Aquila To Aries (Greco-Roman Mythology)



The eagle that carried the thunderbolts of Zeus in his battle against the Titans. Later the same eagle was said to have carried Ganymede, the son of the king of Troy, to Olympus to serve as cupbearer to the gods. Aquila was transferred to the heavens as the constellation that bears his name, Ganymede as the constellation Aquarius.

Astronomical: Recognized by several ancient peoples as an eagle, the constellation lies across the celestial equator between approximate right ascensions 21h26m and 19h16m, declination -11° to +19°.



The altar of the centaur at which Zeus burned incense to celebrate the victory of the gods over the Titans. Afterwards he placed it in the heavens as the constellation that bears its name.

Astronomical: The constellation Ara lies in the southern celestial hemisphere, appearing upside down from the northern hemisphere, with the altar flame "rising" downwards. It lies between approximate right ascensions 18h05m and 17h29m, declination -68° to -45°.

Arab Modern Greek In modern Greek folklore Arab is an evil spirit in the form of a black man who lives at the bottom of a well smoking his pipe. This belief has been associated with the ancient custom of sacrificing a Muslim or a Jew at the sinking of a new well.

Ara~chne, ~kne


A Lydian maiden whose skills in weaving and embroidery were so great that even the nymphs admired them. Basking in this glory she boasted that her work excelled even that of the goddess Athene, who challenged her to a contest. When Athene found that Arachne’s work, a tapestry depicting the loves of the gods, was indeed better than her own she furiously destroyed Arachne’s work, and the unfortunate girl hanged herself. Athene then turned Arachne into a spider (hence arachnidae for the genus of spiders) doomed to weave forever, and turned her weaving, or the rope with which she hanged herself, into a cobweb.



An ancient mountainous Greek region in the central Peloponnesos that was famous for its bucolic simplicity of life. The Arcadians claimed to be born "before the sun and moon," in other words autochthonous, like the Athenians and other regional Greeks. They were credited with the invention of amoebean singing (singing in turn), and their land became an important literary landscape in the pastoral tradition.

The region also featured prominently in Greek mythology. Pan was originally, and chiefly remained, an Arcadian deity. Hermes was said to have been born in a cavern on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and it was there that his worship flourished, often to be found in the company of Pan and the Muses.

Lycaon, a king of Arcadia, once entertained Zeus at a banquet where he offered the great god human flesh to eat in a test of his divinity. Lycaon was killed by lightning or turned into a wolf, the latter event being more likely as ancient Greeks referred to the constellation Bootes as Lycaon.



The name given to legendary Greek settlers who colonized the Palatine Hill, supposedly originating from the Greek region of Arcadia.



The son of Zeus and Callisto who, when Callisto was killed (or transformed into a bear), was brought up by Maia (or Lycaon). He then became the king of the region to which he gave his name, Arcadia, and taught its inhabitants all the arts of civilization. He is represented, with other heroes, on the east pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia.



The name given to the image of Callisto after she had been transferred to the heavens by Zeus to save her from being hunted down, at Hera’s insistence, by Artemis.



One of the original settlements, in the vicinity of the Alban Mount, of a wave of immigrants who reached Latium c. 1200 B.C., the others being Alba Longa, Aricia, and Lavinium. Ardea was the home of Prince Turnus, who disputed the right to marry Lavinia with Aeneas. It was also the town that Tarquinius was besieging when the people of Collatia, led by Brutus, marched on Rome and persuaded the people to shut the gates against Tarquinius, after which he and his sons fled into exile and Rome became a republic.



From the Greek Areios pagus, "Hill of Ares," the court in Athens formed by Athene, who preferred to settle quarrels peaceably. She held the casting vote and cast it in the instance of the trial of Orestes. Late tradition attributes the name to the trial of Ares who, having been accused of murdering Poseidon’s son, Halirrhothius, pleaded that he had saved his daughter, Alcippe, from being violated. Ares was duly acquitted, and the place of the trial became known as the Areopagus. In antiquity the highest judicial court met on this hill, members of the court being known as Areopagites.



One of the 12 great Olympian deities; the god of war. Identified with the planet Mars by the Romans, he was originally a divinity of Thracian origin. From there his worship spread through Macedonia to Thebes, Athens, and the cities of the Peloponnesos, especially Sparta. He was, however, not a popular god with the Greeks, unlike his Roman counterpart, Mars, who was second in popularity to Jupiter, as they disliked purposeless war and despised the Thracians for enjoying it. Their attitude toward Ares is reflected in the myths of this god. His name is thought to possibly derive from a root meaning "scream" or the Greek word for "revenge" and has often been used as a synonym for war or battle. He is known in Mycenaean Greece in the Linear B texts, but unlike such personifications as Eris (Strife), his sister, he is fully humanized by the time of Homer, said to be a berserk giant with the voice of 10,000 men. Aeschylus calls him the "gold-changer of corpses."

Although his cult is found in Athens it is otherwise exceedingly rare, found mainly in Scythia and his land of origin, Thrace. In art Ares is often represented as a stalwart figure with a helmet, shield, and spear.

He was the son of Zeus and Hera and brother of Hebe and Hephaistos, although Hephaistos is sometimes regarded as the parthenogenous son of Hera. He was hated by the other gods, with the exception of Eris, Hades, and Aphrodite, as he delighted in battle simply for the sake of it; vindictive and short-tempered, he was also handsome. His love affair with Aphrodite is particularly well known, as is the hilarious instance when the two lovers were trapped together in bed under a net that Hephaistos, Aphrodite’s husband and his brother, had engineered. Harmonia was one of their children along with Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Panic). It is also possible that he was the father, by Aphrodite, of Eros, though Hermes and Zeus are also considered as likely candidates for this role.

Among his other children were Amazonian Queen Penthesilea by Otrere; Alcippe; Cycnus, who was slain by Heracles; and Oenomaus, to whom he gave some wind-begotten horses and an inescapable spear. Some think that he may have fathered the entire race of the Amazons.

When Ge sent Typhon against Olympus in revenge for the gods’ destruction of the giants, he fled to Egypt in the guise of a boar with the other gods, who assumed other animal forms.

Though the god of war he was not always successful in battle. The Aloeidae conquered him and left him imprisoned in a brazen vessel for 13 months until released by Hermes. He was twice vanquished by Athene and forced to return to Olympus when Heracles also defeated him. When he went into battle he was usually accompanied by his sister, Eris, and his sons, Phobos and Deimos. Sometimes he was also associated with two minor war deities, Enyalios and Enyo.

In Sparta prisoners of war were sacrificed in his honor, and at night dogs were offered to Enyalios. At Geronthrae in Laconia women were banned from his grove, though at Tegea women made sacrifices to him. During the Trojan War he sided with the Trojans and afforded the Trojan leader, Hector, personal protection.

Various places were sacred to him, notably the grove in which the Golden Fleece was hung in Colchis, as well as the nearby field that Jason had to plough using two fire-breathing bulls and then sow with the remaining dragon’s teeth left by Cadmos at Thebes. These teeth had come from the dragon that guarded the sacred spring of Ares at Thebes. The Stymphalian birds, killed by Heracles in his sixth labor, were also sacred to Ares.

According to later tradition he was once called upon to defend himself before the gods in a trial when he was accused of murdering Halirrhothius, a son of Poseidon. Ares pleaded that he had acted to save his daughter, Alcippe, from being violated and was duly acquitted. The place of his trial became known as the Areopagus or "Hill of Ares."

Astronomical: The name Ares Vallis has been applied to a major channel on the surface of the planet Mars, the planet named after his Roman counterpart. The two moons of this planet are named after his sons, Phobos and Deimos.



Though Arethusa is usually regarded as a rural deity, she was supreme in three great cities: Ephesus, Marseilles (to which Ionian Greeks from Asia Minor took her cult between 600 and 500 B.C.), and Syracuse (where she was known as Artemis Arethusa).

Her mythology says that she was a Nereid, a water nymph, with whom the river god Alpheus fell in love. In an attempt to escape him she fled from Greece to Ortygia, near Syracuse on the southern coast of Sicily, where she became a fountain or spring. Alpheus pursued her, and it was believed that the waters of the River Alpheus flowed unmixed through the sea to merge unmingled with her fountain.



One of the three one-eyed Cyclopes who were the offspring of Ge and Uranos. The other two were named Brontes and Steropes.



The daughter of Adrastus and sister to Deiphyle. She married Polyneices when he sought her father’s help to overthrow his brother, Eteocles.

Argo (Navis)


More commonly known simply as the Argo, this was the name of the ship that Jason commissioned the Thespian Argus to build when he undertook the expedition to gain the Golden Fleece. It had 50 oars and in its prow an oracular beam, made from one of the prophetic oaks of Dodona, that was fitted by Athene herself. The crewmembers of the ship were known as the Argonauts and included most of the heroes of the day. After the death of Jason, who died according to some sources peacefully under the prow of the ship, Athene placed it in the heavens as four different constellations.

Astronomical: All four constellations that make up the Argo Navis lie in the southern celestial hemisphere. They are: Carina, the Keel, which lies between right ascensions 6h and 11h and declination -50° to -75°; Vela, the Sail, between right ascensions 8h and 11h and declination -40° to -60°; Puppis, the Poop or Stern, between right ascensions 6h and 9h and declination -10° to -50°; and Pyxis, the Ship’s Compass between right ascensions 8h and 10h and declination -20° to -40°.



A region of the eastern Peloponnesos and once the kingdom of Atreus and Agamemnon, who had their capital at Mycenae. The region also contained the city of Argos that later overshadowed Mycenae and became second only to Sparta in political importance. The great temple of Hera, the Heraeum, was built in Argolis between Argos and Mycenae.



Epic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes (Apol-lonius Rhodius) that recounts the legend of Jason and the Argonauts. It is widely respected more for its learning than its poetic genius.



The collective name given to the band of 50 or 60 heroes who accompanied Jason aboard the Argo Navis in his quest for the Golden Fleece. Among their number were Acastus, the Dioscuri (Castor and Polydeuces), Heracles, Hylas, Zetes and Calais, Peleus and Telamon, Idas and Lynceus (who acted as lookouts), Admetus, Periclymenus, Augeias, Argus (the builder of the Argo Navis), Tiphys or Ancaeus (steersman), Idmon and Mopsus (seers),

Theseus and Pirithous (though not in Apollonius of Rhodes), Amphiaraus, Laertes, Deucalion, Meleager, Asclepios, and Orpheus.

For the story of their voyage and their many adventures, see Jason.

Arg~os, ~us


1. Ancient city in the east Peloponnesos at the head of the Gulf of Nauplia from which the peninsula of Argolis derived its name. It was given as the possible location, competing with Cnossos in Crete, where Zeus sought out his sister, Hera, in the form of a cuckoo just prior to their marriage. It was at a spring near Argos that Hera bathed each year to renew her virginity, and the city became one of her seats of worship, as did Samos. The worship of Athene also flourished in Argos, later to be joined by the worship of Dionysos, though at first the Argives refused to accepted him as a god. In the Homeric era the name "Argives" was sometimes used instead of "Greeks."

Argos was the kingdom of Diomedes; of Adrastus, who led expeditions against Thebes; of Atreus, who was murdered by his nephew Aegisthus and who had set the flesh of his brother Thyestes’ children before their father at a banquet in revenge for the seduction of his wife by Thyestes; and of Orestes, who was also the king of Sparta and Mycenae.

Abas, the grandson of Danaus, was the twelfth king. His twin sons, Acrisius and Proetus, agreed to divide their inheritance, Proetus becoming the ruler of Tiryns, Acrisius (the father of Danae) of Argos. After Acrisius was accidentally killed by Perseus, Danae’s son by Zeus, at Larissa, Perseus and Proetus exchanged kingdoms, so Proetus now became ruler of Argos, Perseus of Tiryns.

2. The builder of the ship Argo Navis for Jason to undertake his quest for the Golden Fleece. Sometimes referred to as Argos, he also became a member of the crew and therefore one of the Argonauts. On his death he was changed into a peacock by the goddess Hera and placed in the heavens as the constellation Pavo, though there is some confusion over this, as Hera transferred the eyes of Argus into the tail of a peacock, and some say that it is this peacock that is represented by the constellation. Argus was later joined in the heavens by four constellations made up from the Argo Navis that was placed there by Athene— Carina, the Keel; Vela, the Sail; Puppis, the Poop or Stern; and Pyxis, the Ship’s Compass.

Astronomical: The constellation Pavo lies in the southern celestial hemisphere between approximate right ascensions 17h and 21h, declination -50° to -75°.

3. A giant with a hundred eyes, half of which remained open at all times, who was given the task, by Hera, of guarding Io, who Zeus had turned into a heifer to put Hera off the scent of his philandering unsuccessfully. He was killed by Hermes at Zeus’s request, and Hera took his hundred eyes and placed them in the tail of her favorite bird, the peacock. This association has led to confusion between this Argus and the other Argus, the builder of the Argo Navis, whom Hera placed in the heavens as the constellation Pavo, the peacock, after his death.

4. The faithful dog of Odysseus who recognized his master after he had been away from home for 20 years, ten of them at Troy fighting the Trojan War, ten more experiencing difficulties in returning home to his wife, Penelope, on Ithaca. Argus died of joy immediately after greeting his master home.



The mother of Miletus by Apollo.



In all probability Ariadne was originally a Cretan goddess, her name appearing to mean "all-holy." Later she was adopted into Greek mythology, where she appears as the daughter of Minos, king of Crete, and Pasiphae, thus being the sister of Glaucus, Androgeos, and Phaedra.

When Theseus, son of Aegeus, voluntarily joined the tribute of Athenian youths that were to be fed to the monstrous Minotaur, Ariadne instantly fell in love with him and contrived to help him kill the beast. She gave him a skein of thread and a sword. By unwinding the thread behind him as he searched for the Minotaur within its labyrinth, he was able, after having killed the monster, to escape its confines. Together Theseus and Ariadne fled to the island of Dia (Naxos), where they were married but where Theseus later abandoned her when he returned to Athens, later marrying her sister, Phaedra, there.

She was found on the island by the god Dionysos, who made her his wife, and when she died he placed the crown he had given her as a wedding gift in the heavens as the constellation Corona Borealis—the Northern Crown.

Astronomical: The constellation Corona Borealis lies in the northern celestial hemisphere between approximate right ascensions 15h and 17h, declination +25° and +40°.



One of the original settlements in the vicinity of the Alban Mount of the wave of immigrants who reached Latium c. 1200 B.C., the other towns being Alba Longa, Ardea, and Lavinium.



1. A little-used variant for the god of war, Ares.

2. The winged ram, sent by Zeus, that rescued Phryxus and Helle, children of the king of Thessaly, from their heartless stepmother. During the flight to Colchis, Helle fell from the back of the animal into the stretch of water that thenceforth became known as the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles). Having safely arrived in Colchis, Phryxus sacrificed the ram and hung its fleece in the sacred grove of Ares, where it turned to gold. There it was guarded by a sleepless dragon (some say Draco) who was put to sleep by Medea as she helped Jason and the Argonauts complete their quest for this Golden Fleece. In its memory the ram was placed in the heavens as the constellation Aries.

Astronomical: The first sign of the zodiac (March 21 to April 20) and a well known but ill-defined constellation straddling the ecliptic and lying in the northern celestial hemisphere between approximate right ascensions 1h50m and 3h30m, declination +10° to +30°. Its most distinctive feature is a curve of three stars of decreasing brightness. When the constellation was first defined the sun was in Aries on the first day of spring (approximately March 21), the vernal equinox, and even though this is now in Pisces due to the effect of earth’s precession, it is still referred to as the "first point of Aries." The sun is now in Aries from April 19 to May 15.

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