The Ten Books on Architecture, 9.5

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

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The Southern Constellations

5First, under the He-Goat lies the Southern Fish, facing towards the tail of the Whale. The Censer is under the Scorpion’s sting. The fore parts of the Centaur are next to the Balance and the Scorpion, and he holds in his hands the figure which astronomers call the Beast. Beneath the Virgin, Lion, and Crab is the twisted girdle formed by the Snake, extending over a whole line of stars, his snout raised near the Crab, supporting the Bowl with the middle of his body near the Lion, and bringing his tail, on which is the Raven, under and near the hand of the Virgin. The region above his shoulders is equally bright.

2Beneath the Snake’s belly, at the tail, lies the Centaur. Near the Bowl and the Lion is the ship named Argo. Her bow is invisible, but her mast and the parts about the helm are in plain sight, the stern of the vessel joining the Dog at the tip of his tail. The Little Dog follows the Twins, and is opposite the Snake’s head. The Greater Dog follows the Lesser. Orion lies aslant, under the Bull’s hoof; in his left hand grasping his club, and raising the other toward the Twins.

3At his feet is the Dog, following a little behind the Hare. The Whale lies under the Ram and the Fishes, and from his mane there is a slight sprinkling of stars, called in Greek ἁρπεδὁναι, regularly disposed towards each of the Fishes. This ligature by which they hang is carried a great way inwards, but reaches out to the top of the mane of the Whale. The River, formed of stars, flows from a source at the left foot of Orion. But the Water, said to pour from the Waterman, flows between the head of the Southern Fish and the tail of the Whale.

4These constellations, whose outlines and shapes in the heavens were designed by Nature and the divine intelligence, I have described according to the view of the natural philosopher Democritus, but only those whose risings and settings we can observe and see with our own eyes. Just as the Bears turn round the pivot of the axis without ever setting or sinking under the earth, there are likewise stars that keep turning round the southern pivot, which on account of the inclination of the firmament lies always under the earth, and, being hidden there, they never rise and emerge above the earth. Consequently, the figures which they form are unknown to us on account of the interposition of the earth. The star Canopus proves this. It is unknown to our vicinity; but we have reports of it from merchants who have been to the most distant part of Egypt, and to regions bordering on the uttermost boundaries of the earth.

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