Classical Texts Library >> Hyginus, Astronomica >> Fables 2.18-43




This sign Aratus and many others have called Pegasus, offspring of Neptune and the Gorgon Medusa, who on Helicon, a mountain of Boeotia, opened up a spring by striking the rock with his hoof. From him the spring is called Hippocrene. Others say that at the time Bellerophon came to visit Proetus, son of Abas and king of the Argives, Antia, the king’s wife, smitten with love for the guest, begged to visit him, promising him her husband’s kingdom. When she couldn’t obtain this request, out of fear that he would accuse her to the king, she anticipated him by telling Proetus that he had offered violence to her. Proetus, who had been fond of Bellerophon, was reluctant to inflict punishment himself, but knowing that he had the horse Pegasus, sent him to the father of Antia (some call her Sthenoboea), for him to defend his daughter’s chastity and send the youth against the Chimera, which at that time was laying waste with flames the country of the Lycians.
Bellerophon was victor, and escaped, but after the creation of the spring, as he was attempting to fly to heaven, and had almost reached it, he became terrified looking down at the earth, and fell off and was killed. But the horse is said to have flown up and to have been put among the constellations by Jove.
Others have said that Bellerophon fled from Argos not because of Antia’s accusations, but so as not to hear any more proposals which were distasteful to him, or to be distressed by her entreaties.

Euripides in his Melanippe, says that Melanippe, daughter of Chiron the Centaur, was once called Thetis. Brought up on Mount Helicon, a girl especially fond of hunting, she was wooed by Aeolus, son of Hellen, and grandson of Jove, and conceived a child be him. When her time drew near, she fled into the forest, so that her father, who supposed her a virgin, might not see that she had given birth to a grandchild. And so when her father was looking for her, she is said to have begged the power of the gods not to let her father see her in childbirth. After the child was born, by the will of the gods she was changed into a mare which was placed among the stars.
Some say that she was a prophetess, and because she used to reveal the plans of the gods to men, she was changed into a mare. Callimachus says that because she ceased hunting and worshipping Diana, Diana changed her into the shape we have mentioned. For the reason above, too, she is said to be out of sight of the Centaur, who come say is Chiron, and to show only half her body, since she didn’t want her sex to be known.


This constellation, which has three angles like the Greek letter Delta, is so named for that reason.

Mercury is thought to have placed it above the head of Aries, so that the dimness of Aries might be marked by its brightness, wherever it should be, and that it should form the first letter in the name of Jove (in Greek, Dis).

Some have said that it pictures the position of Egypt; others, that of Aethiopa and Egypt where the Nile marks their boundaries. Still others think that Sicily is pictured there.

Others, say that three angles were put there because the gods divided the universe into three parts.


This is thought to be the ram which carried Phrixus and Helle thought the Hellespont. Hesiod and Pherecydes say that it had a fleece of gold; about his we shall speak at greater length elsewhere. Many have said that Helle fell into the Hellespont, was embraced by Neptune, and bore Paeon, or, as some say, Edonus. They say, too, that Phrixus, on coming safely to Aeetes, sacrificed the ram to Jove, and hung the fleece up in the temple. The image of the ram itself, put among the constellations by Nubes, marks the time of year when grain is sown, because Ino earlier sowed it parched - the chief reason for the flight. Eratosthenes says that the ram itself removed its golden fleece, and gave it Phrixus as a memorial, and then came of its own accord to the stars; for this reason it seems somewhat dim, as we said before.

Phrixus was born, some say, in the town of Orchomenus, which is in Boeotia; others say, in the district of the Salones of Thessaly. Still others make Cretheus and Athamas with many others, sons of Aeolus; some, again, say that Salmoneus, son of Athamas, was a grandson of Aeolus. Cretheus had Demodice as wife; others name her Biadice. Moved by the beauty of Phrixus, son of Athamas, she fell in love with him, and could not obtain from him favour in return; so, driven by necessity, she accused him to Cretheus, saying that he had attacked her, and many similar things that women say. Stirred by this report, Cretheus, as was fitting for one who deeply loved his wife and was a king, persuaded Athamas to put Phrixus to death. However, Nubes intervened, and rescuing Phrixus and Helle his sister, put them on the ram, and bade them flee as far as they could through the Hellespont Helle fell off and paid the debt to nature, and the Hellespont was named from her name. Phrixus came to the Colchians, and, as we have said, hung up the fleece of the slain ram in a temple. He himself was brought back to Athamas by Mercury, who proved to his father that, relying on innocence, he had fled.

Hermippus says that at the time when Liber was attacking Africa he came with his army to the place called Ammodes from the great quantities of sand. He was in great danger, since he saw he had to advance, and an added difficulty was the great scarcity of water. The army were almost at the point of exhaustion, and the men were wondering what to do, when a certain ram, wandering apart, came by chance near the soldiers. When it saw them it took safety in flight. The soldiers, however, who had seen it, though they were advancing with difficulty oppressed by the sand and heat, gave chase, as if seeking booty from the flames, and followed it to that place which was named from the temple of Jove Hammon later founded there. When they had come there, the ram which they had followed was nowhere to be seen, but what was more to be desired, they found an abundant supply of water, and, refreshed in body, reported it at once to Liber. In joy he led his army to that place, and founded a temple to Jove Hammon, fashioning a statue there with the horns of a ram. He put the ram among the constellations in such a way that when the sun should be in that sign, all growing things would be refreshed; this happens in the spring for the reason that the ram’s flight refreshed the army of Liber. He wished it, too, to be chief of the twelve signs, because the ram had been the best leader of his army.

But Leon, who wrote about Egyptian affairs, speaks of the statue of Hammon as follows. When Liber was ruling over Eygpt and the other lands, and was said to have introduced all arts to mankind, a certain Hammon came from Africa and brought to him a great flock of sheep, in order more readily to enjoy his favour and be called the first inventor of something. And so, for his kindness, Liber is thought to have given him the land opposite Egyptian Thebes. Accordingly, those who make statues of Hammon, make them with horned heads, so that men may remember that he first showed the use of flocks. Those, however, who have wished to assign the gift to Liber, as not asked for from Hammon, but brought to him voluntarily, make those horned images for Liber, and say that in commemoration the ram was placed among the constellations.