mercredi 1 octobre 2008

Cassiopeia 6

A place where Cassiopea sits within
Inferior light, for all her daughter's sake.

Mrs. Browning's Paraphrases
more correctly Cassiepeia, although variously written, is one of the oldest and popularly best known of our constellations, and her throne, "the shinie Casseiopeia's chair" of Spenser's Faerie Queen, is a familiar object to the most youthful observer. It also is known as the Celestial W when below the pole, and the Celestial M when above it.
Hyginus, writing the word Cassiepia, described the figure as bound to her seat, and thus secured from falling out of it in going around the pole head downward, — this particular spot in the sky having been selected by the p143queen's enemies, the sea-nymphs, to give her an effectual lesson in humility, for a location nearer the equator would have kept her nearly upright. Aratos said of this:
She head foremost like a tumbler sits.
Her outstretched legs also, for a woman accustomed to the fashions of the East, must have added to her discomfort.
Euripides and Sophocles, of the fifth century before our era, wrote of her, while all the Greeks made much of the constellation, knowing it as Κασσιέπεια and Ἡ τοῦ θρόνου, She of the Throne. But at one time in Greece it was the Laconian Key, from its resemblance to that instrument, the invention of which was attributed in classical times to that people; Locks and keys, however, were used at the siege of Troy; have been found in Egyptian catacombs and sculptured on the walls of the Great Temple of Karnak; disinterred from the palaces of Khorsabad near Nineveh; and twice mentioned in our Old Testament, as early as Ehud's time in the Book of Judges, iii.24 and 25 although Pliny claimed this for Theodorus of Samos in Caria, 730 B.C., whence came another title for our stars, Carion. The learned Huetius (Huet, bishop of Avranches and tutor of the dauphin Louis XV) more definitely said that this stellar key represented that described by Homer as sickle-shaped in the wardrobe door of Penelope:

A brazen key she held, the handle turn'd,
With steel and polish'd elephant adorned;
and Aratos wrote of the constellation:
E'en as a folding door, fitted within
With key, is thrown back when the bolts are drawn.

But even Ideler did not understand this simile, although the outline of the chief stars well shows the form of this early key.
The Romans transliterated the Greek proper name as we still have it, but also knew Cassiopeia as Mulier Sedis, the Woman of the Chair; or simply as Sedes, qualified by regalis or regia; and as Sella and Solium. Bayer's statement that Juvenal called it Cathedra mollis was an error from a misreading of the original text. Hyde's title Inthronata has been repeated by subsequent authors; and Cassiopeia's Chair is the children's name for it now.
The Arabians called it Al Dhāt al Kursiyy, the Lady in the Chair, — Chilmead's Dhath Alcursi, — the Greek proper name having no signification to them; but the early Arabs had a very different figure here, in no way connected with the Lady as generally is supposed, — their Kaff al Ḣadib, the large Hand Stained with Henna, the bright stars marking the fingertips; although in this they included the nebulous group in the left hand of Perseus. Chrysococca gave it thus in the Low Greek Χείρ βεβαμένη; and it sometimes was the Hand of, i.e. next to, the Pleiades, while Smyth said that in Arabia it even bore the title of that group, Al Thurayya, from its comparatively condensed figure.
The early Arabs additionally made Two Dogs out of Cassiopeia and Cepheus, from which may have come Bayer's Canis; but his Cerva, a Roe, is not explained, although La Lande asserted that the Egyptian sphere of Petosiris had shown a Deer to the north of the Fishes. Al Tizini imagined a Kneeling Camel from some of its larger stars, whence the constellation's name Shuter found with Al Naṣr al Din, and common for that animal in Persia.
The Alfonsine Tables and Arabo-Latin Almagest described the figure as habens palmam delibutam, Holding the Consecrated Palm, from some early drawing that is still continued; but how the palm, the classic symbol of victory and Christian sign of martyrdom, became associated with this heathen queen does not appear.( Cassiopeia was queen of "Philistia", which, though sometimes said to be Ethiopia, should almost certainly be identified with the Biblical land of the Philistines, or roughly that part of Palestine now called the Gaza Strip. Her name is said to be of Phoenician origin. Either of these circumstances would associate her with a "palm" — at least in English: phoenix in Latin and Greek; for the Gaza connection, see for example the iconography of the Holy Family's Return from Egypt in the Basilica of S. Nicola in Tolentino (14c). Though this is the wrong palm (the tree rather than a generic branch of foliage), I still suspect this is where the connection ultimately lies ) Similarly La Lande cited Siliquastrum, the name for a tree of Judaea, referring to the branch in the queen's hand.
Bayer's Hebrew title for it, Aben Ezra, was by a misreading of Scaliger's notes.
La Lande quoted Harnacaff from the Metamorphoses of Vishnu, but the later Hindus said Casyapi, evidently from the classical word.
Grimm gives the Lithuanian Jostandis, from Josta, a Girdle, although without explanation.
As the figure almost wholly lies in the Milky Way, the Celts fixed upon it as their Llys Don, the Home of Don, their king of the fairies and father of the mythical character Gwydyon, Gwydyon has been identified with the classical Hermes-Mercury, the reputed inventor of writing, a practitioner in magic and builder of the rainbow, who gave name to that great circle. Schiller's
Wallenstein, as versified by Coleridge, has
That one
White stain of light, that single glimmering yonder,
Is from Cassiopeia, and therein
Is Jupiter —
a blunder on the part of the translator that has puzzled many, as "therein" should be "beyond" or "in that direction," but even then what did the poet have in mind?
In early Chinese astronomy our constellation was Ko Taou according to Williams, although Reeves limited that title to the smaller ν, ξ, ο, and π, with the definition of a Porch-way; but later on its prominent stars were Wang Liang, a celebrated charioteer of the Tsin Kingdom about 470 B.C.
As a stellar figure in Egypt Renouf identified it with the Leg, thus mentioned in the Book of the Dead, the Bible of Egypt, that most ancient ritual, 4000 years old or more:
Hail, leg of the northern sky in the large visible basin.
And in some constellated form its stars unquestionably were well known on the Euphrates with the rest of the Royal Family, and shown there on seals.
The earthly Cassiopeia ought to have been black, and is so described by Milton in his verses of Il Penseroso on
That starr'd Ethiop Queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The Sea-nymphs;
while Landseer with the same idea called her Cushiopeia, the Queen of Cush, or Kush, but the Leyden Manuscript makes her of fair complexion, lightly clad, upright and unbound in a very uncomfortable chair; and such is the general representation. But in the 17th-century reconstruction of sky figures in the interests of religion, our Cassiopeia became Mary Magdalene; or Deborah sitting in judgment under her palm tree in Mount Ephraim; or Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, worthy to sit on the royal throne.
The astrologers said that it partook of the nature of Saturn and Venus.
Professor Young gives the word Bagdei as a help to memorizing the order of the chief components from their letters β, α, γ, δ, ε, ι; the last being the uppermost when the figure is on the horizon, hanging head downwards.
Cassiopeia lies between Cepheus, Andromeda, and Perseus, Argelander cataloguing 68 stars here, but Heis, 126; and the constellation is rich in clusters.

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