vendredi 5 septembre 2008

Piscis Austrinus 2

Eratosthenes called this the Great Fish and said that it was the parent of the two smaller fishes of the zodiacal constellation Pisces. Like Pisces, its mythology has a Middle Eastern setting that reveals its Babylonian origin. According to the brief account of Eratosthenes, the Syrian fertility goddess Derceto (the Greek name for Atargatis) is supposed to have fallen into a lake at Bambyce near the river Euphrates in northern Syria, and was saved by a large fish. Hyginus says, in repetition of his note on Pisces, that as a result of this the Syrians do not eat fish but they worship the images of fish as gods. All the accounts of this constellation’s mythology are disappointingly sketchy.
Bambyce later became known to the Greeks as Hieropolis (meaning ‘sacred city’), now called Manbij. Other classical sources tell us that temples of Atargatis contained fish ponds. The goddess was said to punish those who ate fish by making them ill, but her priests ate fish in a daily ritual.
According to the Greek writer Diodorus Siculus, Derceto deliberately threw herself into a lake at Ascalon in Palestine as a suicide bid in shame for a love affair with a young Syrian, Caystrus, by whom she bore a daughter, Semiramis. Derceto killed her lover and abandoned her child, who was brought up by doves and later became queen of Babylon. In the lake, Derceto was turned into a mermaid, half woman, half fish.

Piscis Austrinus is more noticeable than Pisces in the sky because it contains the first-magnitude star Fomalhaut. This name comes from the Arabic meaning ‘fish’s mouth’, which is where Ptolemy described it as lying. In the sky the fish is shown drinking the water flowing from the jar of Aquarius, a strange thing for a fish to do. Bedouin Arabs visualized Fomalhaut and Achernar (in Eridanus) as a pair of ostriches. The name Fomalhaut is frequently mis-spelt “Formalhaut”.

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