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Orion (mythology)

Orion (mythology)

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Orion was a giant huntsman
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

 in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 whom Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

  placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion
Orion (constellation)
Orion, often referred to as The Hunter, is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous, and most recognizable constellations in the night sky...

.

Ancient sources tell several different stories about Orion. There are two major versions of his birth and several versions of his death. The most important recorded episodes are his birth somewhere in Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

, his visit to Chios
Chios
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages...

 where he met Merope
Merope (Oenopion)
Merope - In Greek mythology, daughter of Oenopion who was a legendary king of Chios, said to have brought winemaking to the island. Married to Thanatos....

 and was blinded by her father, Oenopion
Oenopion
In Greek mythology, Oenopion , son of Theseus or Dionysus and Ariadne, was a legendary king of Chios, which was assigned to him by Rhadamanthys, and was said to have brought winemaking to the island. By the nymph Helice, he had one daughter, called Merope in most sources, but "Haero" in Parthenius...

, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos
Lemnos
Lemnos is an island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Lemnos peripheral unit, which is part of the North Aegean Periphery. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Myrina...

, his hunting with Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 on Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, his death by the bow of Artemis or the sting of the giant scorpion which became Scorpio
Scorpius
Scorpius, sometimes known as Scorpio, is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for scorpion, and its symbol is . It lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius to the east...

, and his elevation to the heavens. Most ancient sources omit some of these episodes and several tell only one. These various incidents may originally have been independent, unrelated stories and it is impossible to tell whether omissions are simple brevity or represent a real disagreement.

In Greek literature he first appears as a great hunter in Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's epic the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

, where Odysseus
Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 sees his shade in the underworld
Underworld
The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...

. The bare bones of his story are told by the Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

 and Roman collectors of myths, but there is no extant literary version of his adventures comparable, for example, to that of Jason
Jason
Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero from the late 10th Century BC, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus...

 in Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius Rhodius, also known as Apollonius of Rhodes , early 3rd century BCE – after 246 BCE, was a poet, and a librarian at the Library of Alexandria...

' Argonautica or Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' Medea
Medea
Medea is a woman in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and later wife to the hero Jason, with whom she had two children, Mermeros and Pheres. In Euripides's play Medea, Jason leaves Medea when Creon, king of...

; the entry in Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's Fasti
Fasti (poem)
The Fasti is a six-book Latin poem by Ovid believed to have been left unfinished when the poet was exiled to Tomis by the emperor Augustus in the year 8...

for May 11 is a poem on the birth of Orion, but that is one version of a single story. The surviving fragments of legend have provided a fertile field for speculation about Greek prehistory and myth.

Orion served several roles in ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 culture. The story of the adventures of Orion, the hunter, is the one on which we have the most evidence (and even on that not very much); he is also the personification of the constellation of the same name; he was venerated as a hero
Greek hero cult
Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In Homeric Greek, "hero" refers to a man who was fighting on either side during the Trojan War...

, in the Greek sense, in the region of Boeotia; and there is one etiological
Etiology
Etiology is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek , aitiologia, "giving a reason for" ....

 passage which says that Orion was responsible for the present shape of the Straits of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

.

Homer and Hesiod


Orion is mentioned in the oldest surviving works of Greek literature, which probably date back to the 7th or 8th century BC, but which are the products of an oral tradition with origins several centuries earlier. In Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

Orion is described as a constellation, and the star Sirius
Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios . The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris...

 is mentioned as his dog. In the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

, Odysseus sees him hunting in the underworld with a bronze club, a great slayer of animals; he is also mentioned as a constellation, as the lover of the Goddess Dawn
Eos
In Greek mythology, Eos is the Titan goddess of the dawn, who rose from her home at the edge of Oceanus, the ocean that surrounds the world, to herald her brother Helios, the Sun.- Greek literature :...

, as slain by Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

, and as the most handsome of the earthborn. In the Works and Days
Works and Days
Works and Days is a didactic poem of some 800 verses written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod around 700 BC. At its center, the Works and Days is a farmer's almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts...

of Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, Orion is also a constellation, one whose rising and setting with the sun is used to reckon the year.

The legend of Orion was first told in full in a lost work by Hesiod, probably the Astronomy; simple references to Hesiod will refer to this, unless otherwise stated. This version is known through the work of a Hellenistic author on the constellations; he gives a fairly long summary of Hesiod's discourse on Orion. According to this version, Orion was the son of the sea-god Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

 and Euryale, daughter of Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

, King of Crete. Orion could walk on the waves because of his father; he walked to the island of Chios
Chios
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages...

 where he got drunk and raped Merope, daughter of Oenopion
Oenopion
In Greek mythology, Oenopion , son of Theseus or Dionysus and Ariadne, was a legendary king of Chios, which was assigned to him by Rhadamanthys, and was said to have brought winemaking to the island. By the nymph Helice, he had one daughter, called Merope in most sources, but "Haero" in Parthenius...

, the ruler there. In vengeance, Oenopion blinded Orion and drove him away. Orion stumbled to Lemnos
Lemnos
Lemnos is an island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Lemnos peripheral unit, which is part of the North Aegean Periphery. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Myrina...

 where Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

 — the lame smith-god — had his forge. Hephaestus told his servant, Cedalion
Cedalion
In Greek mythology, Cedalion or Kedalion was a servant of Hephaestus in Lemnos. According to one tradition, he was Hephaestus's tutor, with whom Hera fostered her son on Naxos to teach him smithcraft...

, to guide Orion to the uttermost East where Helios
Helios
Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. Homer often calls him simply Titan or Hyperion, while Hesiod and the Homeric Hymn separate him as a son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia or Euryphaessa and brother of the goddesses Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn...

, the Sun, healed him; Orion carried Cedalion around on his shoulders. Orion returned to Chios to punish Oenopion, but the king hid away underground and escaped Orion's wrath. Orion's next journey took him to Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 where he hunted with the goddess Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 and her mother Leto
Leto
In Greek mythology, Leto is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. The island of Kos is claimed as her birthplace. In the Olympian scheme, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides, which Leto conceived after her hidden beauty accidentally caught the eyes of Zeus...

, and in the course of the hunt, threatened to kill every beast on Earth. Mother Earth
Gaia (mythology)
Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus , the sea-gods from her union with Pontus , the Giants from her mating with Tartarus and mortal creatures were sprung or born...

 objected and sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion. The creature succeeded, and after his death, the goddesses asked Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 to place Orion among the constellations. Zeus consented and, as a memorial to the hero's death, added the Scorpion
Scorpius
Scorpius, sometimes known as Scorpio, is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for scorpion, and its symbol is . It lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius to the east...

 to the heavens as well.

Other sources


Although Orion has a few lines in both Homeric poems and in the Works and Days, most of the stories about him are recorded in incidental allusions and in fairly obscure later writings. No great poet standardized the legend. The ancient sources for Orion's legend are mostly notes in the margins of ancient poets (scholia) or compilations by later scholars, the equivalent of modern reference works or encyclopedias; even the legend from Hesiod's Astronomy survives only in one such compilation. In several cases, including the summary of the Astronomy, although the surviving work bears the name of a famous scholar, such as Apollodorus of Athens, Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

, or Gaius Julius Hyginus
Gaius Julius Hyginus
Gaius Julius Hyginus was a Latin author, a pupil of the famous Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor, and a freedman of Caesar Augustus. He was by Augustus elected superintendent of the Palatine library according to Suetonius' De Grammaticis, 20...

, what survives is either an ancient forgery or an abridgement of the original compilation by a later writer of dubious competence; editors of these texts suggest that they may have borne the names of great scholars because they were abridgments, or even pupil's notes, based on the works of the scholars.

The margin of the Empress Eudocia
Aelia Eudocia
Aelia Eudocia Augusta was the wife of Theodosius II, and a prominent historical figure in understanding the rise of Christianity during the beginning of the Byzantine Empire. Eudocia lived in a world where Greek paganism and Christianity were still coming together...

's copy of the Iliad has a note summarizing a Hellenistic poet who tells a different story of Orion's birth. Here the gods Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

, Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

 and Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

 come to visit Hyrieus
Hyrieus
In Greek mythology, Hyrieus was the son of Alcyone and Poseidon, brother of Hyperenor and Aethusa. By the nymph Clonia, he became the father of Nycteus and Lycus.. One source calls him father of Crinacus...

 of Tanagra
Tanagra
Tanagra is a town and a municipality north of Athens in Boeotia, Greece. The seat of the municipality is the town Schimatari. It is not far from Thebes, and it was noted in antiquity for the figurines named after it...

, who roasts a whole bull for them. When they offer him a favor, he asks for the birth of sons. The gods take the bull's hide and ejaculate or urinate into it and bury it in the earth, then tell him to dig it up ten months later. When he does, he finds Orion; this explains why Orion is earthborn.

A second full telling (even shorter than the summary of Hesiod) is in a Roman-era collection of myths; the account of Orion is based largely on the mythologist and poet Pherecydes of Leros
Pherecydes of Leros
Pherecydes of Leros was a Greek mythographer and logographer. He came from the island of Leros. Pherecydes spent the greater part of his working life in Athens, and so he was also called Pherecydes of Athens: the encyclopedic Byzantine Suda consider Pherecydes of Athens and of Leros...

. Here Orion is described as earthborn and enormous in stature. This version also mentions Poseidon and Euryale as his parents. It adds a first marriage to Side
Side
Side was an ancient Greek city in Anatolia, in the region of Pamphylia, in what is now Antalya province, on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey...

 before his marriage to Merope. All that is known about Side is that Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

 threw her into Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

 for rivalling her in beauty. It also gives a different version of Orion's death than the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

: Eos
Eos
In Greek mythology, Eos is the Titan goddess of the dawn, who rose from her home at the edge of Oceanus, the ocean that surrounds the world, to herald her brother Helios, the Sun.- Greek literature :...

, the Dawn, fell in love with Orion and seduced him or took him to Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

 where Artemis killed him.

Another narrative on the constellations, three paragraphs long, is from a Latin writer whose brief notes have come down to us under the name of Hyginus. It begins with the oxhide story of Orion's birth, which this source ascribes to Callimachus
Callimachus
Callimachus was a native of the Greek colony of Cyrene, Libya. He was a noted poet, critic and scholar at the Library of Alexandria and enjoyed the patronage of the Egyptian–Greek Pharaohs Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes...

 and Aristomachus, and sets the location at Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

 or Chios. Hyginus has two versions. In one of them he omits Poseidon; a modern critic suggests this is the original version.

The same source tells two stories of the death of Orion. The first says that because of his "living joined in too great a friendship" with Oenopion, he boasted to Artemis and Leto
Leto
In Greek mythology, Leto is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. The island of Kos is claimed as her birthplace. In the Olympian scheme, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides, which Leto conceived after her hidden beauty accidentally caught the eyes of Zeus...

 that he could kill anything which came from Earth. Earth objected and created the Scorpion. In the second story, Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

 objected to his sister Artemis's love for Orion, and, seeing Orion swimming with just his head visible, challenged her to shoot at that mark, which she hit, killing him. He connects Orion with several constellations, not just Scorpio. Orion chased Pleione
Pleione (mythology)
Pleione was an Oceanid nymph. She lived in a southern region of Greece called Arcadia, on a mountain named Mount Kyllini. She married Atlas and gave birth to the Hyades, Hyas and the Pleiades.-The Pleiades:...

, the mother of the Pleiades
Pleiades (mythology)
The Pleiades , companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides...

, for seven years, until Zeus intervened and raised all of them to the stars. In Works and Days, Orion chases the Pleiades themselves. Canis Minor
Canis Minor
Canis Minor is a small constellation. It was included in the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy's 48 constellations, and is still included among the 88 modern constellations...

 and Canis Major
Canis Major
Canis Major is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was included in the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy's 48 constellations. Its name is Latin for 'greater dog', and is commonly represented as one of the dogs following Orion the hunter...

 are his dogs, the one in front is called Procyon
Procyon
Procyon is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor. To the naked eye, it appears to be a single star, the seventh brightest in the night sky with a visual apparent magnitude of 0.34...

. They chase Lepus
Lepus (constellation)
Lepus is a constellation lying just south of the celestial equator, immediately south of Orion. Its name is Latin for hare. Although the hare does not represent any particular figure in Greek mythology, Lepus was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it...

, the hare, although Hyginus says some critics thought this too base a prey for the noble Orion and have him pursuing Taurus
Taurus (constellation)
Taurus is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is a Latin word meaning 'bull', and its astrological symbol is a stylized bull's head:...

, the bull, instead. A Renaissance mythographer adds other names for Orion's dogs: Leucomelaena, Maera
Maera (hound)
In Greek mythology, Maera was the hound of Erigone, daughter of Icarius of Athens. Icarius was a follower of the wine god Dionysus and had been taught how to make wine. While travelling, Icarius met some shepherds, who killed him. Erigone was worried about her father, and set off with Maera to find...

, Dromis, Cisseta, Lampuris, Lycoctonus, Ptoophagus, Arctophonus.. Also it is said Orion had 50 sons with KEPHISIDES. It is also said h was the father ofTHE KORONIDES who were Menippe and METIOKHE

Variants


There are numerous variants in other authors. Most of these are incidental references in poems and scholiasts. The Roman poet Vergil shows Orion as a giant wading through the Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 with the waves breaking against his shoulders; rather than, as the mythographers have it, walking on the water. There are several references to Hyrieus as the father of Orion that connect him to various places in Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

, including Hyria; this may well be the original story (although not the first attested), since Hyrieus is presumably the eponym
Eponym
An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

 of Hyria. He is also called Oeneus, although he is not the Calydonian Oeneus
Oeneus
In Greek mythology, Oeneus, or Oineus was a Calydonian king, son of Porthaon and Euryte, husband of Althaea and father of Deianeira, Meleager, Toxeus, Clymenus, Periphas, Agelaus, Thyreus , Gorge, Eurymede, Mothone, Perimede and Melanippe...

. Other ancient scholia say, as Hesiod does, that Orion was the son of Poseidon and his mother was a daughter of Minos; but they call the daughter Brylle or Hyeles. There are two versions where Artemis killed Orion, either with her arrows or by producing the Scorpion. In the second variant, Orion died of the Scorpion's sting as he does in Hesiod. Although Orion does not defeat the Scorpion in any version, several variants have it die from its wounds. Artemis is given various motives. One is that Orion boasted of his beast-killing and challenged her to a contest with the discus
Discus
Discus, "disk" in Latin, may refer to:* Discus , a progressive rock band from Indonesia* Discus , a fictional character from the Marvel Comics Universe and enemy of Luke Cage* Discus , a freshwater fish popular with aquarium keepers...

. Another is that he raped either Artemis or the Hyperborean maiden Opis
Opis
Opis was an ancient Babylonian city on the Tigris, not far from modern Baghdad. The precise location of Opis has not been established, but from the Akkadian and Greek texts, it was located on the east bank of the Tigris, near the Diyala River.-History:Opis is mentioned for the first time at the...

 in her band of huntresses. Aratus
Aratus
Aratus was a Greek didactic poet. He is best known today for being quoted in the New Testament. His major extant work is his hexameter poem Phaenomena , the first half of which is a verse setting of a lost work of the same name by Eudoxus of Cnidus. It describes the constellations and other...

's brief description, in his Astronomy, conflates the elements of the myth: according to Aratus, Orion attacks Artemis while hunting on Chios, and the Scorpion kills him there. Nicander
Nicander
Nicander of Colophon , Greek poet, physician and grammarian, was born at Claros, , near Colophon, where his family held the hereditary priesthood of Apollo. He flourished under Attalus III of Pergamum.He wrote a number of works both in prose and verse, of which two survive complete...

, in his Theriaca, has the scorpion of ordinary size and hiding under a small (oligos) stone. Most versions of the story that continue after Orion's death tell of the gods raising Orion and the Scorpion to the stars, but even here a variant exists: Ancient poets differed greatly as to who Aesculapius brought back from the dead; the Argive epic poet Telesarchus
Telesarchus
Telesarchus or Telesarch is a little-attested Greek author who wrote a work on the early history of Argolis, called the Argolicum or Argolica. He is mentioned by Sextus Empiricus and scholia on Homer and on Euripides' Alcestis. The availability of his writings was limited even among the Romans....

 is quoted as saying in a scholion that Aesculapius resurrected Orion. Other ancient authorities are quoted anonymously that Aesculapius healed Orion after he was blinded by Oenopion.

The story of Orion and Oenopion also varies. One source refers to Merope as the wife of Oenopion and not his daughter. Another refers to Merope as the daughter of Minos and not of Oenopion. The longest version (a page in the Loeb) is from a collection of melodramatic plots drawn up by an Alexandrian poet for the Roman Cornelius Gallus
Cornelius Gallus
Gaius Cornelius Gallus , Roman poet, orator and politician, was born of humble parents at Forum Livii in Italy.At an early age he moved to Rome, where he was taught by the same master as Virgil and Varius Rufus. Virgil, who dedicated one of his eclogues to him, was in great measure indebted to...

 to make into Latin verse. It describes Orion as slaying the wild beasts of Chios and looting the other inhabitants to make a bride-price for Oenopion's daughter, who is called Aëro or Leiro. Oenopion does not want to marry her to someone like Orion, and eventually Orion, in frustration, breaks into her bedchamber and rapes her. The text implies that Oenopion blinds him on the spot.

Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

 includes a picture with Orion in a rhetorical description of an ideal building, in which Orion is walking into the rising sun with Lemnos nearby, Cedalion on his shoulder. He recovers his sight there with Hephaestus still watching in the background.
Latin sources add that Oenopion was the son of Dionysus. Dionysus sent satyr
Satyr
In Greek mythology, satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus — "satyresses" were a late invention of poets — that roamed the woods and mountains. In myths they are often associated with pipe-playing....

s to put Orion into a deep sleep so he could be blinded. One source tells the same story but converts Oenopion into Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

 of Crete. It adds that an oracle told Orion that his sight could be restored by walking eastward and that he found his way by hearing the Cyclops
Cyclops
A cyclops , in Greek mythology and later Roman mythology, was a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead...

' hammer, placing a Cyclops as a guide on his shoulder; it does not mention Cabeiri or Lemnos—this is presumably the story of Cedalion recast. Both Hephaestus and the Cyclopes were said to make thunderbolts; they are combined in other sources. One scholion, on a Latin poem, explains that Hephaestus gave Orion a horse.

Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

 cites a lost Latin writer for the story that Orion and Candiope were son and daughter of Oenopion, king of Sicily. While the virgin huntsman Orion was sleeping in a cave, Venus seduced him; as he left the cave, he saw his sister shining as she crossed in front of it. He ravished her; when his father heard of this, he banished Orion. Orion consulted an oracle, which told him that if he went east, he would regain the glory of kingship. Orion, Candiope, and their son Hippologus sailed to Thrace, "a province eastward from Sicily". There he conquered the inhabitants, and became known as the son of Neptune. His son begat the Dryas
Dryas
Dryas is the name of nine characters in Greek mythology1. Dryas was the son of King Lycurgus, king of the Edoni in Thrace. He was killed when Lycurgus went insane and mistook him for a mature trunk of ivy, a plant holy to the god Dionysus, whose cult Lycurgus was attempting to extirpate.Resisting...

 mentioned in Statius
Statius
Publius Papinius Statius was a Roman poet of the 1st century CE . Besides his poetry in Latin, which include an epic poem, the Thebaid, a collection of occasional poetry, the Silvae, and the unfinished epic, the Achilleid, he is best known for his appearance as a major character in the Purgatory...

.

Cult and popular appreciation


In Ancient Greece, Orion had a hero cult
Greek hero cult
Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In Homeric Greek, "hero" refers to a man who was fighting on either side during the Trojan War...

 in the region of Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

. The number of places associated with his birth suggest that it was widespread. Hyria, the most frequently mentioned, was in the territory of Tanagra
Tanagra
Tanagra is a town and a municipality north of Athens in Boeotia, Greece. The seat of the municipality is the town Schimatari. It is not far from Thebes, and it was noted in antiquity for the figurines named after it...

. A feast of Orion was held at Tanagra as late as the Roman Empire. They had a tomb of Orion most likely at the foot of Mount Cerycius
Cerycius
Mount Cerycius is the mountain in which the Greek hero Orion's tomb was buried in....

 (now Mount Tanagra). Maurice Bowra
Maurice Bowra
Sir Cecil Maurice Bowra was an English classical scholar and academic, known for his wit. He was Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, from 1938 to 1970, and served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1951 to 1954.-Birth and boyhood:...

 argues that Orion was a national hero of the Boeotians, much as Castor and Pollux
Castor and Pollux
In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces were twin brothers, together known as the Dioscuri . Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, and Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who visited Leda in the guise of a swan...

 were for the Dorians. He bases this claim on the Athenian epigram on the Battle of Coronea
Battle of Coronea (447 BC)
The Battle of Coronea took place between the Athenian-led Delian League and the Boeotian League in 447 BC during the First Peloponnesian War....

 in which a hero gave the Boeotian army an oracle, then fought on their side and defeated the Athenians.

The Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

n school of epic poetry was chiefly concerned with the genealogies of the gods and heroes; later writers elaborated this web. Several other myths are attached to Orion in this way: A papyrus fragment of the Boeotian poet Corinna
Corinna
Corinna or Korinna was an Ancient Greek poet, traditionally attributed to the 6th century BC. According to ancient sources such as Plutarch and Pausanias, she came from Tanagra in Boeotia, where she was a teacher and rival to the better-known Theban poet Pindar...

 gives Orion fifty sons (a traditional number). This included the oracular
Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

 hero Acraephen, who, she sings, gave a response to Asopus
Asopus
Asopus or Asôpos is the name of four different rivers in Greece and one in Turkey. In Greek mythology, it was the name of the gods of those rivers.-The rivers in Greece:...

 regarding Asopus' daughters who were abducted by the gods. Corinna
Corinna
Corinna or Korinna was an Ancient Greek poet, traditionally attributed to the 6th century BC. According to ancient sources such as Plutarch and Pausanias, she came from Tanagra in Boeotia, where she was a teacher and rival to the better-known Theban poet Pindar...

 sang of Orion conquering and naming all the land of the dawn. Bowra argues that Orion was believed to have delivered oracles as well, probably at a different shrine. Hyginus says that Hylas
Hylas
In Greek mythology, Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians. Roman sources such as Ovid state that Hylas' father was Hercules and his mother was the nymph Melite, or that his mother was the wife of Theiodamas, whose adulterous affair with Heracles caused the war between him and her...

's mother was Menodice, daughter of Orion. Another mythographer, Liberalis, tells of Menippe and Metioche
Menippe and Metioche
In Greek mythology, Menippe and Metioche were daughters of Orion. After Orion was killed they were brought up by their mother, and Athena taught them the art of weaving and Aphrodite gave them beauty. Once their homeland Aonia at the base of Mt...

, daughters of Orion, who sacrificed themselves for their country's good and were transformed into comets.


Orion also has etiological
Etiology
Etiology is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek , aitiologia, "giving a reason for" ....

 connection to the city of Messina
Messina, Italy
Messina is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, Italy and the capital of the province of Messina. It has a population of about 250,000 inhabitants in the city proper and about 650,000 in the province...

 in Sicily. Diodorus of Sicily
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

 wrote a history of the world up to his own time (the beginning of the reign of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

). He starts with the gods and the heroes. At the end of this part of the work, he tells the story of Orion and two wonder-stories of his mighty earth-works in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. One tells how he aided Zanclus
Zanclus
Zanclus is the legendary first king of the Sicilian city of Messina. He is mentioned in an etiological passage by Diodorus of Sicily, and has become a symbol of Messina. In modern Italian, the form is given as Zanclo....

, the founder of Zancle (the former name for Messina), by building the promontory which forms the harbor. The other, which Diodorus ascribes to Hesiod, relates that there was once a broad sea between Sicily and the mainland. Orion built the whole Peloris, the Punta del Faro
Punta del Faro
-Historical significance:As the ancient Pelorus, Punta del Faro is one of the most celebrated promontories of Sicily, forming the northeastern extremity of the whole island, and one of the three promontories which were considered to give to it the triangular form from which it derived the name of...

, and the temple to Poseidon at the tip, after which he settled in Euboea
Euboea
Euboea is the second largest Greek island in area and population, after Crete. The narrow Euripus Strait separates it from Boeotia in mainland Greece. In general outline it is a long and narrow, seahorse-shaped island; it is about long, and varies in breadth from to...

. He was then "numbered among the stars of heaven and thus won for himself immortal remembrance". The Renaissance historian and mathematician Francesco Maurolico
Francesco Maurolico
Francesco Maurolico was a Greek mathematician and astronomer of Sicily. Throughout his lifetime, he made contributions to the fields of geometry, optics, conics, mechanics, music, and astronomy...

, who came from Messina, identified the remains of a temple of Orion near the present Messina Cathedral. Maurolico also designed an ornate fountain, built by the sculptor Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli
Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli
Giovanni Antonio Montorsoli , also known as Fra Montorsoli, as Michele Agnolo and as Angelo di Michele d' Angelo da Poggibonsi, was an Italian sculptor.-Biography:...

 in 1547, in which Orion is a central figure, symbolizing the Emperor Charles V, also a master of the sea and restorer of Messina; Orion is still a popular symbol of the city.

Images of Orion in classical art are difficult to recognize, and clear examples are rare. There are several ancient Greek images of club-carrying hunters that could represent Orion, but such generic examples could equally represent an archetypal "hunter", or indeed Heracles
Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

. Some claims have been made that other Greek art represents specific aspects of the Orion myth. A tradition of this type has been discerned in 5th century BC Greek pottery
Pottery of Ancient Greece
As the result of its relative durability, pottery is a large part of the archaeological record of Ancient Greece, and because there is so much of it it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society...

John Beazley
John Beazley
Sir John Davidson Beazley was an English classical scholar.Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Beazley attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a close friend of the poet James Elroy Flecker. After graduating in 1907, Beazley was a student and tutor in Classics at Christ Church, and in 1925 he...

 identified a scene of Apollo, Delian palm
Palm branch (symbol)
A palm branch , usually refers to the leaves of the Arecaceae ....

 in hand, revenging Orion for the attempted rape of Artemis, while another scholar has identified a scene of Orion attacking Artemis as she is revenged by a snake (a counterpart to the scorpion) in a funerary group—supposedly symbolizing the hope that even the criminal Orion could be made immortal, as well as an astronomical scene in which Cephalus
Cephalus
Cephalus is an Ancient Greek name, used both for the hero-figure in Greek mythology and carried as a theophoric name by historical persons. The word kephalos is Greek for "head", perhaps used here because Cephalus was the founding "head" of a great family that includes Odysseus...

 is thought to stand in for Orion and his constellation, also reflecting this system of iconography. Also, a tomb frieze in Taranto
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 (ca. 300 BC) may show Orion attacking Opis. But the earliest surviving clear depiction of Orion in classical art is Roman, from the depictions of the Underworld scenes of the Odyssey discovered at the Esquiline Hill
Esquiline Hill
The Esquiline Hill is one of the celebrated Seven Hills of Rome. Its southern-most cusp is the Oppius .-Etymology:The origin of the name Esquilino is still under much debate. One view is that the Hill was named after the abundance of holm-oaks, exculi, that resided there...

 (50–40 BC). Orion is also seen on a 4th century bas-relief, currently affixed to a wall in the Porto
Porto (Naples)
Porto is the neighborhood of Naples, southern Italy, that includes the area adjacent to the main passenger terminals of the port of Naples, but does not extend much farther than that to the eastern freight facilities of the port...

 neighborhood of Naples. The constellation Orion rises in November, the end of the sailing season, and was associated with stormy weather, and this characterization extended to the mythical Orion—the bas-relief may be associated with the sailors of the city.

Renaissance



Mythographers have discussed Orion at least since the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 of classical learning; the Renaissance interpretations were allegorical. In the 14th century, Boccaccio interpreted the oxhide story as representing human conception; the hide is the womb, Neptune the moisture of semen, Jupiter its heat, and Mercury the female coldness; he also explained Orion's death at the hands of the moon-goddess as the Moon producing winter storms. The 16th-century Italian mythographer Natalis Comes
Natalis Comes
Natale Conti or Latin Natalis Comes, also Natalis de Comitibus and French Noël le Comte was an Italian mythographer, poet, humanist and historian. His major work Mythologiae, ten books written in Latin, was first published in Venice in 1567 and became a standard source for classical mythology in...

 interpreted the whole story of Orion as an allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 of the evolution of a storm cloud: Begotten by air (Zeus), water (Poseidon), and the sun (Apollo), a storm cloud is diffused (Chios, which Comes derives from χέω, "pour out"), rises though the upper air (Aërope
Aer
is a skyscraper in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Rising 31 stories to a height of 145.5 m, Aer is tallest building in the Tohoku region and was partially constructed by robots.-Overview:...

, as Comes spells Merope), chills (is blinded), and is turned into rain by the moon (Artemis). He also explains how Orion walked on the sea: "Since the subtler part of the water which is rarefied rests on the surface, it is said that Orion learned from his father how to walk on water." Similarly, Orion's conception made him a symbol of the philosophical child
Filius philosophorum
The filius philosophorum is a symbol in alchemy. In some texts it is equated with the philosopher's stone , but in others it assumes its own symbolic meanings...

, an allegory of philosophy springing from multiple sources, in the Renaissance as in alchemical works, with some variations. The 16th-century German alchemist Michael Maier
Michael Maier
Michael Maier was a German physician and counsellor to Rudolf II Habsburg, a learned alchemist, epigramist and amateur composer.- Biography :...

 lists the fathers as Apollo, Vulcan and Mercury, and the 18th-century French alchemist Antoine-Joseph Pernety
Antoine-Joseph Pernety
Antoine-Joseph Pernety, known as Dom Pernety was a French writer. At various times he was a Benedictine, and librarian of Frederic the Great of Prussia...

 gave them as Jupiter, Neptune and Mercury.

Modern


Modern mythographers have seen the story of Orion as a way to access local folk tales and cultic
Cult (religious practice)
In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings , its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult in this primary sense is...

 practices directly without the interference of ancient high culture; several of them have explained Orion, each through his own interpretation of Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 prehistory and of how Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 represents it. There are some points of general agreement between them: for example, that the attack on Opis is an attack on Artemis, for Opis is one of the names of Artemis.

There was a movement in the late nineteenth century to interpret all the Boeotian heroes as merely personifications of the constellations; there has since come to be wide agreement since that the myth of Orion existed before there was a constellation named for him. Homer, for example, mentions Orion, the Hunter, and Orion, the constellation, but never confuses the two. Once Orion was recognized as a constellation, astronomy in turn affected the myth. The story of Side may well be a piece of astronomical mythology. The Greek word side means pomegranate
Pomegranate
The pomegranate , Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing between five and eight meters tall.Native to the area of modern day Iran, the pomegranate has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times. From there it spread to Asian areas such as the Caucasus as...

, which bears fruit while Orion, the constellation, can be seen in the night sky. Rose suggests she is connected with Sidae in Boeotia, and that the pomegranate, as a sign of the Underworld, is connected with her descent there.

The 19th-century German classical scholar Erwin Rohde
Erwin Rohde
Erwin Rohde was one of the great German classical scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries.Rohde was born in Hamburg and was the son of a doctor. Outside of antiquarian circles, Rohde is known today chiefly for his friendship and correspondence with fellow-philologist Friedrich Nietzsche...

 viewed Orion as an example of the Greeks erasing the line between the gods and mankind. That is, if Orion was in the heavens, other mortals could hope to be also.

The Hungarian mythographer Karl Kerényi
Karl Kerényi
Károly Kerényi was a Hungarian scholar in classical philology, one of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology.- Hungary 1897–1943 :...

, one of the founders of the modern study of Greek mythology, wrote about Orion in Gods of the Greeks (1951). Kerényi portrays Orion as a giant of Titanic
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 vigor and criminality, born outside his mother as were Tityos
Tityos
Tityos was a giant from Greek mythology.-Story:Tityos was the son of Elara; his father was Zeus. Zeus hid Elara from his wife, Hera, by placing her deep beneath the earth. Tityos grew so large that he split his mother's womb, and was carried to term by Gaia, the Earth. Once grown, Tityos...

 or Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

. Kerényi places great stress on the variant in which Merope is the wife of Oenopion. He sees this as the remnant of a lost form of the myth in which Merope was Orion's mother (converted by later generations to his stepmother and then to the present forms). Orion's blinding is therefore parallel to that of Aegypius
Aegypius (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Aegypius , son of Antheus, son of Nomion, a Thessalian, was the lover of Timandre, a widow. Her son, Neophron, resented this relationship, and plotted against it by seducing Bulis , Aegypius' mother...

 and Oedipus
Oedipus
Oedipus was a mythical Greek king of Thebes. He fulfilled a prophecy that said he would kill his father and marry his mother, and thus brought disaster on his city and family...

.

In Dionysus (1976), Kerényi portrays Orion as a shamanic hunting hero, surviving from Minoan times (hence his association with Crete). Kerényi derives Hyrieus (and Hyria) from the Cretan dialect word ὕρον - hyron, meaning "beehive", which survives only in ancient dictionaries. From this association he turns Orion into a representative of the old mead
Mead
Mead , also called honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water. It may also be produced by fermenting a solution of water and honey with grain mash, which is strained immediately after fermentation...

-drinking cultures, overcome by the wine masters Oenopion and Oeneus. (The Greek for "wine" is oinos.) Fontenrose cites a source stating that Oenopion taught the Chians how to make wine before anybody else knew how.

Joseph Fontenrose
Joseph Fontenrose
Joseph Eddy Fontenrose was an American classical scholar. He was centrally interested in Greek religion and Greek mythology; he was also an expert on John Steinbeck, commenting on the mythology in Steinbeck's work.He was from Sutter Creek, California...

 wrote Orion : the Myth of the Hunter and the Huntress (1981) to show Orion as the type specimen of a variety of grotesque hero. Fontenrose views him as similar to Cúchulainn
Cúchulainn
Cú Chulainn or Cúchulainn , and sometimes known in English as Cuhullin , is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore...

, that is, stronger, larger, and more potent than ordinary men and the violent lover of the Divine Huntress; other heroes of the same type are Actaeon
Actaeon
Actaeon , in Greek mythology, son of the priestly herdsman Aristaeus and Autonoe in Boeotia, was a famous Theban hero. Like Achilles in a later generation, he was trained by the centaur Chiron....

, Leucippus
Leucippus (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Leucippus, son of Gorgophone and Perieres, was the father of Phoebe and Hilaeira, and also of Arsinoe, mother of Asclepius, by his wife Philodice, daughter of Inachus....

 (son of Oenomaus
Oenomaus
In Greek mythology, King Oenomaus of Pisa, the father of Hippodamia, was the son of Ares, either by the naiad Harpina or by Sterope, one of the Pleiades, whom some identify as his consort instead...

), Cephalus
Cephalus
Cephalus is an Ancient Greek name, used both for the hero-figure in Greek mythology and carried as a theophoric name by historical persons. The word kephalos is Greek for "head", perhaps used here because Cephalus was the founding "head" of a great family that includes Odysseus...

, Teiresias, and Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 as the lover of Callisto
Callisto (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Callisto or Kallisto was a nymph of Artemis. Transformed into a bear and set among the stars, she was the bear-mother of the Arcadians, through her son Arcas.-Origin of the myth:...

. Fontenrose also sees Eastern parallels in the figures of Aqhat, Attis
Attis
Attis was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration...

, Dumuzi, Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, modern day Iraq , placing his reign ca. 2500 BC. According to the Sumerian king list he reigned for 126 years. In the Tummal Inscription, Gilgamesh, and his son Urlugal, rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of...

, Dushyanta
Dushyanta
Dushyant or Dushyanta was a great king in classical Indian literature and mythology. He is the husband of Shakuntala and the father of the Emperor Bharatha. He appears in the Mahabarata and in Kalidasa's play The Recognition of Sakuntala .-Historical king:According to the Mahābhārata, Dushyanta is...

, and Prajapati
Prajapati
In Hinduism, Prajapati "lord of creatures" is a Hindu deity presiding over procreation, and protector of life. He appears as a creator deity or supreme God Viswakarma Vedic deities in RV 10 and in Brahmana literature...

 (as pursuer of Ushas
Ushas
Ushas , Sanskrit for "dawn", is a Vedic deity, and consequently a Hindu deity as well.Sanskrit is an s-stem, i.e. the genitive case is . It is from PIE , cognate to Greek Eos and Latin Aurora....

).

In The Greek Myths (1955), Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

 views Oenopion as his perennial Year-King, at the stage where the king pretends to die at the end of his term and appoints a substitute, in this case Orion, who actually dies in his place. His blindness is iconotropy from a picture of Odysseus blinding the Cyclops
Cyclops
A cyclops , in Greek mythology and later Roman mythology, was a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead...

, mixed with a purely Hellenic solar legend: the Sun-hero is captured and blinded by his enemies at dusk, but escapes and regains his sight at dawn, when all beasts flee him. Graves sees the rest of the myth as a syncretism of diverse stories. These include Gilgamesh and the Scorpion-Men, Set becoming a scorpion to kill Horus and the story of Aqhat and Yatpan from Ras Shamra, as well as a conjectural story of how the priestesses of Artemis Opis killed a visitor to their island of Ortygia. He compares Orion's birth from the bull's hide to a West African rainmaking charm and claims that the son of Poseidon should be a rainmaker.

Cultural references


The ancient Greek and Roman sources which tell more about Orion than his being a gigantic huntsman are mostly both dry and obscure, but poets do write of him: The brief passages in Aratus and Vergil are mentioned above. Pindar
Pindar
Pindar , was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserved. Quintilian described him as "by far the greatest of the nine lyric poets, in virtue of his inspired magnificence, the beauty of his thoughts and figures, the rich...

 celebrates the pancratist
Pankration
Pankration was a martial art introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC and founded as a blend of boxing and wrestling but without any rules. The term comes from the Greek , literally meaning "all powers" from "all" + "strength, power". Spartans were taught to use this ancient...

 Melissus of Thebes "who was not granted the build of an Orion", but whose strength was still great.

Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 translated Aratus in his youth; he made the Orion episode half again longer than it was in the Greek, adding the traditional Latin topos
Literary topos
Topos , in Latin locus , referred in the context of classical Greek rhetoric to a standardised method of constructing or treating an argument. See topos in classical rhetoric...

 of madness to Aratus's text. Cicero's Aratea is one of the oldest Latin poems to come down to us as more than isolated lines; this episode may have established the technique of including epyllia
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 in non-epic poems.

Orion is used by Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

, who tells of his death at the hands of Diana
Diana (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She was equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy...

/Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

, and by Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, in his Fasti
Fasti (poem)
The Fasti is a six-book Latin poem by Ovid believed to have been left unfinished when the poet was exiled to Tomis by the emperor Augustus in the year 8...

 for May 11, the middle day of the Lemuria
Feast of the Lemures
The Lemuralia or Lemuria was a feast in the religion of ancient Rome during which the Romans performed rites to exorcise the malevolent and fearful ghosts of the dead from their homes. The unwholesome spectres of the restless dead, the lemures or larvae were propitiated with offerings of beans...

, when (in Ovid's time) the constellation Orion set with the sun. Ovid's episode tells the story of Hyrieus and the three gods, although Ovid is bashful about the climax; Ovid makes Hyrieus a poor man, which means the sacrifice of an entire ox is more generous. There is also a single mention of Orion in his Art of Love
Ars Amatoria
The Ars amatoria is an instructional love elegy in three books by the Roman poet Ovid, penned around 2 CE. It claims to provide teaching in three areas of general preoccupation: how and where to find women in Rome, how to seduce them, and how to prevent others from stealing them.-Background:After...

, as a sufferer from unrequited love: "Pale Orion wandered in the forest for Side."

Statius
Statius
Publius Papinius Statius was a Roman poet of the 1st century CE . Besides his poetry in Latin, which include an epic poem, the Thebaid, a collection of occasional poetry, the Silvae, and the unfinished epic, the Achilleid, he is best known for his appearance as a major character in the Purgatory...

 mentions Orion four times in his Thebaïd; twice as the constellation, a personification of storm, but twice as the ancestor of Dryas
Dryas
Dryas is the name of nine characters in Greek mythology1. Dryas was the son of King Lycurgus, king of the Edoni in Thrace. He was killed when Lycurgus went insane and mistook him for a mature trunk of ivy, a plant holy to the god Dionysus, whose cult Lycurgus was attempting to extirpate.Resisting...

 of Tanagra, one of the defenders of Thebes. The very late Greek epic poet Nonnus
Nonnus
Nonnus of Panopolis , was a Greek epic poet. He was a native of Panopolis in the Egyptian Thebaid, and probably lived at the end of the 4th or early 5th century....

 mentions the oxhide story in brief, while listing the Hyrians in his Catalogue of the Boeotian army of Dionysius.

References since antiquity are fairly rare. At the beginning of the 17th century, French sculptor Barthélemy Prieur
Barthélemy Prieur
Barthélemy Prieur was a French sculptor.Prieur was born to a Huguenot family in Berzieux, Champagne . He traveled to Italy, where he worked from 1564 to 1568 for Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy in Turin...

 cast a bronze statue Orion et Cédalion, some time between 1600 and 1611. This featured Orion with Cedalion
Cedalion
In Greek mythology, Cedalion or Kedalion was a servant of Hephaestus in Lemnos. According to one tradition, he was Hephaestus's tutor, with whom Hera fostered her son on Naxos to teach him smithcraft...

 on his shoulder, in a depiction of the ancient legend of Orion recovering his sight; the sculpture is now displayed at the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

.

Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin was a French painter in the classical style. His work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His work serves as an alternative to the dominant Baroque style of the 17th century...

 painted Paysage avec Orion aveugle cherchant le soleil (1658) ("Landscape with blind Orion seeking the sun"), after learning of the description by the 2nd-century Greek author Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

, of a picture of Orion recovering his sight; Poussin included a storm-cloud, which both suggests the transient nature of Orion's blindness, soon to be removed like a cloud exposing the sun, and includes Natalis Comes' esoteric interpretation of Orion as a storm-cloud. Poussin need not have consulted Lucian directly; the passage is in the notes of the illustrated French translation of Philostratus
Philostratus of Lemnos
Philostratus of Lemnos , also known as Philostratus the Elder to distinguish him from Philostratus the Younger who was also from Lemnos, was a Greek sophist of the Roman imperial period...

' Imagines which Poussin is known to have consulted. The Austrian Daniel Seiter
Daniel Seiter
Daniel Seiter, Saiter, or Seyter was a Viennese born painter of the Baroque, who trained and worked in Italy.-Biography:According to Houbraken, he was born on the border of Switzerland and brought up in Vienna...

 (active in Turin, Italy), painted Diane auprès du cadavre d'Orion (c.1685) ("Diana next to Orion's corpse"), pictured above.
In Endymion
Endymion (poem)
Endymion is a poem by John Keats first published in 1818. Beginning famously with the line "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever", Endymion, like many epic poems in English , is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter...

 (1818), John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

 includes the line "Or blind Orion hungry for the morn", thought to be inspired by Poussin. William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

 may have introduced Keats to the painting—he later wrote the essay "On Landscape of Nicholas Poussin", published in Table Talk, Essays on Men and Manners (1822). Richard Henry Horne
Richard Henry Horne
Richard Hengist Horne was and English poet and critic most famous for his poem Orion.-Early life:...

, writing in the generation after Keats and Hazlitt, penned the three volume epic poem Orion in 1843. It went into at least ten editions and was reprinted by the Scholartis Press
Scholartis Press
Scholartis Press is a small, private press in London, England, founded by Eric Partridge in 1927. The press closed in 1931, when the Great Depression began in Britain.-Writers published:...

 in 1928. Science fiction author Ben Bova
Ben Bova
Benjamin William Bova is an American science-fiction author and editor. He is the recipient of six Hugo Awards for Best Professional Editor for his work at Analog Science Fiction in the 1970's.-Personal life:...

 re-invented Orion as a time-traveling servant of various gods in a series of five novels.
Italian composer Francesco Cavalli
Francesco Cavalli
Francesco Cavalli was an Italian composer of the early Baroque period. His real name was Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni, but he is better known by that of Cavalli, the name of his patron Federico Cavalli, a Venetian nobleman.-Life:Cavalli was born at Crema, Lombardy...

 wrote the opera, "L'Orione", in 1653. The story is set on the Greek island of Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

 and focuses on Diana's love for Orion as well as on her rival, Aurora. Diana shoots Orion only after being tricked by Apollo into thinking him a sea monster—she then laments his death and searches for Orion in the underworld until he is elevated to the heavens. Johann Christian Bach
Johann Christian Bach
Johann Christian Bach was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as 'the London Bach' or 'the English Bach', due to his time spent living in the British capital...

 ('the English Bach') wrote an opera, "Orion, or Diana Reveng'd", first presented at London's Haymarket Theatre
Haymarket Theatre
The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a West End theatre in the Haymarket in the City of Westminster which dates back to 1720, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use...

 in 1763. Orion, sung by a castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

, is in love with Candiope, the daughter of Oenopion, King of Arcadia but his arrogance has offended Diana. Diana's oracle forbids him to marry Candiope and foretells his glory and death. He bids a touching farewell to Candiope and marches off to his destiny. Diana allows him his victory and then kills him, offstage, with her arrow. In another aria, his mother, Retrea (Queen of Thebes), laments his death but ultimately sees his elevation to the heavens. The 2002 opera Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei (opera)
Galileo Galilei is an opera based on excerpts from the life of Galileo Galilei which premiered in 2002 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Music by Philip Glass, libretto by Mary Zimmerman and Arnold Weinstein. The piece is presented in one act consisting of ten scenes without break.-Production Notes:All...

by American composer Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

 includes an opera within an opera
Story within a story
A story within a story, also rendered story-within-a-story, is a literary device in which one narrative is presented during the action of another narrative. Mise en abyme is the French term for a similar literary device...

 piece between Orion and Merope. The sunlight, which heals Orion's blindness, is an allegory of modern science. Philip Glass has also written a shorter work on Orion, as have Tōru Takemitsu
Toru Takemitsu
was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Largely self-taught, Takemitsu possessed consummate skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre...

, Kaija Saariaho
Kaija Saariaho
Kaija Saariaho is a Finnish composer.Kaija Saariaho studied composition in Helsinki, Freiburg and Paris, where she has lived since 1982. Her studies and research at IRCAM have had a major influence on her music and her characteristically luxuriant and mysterious textures are often created by...

, and John Casken
John Casken
John Casken is an English composer, born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England.Casken read music at the University of Birmingham, studying composition and contemporary music with John Joubert and Peter Dickinson. He then went on to study in Poland with Andrzej Dobrowolski on a Polish government...

. David Bedford
David Bedford
David Vickerman Bedford , was an English composer and musician. He wrote and played both popular and classical music....

's late-twentieth-century works are about the constellation rather than the mythical figure; he is an amateur astronomer.

The twentieth-century French poet René Char
René Char
René Char was a 20th century French poet.-Biography:Char was born in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in the Vaucluse department of France, the youngest of four children of Emile Char and Marie-Therese Rouget, where his father was mayor and managing director of the Vaucluse plasterworks...

 found the blind, lustful huntsman, both pursuer and pursued, a central symbol, as James Lawler has explained at some length in his 1978 work René Char: the Myth and the Poem. French novelist Claude Simon
Claude Simon
Claude Simon was a French novelist and the 1985 Nobel Laureate in Literature. He was born in Antananarivo, Madagascar, and died in Paris, France....

 likewise found Orion an apt symbol, in this case of the writer, as he explained in his Orion aveugle of 1970. Marion Perret argues that Orion is a silent link in T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

's The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

(1922), connecting the lustful Actaeon
Actaeon
Actaeon , in Greek mythology, son of the priestly herdsman Aristaeus and Autonoe in Boeotia, was a famous Theban hero. Like Achilles in a later generation, he was trained by the centaur Chiron....

/Sweeney to the blind Teiresias and, through Sirius, to the Dog "that's friend to men".

External links

  • Theoi.com: Orion Excerpts from translations from Greek and Roman texts.
  • Star Tales – Orion Constellation mythology.
  • Natalis Comes
    Natalis Comes
    Natale Conti or Latin Natalis Comes, also Natalis de Comitibus and French Noël le Comte was an Italian mythographer, poet, humanist and historian. His major work Mythologiae, ten books written in Latin, was first published in Venice in 1567 and became a standard source for classical mythology in...

    Mythologiae siue explicationis fabularum libri decem Scan of 1616 Padua edition, ed M. Antonius Tritonius, pr. Petropaulus Tozzius. of Boccaccio's Genealogiae; apparently scan of edition cited. .