The Ten Books on Architecture, 9.4

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

« Vitr. 9.3 | Vitr. 9.4 | Vitr. 9.5 | About This Work »

The Northern Constellations

4The Great Bear, called in Greek ἁρκτος or ἑλἱκη, has her Warden behind her. Near him is the Virgin, on whose right shoulder rests a very bright star which we call Harbinger of the Vintage, and the Greeks προτρυγητἡς. But Spica in that constellation is brighter. Opposite there is another star, coloured, between the knees of the Bear Warden, dedicated there under the name of Arcturus.

2Opposite the head of the Bear, at an angle with the feet of the Twins, is the Charioteer, standing on the tip of the horn of the Bull; hence, one and the same star is found in the tip of the left horn of the Bull and in the right foot of the Charioteer. Supported on the hand of the Charioteer are the Kids, with the She-Goat at his left shoulder. Above the Bull and the Ram is Perseus, having at his right . . . with the Pleiades moving beneath, and at his left the head of the Ram. His right hand rests on the likeness of Cassiopea, and with his left he holds the Gorgon’s head by its top over the Ram, laying it at the feet of Andromeda.

3Above Andromeda are the Fishes, one above her belly and the other above the backbone of the Horse. A very bright star terminates both the belly of the Horse and the head of Andromeda. Andromeda’s right hand rests above the likeness of Cassiopea, and her left above the Northern Fish. The Waterman’s head is above that of the Horse. The Horse’s hoofs lie close to the Waterman’s knees. Cassiopea is set apart in the midst. High above the He-Goat are the Eagle and the Dolphin, and near them is the Arrow. Farther on is the Bird, whose right wing grazes the head and sceptre of Cepheus, with its left resting over Cassiopea. Under the tail of the Bird lie the feet of the Horse.

4Above the Archer, Scorpion, and Balance, is the Serpent, reaching to the Crown with the end of its snout. Next, the Serpent-holder grasps the Serpent about the middle in his hands, and with his left foot treads squarely on the foreparts of the Scorpion. A little way from the head of the Serpent-holder is the head of the so-called Kneeler. Their heads are the more readily to be distinguished as the stars which compose them are by no means dim.

5The foot of the Kneeler rests on the temple of that Serpent which is entwined between the She-Bears (called Septentriones). The little Dolphin moves in front of the Horse. Opposite the bill of the Bird is the Lyre. The Crown is arranged between the shoulders of the Warden and the Kneeler. In the northern circle are the two She-Bears with their shoulder-blades confronting and their breasts turned away from one another. The Greeks call the Lesser Bear κυνὁσουρα, and the Greater ἑλικη. Their heads face different ways, and their tails are shaped so that each is in front of the head of the other Bear; for the tails of both stick up over them.

6The Serpent is said to lie stretched out between their tails, and in it there is a star, called Polus, shining near the head of the Greater Bear. At the nearest point, the Serpent winds its head round, but is also flung in a fold round the head of the Lesser Bear, and stretches out close to her feet. Here it twists back, making another fold, and, lifting itself up, bends its snout and right temple from the head of the Lesser Bear round towards the Greater. Above the tail of the Lesser Bear are the feet of Cepheus, and at this point, at the very top, are stars forming an equilateral triangle. There are a good many stars common to the Lesser Bear and to Cepheus.

I have now mentioned the constellations which are arranged in the heaven to the right of the east, between the belt of the signs and the north. I shall next describe those that Nature has distributed to the left of the east and in the southern regions.

« Vitr. 9.3 | Vitr. 9.4 | Vitr. 9.5 | About This Work »