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Bill Thayer

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

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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. . . other few,

Below the Archer under his forefeet,

Led round in circle roll without a name.

Brown's Aratos.

Corona Australis, the Southern Crown,

often qualified by other synonymous adjectives, austrina, meridiana, meridionalis, or notia, is an inconspicuous constellation, although accepted in Ptolemy's time as one of the ancient forty-eight. On modern maps its location is close to the waist of Sagittarius, on the edge of the Milky Way.

The Germans know it as the Südliche Krone; the French, as the Couronne Australe; and the Italians, as the Corona Australe.

Aratos did not mention it by name unless in his use of the plural Στεφάνοι for both of the Crowns; yet doubtless had it in mind when he wrote of the Δινωτοί Κύκλω in our motto. His scholiast and Geminos had Οὐρανίσκος,º the Canopy; Δευτέρος, the Second; and Δευτέρα Κύκλα, the Second Circle. Hipparchos is said to have known it as Κηρυκεῖον, the Caduceus, or Herald's Wand of Peace, but this is not found in his Commentary. Ptolemy called it Στεφάνος νοτίος, the Southern Wreath.

Germanicus rendered the supposed reference in the Phainomena as Corona sine honorei.e. without any such noteworthy tradition as is connected with the Northern Crown; commenting upon which, Grotius said that this author, as well as Cicero and Avienus, understood Aratos to refer to the southern figure; and added that this was the Centaur's Crown, those personages frequently being represented as wearing such. This idea doubtless originated from the outspreading sun-rays, in crown-like form, around the heads of the Gandharvas, the Aryan celestial horses that probably were the forerunners of the Centaurs. It was thus appropriately associated with the centaur Sagittarius and took the title Corona Sagittarii.

 p173  Manilius did not allude to it; but others of the classical poets thought it the Crown that Bacchus placed in the sky in honor of his mother Semele; or one in commemoration of the fivefold victory of Corinna over Pindar in their poetical contest;​a and some considered it the early Bunch of Arrows radiating from the hand of the Archer, often imagined as a wheel. This idea was expressed in its titles Τροχός Ἰξιόνος, and Rota Ixionis, the Wheel of Ixion, perhaps from the latter's relationship to the centaur Pholos.

Albumasar called it Coelum, while Coelulum and parvum Coelum, the Little Sky, i.e. Canopy, are from the Satyricon,​1 the encyclopaedic writings of the Carthaginian Martianus Mineus Felix Capella of the 5th century, in the 8th book of which he treats of astronomy.

La Lande cited Sertum australe, the Southern Garland, and Orbiculus Capitis; Proctor, Brown, and Gore of the present day have Corolla, the Little Crown, but this was used 250 years ago by Caesius, who also gave Spira australis, the Southern Coil, and said that its stars represented the Crown of Eternal Life promised in the New Testament. Julius Schiller, however, went back a millennium before our era to the Diadem of Solomon.

Al Sufi is our authority for the Arabs' Al Ḳubbah, literally the Tortoise, but secondarily the Woman's Tent, or traveling apartment, from its form; and it was Al Ḣibaʽ, the Tent, and Kazwini's Al Udḥā al Naʽām, the Ostrich's Nest, for the same reason; the birds themselves being close by in what now are the Archer and the Eagle. Al Fakkah, the Dish, was borrowed from the Northern Crown, but among the later Arabians it was Al Iklīl al Janūbiyyah, their equivalent for our title; Chilmead giving this as Alachil Algenubi; Riccioli, Elkleil Elgenubi; and Caesius, Aladil Algenubi.

The Chinese knew it by the figure current in early Arabia — Peē, the Tortoise.

Bayer illustrated Corona as a typical wreath, but without the streaming ribbons of its northern namesake, and the original Alfonsine Tables show a plain heart-shaped object with no semblance to the name. Gould assigns to it forty-nine stars, many more than even Heis does to its much more celebrated and noticeable counterpart in the north. Its lucida, the 4th‑magnitude α, at the eastern edge of the constellation, is Alfecca meridiana in the Latin translation of Reduan's Commentary. It culminates on the 13th of August.

The Author's Note:

1 This was a popular text-book centuries ago, and noticeable even by us, as it contains a very clear statement of the heliocentric system, probably from Hicetas of Syracuse, 344 B.C.; and may have led Copernicus, who quoted him in 1543, to his own conclusions on the subject.

Thayer's Note:

a For an amusing sidelight, see Aelian, V. H. XIII.25 (the remainder of the bowdlerized text is in the footnote).

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Page updated: 16 Oct 07