The Ten Books on Architecture, 9.5

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

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Of the Southern Constellations

5First, under Capricornus is the southern Fish looking towards the tail of the whale. Between it and Sagittarius is a vacant space. The Altar is under the sting of Scorpio. The fore parts of the Centaur are near Libra and Scorpio, and he holds in his hand that constellation which astronomers call the Beast. Near Virgo, Leo, and Cancer, the Snake stretches through a range of stars, and with its foldings encircles the region of Cancer, raising its snout towards Leo and on the middle of its body supporting the cup; its tail extends towards the hand of Virgo, and upon that is the Crow; the stars on its back are all equally luminous.

2Under its belly, at the tail, is the Centaur. Near the cup and Leo is the ship Argo, whose prow is hidden, but the mast and parts about the steerage are clearly seen. The Ship and its poop touch the tip of the Dog’s tail. The smaller Dog is behind the Twins at the head of the Snake, and the larger follows the smaller Dog. Orion lies transversely under, pressed on by the hoof of the Bull, holding a shield in his left hand and with the club in his right hand raised towards Gemini;

3near his feet is the Dog at a short distance following the Hare. Below Aries and Pisces is the Whale, from whose top to the two Fishes a small train of stars, which the Greeks call Ἑρμηδόνη, regularly extends, and this ligature of the Fishes twisting considerably inwards, at one part touches the top of the Whale. A river of stars, in the shape of the river Po,begins from the left foot of Orion. The water that runs from Aquarius takes its course between the head of the southern Fish and the tail of the Whale.

4I have explained the constellations displayed and formed in the heavens by nature with a divine intelligence, according to the system of the philosopher Democritus, confining myself to those whose rising and setting are visible. Some, however, such as the two Bears turning round the pole, never set nor pass under the earth. So also, the constellations about the south pole, which from the obliquity of the heavens is under the earth, are always hidden, and their revolution never brings them above the horizon. Whence the interposition of the earth prevents a knowledge of their forms. The constellation Canopus proves this, which is unknown in these countries, though well known to merchants who have travelled to the extremity of Egypt and other boundaries of the earth.

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