pyramid ceremonials. Renouf included it with Arcturus in the immense figure Menat.
Penrose mentions the following early Grecian temples as oriented towards the rising or setting of Antares at the vernal equinox: the Heraeum at Argos, in the year 1760, perhaps the oldest temple in cradle of Greek civilization; the first Erechtheum at Athens, 1070; one at Corinth, 770; an early temple to Apollo at Delphi, rebuilt with this orientation in 630; and one of the same date to Zeus at Aegina; — all of these before our era.
It rises at sunset on the 1st of June, culminating on the 11th of July, and is one of the so‑called lunar stars; and some have asserted that it was the p367first star observed through the telescope in the daytime, although Smyth made this claim for Arcturus. Ptolemy lettered it as of the 2d magnitude, so that in his day it may have been inferior in brilliancy to the now very much fainter β Librae.
Antares belongs to Secchi's third type of suns, which Lockyer says are "in the last visible stage of cooling," and nearly extinct as self-luminous bodies; although this is a theory by no means universally accepted.
The companion is 3ʺ.5 away, and suspected of revolution around its principal; their present position angle is 270°.
A photograph by Barnard in 1895 first showed the vast and intricate Cloud Nebula stretching to a great distance around Antares and the star σ. It was here, two or three degrees north of Antares, that was discovered, on the 9th of June, Coddington's comet, c of 1898, the third comet made known by the camera.
Graffias generally is said to be of unknown derivation; but since Γραψαῖος signifies "Crab," it may be that here lies the origin of the title, for it is well known that the ideas and words for crab and scorpion were almost interchangeable in early days, from the belief that the latter creature was generated from the former.2 It was thought by Grotius to be a "Barbarian" designation for the Claws of the double constellation; and Bayer said the same, although he used the word for ξ Scorpii in the modern northern claw. In Burritt's Atlas of 1835 it appears for ξ of the northern Scale, the ancient northern Claw; but in the edition of 1856 he applied it to our β Scorpii, and in both editions he has a second β at the base of the tail, west of ε. The Century Dictionary prints it Grassias, probably from erroneously reading the early type for the letter f. β is near the junction of the left claw with the body, or in the arch of the Kite bow, 8° or 9° northwest of Antares. In some modern lists it is Acrab, — Riccioli's Aakrab schemali.
It was included in the 15th manzil, Iklīl al Jabhah, the Crown of the Forehead, just north of which feature it lies, taking in with this, however, the other stars to δ and π; some authorities occasionally adding ν and ρ. This was one of the fortunate stations, and from this manzil title comes the occasional Iclil. The Hindus knew the group as their 15th nakshatra, Anurādhā, Propitious or Successful, — Mitra, the Friend, one of the Adityas, being the presiding divinity; and they figured it as a Row or Ridge, which p368the line of component stars well indicates. The corresponding sieu, Fang, a Room or House, anciently Fong, consisted of β with δ, π, and ρ, although Professor Whitney thought it limited to the determinant π, the faintest of the group and farthest to the south. It shared with Antares the title Ta Who, and was the central one of the seven lunar asterisms making up the Azure Dragon, Tsing Lung. But individually β seems to have been known as Tien Sze, the Four-horse Chariot of Heaven, and was worshiped by all horsemen. It probably also was Fu Kwang, the Basket with Handles, and highly regarded as presiding over the rearing of silkworms, and as indicating the commencement of the season of that great industry of China.
Timochares saw β occulted by the moon in the year 295 B.C.; and Hind repeats a statement by Ptolemy, from Chaldaean records, that the planet Mars almost occulted it on the 17th of January, 272 B.C.; Smyth, however, substituted β Librae in this phenomenon and 271 B.C. as the date.
The two largest components are 14ʺ apart, at a position angle of 25°; the third being 0ʺ.9 from the first, with a position angle of 89°.
Half-way from β to Antares lies the fine cluster NGC 6093, 80 M., on the western edge of a starless opening 4° broad. It was this that called forth Sir William Herschel's exclamation:
Hier ist wahrhaftig ein Loch im Himmel!
although powerful telescopes reveal in it many minute stars. His son afterwards described forty-nine such spots in various parts of the sky. This cluster, that Sir William thought might perhaps have been formed by stars drawn from that vacancy, "was lit up in 1860 for a short time by the outburst of a temporary star."
lies, in Bayer's map, on the tip of the southern claw, and is the same star as Flamsteed's 20 Librae; but Smyth strangely alluded to it as being at the end of the sting and nebulous; and Burritt placed Bayer's letter at the object mentioned by Smyth. Indeed for at least three hundred years there has been disagreement among astronomers as to this star; for although Argelander and Heis follow Bayer, Gould writes:
Since it appears out of the question that it should ever again be regarded as belonging to Scorpius, I have ventured to designate it by the letter σ [Librae].
Bayer cited for it Brachium, the Arm, as from Vergil, but this was erroneous in so far as being a title for this star, the original brachia in the Georgics [I.34] p369simply signifying the "claws" that it marks; Bayer added Cornu, the Horn, as from some anonymous writer.
In Arabia it was Zubān al ʽAḳrab, the Scorpion's Claw, which has become Zuban al Kravi, Zuben Acrabi; and Bayer said Zuben Hakrabi and Zuben el Genubi, contracted from Al Zubān al Janūbiyyah, the Southern Claw. Similar titles also appear for stars in Libra, the early Claws.
In China it was Chin Chay, the Camp Carriage.
Brown included it, with others near by in Hydra's tail, in the Akkadian Entena-mas‑luv, or Ente-mas‑mur, the Assyrian Etsen-tsiri, the Tail-tip.
Dschubba is found in the Whitall Planisphere, probably from Al Jabhah, the Front, or Forehead, where it lies.
In the Palermo Catalogue the title Iclarkrav is applied to a star whose assigned position for the year 1800 would indicate our δ. If this be the case, it may have been a specially coined word from the Arabs' Iklīl al ʽAḳrab, the Crown of the Scorpion; and this conjecture would seem justified by our previous experience of that catalogue's star nomenclature as seen in its remarkable efforts with α and β Delphini. Riccioli had Aakràb genubi.
δ was of importance in early times, for with β and π, on either side in a bending line, it is claimed for the Euphratean Gis-gan-gu‑sur, the Light of the Hero, or the Tree of the Garden of Light, "placed in the midst of the abyss," and so reminding us of that other tree, the Tree of Life, in the midst of the Garden of Eden. It was selected by the Babylonian astronomers, with β, to point out their 23d ecliptic constellation, which Epping calls Qablu (und qābu) sha rīshu aqrabi, the Middle of the Head of the Scorpion. The earliest record that we have of the planet Mercury is in connection with these same two stars seen from that country 265 B.C. In the lunar zodiac δ, β, and π were the Persian Nūr, Bright; the Sogdian and Khorasmian Bighanwand, Clawless; and the Coptic Stephani, the Crown.
In China the 2d‑magnitude ε, with μ, ζ, η, θ, ι, κ, υ, and λ, formed the 17th sieu, Wei, the Tail, anciently known as Mi and as Vi, μ being the determinant; but, although this Tail coincided with that part of our Scorpion, Brown thinks that reference is rather made to the tail of the Azure Dragon, one of the quadripartite divisions of the Chinese zodiac which lay here.
θ, a 2d‑magnitude red star, was the Euphratean Sargas, lying in the Milky Way just south of λ and υ, with which it formed one of the seven pairs of twin Stars; as such it was Ma‑a‑su. And it may have been, with ι, κ, λ, and υ, the Girtab of the lunar zodiac of that valley, the Vanant of p370Persia and Vanand of Sogdiana, all meaning the "Seizer," "Smiter," or "Stinger"; but the Persian and Sogdian words generally are used for our Regulus. In Khorasmia these stars were Khachman, the Curved. θ has a 14th‑magnitude greenish companion that may be in revolution around it, 6ʺ.77 away in 1897, at a position angle of 316°.9. See writes of this:
a magnificent system of surpassing interest; one of the most difficult of known double stars.
Shaula probably is from Al Shaulah, the Sting, where it lies; but, according to Al Bīrūnī, from Mushālah, Raised, referring to the position of the sting ready to strike. These words have been confused with the names for the adjoining υ, and in the course of time corrupted to Shauka, Alascha, Mosclek, and Shomlek; Chilmead writing of these last:
It is also called Schomlek, which Scaliger thinkes is read by transposition of the letters for Mosclek, which signifieth the bending of the taile.
Naturally it was an unlucky star with astrologers.
λ and υ were the 17th manzil, Al Shaulah, and the nakshatra Vicritāu, the Two Releasers, perhaps from the Vedic opinion that they brought relief from lingering disease.
Some Hindu authorities, taking in all the stars from ε to υ, called the whole Mūlā, the Root, with the divine Nirrity, Calamity, as regent of the asterism, which was represented as a Lion's Tail; this title appearing also for stars of Sagittarius. In Coptic Egypt λ and υ were Minamref, the Sting; and, on the Euphrates, Sarur.
An imaginary line extended from υ through Shaula serves to point out the near-by clusters 6 M. and NGC 6475, 7 M., visible together in the field of an opera-glass. These probably were the ancient termination of the sting to which Smyth alluded in his comments on λ and υ, although he is not quite clear about the matter; they certainly were the νεφελοειδής of Ptolemy, among his ἀμόρφωτοι of Σκορπίος; and Girus ille nebulosus in the Latin Almagest of 1551. Ulug Beg's translator had Stella nebulosa quae sequitur aculeum Scorpionis, — Tāliʽ al Shaulah, That which follows the Sting.
In the legends of the Polynesian Islanders, notably those of the Hervey group, the stars in the Scorpion, from the two lettered μ to λ and υ, were the Fish-hook of Maui, with which that god drew up from the depths the great island Tongareva; and the names and legend that Ellis, in his Polynesian Researches, applied to Castor and Pollux in Gemini, the Reverend p371Mr. W. W. Gill asserts, in his Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, belong here, and are the favorites among the story-tellers of the Hervey Islands. They make the star μ1 a little girl, Piri-ere‑ua, the Inseparable, with her smaller brother, μ2, fleeing from home to the sky when ill treated by their parents, the stars λ and υ, who followed them and are still in pursuit.
This μ1 has recently been discovered to be a spectroscopic binary, with a period of about 35 hours. It is a 3.3‑magnitude, and of Secchi's 1st class.
μ2 is of 3.7 magnitude.
is Jabbah in the Century Cyclopedia, perhaps from its being one of the manzil Iklīl al Jabhah.
It lies 2° east of β, and is another Double Double like ε Lyrae, although less readily resolved, the larger pair being only 0ʺ.89 apart, and smaller about 1ʺ.9. Espin-Webb says: "Probably a quadruple system." Burnham finds it surrounded by a remarkable winglike nebula some 2° in diameter.
Bayer wrote that the "Barbarians" called this Graffias, a title that Burritt assigned in 1835 to ξ of Libra; but he transferred this in his Atlas of 1856 to β Scorpii, 8½° to the north, leaving this star nameless. On the Heis map ξ is near the tip of the northern claw, so close to the northern scale that Flamsteed made it the 51 Librae of his catalogue.
The components are 1ʺ.4 and 7ʺ.3 apart, and may form a triple system with a possible period of about 105 years.
were Al Niyāṭ, the Praecordia, or Outworks of the Heart, on either side of, and, as it were, protecting, Antares, the Heart of the Scorpion. Knobel, in his translation of Al Achsasi's work, explains the word as "the vein which suspends the heart"!
Lesath, or Lesuth, is from Al Lasʽah, the Sting, which, with λ, it marks; yet Smyth, who treats of these two stars at considerable length, says that the word is
p372 formed by Scaliger's conjecture from Alascha, which is a corruption of al‑shaúlah. Lesath, therefore, is not a term used by the Arabs, who designate all these bumps, which form the tail, Al‑fiḳrah, vertebrated twirls; they are formed by ε, μ, ζ, η, θ, ι, κ, λ, and υ, and it is supposed that the sting, punctura scorpionis, was formerly carried to the following star, γ, marked nebulous by Ptolemy.
But this γ is surely wrong; that letter really applying to a star in the right claw very far to the west of the sting, — as far as the make-up of the creature will allow. Still Burritt located it as Smyth did. Al Bīrūnī wrote that λ and υ were in the Ḣarazāh, the Joints of the Vertebrae. Riccioli mentioned υ as Lesath vel potius Lessaa Elaakrab Morsum Scorp. vel Denneb Elaakrab; and Bayer, Leschat recté Lesath, Moschleck, Alascha, which we have seen for λ; but the proximity of these stars renders this duplication not unnatural.
The Chinese knew them as Keen Pi, the Two Parts of a Lock.
Ideler thought υ the γ of Telescopium, but this does not agree with Bode's drawing of the latter.
The Arabians called these Jabhat al ʽAḳrab, the Forehead, or Front, of the Scorpion; and the Chinese, Kow Kin, a Hook and Latch.
They are an interesting naked-eye pair, 14½′ apart, lying just south of β; but Bayer mentions and shows only a single star.
1 These were the famous seven selected poems of Arabia, said to have been inscribed in letters of gold on silk, or Egyptian linen, and suspended, as their title signifies, in the Kaʽbah at Mecca.
a Dante says nothing of the sort, and the error seems incomprehensible; I suspect an unchecked and garbled secondary source. In the passage, Purg. XVIII.78, q.v., it is quite clear the poet is referring to the moon: La luna . . . fatta com' un secchion che tuttor arda; no star is singled out, and the Scorpion is not mentioned.
b Vespertilio is Latin; Sophocles wrote in Greek, of course. I haven't found the passage.
c Insidiatus is Latin not for lurker, but for lurkee; in good English, "besieged". Caesius may have said, or meant, Insidiator.
Images with borders lead to more information.
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 30 Sep 07