mercredi 1 octobre 2008

Cetus 7

The south wind brings her foe
The Ocean beast.

Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster,
is the French Baleine, the Italian Balena, and the German Wallfisch.
This constellation has been identified, at least since Aratos' day, with the fabled creature sent to devour Andromeda, but turned to stone at the sight of the Medusa's head in the hand of Perseus. Equally veracious additions to the story, from Pliny and Solinus, are that the monster's bones were brought to Rome by Scaurus, the skeleton measuring forty feet in length and the vertebrae six feet in circumference; from Saint Jerome, who wrote that he had seen them at Tyre;Once again, it's dangerous to sniff too loud at the absurd tales of eyewitnesses: the work of Adrienne Mayor has made it amply clear that quite a few ancient Romans, not only Pliny and Jerome, but the emperor Augustus and many others, had seen or even collected fossils of gigantic prehistoric animals. OK, so their reconstructions were not ours, and someone thought it was the heavenly Cetus — and then ours are not always so good either: the Stegosaurus that we all loved as children never existed, or at least not looking anything like that.
The more general moral to extract from this, as from so many other places, is that when someone tells you they've seen something with their own eyes, you'd better have awfully good grounds for dismissing it as nonsense. The interpretation of course is another matter. and from Pausanias, who described a nearby spring that was red with the monster's blood. But the legend in which Cetus figured seems to have been current on the Euphrates long before our era; and, descending to Euripides and Sophocles, appeared in their dramas, as also in much subsequent literature.
For its stellar title the Greeks usually followed Aratos and Eratosthenes in Κῆτος, but they also had Ὀρφίς, Όρφός, and Όρφώς, some species of cetacean; and the equivalent Πρῆστις and Πρίστις, This word is seen in more modern days in the Physetere that Rabelais used from πρῆθειν, to blow or spout, the common habit of the animal. The last word, variously transliterated, was common for the constellation with Roman authors, appearing as Pristis, Pristix, and Pistrix, qualified by the adjectives auster, Nereia, fera, Neptunia, aequorea, and squammigera. Cetus, however, has been the usual title from the days of Vitruvius, varied by Cete with the 17th‑century astronomical writers, although the stellar figure is unlike any whale known to zoölogy.
The Harleian, This is the famous No. 647 of the Harleian Collection of manuscripts in the British Museum, from Robert Harley, the first earl of Oxford. It is an illuminated copy of Cicero's translation of the Phainomena, and has been reproduced and annotated by Ottley in the 26th volume of Archaeologia for 1834, its editor supposing it to be from the 2d or 3d century. Verses from Manilius are inscribed within the figure outlines and Leyden Manuscripts show it with greyhound head, ears, and fore legs, but with a long, trident tail; the whole, perhaps, modeled after the ancient bas-relief of Perseus and Andromeda in the Naples Museum. It is found thus on the Farnese globe, and this figuring may have given rise to, or originated from, the early title that La Lande cited, Canis Tritonis, his own Chien de Mer. But the Hyginus of 1488 has a dolphin-like creature with proboscis and tusks, all imitated in the edition of 1535 by Micyllus; and Dürer still further varied the shape of the head and front parts.
Thus in these, as, in fact, in all delineations, it has been a strange and ferocious marine creature, in later times associated with the story of Andromeda, and at first, perhaps, was the Euphratean Tiāmat, of which other forms were Draco, Hydra, and Serpens; indeed, some have thought that our Draco was Andromeda's foe because of its proximity to the other characters of the legend. But as an alternative signification of the word Κῆτος is Tunny, This tunny, the horse-mackerel of the American coast and the Albacora thynnus of ichthyology, is found in the Mediterranean up to 1000 pounds' weight also a signification of Χελιδόνιας, to the Northern Fish of the zodiac, it is not unlikely that the latter figure should be substituted in the story for the time-honored Whale.
Cetus is sometimes represented swimming in the River Eridanus, although usually as resting on the bank with fore paws in the water; its head, directly under Aries, marked by an irregular pentagon of stars, and its body stretching from the bend in Eridanus to that in the Stream from the Urn. It occupies a space of 50° in length by 20° in breadth, and so is one of the most extended of the sky figures; yet it shows no star larger than of the 2nd magnitude, and only one of that lustre.
Argelander enumerates 98 stars in the constellation, and Heis 162.
The 1515 Almagest and the Alfonsine Tables called it Balaena, but Firmicus said Belua, the Beast or Monster, a more appropriate name than ours. Bayer mentioned it as Draco, and drew it so, but without wings; he also cited for it Leo, Monstrum marinum, Ursus marinus, Orphas, and Orphus; and Grotius quoted Gibbus, Humped, from anonymous writers.
The Arabian astronomers of course knew the Greek constellation and called it Al Ḳeṭus, from which have come Elketos, Elkaitos, and Elkaitus; but their predecessors, who had not heard of the Royal Family and its foe, separated these stars into three very different asterisms. Those in the head, α, γ, δ, λ, μ, ξ1and ξ2, were Al Kaff al Jidhmah, the Part of a Hand, from a fancied resemblance to their Stained Hand, our Cassiopeia; η, θ, τ, ζ, and υ, in the body of our Cetus, were Al Naʽāmāt, the Hen Ostriches; and the four in a straight line of 3° length across the tail, all lettered ϕ, were Al Niṭhām, the Necklace.
The biblical school of the 17th century of course saw here the Whale that swallowed Jonah; and commentators on that great astronomical poem, the Book of Job, have said that it typified the Leviathan of which the Lord spoke to the patriarch. Julius Schiller thought it "SS. Joachim and Anna."
The Easy Chair has popularly been applied to it from the arrangement of its chief stars, the back of the chair leaning towards Orion.
Although an old constellation, Cetus is by no means of special interest, except as possessing the south pole of the Milky Way and the Wonderful Star, the variable Mira; and from the fact that it is a condensation point of nebulae directly across the sphere from Virgo, also noted in this respect.

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