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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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p460 Virgin august! come in thy regal state

With soft majestic grace and brow serene;

Though the fierce Lion's reign is overpast

The summer's heat is all thine own as yet,

And all untouched thy robe of living green

By the rude fingers of the northern blast.

R. J. Philbrick's Virgo.

Virgo,

the Anglo-Saxon Mæden, the Anglo-Norman Pulcele, the French Vierge, the Italian Virgine,º Bayer's Junckfraw, and the present German Jungfrau, — in fact a universal title, — generally has been figured with the palm branch in her right hand and the spica, or ear of wheat, in her left. Thus she was known in the Attic dialect as Κόρη, the Maiden, representing Persephone, the Roman Proserpina, daughter of Demeter, the Roman Ceres; while in the Ionic dialect Nonnus, of our 5th century, called her σταχυώδης p461Κούρη, the Wheat-bearing Maiden, spicifera Virgo Cereris, the Virgo spicea munera gestans of Manilius.a When regarded as Proserpina, she was being abducted by Pluto in his Chariot, the stars of adjacent Libra; and the constellation also was Demeter herself, the Ceres splendifera dea, changed by the astrologers to Arista, Harvest, of which Ceres was goddess. Caesius had it Arista Puellae, that would seem more correct as Aristae Puella, the Maiden of the Harvest.

Those who claim very high antiquity for the zodiacal signs assert that the idea of these titles originated when the sun was in Virgo at the spring equinox, the time of the Egyptian harvest. This, however, carries them back nearly 15,000 years, while Aratos said [Phaen. 147] that Leo first marked the harvest month; so that another signification has been given to the word σταχυώδης. We read, too, that

In Ogygian ages and among the Orientals, she was represented as a sun-burnt damsel, with an ear of cornº in her hand, like a gleaner in the fields;

and, like most of that class, with a very different character from that assigned to her by the classic authors. Is it not this ancient story of the Maiden of the Wheat-field that is still seen in the North English and South Scottish custom of the Kern-baby, or Kernababy, — the Corn, or Kernel, Baby, — thus described by Language in his Custom and Myth?

The last gleanings of the last field are bound up in a rude imitation of the human shape, and dressed in some rag-tags of finery. The usage has fallen into the conservative hands of children, but of old "the Maiden" was a regular image of the harvest-goddess, which, with a sickle and sheaves in her arms, attended by a crowd of reapers, and accompanied with music, followed the last carts home to the farm.

It is odd enough that the "Maiden" should exactly translate the old Sicilian name of the daughter of Demeter. "The Maiden" has dwindled, then, among us to the rudimentary Kernababy; but ancient Peru had her own Maiden, her Harvest Goddess.

And in Vendée the farmer's wife, as the corn-mother, is tossed in a blanket with the last sheaf to bring good luck in the subsequent threshing. Perhaps Caesius had some of this in view when he associated our sky figure with Ruth, the Moabitess, gleaning in the fields of Boaz.

Virgo also was Erigone, — perhaps from the Homeric Ἐριγένεια, the Early Born, for the constellation is very old, — a stellar title appearing in Vergil's apotheosis of his patron Augustus [Georg. I.33]. This was the maiden who hung herself in grief at the death of her father Icarius,º and was transported to the skies with Icarius as Boötes, and their faithful hound Maira as Procyon, or Sirius; all of which is attested by Hyginus [Fab. 130] and Ovid [Amor. II.16.4].b It may have been this Icarian story that induced Keats' Lines on the Mermaid Tavern:

p462 Sipping beverage divine,

And pledging with contented smack

The Mermaid in the Zodiac.

Sometimes she was figured with the Scales in her hands, —

Astraea's scales have weighed her minutes out,

Poised on the zodiac, —

whence she has been considered Δίκη, the divinity of Justice, the Roman Justa or Justitia; and Astraea, the starry daughter of Themis, the last of the celestials to leave the earth, with her modest sister Pudicitia [Juv. Sat. VI.9 ff.], when the Brazen Age began. Ovid wrote of this [Met. I.149 f.]:

Virgo caede madentes,

Ultima coelestum, terras Astraea reliquit;

when, according to Aratos,c she

Soared up to heaven, selecting this abode,

Whence yet at night she shows herself to men.

Thus she is the oldest purely allegorical representation of innocence and virtue. This legend seems to be first found with Hesiod, and was given in full by Aratos, his longest constellational history in the Phainomena. Other authors mentioned her as Εἰρήνη, Irene, the sister of Astraea, and the Pax of the Romans, with olive branch; as Concordia; as Παρθένος Δίος, the Virgin Goddess; as Σίβυλλα, the Singing Sibyl, carrying a branch into Hades; and as Τύχη, the Roman Fortuna, because she is a headless constellation, the stars marking the head being very faint.

Classical Latin writers occasionally called her Ano, Atargatis, and Derceto, the Syrorum Dea transferred here from Pisces; Cybele drawn by lions, for our Leo immediately precedes her; Diana; Minerva; Panda and Pantica; and even Medusa. Posidippus, 289 B.C., gave Thesbia or Thespia, daughter of Thespius, or of the Theban Asopus; and some said that one of the Muses, even Urania herself, was placed here in the sky by Apollo. Ἄσπολια is from Kircher, who in turn took it from the Coptic Egyptians, the Statio amoris, quem in incremento Nili dii ostendebant. This, however, is singularly like Ἡ Πολιάς, designating Minerva as guardian of citadels and the State, already seen as a title for this constellation; and there was a Coptic Asphulia in Leo as a moon station.

In Egypt Virgo was drawn on the zodiacs of Denderah and Thebes, much disproportioned and without wings, holding an object said to be a distaff marked by the stars of Coma Berenices; while Eratosthenes and Avienus identified her with Isis, the thousand-named goddess, with the p463wheat ears in her hand that she afterwards dropped to form the Milky Way, or clasping in her arms the young Horus, the infant Southern sun-god, the last of the divine kings. This very ancient figuring reappeared in the Middle Ages as the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus, Shakespeare alluding to it in Titus Andronicus as the

Good Boy in Virgo's lap;

and Albertus Magnus, of our 13th century, asserted that the Saviour's horoscope lay there. It has been said that her initials, MV, are the symbol for the sign, ; although the International Dictionary considers this a monogram of Παρ, the first syllable of Παρθένος, one of Virgo's Greek titles; and others, a rude picturing of the wing of Istar, the divinity that the Semites assigned to its stars, and prominent in the Epic of Creation.

This Istar, or Ishtar, the Queen of the Stars, was the Ashtoreth of the 1st Book of theº Kings, xi.5, 33, the original of the Aphrodite of Greece and the Venus of Rome; perhaps equivalent to Athyr, Athor, or Hathor of the Nile, and the Astarte of Syria, the last philologically akin to our Esther and Star, the Greek Ἀστήρ. Astarte, too, was identified by the Venerable Bede with the Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, at whose festival, our Easter, the stars of Virgo shine so brightly in the eastern evening sky; and the Sumerians of southern Babylonia assigned this constellation to their sixth month as the Errand, or Message, of Istar.

In Assyria Virgo represented Baaltis, Belat, Belit, and Beltis, Bēl's wife; while some thought her the Mylitta of Herodotus. But this was a very different divinity, the Babylonian Molatta, the Moon, the Mother, or Queen, of Heaven, against whose worship the Jews were warned in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, xliv.17, 19, and should not be confounded with Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, that our figure symbolized.

In India Virgo was Kanya, the Tamil Kauni, or Maiden, — in Hyde's transcription, Kannae, — mother of the great Krishna, figured as Goddess sitting before a fire, or as a Gūl; and in the Cingalese zodiac as a Woman in a Ship, with a stalk of wheat in her hand. Al Bīrūnī thought this ship marked by the line of stars β, η, γ, δ, and ε, like a ship's keel. Varāha Mihira borrowed the Greek name, turning it into Parthena, Partina, or Pathona.

In Persia it was Khosha, or Khusāk, the Ear of Wheat, and Secdeidos de Darzama, this last often translated the "Virgin in Maiden Neatness"; but Ideler, doubting this, cited Beigel's conjecture that it was a Persian rendering of Stachys, one of the Greek titles of Virgo's star Spica. Bayer had it Seclenidos de Darzama.

The early Arabs made from some members of the constellation the p464enormous Lion of their sky; and of others the Kennel Corner, with dogs barking at the Lion. Their later astronomers, however, adopted the Greek figure, and called it Al ʽAdhrā᾽ al Naṭhīfah, the Innocent Maiden, remains of which are found in the mediaeval titles Eladari, Eleadari, Adrendesa, and in the Adrenedesa of Albumasar. But as they would not draw the human form, they showed the stars as a sheaf of wheat, Al Sunbulah, or as some stalks with the ripened ears of the same, from the Roman Spica, its brightest star. Kazwini gave both of these Arabian names, the last degenerating into Sunbala, found in Bayer, and Sumbela, still occasionally seen. The Almagest of 1515 says Virgo est Spica.

The Turcomans knew the constellation as Dufhiza Pakhiza, the Pure Virgin; and the Chinese, as She Sang Neu, the Frigid Maiden; but before their Jesuit days it was Shun Wei, which Miss Clerke translates the Serpent, but Williams, the Quail's Tail, a part of the early stellar figure otherwise known as the Red Bird, Pheasant, or Phoenix.

It appears as Ki, the 20th in the Euphratean cycle of ecliptic constellations, and considered equivalent to Asru, a Place, i.e. the moon station that Spica marked; but Jensen thinks that the original should be Siru, or Shiru, perhaps meaning the "Ear of Corn"; much of this also is individually applied to Spica.

In the land of Judaea Virgo was Bethūlah, and, being always associated with the idea of abundance in harvest, was assigned by the Rabbis to the tribe of Asher, of any Jacob had declared "his bread shall be fat." In Syria it was Bethulta.

Thus, like Isis, one of her many prototypes, Virgo always has been a much named and symbolized heavenly figure; Landseer saying of it, "so disguised, so modernized and be-Greek'd. . . that we literally don't know her when we see her."

In astrology this constellation and Gemini were the House of Mercury, Macrobius saying that the planet was created here; the association being plainly shown by the caduceus of that god, the herald's trumpet entwined with serpents, instead of the palm branch, often represented in her left hand. But usually, and far more appropriately, Virgo's stars have been given over to the care of Ceres, her namesake, the long-time goddess of the harvest. For her astrological colors Virgo assumed black speckled with blue; and was thought of as governing the abdomen in the human body, and as bearing rule over Crete, Greece, Mesopotamia, Turkey, Jerusalem, Lyons, and Paris, but always as an unfortunate, sterile sign. Manilius asserted that in his day it ruled the fate of Arcadia, Caria, Ionia, Rhodes, and the Doric plains. Ampelius [Lib. Mem. 4] assigned to it the charge of the wind Argestes, that blew p465to the Romans from the west-southwest according to Vitruvius [I.6.10], or from the west-northwest according to Pliny [XVIII.338].

The latter said that the appearance of a comet within its borders implied many grievous ills to the female portion of the population.

Virgo was associated with Leo and with the star Sirius in the ancient opinion that, when with the sun, they were a source of heat; Ovid alluding to this in his Ars Amatoria [III.388]:

Virginis aetheriis cum caput ardet equis.

And John Skelton, the royal orator of King Henry VII, wrote:

In autumn when the sun in Virgine

By radiant heat enripened hath our corne.

A coin of Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, bears her figure with the wheat ear in her left hand and a staff in her right; and the stateres of Macedonia have much the same. The Alfonsine Tables showed her as a very young girl with wings; the Leyden Manuscript and the Hyginus of 1488, as a young woman with branch and caduceus; and the Albumasar of 1489, as a woman with a fillet of wheat ears. The old German illustration also gave her wings, but dressed her in a high-necked, trailing gown; and Dürer drew her as a lovely winged angel.

Julius Schiller used her stars to represent Saint James the Less, and Weigel, as the Seven Portuguese Towers.

But all these figurings, ancient as some of them may be, are modern when compared with the still enduring Sphinx generally claimed as prehistoric, perhaps of the time of the Hor-she-shu, long anterior to the first historical Egyptian ruler, Menes; and constructed, according to Greek tradition, with Virgo's head on Leo's body, from the fact that the sun passed through these two constellations during the inundation of the Nile. Some Egyptologists, however, would upset this astronomical connection of the Virgin, Lion, and Sphinx, Mariette claiming the head to be that of the early god Harmachis, and others as of an early king.

Ptolemy extended the constellation somewhat farther to the east than we have it, the feet being carried into the modern Libra, and the stars that Hipparchos placed in the shoulder shifted to the side, to correct, as he said, the comparative distances of the stars and members of the body. Upon our maps it is about 52° in length, terminating on the east at λ and μ, and so is the longest of the zodiac figures. It is bounded on the north by Leo, Coma Berenices, and Boötes; on the east by Serpens and Libra; on the p466south by Hydra, Corvus and Crater; and on the west by Leo, Crater, and Corvus.

While the beautiful Spica is its most noteworthy object to the casual observer, yet the telescope shows here the densest nebular region in the heavens, in the space marked by its β, η, γ, δ, and Denebola of Leo; while other nebulae are scattered all over this region of the sky. Sir William Herschel found here no less than 323, which later search has increased to over 500, — very many more nebulae than naked-eye stars in the constellation. Argelander gives 101 of the latter, and Heis 181.

It is for these four stars in Virgo, forming with ε two sides of a right-angled triangle open towards Denebola, γ at its vertex, that Professor Young uses his mnemonic word Begde to recall their order. They extend along the wings through the girdle, and were the Kennel Corner of the Barking Dogs of the Arabs, often considered as the Dogs themselves.

Von Zach, of Gotha, rediscovered here on the last day of the first year of this century the minor planet Ceres, whose position had been lost some time after its discovery by Piazzi on the previous New Year's Day; Olbers repeating this, and independently, the next evening, the first anniversary of the original discovery. Here, too, Olbers found, on the 28th of March, 1802, another minor planet, Pallas, the second one discovered, and appropriately named, for the thirty-first of the Orphic Hymns described this goddess as "inhabiting the stars."

The sun passes through the constellation from the 14th of September to the 29th of October; and during this time

the Virgin trails

No more her glittering garments through the blue.

α, Spectroscopic binary, 1.3, brilliant flushed white.

Spica signifies, and marks, the Ear of Wheat shown in the Virgin's left hand — Aratos wrote "in her hands"; Vitruvius and Hyginus, "in her right hand" — when she was thought to be Ceres. All the Romans called it thus, Cicero saying Spicum, and their descendants, the modern Italians, Spiga;º the French have l'Epi. In Old England it was the Virgin's Spike, and even Flamsteed thus designated it. For at least twenty-five centuries, and among all civilized peoples, the Latin word, or words of similar import, has obtained; although Smyth mentioned an attempt before his day to secure for it the illustrious name of Newton.

Στάχυς, perhaps of the same signification although another has been assigned to it, appeared with Aratos, Hipparchos, and Ptolemy, transcribed by the Latins as Stachys. Manetho had Σταχυώδης, which we have seen p467used for Virgo by another Graeco-Egyptian author, Nonnus. Bayer cited Arista for the star as for the constellation; Aristae Puella occurs in some Latin doggerel by Caesius; as the brightest of the figure it bore the latter's Erigone; while Vindemitor and Vindemiator, which better belong to ε, have been applied to it.d

Other titles — Sunbala; Sunbale; Sumbela; Riccioli's Sumbalet, Sombalet, Sembalet Eleandri; and Schickard's Sunbalon — are from Sunbulah and Al ʽAdhrā᾽, Arabic words synonymous respectively with Spica and Virgo, although Hyde derived them from Σίβυλλα, the Singing Sibyl, of the constellation. Al Bīrūnī said that it was Al Ḥulbah, the Bristle, but his explanation of this only served to show the strange confusion in titles that existed in the Arab mind between Spica and Al Ḍafīrah in the Lion's tail. And Al Bīrūnī, again, said that it was the Calf of the Lion, with Arcturus as the second Calf; but Kazwini designated it as Sāḳ al Asad, the Shin-Bone of the Lion, this Lion being the enormous figure already alluded to, of which a part of Virgo formed one of the legs.

A still more widely spread native name in the Desert was Al Simāk al Aʽzal, the Defenceless, or Unarmed, Simāk, i.e. unattended by any near-by star; the other Simāk, Arcturus, being armed with a lance, or staff, represented by adjacent stars of Boötes; and its doubtless was this isolated position of Spica that induced the Coptic title Khoritos, Solitary. The Alfonsine Tables turned Simāk al Aʽzal into inermis Asimec, adding Acimon, Alaraph, Almucedie "of the Chaldaeans," and Alacel; while the 1515 Almagest had Aschimech inermis. From all these come Bayer's Alaazel, Alazel, Azimon, Alzimon "of the Nubians," Hazimet Alazel, the alchemists' Alhaiseth, Riccioli's Eltsamecti and Eltsamach, and the Azimech still occasionally seen. Scaliger had Hazimeth Alhacel, and Schickard Huzimethon. Riccioli cited a "Nubian" title, Eleazalet, that some have said came from Al ʽAzalah, the Hip-bone, but it probably belongs among the derivatives from Aʽzal; and his Eleadari has been transferred to Spica from the constellation.

This star marked the 12th manzil, Al Simāk, and in early astrology was, like all of Virgo, a sign of unfruitfulness and a portent of injustice to innocence; but later on, of eminence, renown, and riches.

Chrysococca called it Κονταράτος, the Little Lance-bearer, Arcturus being Κονταράτος par excellence. And Hyde gave the Hebrew Shibbōleth, the Syrian Shebbeltā, the Persian Chūshe, and the Turkish Salkim, all signifying the "Ear of Wheat"; other names being the Persian Çpur, the Çparegha of the Avesta, the Sogdian Shaghar and Khorasmian Akhshafarn, all meaning a "Point" — i.e. Spica.

The Hindus knew it as Citrā, Bright, their 12th nakshatra, figured as a Lamp, or as a Pearl, with Tvashtar, the Artificer, or Shaper, as its presiding p468divinity; and some have thought it the Tistar Star that generally has been identified with Sirius.

In Babylonia, and representing the whole constellation, it personified the Wife of Bēl, and as Sa-Sha-Shirū, the Virgin's Girdle, marked the 20th ecliptic asterism of that name, and the lunar asterism Dan-nu, the Hero of the Sky Furrow. It was also Emuku Tin-tir-Ki, the Might of the Abode of Life, a common title for Babylon itself.

In Chinese astronomy Spica was a great favorite as Kió, the Horn, or Spike, anciently Keok or Guik, the special star of springtime; and with ζ formed their 12th sieu under that title. Naturally it was the determinant.

It is said to have been known at one time in Egypt as the Lute-Bearer, and was evidently of importance, for another Egyptian name was Repā, the Lord; and Lockyer thinks that the great "Mena may symbolize Spica, with which star we have seen Min-worship associated." According to this same author, one of the temples at Thebes, probably dedicated to this Mena, Menat, Menes, Min, or Khem, was oriented to Spica's setting about 3200 B.C.; and the temple of the Sun at Tell al Amarna was also so oriented about 2000 B.C., or perhaps somewhat later. A similar character attached to it in Greece, for two temples have been found at Rhamnus, "almost touching one another, both following (and with accordant dates) the shifting places of Spica," at their erection 1092 and 747 B.C.; "and still another pair at Tegea." Temples of Herē were also so oriented at Olympia 1445 B.C., at Argos and Girgenti; and those of Nikē Apteros at Athens, 1130 B.C., and of "the Great Diana of the Ephesians," 715 B.C.

It was to the observations of this star and of Regulus about 300 B.C., recorded by the Alexandrian Timochares, that, after comparison with his own 150 years later, Hipparchos was indebted for the great discovery attributed to him of the precession of the equinoxes; although Babylonian records, and the temple orientation of Egypt and Greece, may indicate a far earlier practical knowledge of this.

According to Ptolemy, Timochares observed an occultation by the planet Venus of an unidentified star "on the tip of Virgo's wing," — perhaps ψ or q, — on the 12th of October, 271 B.C.1

p469 Spectroscopic observations by Vogel in 1890 show that Spica is in revolution with a speed of at least fifty-six miles a second in an orbit of three millions of miles' radius, around the common centre of gravity of itself and an obscure companion in a period of about four days. It is, however, never eclipsed by the latter, as is the case with the star Algol. Its spectrum is Sirian; and the system is approaching us at the rate of 9.2 miles a second. Gould thinks that it shows fluctuations in brilliancy.

It is one of the lunar stars much used in navigation, and lies but 2° south of the ecliptic, and 10° south of the celestial equator, coming to the meridian on the 28th of May.

With Denebola, Arcturus, and Cor Caroli it forms the Diamond of Virgo, 50° in extent north and south.

β, 3.9, pale yellow.

Zavijava, a universal name in modern catalogues, is first found with Piazzi, but is Zarijan in the Standard Dictionary. It is from Al Zāwiah, the Angle, or Corner, i.e. Kennel, of the Arab Dogs, — although γ exactly marks this Corner and should bear the title.

The stars β, η, γ, δε, outlining this Kennel, formed the 11th manzil, Al ʽAwwā᾽, the Barker, which was considered of good omen; while Firuzabadi included it with the preceding moon station Al Ṣarfah, — β Leonis, — in the group Al Nahrān, the Two Rivers, as their rising was in the season of heavy rains. Other indigenous titles were Al Bard, the Cold, which it was produce; and Warak al Asad, the Lion's Haunches.

β marked the 18th ecliptic constellation of Babylonia, Shēpu-arkū sha‑A, the Hind Leg of the Lion, for this country also seems to have had one of these creatures here. With η, it perhaps was Ninsar, the Lady of Heaven, probably a reference to Istar; and Urra-gal, the God of the Great City; and one of the seven pairs of stars famous in that astronomy. As a Euphratean lunar asterism it bore the same title Ninsar, but this included all the components of the Arabs' Kennel Corner.

These also were the Persian Mashaha, the Sogdian Fastashat, the Khorasmian Afsasat, and the Coptic Abukia, all of the Arabic signification.

In China it was Yew Chi Fa, the Right-hand Maintainer of Law.

β is 13° south of Denebola in Leo, culminating with it on the 3d of May.

γ, Binary and slightly variable, 3 and 3.2, white.

The Latins called this Porrima, or Antevorta, sometimes Postvorta, names of two ancient goddesses of prophecy, sisters and assistants of Carmenta p470or Carmentis, worshiped and at times invoked by their women. Porrima was known as Prorsa and Prosa by Aulus Gellius of our 2d century [XVI.16].

γ was specially mentioned by Kazwini as itself being Zāwiat al ʽAwwā᾽, the Angle, or Corner, of the Barker; and Al Tizini, with Ulug Beg, had much the same name for it; but Al Bīrūnī, quoting from Al Zajjāj, said that "these people are all wrong," and that ʽAwwā᾽ here meant "Turn," referring to the turn, or bend, in the line of stars. This interesting early figure is noticeable even to the casual observer, γ being midway between Spica and Denebola, the sides of the Kennel stretching off to the north and west, respectively marked by η and β, δ and ε .

In Babylonia it marked the 19th ecliptic constellation, Shur-mahrū-shirū, the Front, or West, Shur (?); while individually it was Kakkab Dan-nu, the Star of the Hero, and the reference point in their annals of an observation of Saturn2 on the 1st of March, 228 B.C., the first mention of this planet that we have, and recorded by Ptolemy.

The Chinese knew γ as Shang Seang, the High Minister of State.

Astronomers consider the two stars alternately variable in light; and some call both yellow, so following the apparent rule of similar coloration in components of binaries when of equal brilliancy; those unequal being of contrasting colors. In 1836 they showed as a single star in the largest telescope then in use; but now are 6ʺ apart, moving in an orbit more eccentric than any other as yet well determined, with a period of revolution estimated at about 190 years. The position angle in 1890 was 330°. They are of special interest to astronomers, as well as a show object to all.

They culminate on the 17th of May.

δ, 3.6, golden yellow,

although individually unnamed in our lists, was one of the ʽAwwā᾽.

On the Euphrates it was Lu Lim, the Gazelle, Goat, or Stag, — or perhaps King; and, with ε, probably Mas-tab-ba, another of the seven pairs of Twin-stars of that country. The Hindus called it Āpa, or Āpas, the Waters; and the Chinese, Tsze Seang, the Second Minister of State.

Secchi alluded to δ as bellissima, from its most beautiful banded spectrum of the 3d class of spectra, like that of α Herculis.

ε, 3.3, bright yellow,

is the Vindemiatrix of the Alfonsine Tables, whence it has descended into modern lists; but in Latin days it was Vindemiator with Columella, which p471is found as late as Flamsteed; Vindemitor, with Ovid and Pliny [XVIII.309]; and Provindemiator and Provindemia major, with Vitruvius [IX.4.1]; all signifying the "Grape-gatherer," from its rising in the morning just before the time of the vintage. These titles were translations of the Προτρυγετήρ, Προτρυγετής, Προτρύγετος, and Τρυγετήρ, used by Ptolemy, Plutarch, and other Greek authors, the first of these words appearing in the Phainomena, and rendered the "Fruit-plucking Herald"; but it is in a line of the poem considered doubtful; Riccioli had Protrigetrix. This profusion of titles from the earliest times indicates the singular interest with which this now inconspicuous star was regarded in classical astronomy. The Century Cyclopedia has the following note on it:

At the time when the zodiac seems to have been formed (2100 B.C.) this star would first be seen at Babylon before sunrise about August 20 or, since there is some evidence that it was then brighter than it is now, perhaps a week earlier. This would seem too late for the vintage, so that perhaps this tradition is older than the zodiac.

The classical name was translated by the Arabians Muḳdim al Ḳitāf; and another title was Almuredin, still seen for it, perhaps from Al Muridīn, Those Who Sent Forth. Traces of these words are found in the Alacast, Alcalst, Alaraph, and Almucedie of Bayer's Uranometria.

In China it was Tsze Tseang, the Second General.

On the Euphrates it may have been Kakkab Mulu-izi, the Star Man of Fire, possibly symbolizing the god Laterak, the Divine King of the Desert; although that title has been assigned to μ Virginis and δ Librae.

It marked the eastern boundary of the 11th manzil, and in astrology was a mischief-making star. It culminates on the 22d of May.

η, Variable between 3 and 4.

Zaniah is from Al Zāwiah, applied in German lists to this instead of to the stars β and γ, all of these being in the Kennel.

In China it was Tso Chih Fa, the Left-hand Maintainer of Law.

It lies on the left side of the Virgin, and just to the westward is the point of the autumnal equinox which the Chinese knew as Yih Mun, Twan Mun, or Tien Mun, Heaven's Gate. With ζ it almost exactly marks the line of the celestial equator.

θ, Triple, 4.4, 9, and 10, pale white, violet, and dusky,

is on the front of the garment, below the girdle; the components, 7ʺ.1 and 65ʺ apart; the position angle of the first two stars being 345°.

p472 Moderns have no name for it, but in the Sūrya Siddhānta it was Apami-Atsa, the Child of the Waters.

With another adjacent, but now unidentified, star, it was known in China as Ping Taou, the Plain and Even Way.

ι, 4.2.

Syrma is from Σύρμα, used by Ptolemy to designate this star on the Train of the Virgin's robe.

With κ and φ it was mentioned in the first Arabian translation of the Syntaxis as being in the ḣimār, or "skirt," of the garment; but the translator of the Latin edition of 1515, missing the point at the first letter, read the word as ḥimār, "an ass," so that this central one of these three stars strangely appears in that work as in asino. They formed the 13th manzil, Al Ghafr, the Covering, as Smyth explains,

Because the beauty of the earth is hidden when they rise on the 18th Tishrīn, or 1st of November; others say on account of the shining of the stars being lessened as if covered;

but Kazwini,

because, when they rise, the earth robes herself in her splendour and finery, — her summer robes.

The Arabic word, however, is analogous to Σύρμα, and so may have been taken from Ptolemy; although Al Bīrūnī quoted from Al Zajjāj Al Ghafar, the Tuft in the Lion's Tail, which it may have marked in the figure of the ancient Asad. Another signification of the word Ghafr is the "Young Ibex." Al Bīrūnī also said that the Arabs considered this the most fortunate of their lunar stations, as lying between the evils of the Lion's teeth and claws on one side and the tail and venom of the Scorpion on the other, and quoted from a Rajaz poet:

The best night forever

Lies between Al Zubānah and Al Asad;

adding that the horoscope of the Prophet lay here, and that the date of the birth of Moses coincided with it.

As a lunar station these stars were the Sogdian Sarwa and the Khorasmian Shushak, the Leader; the Persian Huçru, the Good Goer; and the Coptic Khambalia, Crooked-clawed, λ being substituted for φ; and it is said that they were the Akkadian Lu Lim, the He Goat, Gazelle, or Stag, the original perhaps also meaning "King," and employed for δ.

p473 ι alone, according to Hommel, was the Death Star, Mulu Bat.

ι, κ, and υ constituted the 13th sieu, Kang, a Man's Neck, κ being the determining star; while, with the preceding station, the united group was Sheu sing, as Edkins writes it, the Star of Old Age; and, with others near, it may have been included in the Tien Mun mentioned at the star η.

μ, a 3.9‑magnitude, was Al Achsasi's Rijl al ʽAwwā᾽, the Foot of the Barker. It has been included with δ Librae in the Akkadian lunar asterism Mulu Izi, a title also applied to ε; the Sogdian Gasarwa, and the Khorasmian Sara-fsariwa, both signifying the "One next to the Leader" — i.e. next to the lunar asterism, ικ, and λ.

ν, ξ, ο, and π, forming the head of Virgo, were the Chinese Nuy Ping, the Inner Screen; ρ was Kew Heang, the Nine Officers of State, in which some smaller stars were included; σ and τ, Tien Teen, the Heavenly Fields; while χ and ψ, with others adjacent, were Tsin Teen; all of these stars being of 4th of the 6th magnitudes.


The Author's Notes:

1 A still earlier record of the planet, dating from 686 B.C., is on a tablet from Chaldaea now in the British Museum; while earlier still are Homer's Ἕσπερος, the Latin Hesperus, —

the brightest star that shines in Heav'n;

and Isaiah's

. . . day star, son of the morning,

that our Authorized Version rendered "Lucifer," the equivalent of the Greek alternative titles Ἐωσφόρος and Φωσφόρος, the Latin Phosphorus. The identity of this Morning Star with the Evening Star Hesperus was discovered by Pythagoras, or by Parmenides, in the 5th century before Christ.

The planet also was known as Ἀφροδίτη, as Juno's Star, and as Isis.

2 Saturn was Χρόνος and Φαίνων, the Shiner, with the Greeks; Al Thāḳib, the Piercer, with the Arabs; and Saturnus, or Stella Solis, with the Latins.


Thayer's Notes:

a For the astronomical Virgo . . . spicifera see the interesting 3c Romano-British inscription, parsed, translated, and provided with commentary and a good image, in "The Caervoran Inscription in Praise of the Syrian Goddess" (Archaeologia Aeliana XII.289‑292).

b Also Aetna, 586‑587.

c For the original text, of which this is really a paraphrase rather than a translation, see J. C. Rolfe's footnote to Ammian XXII.10.6.

d The only trace of such a confusion I've found is in Vitruvius, IX.4.1 and is almost certainly due to manuscript corruption: a single plausible emendation removes it completely; see my note ad loc.


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