mercredi 3 septembre 2008

Argo Navis 5, Carina

Aeson had a son named Jason and Pelias ordered his soldiers to seize and kill the boy. His father was smart and had sent to boy to the centaur Chiron where he would be taught by the smartest creature to ever live. When the soldiers arrived, Aeson told them the Jason was dead and the soldiers returned to Pelias with the good news.

When Jason was old enough, told him what had happened between his father and uncle. Jason prepared himself to put the injustice right, and returned home. Aeson was very glad to see his son again. After speaking with his father, Jason set out to find Pelias. En route to Boeotia, he had to swim across a river that was swollen with swirling flood waters. Jason lost one of his shoes crossing the river. Later, as Jason strode through the market place, Pelias noticed the princely boy and became very afraid when he discovered that the boy had only one shoe. Jason asked for a crowd and demanded that Pelias give up his crown to Aeson. Pelias tried to postpone his decision and told Jason that he would give up his thrown if Jason could prove himself a hero. Pelias told Jason that there was a curse on the country because the Golden Fleece was being held in a distant land. If Jason could return the fleece safely to his own land he would immediately make Aeson King of Boeotia. Jason accepted this challenge and set about preparing for the search. A crew of many heroes, now immortalized in the stars, took part in this journey. Among the heroes were Hercules, Castor and Pollux (the Gemini Twins), Orpheus, the Singer-Hero (the constellation Lyra), Zetes and Calais (sons of the North Wind), Theseus, the hero who slew the Minotaur (the constellation Corona Borealis), and many others, including one woman, Atlanta, an excellent archer. The helmsman was Glaucus, who is represented in Argo Navis by the star Canopus, the rudder on the boat. The ship was to be named Argo, the Swift One. On the advice of the Goddess Athene, a beam made from Zeus' oak tree that grew in Dodona was placed in the bow of the ship, this magical timber enabled the ship to speak. When the ship was ready to be launched it was so heavy that it could not be moved. Orpheus grabbed his lyre and sang such a wonderful song that the oak beam in the bow began to move, and so the whole ship set itself into motion and gently lowered itself into the water without the help of anybody. The power of Orpheus so great that he could charm the wild beasts of the forest and make the trees come down mountains to gather around him to listen in awe at his wonderful melodies. Now the journey could start with Jason in command. The Argonauts first passed Mount Pelion where Chiron, Jason's teacher, lived. After a night's rest the Argonauts moved on. To help guide Jason and the Argonauts, Chiron placed his likeness in the stars, as Sagittarius. Throughout the journey, Jason would speak to Chiron through the stars. When the Argo sailed past the coast of Asia Minor, their supply of fresh water began to run low and the Argonauts decided to cast anchor, go ashore, and obtain a new supply. Hercules and Hylas volunteered to search for water, and they found a fine water well, but as they were pulling the pails up, Hylas was suddenly drawn down into the well by the water nymphs. Hercules decided not to continue with the other Argonauts but to remain behind and try to find his lost friend. The Argo sailed without Hercules and set course to the place where Cybele lived. Cybele was a goddess who possessed a chariot that was not drawn by a horse but, rather, by a lion. The next point the Argonauts had to pass was a dangerous one. It was somewhere along the northern coast of Asia Minor where the brutish giant Amycus lived. Amycus was a born fighter and he would not let anybody pass unless they were prepared to fight with him. Usually this meant the death of the challenger. Castor and Pollux managed to overpower this giant and tied him with his arms outspread to a tree. After dealing with Amycus, the Argonauts sailed on to the island Salmydessus, the home of King Phineus. This poor man who once could see the future, had been punished by the gods with blindness because he had abused his divine seeing powers. Every time the old man tried to eat, great birds, called Harpies, would fly in and steal his food. The Harpies had iron feathers and were quite safe from threats from mortals. When the Argonauts arrived, they found Phineus almost starved to death. The heroes offered their help, and sat as guests at Phineus' table waiting for the birds to come. When the birds arrived the heroes hacked at them with their swords but to no avail. Then Zetes and Calais, the sons of the North Wind, flew up into the air and pursued the Harpies. The birds flew so far from the island that they became exhausted and fell into the sea where they drowned. Phineus was freed from these monsters. He was so grateful for the Argonauts' help that he gave them advice for their journey. The Argo headed to the high seas again and set course toward the huge cliffs called the Symplegades. The Symplegades had a habit of moving violently against each other, crushing everything in between, even fish and birds. Whenever the Symplegades saw a ship that had to pass between them, they waited until the vessel was in the middle and then came rushing together, breaking up the ship and killing everybody on board. Afterwards they would recede and leave a wide and seemingly safe passage for the next victim. Phineus had given good advice to the Argonauts. As the Argo approached the rocks they happened to be far apart, but seeing the ship coming nearer they started to move closer to each other. When they came near to the entrance the Argonauts released a white dove. They had been told that if any living thing passed alive through the Symplegades, the rocks would never move again. The white dove, aided by Athene, shot between the two rocks with such speed that they crashed against each other without killing the bird -- only depriving it of a few feathers. As the cliffs slid backwards, the Argo ran full sail between the murderous rocks. The rocks instantly started to move inwards again, but Orpheus began to play his lyre and slowed their movement with his soothing music while the Argo sailed safely through the Symplegades. The rocks discovered too late that they had been under the spell of Orpheus and crashed against each other for the last time. They have stood still ever since and are now known as the Dardanells and the Bosporus, the narrows guarding the ends of the passage between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea. The heroic dove came back to the ship. Athene later put her in the stars as the constellation Columba, visible only in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere. The last adventure of the Argonauts before reaching Colchis was to slay the wild boar in Calydon. Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt, had sent this boar to the Calydonians because it failed to bring the necessary sacrifices to her. This was where Atlanta, the only woman on board the Argo, came forward as she killed the boar with one of her arrows. Finally, the Argonauts reached Colchis. King Aeetes was very upset when he heard the reason for their visit. He was certainly not going to willingly give up the Golden Fleece. He hid his fear and told the Argonauts, "You can have the fleece, but first you must yoke the fire-breathing bulls and plow a field for me to sow some dragons' teeth." Aphrodite made Medea, the daughter of King Aeetes, fall in love with Jason and promise to help him. Medea gave Jason a mighty potion of herbs that would render him fire and freeze proof if he rubbed it on his hands, face and body. Early in the morning, King Aeetes went to the field with his daughter and members of the royal assemble. Everybody tried to get a good view as they made themselves comfortable for a day of good sport. Jason rubbed himself with the potion, entered the stable where the fire-bulls lived, untied the chains, and grabbed the bulls with one hand on each horn. The animals roared as they came out, and fire sprayed form their mouths and nostrils in all directions. Struggling and pulling, Jason forced the bulls under the yoke of the heavy iron plow. Jason was forcing the bulls' heads down to the ground so that the fire could not shoot upwards and then grasped the handle of the plow and let the heads go. Immediately the bulls lifted their heads and tried to lunge forward. Jason strained at the harness and they came to a dead stop. Thereafter, the oxen were obliged to plow quietly, and by midday Jason had finished plowing the field. With the plowing done, the bulls were unyoked. Terrified by Jason's strong hand, the bulls fled into the mountains and never returned again. Jason then went to King Aeetes and asked for the dragons' teeth. The king gave him a helmet full of little teeth and Jason started to sow these in the furrows, closing the soil over them as he did so. No sooner had he finished this task than armed skeletons began to grow out of each furrow. Those whose feet were still in the ground pulled out their spears and swords, while those already fully grown rushed madly at Jason. Jason did what Medea had told him to do, he threw a great stone in their midst and all the giants rushed to it, trying to possess it. A battle ensued among the giants that ended in their killing each other. Meanwhile Jason went around the field cutting off the heads of those that had just started to grow. Jason and Medea were glad that the ordeal was over but Aeetes was furious. The next morning Jason demanded the fleece because he wanted to go home, but Aeetes said, "Do stay for a while. It is not everyday that we have such heroes in our midst." Jason agreed to stay, but in the night Medea woke him up and warned him to leave immediately with his men because her father had rallied his army and intended to kill them all. So Jason and Medea fled from the palace while the crew made the Argo ready for its homeward journey. Medea and Jason went to the tree where the fleece was nailed and guarded by a never-sleeping dragon who would devour anyone who dared to touch it. As it was an immortal dragon, there was no sense in trying to kill it. The dragon had a great liking for sweets, and Medea had made it some honey cakes dipped in a certain juice that would put the dragon into a deep sleep. These she gave to Jason and he threw them to the dragon who soon ate them all and fell asleep. Jason pulled the fleece form the nails and sped back to the ship. Medea joined the Argonauts as they sailed for home. The Argonauts did not reach home right away. They had to sail past the Sirens, creatures that were half human-female and half fish, who lived on rocks and sang beautiful songs in an attempt to lure sailors toward them. Sailors who became entranced by the music of the Sirens were doomed because their ships would wreck on the rocks. Orpheus, with his lyre, could overpower the singing of the Sirens. But still, one of the crew fell under their influence he slipped overboard. Had it not been for Orpheus' lyre drowning the Sirens' singing and calming the waves, that sailor would have drowned. His fellow crewmen were able to haul him aboard again. The Argonauts encountered more danger with Scylla and Charybdis, two monsters who lived in the Strait of Messina. Scylla had six long necks and six heads and it was her sport to attack each passing ship from which she would pluck six sailors. Charybdis had a different kind of attack. Three times a day she would drink the sea water in the strait, devouring all the fish for a meal, and spit out the water again. This caused heavy currents and she often collected an unfortunate ship or two. With the help of Thetis, the Goddess of the Sea, and the sea nymphs, the Nereids, the Argonauts were led to safety through this dangerous area. Medea and Jason married when they arrived in the land of Phaeacians. From there, the route went past the Peloponnesus. A storm caught the ship and drove it to the coast of Lybia. Here, a golden steer rose form the sea with three goddesses seated on his back. These goddesses told the Argonauts that all would end well for them if the advice they were about to be given were followed. For twelve days, the goddesses said, the heroes should carry their ship through Lybia to escape the fury of the sea storm. This they did. During this grueling trip, one of the men was bitten and killed by a scorpion. Finally the Argonauts reached the sea, lowered the boat into the water again, and arrived home safely. The Argonauts discovered that King Pelias had put Jason's entire family to death, in the hope of forestalling the oracle's prediction that he would be killed by one of his cousins. Jason, Pelias thought, was as good as dead; he believed that Jason would never return from his mission to Colchis. Jason was desperate and Medea decided to seek revenge. She told the daughters of Pelias that she could rejuvenate their old father. To prove this claim, she cut up a goat in front of the sisters and then boiled it in a secret juice that brought the goat back to life as a young kid. This convinced the sisters of her powers and they killed their father. Then at the crucial moment, Medea left them in the lurch and did not perform the critical part of the rejuvenation rite. This was Medea's answer to the killing of Jason's family, and she did this in good faith because she believed in her husband. Jason was upset by her witches' methods, turned away from Medea and finally married Creusa, the daughter of the King of Corinth. Medea could not understand her husband's decision and tried to killed the bride by sending the her a poisoned robe. When this failed, she returned to Colchis in a chariot drawn by snakes. Athene commemorated the event by placing their ship, Argo Navis, in the sky as a giant constellation below and east of Canis Major.

On the way home from Troy, they stopped on the northern coast of Egypt, where Canopus died. In honor of his ships captain, Menelaus founded a city on the spot of his death and named it Canopus. The city of Canopus was not far from where Alexandria was eventually built. A temple to the Egyptian goddess Serapis was constructed there. On the steps of this temple is where Ptolomy, a second century astronomer, made his observations. By fitting coincidence, because of its perpendicular direction from the plane of our solar system, Canopus is one of the principle sighting stars used by modern spacecraft for celestial navigation.

Carina is one of the three constellations that use to form the huge constellation Argo Navis, the ship of the Argonauts. In 1763 Nicolas Louis de Lacaille divided the gigantic Argo Navis into three constellations: Carina (the Keel), Puppis (the Stern, or Poop deck), and Vela (the Sail).

The constellation Argo Navis is said to have been created because these stars skimmed the southern horizon, or sea, as seen from Greece.

The story of Jason begins with his grandfather. Athamas was the King of Boeotia and when he died his oldest son, Aeson, inherited his thrown. Pelias, the younger son, did not like this and set out to steal the kingdom form his older brother. Aeson was a peaceful man and did not wish to bring a war to the city-state and made his brother the ruler of the Boeotia. Just after gaining the thrown, an oracle told Pelias that his death would be caused by one of his cousins and that he should beware of a prince with only one shoe.

Others think that the constellation represents the ship of the Greek warrior Menelaus, husband of Helen. Menelaus sailed this ship home from the Trojan Wars.

Canopus (a Carinae) is the second brightest star in the night sky. The name of the star come from the pilot of the fleet of ships of King Menelaus. The star forms the rudder of the great ship, steering it across the sky as Canopus did with the actual ship.

The star Canopus was known in Egypt as the Star of Osiris, and worshipped in many ancient cultures. This was the star used by Posidonius in Alexandria who, in 260 BC, was the first to plot out the degrees on the Earth's surface.

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