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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,
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. . . another form

That men of other days have called the beast.

Poste's Aratus.

Lupus, the Wolf,

is the Loup of the French, Lupo with the Italians, and Wolff in Germany, an idea for the figure said to be from the astrologers' erroneous translation of Al Fahd, the Arabian title for this constellation, their Leopard, or Panther; although Suidas, the Greek lexicographer of 970, is reported to have called it Κνηκίας, a word for the wolf found in the fables of Babrius of the century before our era. The Greeks and the Romans did not specially designate these stars, and thought of them merely as a Wild Animal, the Θηρίον of Aratos, Hipparchos, and Ptolemy; the Bestia of Vitruvius; Fera of Germanicus; Quadrupes vasta of Cicero; Hostia, the Victim, of Hyginus; Hostiola, cited by Bayer; Bestia Centauri, by Riccioli; and Victima Centauri.

The Wolf reappeared as Lupus in the Alfonsine Tables, and as Fera Lupus in the Latin Almagests, while Grotius said that Panthera was Capella's name for it.

Bayer also had Equus masculus and Leaena; and La Lande, Leo Marinus, Deferens leonem, Canis ululans, Leopardus, Lupa, Martius, — wolf being sacred to Mars, — and Lycisca, the Hybrid of the wolf. Belua, the Monster, is found in early works.

The Arabians also called it Al Asadah, the Lioness, — found by Scaliger repeated on a Turkish planisphere and cited by Bayer as Asida, — and Al Sabuʽ, the Wild Beast, Chilmead's Al Subahh. But the Desert astronomers seem to have mixed some of its smaller stars with a part of the Centaur as Al Shamārīḣ, the Palm Branches, and Ḳaḍb al Karm, the Vine Branch.

Zibu, the Beast, of Euphratean cylinders, may be for this constellation; and Urbat, the Beast of Death, or the Star of the Dead Fathers, is a title for it attributed to the Akkadians.

Caesius said that in Persia it was Bridemif, but Hyde, commenting on  p279 this from Albumasar, asserted that the word should be Birdūn, the Pack-horse, and was really intended for the Centaur.

Aratos wrote of it, "another creature very firmly clutched," and "the Wild-beast which the Centaur's right hand holds" as an offering to the gods upon the Altar, and so virtually a part of the Centaur; but Eratosthenes described it as a Wine-skin from which the Centaur was about to pour a libation; while others imagined both the Beast and the Wine-skin in the Centaur's grasp.

Mythologists thought it the animal into which Lycaon was changed; Caesius, that it was the Wolf to which Jacob likened Benjamin; but Julius Schiller saw in its stars Benjamin himself.

Although very ancient, Lupus is inconspicuous, lying partly in the Milky Way, south of Libra and Scorpio, east of the Centaur, with no star larger than 2.6 magnitude, while the few visible in the latitude of New York City — γδλ, and μ — are even smaller than this.

Gould enumerates 159 naked-eye stars, among which is an unusual proportion of doubles.

α, 2.6, seems to be unnamed except in China, where it was Yang Mun or Men, the South Gate.

On the Euphrates it probably was Kakkab Su‑gub Gud‑Elim, the Star Left Hand of the Horned Bull, said to have been a reference to the Centaur that was thus figured in that valley.

It culminates on the 14th of June, nearly due south from Arcturus and north of α Centauri.

β is the Ke Kwan, of the Reeves list of Chinese titles, a Cavalry Officer. This is a very close binary, of 3 and 3.5 magnitudes, both yellow, 0″.25 apart, the position angle being 90°.

α and β are below the horizon of New York City.

Other Chinese asterisms appear within the boundaries of Lupus, all bearing titles pertaining to military affairs, and so of the second period of their star-naming.

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Page updated: 11 Oct 07