FOR anyone entering the field of Greek mythology, the two volumes by Robert Graves entitled The Greek Myths (Penguin) are a masterful synthesis, with copious references. Another useful summary, with many notes and references, is A Handbook of Greek Mythology by H. J. Rose (Methuen). For other background information I consulted the Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford University Press) and the Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal (Blackwell); the latter, in particular, contains a fund of references.
The starting point for all studies of Greek star lore is a poem called the Phaenomena (Appearances), written c. 275 BC by Aratus of Soli. The Phaenomena of Aratus is based on a book of the same name written the previous century by the Greek scientist Eudoxus of Cnidus. No copies of the book by Eudoxus have been preserved; we have only Aratus’s poem. An English translation by G. R. Mair is available in the Loeb Classical Library series (Harvard University Press and Heinemann). A more recent translation and extensive commentary on the poem is Aratus: Phaenomena by Douglas Kidd (CUP, 1997).
The Latin adaptation of Aratus that was reputedly written by Germanicus Caesar in the early part of the first century has been translated by D. B. Gain; see The Aratus Ascribed to Germanicus Caesar (Athlone Press, 1976). A Latin work with many echoes of Aratus is Astronomica by the Roman poet Marcus Manilius, written early in the first century AD. It has been translated into English by G. P. Goold in the Loeb Classical Library.
Another early Greek source is the Catasterisms ascribed to Eratosthenes in the second century BC – although not, according to modern authority, actually written by him. When writing the original edition of Star Tales I could find no English translation of it so I referred to the French version published in 1821 by Abbé Halma. Since then, English translations have appeared in the books Star Myths by Theony Condos (Phanes Press, Grand Rapids, 1997) and Constellation Myths by Robin Hard (OUP, 2015).
The Myths of Hyginus by Mary Grant (University of Kansas Publications, 1960) contains an invaluable English translation of Hyginus’s Fabulae and Poetica Astronomica, among the most influential works on constellation mythology but scarcely read today. Other translations of the Poetica Astronomica are included in the more recent Star Myths by Theony Condos and Constellation Myths by Robin Hard, mentioned above.
Apollodorus was a Greek writer who produced an encyclopedic summary of Greek myths called the Library; I referred to the Loeb translation by Sir J. G. Frazer. Many popular myths received their definitive retelling in the works of the Roman writer Ovid; for his Metamorphoses I used the Penguin translation by Mary Innes and the Loeb edition of his Fasti by Sir J. G. Frazer. My source for Apollonius Rhodius was the Penguin translation by E. V. Rieu.
For Ptolemy’s Almagest I consulted G. J. Toomer’s thoughtful translation (Duckworth, 1984). See here for scans of the Peters and Knobel edition.
A Greek writer called Geminus (probably first century BC) gives us a glimpse of the Greek sky between the eras of Hipparchus and Ptolemy in his Introduction to the Phenomena (commonly known as the Isagoge, from the first word in its Greek title Eisagoge eis ta phainomena). The first English translation of this book was published in 2006 by James Evans and J. Lennart Berggren.
For the origin of star names, I have relied on the booklet A Dictionary of Modern Star Names (originally Short Guide to Modern Star Names and Their Derivations) by Paul Kunitzsch and Tim Smart (Sky Publishing, 2006). Useful background on star names can also be found in an article by Dr Kunitzsch in the January 1983 issue of Sky & Telescope. A collection of Dr Kunitzsch’s scientific papers has been reprinted as The Arabs and the Stars (Variorum, 1989). An illuminating paper by Gwyneth Heuter on the origin of star names is to be found in Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 29, 1986, p.237.
My sources for Chinese constellations have been the books by Ho Peng Yoke (1966), Sun and Kistemaker (1997), and Chan Ki-hung (2007). Ho translated an important Chinese astronomical survey from the mid 7th century AD, contemporary with the Dunhuang star chart. Sun and Kistemaker have attempted to reconstruct the sky from an even earlier time, in the first century BC. Chan’s book presents reconstructed star charts from two eras: one from the 18th century, by when the Chinese sky had reached its final form, after which it was supplanted by western constellations; and an older tradition, from the 11th century AD. Many people will know of R. H. Allen’s classic Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning (1899); his prime source for Chinese constellations was John Williams’s Observations of Comets, which includes a Chinese celestial atlas, but this is out of date and I have not used it here.
The Sky Explored by Deborah Jean Warner (Alan R. Liss, New York, and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, 1979) is an invaluable survey of the history and development of celestial cartography, and contains much incidental material on constellation history. Morton Wagman’s Lost Stars is a painstaking survey of changes in star designations between catalogues and in response to changing constellation boundaries, as well as being a good survey of constellation history. A notable work on the modern constellations, Filling the Sky published in 2003 by Jim Fuchs, provides useful additional information and references.
Archie Roy’s speculations about the origin of the constellations are contained in his paper in Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 27, 1984, p.171. Arguments by Bradley E. Schaefer for a later date of origin are to be found in Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 35, 2004, p.161. E. B. Knobel’s analysis of the star catalogue of Frederick de Houtman is in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 77, 1917, p.414. (See also Knobel’s subsequent note.)
R. H. Allen’s Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning (Dover) and W. T. Olcott’s Star Lore of All Ages (Putnam’s) are fun to dip into, but I have not used them as prime sources for mythology.
I owe a particular debt of gratitude to David Calvert at the former Royal Greenwich Observatory, Herstmonceux, who supplied the constellation illustrations for the original edition of Star Tales. These were photographed from the star atlases of Bode and Flamsteed in the Observatory’s library. Following the closure of the RGO, these books are now held at the University of Cambridge. For this web edition, I have in places used additional scans from other online sources.
Baily, Francis, The Catalogues of Ptolemy, Ulugh Beigh, Tycho Brahe, Halley, Hevelius..., Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 13, 1843.
Chan, Ki-hung, Chinese Ancient Star Map, (Hong Kong Space Museum), 2007.
Condos, Theony, Star Myths, (Phanes Press, Grand Rapids), 1997.
Dekker, Elly, Der Globusfreund, nos. 35–37, pp. 211–230, 1987.
Dekker, Elly, Annals of Science, vol. 44, pp. 439–470, 1987.
Dekker, Elly, Annals of Science, vol. 47, pp. 529–560, 1990.
Evans, David S., Lacaille: Astronomer, Traveler, (Pachart, Tucson), 1992.
Evans, James, and Berggren, J. Lennart, Geminos’s Introduction to the Phenomena (Princeton University Press), 2006.
Frazer, J. G., Apollodorus (2 vols), (Loeb Classical Library), 1921.
Frazer, J. G., Ovid’s Fasti, (Loeb Classical Library), 1931.
Fuchs, Jim, Filling the Sky, (privately published), 2003.
Gain, D. B., The Aratus Ascribed to Germanicus Caesar, (Athlone Press, London), 1976.
Goold, G. P., Manilius Astronomica, (Loeb Classical Library), 1977.
Grant, Mary, The Myths of Hyginus, (University of Kansas Publications, Lawrence), 1960.
Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths (2 vols), (Penguin), 1960.
Grimal, Pierre, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, (Blackwell, Oxford), 1985.
Hard, Robin, Constellation Myths (Oxford University Press), 2015.
Ho, Peng Yoke, The Astronomical Chapters of the Chin Shu, (Mouton, Paris), 1966.
Heuter, Gwyneth, Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 29, p. 237, 1986.
Innes, Mary M., Ovid Metamorphoses, (Penguin), 1955.
Kidd, Douglas, Aratus: Phaenomena, (Cambridge University Press), 1997.
Knobel, E. B., Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 77, p. 414, 1917.
Kunitzsch, Paul, Sky & Telescope, vol. 65, p. 20, 1983.
Kunitzsch, Paul, The Arabs and the Stars, (Variorum, Northampton), 1989.
Kunitzsch, Paul, and Smart, Tim, A Dictionary of Modern Star Names, (Sky Publishing), 2006.
Mair, G. R., Aratus, (Loeb Classical Library), 1955.
Oxford Classical Dictionary (second and third editions), (Oxford University Press), 1970, 1999.
Rieu, G. V., Apollonius of Rhodes The Voyage of Argo, (Penguin, London), 1971.
Rose, H. J., A Handbook of Greek Mythology, (Methuen, London), 1958.
Roy, Archie, Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 27, p. 171, 1984.
Schaefer, Bradley E., Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 35, p.161, 2004.
Sun, Xiaochun, and Kistemaker, Jacob, The Chinese Sky During the Han, (Brill, Leiden), 1997.
Toomer, G. J., Ptolemy’s Almagest, (Duckworth, London), 1984.
Volkoff, Ivan, et al., Johannes Hevelius and his Catalog of Stars, (Brigham Young University Press, Provo), 1971.
Wagman, Morton, Lost Stars, (McDonald & Woodward, Blacksburg), 2003.
Warner, Deborah Jean, The Sky Explored, (Alan R. Liss, New York, and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam), 1979.
Wender, Dorothea S., Hesiod and Theognis, (Penguin), 1973.