The Legends of Constellations

Dating back to ancient Greece or earlier, most of the well-known constellation names were established, but the precise list remained unclear to some degree not until the 20th century. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), in a series of resolutions from 1922 to 1930, divided the celestial sphere into 88 precisely defined constellations with official abbreviations and spellings.

Let’s take a look at some of the famous constellation names.

Aquarius (The Water Bearer)

While attending to the flocks of his father on Mount Ida, Ganymede, an extremely handsome young man and the son of the king of Troy, Tros, caught the eye of Zeus. Subsequently, Zeus sent Aquila, his eagle messenger, down to Earth with instructions to bring the young man back to Mount Olympus to serve the gods.

Ganymede served the gods by bringing water to them when they needed it, as well as being the cupbearer of Zeus. For his service, he received credits from Zeus and honored him by placing a constellation called Aquarius among the stars, which means water carrier.

Aries (The Ram)

The legendary king of Thessaly, Athamas, had two children, Helle and Phrixus. At one point, the king remarried another woman, Ino, and she began to mistreat the children badly. Hermes gave pity on them and sent a magical ram to fly them away and escape the wrath of their stepmother.

The children flew on the ram’s back to the east over land and sea. Along the way, one of the children, Helle, fell and drowned over the strait that separates Asia and Europe as she failed to get a good hold on the fleece of the ram to some degree. In honor of her memory, up to this day, the sea is called Hellespont.

The remaining child, Phrixus, reached Colches safely, which is on the edge of the Black Sea. In gratitude for his safe deliverance, the ram on which they rode was sacrificed by Phrixus and gave its fleece to the king of that country. As for the great sacrifice of the ram in saving the children, Zeus placed a constellation in the sky, Aries, in honor of the ram.

Gemini (The Twins)

The wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, had twins with Zeus, Pollux, and Castor. In search of the Golden Fleece, both sailed with Jason and the Argonauts, who were invincible warriors with unparalleled courage. On the other hand, Castor distinguished himself as a great wrestler, while some stories depict him as a great horseman, and Pollux saw himself as a great fighter or boxer. The twins fought their best when they’re near each other, and they were inseparable.

The twins helped the Argonauts during a storm that threatened to sink their ship, and they received credits from Zeus, who in turn placed a constellation in the sky in their honor, Gemini, after they passed away. It can be seen between the constellations Cancer and Orion near Leo. It’s a favorable sign when sailors see it.

Libra (The Scales)

The only zodiacal constellation which represents an inanimate object is Libra or the scales. It represents the equality of the days and nights at the equinoxes. In recent times, it has come to be associated with the constellation Virgo, the goddess of justice, who used these scales as a symbol of her office. Libra is represented, next to the hands of Virgo, in the heavens.

Pisces (The Fish)

As Aphrodite and her son, Eros—or Venus and Cupid in Roman mythology—were in the woods when they heard a monster, Typhon, crashing through the woods towards them, Aphrodite took the hand of Eros and ran away as fast as they could. Yet, the noise of Typhon’s approach got closer and closer. Ultimately, Aphrodite and Eros had run so far, reaching the shores of the Great Sea.

They were aware that the monster Typhon would soon be upon them and hurriedly changed themselves into two fish and swam away to safety. Later on, their great escape was immortalized with the constellation of Pisces, two fish, among the stars by Zeus. Other stories depict two fish (dolphins) that were sent by Poseidon to save Aphrodite and Eros, for which they received credits and became the constellation Pisces.

Scorpio (The Scorpion)

Commanded by Artimus, the famous scorpion came up out of the ground to sting Orion, the mighty hunter, which caused his demise. In killing so many animals for no reason at all but to impress her, it was the punishment Orion received. The Scorpio constellation was then placed into the sky on the opposite side of the world from Orion so as to avoid further conflict. It also serves as a reminder to all of us that killing animals for food is okay, but not for fun.