mercredi 1 octobre 2008

Canis Major 9

Hail, mighty Sirius, monarch of the suns !
May we in this poor planet speak with thee ?

Mrs. Sigourney's The Stars.
α, Binary, ‑1.43 and 8.5, brilliant white and yellow.
Sirius, the Dog-star, often written Syrius even as late as Flamsteed's and Father Hell's day, has generally been derived from σείριος, sparkling or scorching, which first appeared with Hesiod as a title for this star, although also applied to the sun, and by Abychos to all the stars. Various early Greek authors used it for our Sirius, perhaps generally as an adjective, for we read in Eratosthenes:
Such stars astronomers call σειρίους on account of the tremulous motion of their light;
so that it would seem that the word, in its forms σείρ, σείρος, and σείριος, — Suidas used all three for both sun and star, — originally was employed to indicate any bright and sparkling heavenly object, but in the course of time became a proper name for this brightest of all the stars. Lamb, however, thought it of Phoenician origin, signifying the Chief One, and originally in that country a title for the sun; Jacob Bryant, the mythologist, said that it was from the Egyptians' Cahen Sihor; but Brown considers it a transcription from their well-known Hesiri, the Greek Osiris; while Dupuis distinctly asserted that it was from the Celtic Syr.
Plutarch called it Προόπτης, the Leader, which well agrees with its character and is an almost exact translation of its Euphratean, Persian, Phoenician, and Vedic titles; but Κύων, Κύων σείριος, Κύων ἀστήρ, Σείριος ἀστήρ, Σείριον ἄστρον, or simply το ἄστρον, were its names in early Greek astronomy and poetry. Προκύων, better known for the Lesser Dog and its lucida, also was applied to Sirius by Galen as preceding the other stars in the constellation.
Homer alluded to it in the Iliad as Ὀπωρινός, the Star of Autumn; The Greeks had no word exactly equivalent to our "autumn" until the 5th century before Christ, when it appeared in writings ascribed to Hippocrates, but the season intended was the last days of July, all of August, and part of September — the latter part of summer. Lord Derby translated this celebrated passage:

A fiery light
There flash'd, like autumn's star, that brightest shines
When newly risen from his ocean bath;
while later on in the poem Homer compares Achilles, when viewed by Priam, to
th' autumnal star, whose brilliant ray
Shines eminent amid the depth of night,
Whom men the dog-star of Orion call.
The Roman farmers sacrificed to it a fawn-colored dog at their three festivals when, in May, the sun began to approach Sirius. These, instituted 238 B.C., were the Robigalia, to secure the propitious influence of their goddess Robigo in averting rust and mildew from their fields; and the Floralia and Vinalia, to ensure the maturity of their blooming flowers, fruits and grapes.
Among the Latins it naturally shared the constellation's titles, probably originated them; and occasionally was even Canicula; indeed, as late as 1420 the Palladium of Husbandry urged certain farm-work to be done "Er the caniculere, the hounde ascende"; and, more than a century later, Eden, in the Historie of the Vyage to Moscovie and Cathay, wrote: "Serius is otherwise called Canicula, this is the dogge, of whom the canicular days have theyr name."
It has been asserted that Ovid and Vergil referred to Sirius in their Latrator Anubis, representing a jackal, or dog-headed Egyptian divinity, guardian of the visible horizon and of the solstices, transferred to Rome as goddess of the chase; but it is very doubtful whether they had in mind either star or constellation.
Its well-known name, Al Shiʽrā, or Al Siʽrā, extended as al Abūr al Yamaniyyah, much resembles the Egyptian, Persian, Phoenician, Greek, and Roman equivalents, and, Ideler thought, may have had common origin with them from some one ancient, source: possibly the Sanskrit Sūrya, the Shining One, — the Sun. The ʽAbur, or Passage, refers to the myth of Canopus' flight to the South; and the adjective to the same, or perhaps to the southerly position of the star towards Yemen, in distinction from that of Al Ghumaisāʼ in the Lesser Dog, seen towards Shām, — Syria, — in the North. From these geographical names originated the Arabic adjectives Yamaniyyah and Shamāliyyah, Southern and Northern; although the former literally signifies On the Right-hand Side, i.e. to an observer facing eastward towards Mecca.
In Chrysococca's Tables the title is Σιαὴρ Ιαμανὴ; and Doctor C. Edward Sachau's translation of Al Bīrūnī's Chronology renders it Sirius Jemenicus. Riccioli had Halabor, which the 1515 Almagest applied to the constellation; and Chilmead, Gabbar, Ecber, and Habor; while Shaari lobur, another queerly corrupted form, is found in Eber's Egyptian Princess. In the Alfonsine Tables the original is changed to Asceher and Aschere Aliemini; while Bayer gives plain Aschere and Elscheere for the star, with others similar for both star and constellation. Scera is cited by Grotius for the star, and Sceara for the whole, derived from an old lexicon; and Alsere; but he traced all to Σείριος.
In modern Arabia it is Suhail, the general designation for bright stars.
The late Finnish poet Zakris Topelius accounted for the exceptional magnitude of Sirius by the fact that the lovers Zulamith the Bold and Salami the Fair, after a thousand years of separation and toil while building their bridge, the Milky Way, upon meeting at its completion,
Straight rushed into each other's arms
And melted into one;
So they became the brightest star
In heaven's high arch that dwelt —
Great Sirius, the mighty Sun
Beneath Orion's belt.
The native Australians knew it as their Eagle, a constellation by itself; while the Hervey Islanders, calling it Mere, associated it in their folklore with Aldebaran and the Pleiades.
Sharing the Sanskrit titles for the whole, it was the Deer-slayer and the Hunter, while the Vedas also have for it Tishiya or Tishiga, Tistrija, Tishtrya, the Tistar, or Chieftain's, Star. And this we find too in Persia; as also Sira. The later Persian and Pahlavi have Tir, the Arrow. Edkins, however, considers Sirius, or Procyon, to be Vanand, and Arcturus, Tistar.
Hewitt sees in Sirius the Sivānam, or Dog, of the Rig Veda awakening the Ribhus, the gods of mid-air, who "thus calls them to their office of rain sending," a very different office from that assigned to this star in Rome. Yet these gods, philologically, had a Roman connection, for Professor Friedrich Maximilian Mueller, writing the word Arbhu, associates it with the Latin Orpheus. Hewitt also says that in the earliest Hindu mythology Sirius was Sukra, the Rain-god, before Indra was thus known; and that in the Avesta it marked one of the Four Quarters of the Heavens.
Although the identification of Euphratean stellar titles is by no means settled, especially and singularly so as to this great star, yet various authorities have found for it names more or less probable.
Berlin and Brown think it conclusively proved that it was Kak-shisha, the Dog that Leads, and "a Star of the South"; while Kak-shidi is Sayce's transliteration of the original signifying the Creator of Prosperity, a character which the Persians also assigned to it; and it may have been the Akkadian Du-shisha, the Director — in Assyrian Mes-ri-e. Epping and Strassmaier have Kak-ban as a late Chaldaean title, which Brown renders Kal‑bu, the Dog, "exactly the name for Sirius we should expect to find"; Jensen has Kakkab lik-ku, the Star of the Dog, revived in Homer's κύων; and it perhaps was the Assyrian Kal-bu Sa-mas, the Dog of the Sun; and the Akkadian Mul-lik-ud, the Star Dog of the Sun. Jensen also gives Kakkab kasti, the Bow Star, although this may be doubtful; and Brown has, from the Assyrian, Su-ku-du, the Restless, Impetuous, Blazing, well characterizing the marked scintillation and color changes in its light. Hewitt cites an Akkadian title Tis-khu.
Its risings and settings were regularly tabulated in Chaldaea about 300 B.C., and Oppert is reported to have recently said that the Babylonian astronomers could not have known certain astronomical periods, which as a matter of fact they did know, if they had not observed Sirius from the island of Zylos in the Persian Gulf on Thursday, the 29th of April, 11542 B.C.!
It is the only star known to us with absolute certitude in the Egyptian records — its hieroglyph, a dog, often appearing on the monuments and temple walls throughout the Nile country. Its worship, chiefly in the north, perhaps, did not commence till about 3285 B.C., when its heliacal rising at the summer solstice marked Egypt's New Year and the beginning of the inundation, although precession has now carried this rising to the 10th of August. At that early date, according to Lockyer, Sirius had replaced γ Draconis as an orientation point, especially at Thebes, and notably in the great temple of Queen Hatshepsu, known to-day as Al Dēr al Bahārī, the Arabs' translation of the modern Copts' Convent of the North. Here it was symbolized, under the title of Isis Hathor, by the form of a cow with disc and horns appearing from behind the western hills. With the same title, and styled Her Majesty of Denderah, it is seen in the small temple of Isis, erected 700 B.C., which was oriented toward it; as well as on the walls of the great Memnonium, the Ramesseum, of Al Ḳurneh at Thebes, probably erected about the same time that this star's worship began. Lockyer thinks that he has found seven temples oriented to the rising of Sirius. It is also represented on the walls of the recently discovered step-temple of Saḳḳara, dating from about 2700 B.C., and supposed to have been erected in its honor.
Great prominence is given to it on the square zodiac of Denderah, where it is figured as a cow recumbent in a boat with head surmounted by a star; and again, immediately following, as the goddess Sothis, accompanied by the goddess Anget, with two urns from which water is flowing, emblematic of the inundation at the rising of the star. But in the earlier temple service of Denderah it was Isis Sothis, at Philae Isis Sati, or Satit, and, for a long time in Egypt's mythology, the resting-place of the soul of that goddess, and thus a favorable star. Plutarch made distinct reference to this; although it should be noted that the word Isis at times also indicated anything luminous to the eastward heralding sunrise. Later it was Osiris, brother and husband of Isis, but this word also was applied to any celestial body becoming invisible by its setting. Thus its titles noticeably changed in the long period of Egypt's history.
As Thoth, and the most prominent stellar object in the worship of that country, — its heliacal rising was in the month of Thoth, — it was in some way associated with the similarly prominent sacred ibis, also a symbol of Isis and Thoth, for, in various forms, the bird and star appear together on Nile monuments, temple walls, and zodiacs.
Sirius was worshiped, too, as Sihor, the Nile Star, and, even more commonly, as Sothi and Sothis, its popular Graeco-Egyptian name, the Brightly Radiating One, the Fair Star of the Waters; but in the vernacular was Sept, Sepet, Sopet, and Sopdit; Sed, According to Mueller, this Sed, or Shed, of the hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared in Hebrew as El Shaddar and Sot, — the Σήθ of Vettius Valens.
Upon this star was laid the foundation of the Canicular, Sothic, or Sothiac Period named after it, which has excited the attention and puzzled the minds of historians, antiquarians, and chronologists. Lockyer has an admirable discussion of this in his Dawn of Astronomy.
Sir Edwin Arnold writes of it in his Egyptian Princess:
And even when the Star of Kneph has brought the summer round,
And the Nile rises fast and full along the thirsty ground;

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