SEIRIOS (Sirius) was the god or goddess of the Dog-Star, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Major. The pre-dawn rising of the star in the path of the sun was believed to be the source of the scorching heat and droughts of midsummer.
Seirios appears in many guises in myth. He or she was variously described as Maira (Maera) daughter of the Titan Atlas, Maira the dog of the hero Ikarios (Icarius), Lailaps (Laelaps) the hound of Orion, and Kyon Khryseos the golden-hound of Zeus. It may also have been associated with Orthros ("Morning Twilight") the hound of Geryon, giant of the west. The star was no doubt also connected with the dog-loving goddess Hekate who was the daughter of Perses "the Destroyer" and Asteria "the Starry One."
FAMILY OF SIRIUS
Various, see associated entries
The Dog Star
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
THE DOG-STAR SIRIUS APPEASED BY ARISTAEUS
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 518 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Seirios (Sirius) was scorching the Minoan Islands from the sky, and the people could find no permanent cure for the trouble till Hekatos (Hecatus) [Apollon] put it in their heads to send for Aristaios (Aristaeus). So, as his father's [Apollon's] command, Aristaios assembled the Parrhasian tribe, who are descendants of Lykaon (Lycaon), left Phthia, and settled in Keos (Ceos). He raised a great altar to Zeus Ikmaios (the Rain-God) and made ritual offerings in the hills to the Dog-star and to Zeus Kronides himself. In response, Zeus gave his orders--and the Etesiai (Etesian Winds) refresh the earth for forty days. The priests of Keos still make yearly sacrifice before the rising of the Kyon (Dog)."
Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 3. 1 (from Oxyrhynchus Papyri 7) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The [Kean (Cean)] priests of Zeus Aristaios Ikmaios (Aristaeus Icmaeus, the Lord of Moisture) : priests whose business it is upon the mountain-tops to assuage stern Maira (Maera) [Seirios (Sirius)] when she rises."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 81. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"A plague [i.e. a pestilence arising in a time of drought] prevailed throughout Greece the sacrifice he offered there was on behalf of all the Greeks. And since the sacrifice was made at the time of the rising of the star Seirios (Sirius), which is the period when the Etesian winds customarily blow, the pestilential diseases, we are told, came to an end. Now the man who ponders upon this event may reasonably marvel at the strange turn which fortune took; for the same man [Aristaios (Aristaeus)] who saw his son [Aktaion (Actaeon)] done to death by the dogs likewise put an end to the influence of the star which, of all the stars of heaven, bears the same name [i.e. Seirios (Sirius) was known as the dog-star] and is thought to bring destruction upon mankind, and by so doing was responsible for saving the lives of the rest."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 4 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Icarus [of Attika (Attica)] received the wine from Father Liber [Dionysos] . . . when he showed it to the shepherds . . . some of them, became stupefied, and sprawling here and there, as if half-dead, kept uttering unseemly things. The others, thinking poison had been given the shepherds by Icarus . . . killed him, and threw him into a well, or, as others say, buried him near a certain tree. However, when those who had fallen asleep, woke up, saying that hey had never rested better, and kept asking for Icarus in order to reward him, his murderers, stirred by conscience, at once took to flight and came to the island of the Ceans. Received there as guests, they established homes for themselves . . . But when Erigone, the daughter of Icarus, moved by longing for her father, saw he did not return and was on the point of going out to hunt for him, the dog of Icarus, Maera by name, returned to her, howling as if lamenting the death of its master . . . [and] taking hold of her dress with its teeth, led her to the body. As soon as the girl saw it, abandoning hope, and overcome with loneliness and poverty, with many tearful lamentations she brought death on herself by hanging from the very tree beneath which her father was buried. And the dog made atonement for her death by its own life. Some say that it cast itself into the well, Anigrus by name. For this reason they repeat the story that no one afterward drank from that well. Jupiter [Zeus], pitying their misfortune, represented their forms among the stars . . . The dog, however, from its own name and likeness, they have called Canicula. It is called Procyon by the Greeks, because it rises before the greater Dog. Others say these were pictured among the stars by Father Liber [Dionysos].
[The constellation] Canicula rising with its heat, scorched the land of the Ceans, and robbed their fields of produce, and caused the inhabitants, since they had welcomed the bandits to be plagued by sickness, and to pay the penalty to Icarus with suffering. Their king, Aristaeus, son of Apollo and Cyrene, and father of Actaeon, asked his father by what means he could free the state from affliction. The god bade them expiate the death of Icarus with many victims, and asked from Jove that when Canicula rises he should send wind for forty days to temper thee heat of Canicula. This command Arsitaeus carried out, and obtained from Jove [Zeus] the favour that the Etesian winds should blow."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 253 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"He [Aristaios (Aristaeus)] had not yet migrated to the island formerly called Meropis [Kos (Cos)] : he had not yet brought there the lifebreathing wind of Zeus the Defender [the Etesian Winds], and checked the fiery vapour of the parched season; he had not stood steelclad to receive the glare of Seirios (Sirius), and all night long repelled and clamed the star's fiery heat--and even now the winds cool him with light puffs, as he lances his hot parching fire through the air from glowing throat."
SIRIUS THE DOG-STAR POETIC MISCELLANY
Homer, Iliad 5. 10 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The star of the waning summer [Seirios (Sirius) the Dog-Star] who beyond all stars rises bathed in Okeanos (Oceanus, the Ocean-Stream) to glitter with brilliance."
Homer, Iliad 22. 26 ff :
"That star [Seirios (Sirius) the Dog-Star] which comes on in the autumn and whose conspicuous brightness far outshines the stars that are numbered in the night's darkening, the star they give the name of Orion's Dog (kynos Orionos), which is brightest among the stars, and yet is wrought as a sign of evil and brings on the great fever for unfortunate mortals."
Hesiod, Works and Days 414 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"When the piercing power and sultry heat of the sun abate, and almighty Zeus sends the autumn rains [October], and men's flesh comes to feel far easier,--for then Aster Seirios (the Star Sirius) passes over the heads of men, who are born to misery, only a little while by day and takes greater share of night."
Hesiod, Works and Days 609 ff :
"But when Oarion (Orion) and Seirios (Sirius) are come into mid-heaven, and rosy-fingered Eos (Dawn) sees Arktouros (Arcturus) [i.e. in September], then cut off all the grape-clusters."
Hesiod, Shield of Heracles 139 ff :
"Their souls passed beneath the earth and went down into the house of Haides; but their bones, when the skin is rotted about them, crumble away on the dark earth under parching Seirios (Sirius)."
Alcaeus, Fragment 347 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C7th to 6th B.C.) :
"Wet your lungs with wine: the dogstar, Seirios (Sirius), is coming round, the season is harsh, everything is thirsty under the heat, the cicada sings sweetly from the leaves .. the artichoke is in flower; now are women most pesilential, but men are feeble, since Seirios parches their heads and knees."
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 966 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"For if the root still lives, leaves come again to the house and spread their over-reaching shade against the scorching dog star (seirios kynos)."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 958 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Like Seirios (Sirius) rising from Okeanos (Oceanus), brilliant and beautiful but full of menace for the flocks."
Aratus, Phaenomena 328 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek astronomical poem C3rd B.C.) :
"A star that keenest of all blazes with a searing flame and him men call Seirios (Sirius). When he rises with Helios (the Sun), no longer do the trees deceive him by the feeble freshness of their leaves. For easily with his keen glance he pierces their ranks, and to some he gives strength but of others he blights the bark utterly. Of him too at his setting are we aware."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 30 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"From the ocean-verge upsprings Helios (the Sun) in glory, flashing fire far over earth--fire, when beside his radiant chariot-team races the red star Seirios (Sirius), scatterer if woefullest diseases over men."
Anonymous (perhaps Pamprepius of Panopolis), Two Poems Fragments (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 140) (Greek poetry C4th A.D.) :
"The snow-white brightness of blazing Phaethon [the sun] is quenched by the liquid streams of rainclouds, and the fiery ((lacuna)) . . of the dog-star (kynos astraios) is extinguished by the watery snowstorms."
Virgil, Georgics 2. 353 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"The time when the sultry Dog Star (Canis) splits the fields that gape with thirst."
Virgil, Georgics 2. 425 ff :
"And now Sirius (the Dog Star), fiercely parching the thirsty Indians, was ablaze in heaven, and the fiery Sun had consumed half his course; the grass was withering and the hollow streams, in their parched throats, were scorched and baked by the rays down to the slime."
Seneca, Oedipus 37 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Thebes was plagued by drought :] No soft breeze with its cool breath relieves our breasts that pant with heat, no gentle Zephyrus blows; but Titan [Helios the Sun] augments the scorching dog-stars's [Seirios' (Sirius')] fires, close-pressing upon the Nemean Lion's [i.e. Leo, zodiac of mid-summer] back. Water has fled the streams, and from the herbage verdure. Dirce is dry, scant flows Ismenus' stream, and with its meagre wave scarce wets the naked sands."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5. 370 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"When Sirius in autumn sharpens yet more his fires, and his angry gold gleams in the shining tresses of night, the Arcadian [planet Mercury] and great Jupiter [the planet] grow dim; fain are the fields that he would not blaze so fiercely in heaven, fain too the already heated waters of the streams."
Statius, Silvae 3. 1. 5 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Twas the season when the vault of heaven bends its most scorching heat upon the earth, and Sirius the Dog-star smitten by Hyperion's [the Sun's] full might pitilessly burns the panting fields."
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Works and Days - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Hesiod, The Shield of Heracles - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th - 4th B.C.
- Greek Lyric I Alcaeus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Agamemnon - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Aratus, Phaenomena - Greek Astronomy C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Greek Papyri III Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Poetry C4th A.D.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
- Seneca, Oedipus - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.