mercredi 1 octobre 2008

Eridanus 8

. . . amnis, quod de coelo exoritur sub solio Jovis

Plautus' Trinummus [Act IV, Scene II, v. 940].

. . . the starry Stream.
For this a remnant of Eridanos,
That stream of tears, 'neath the gods' feet is borne.

Brown's Aratos.
The River Eridanus, the French Eridan, the Italian Eridano, and the German Fluss Eridanus, is divided into the Northern and the Southern Stream; the former winding from the star Rigel of Orion to the paws of Cetus; the latter extending thence southwards, southeast, and finally southwest below the horizon of New York City, 2° beyond the lucida Achernar, near the junction of Phoenix, Tucana, Hydrus, and Horologium. Excepting Achernar, however, it has no star larger than a 3d‑magnitude, although it is the longest constellation in the sky, and Gould catalogues in it 293 naked-eye components.
Although the ancients popularly regarded it as of indefinite extent, in classical astronomy the further termination was at the star θ in 40°47ʹ of south declination; but modern astronomers have carried it to about 60°.
With the Greeks it usually was ὁ̔ Ποταμός, the River, adopted by the Latins as Amnis, Flumen, Fluvius, and specially as Padus and Eridanus; this last, as Ἐριδανός, having appeared for it with Aratos and Eratosthenes. Geographically the word is first found in Hesiod's Θεογονία for the Phasis1 in Asia, celebrated in classic history and mythology,
That rises deep and stately rowls along
into the Euxine Sea near the spot where the Argonauts secured the golden fleece.
Other authors identified our Eridanus with the fabled stream flowing into the ocean from northwestern Europe, — a stream that always has been a matter of discussion and speculation (indeed, Strabo called it "the nowhere existing"), — or with Homer's Ocean Stream flowing around the earth, whence the early titles for these stars, Oceanus and the River of Ocean. They also have been associated with the famous little brook under the Acropolis; with the Ligurian Bodencus — the Padus of ancient, and the Po p216of modern, Italy, — famous in all classical times as the largest of that country's rivers, Vergil's Rex fluviorum; with the Ebro of Spain; with the Granicus of Alexander the Great; with the Rhenus and the Rhodanus, — our Rhine and Rhone; and with the modern Radaune, flowing into the Vistula at Danzig.
Some of these originals of our River, especially the Padus, were seats of the early amber trade, thus recalling the story of the Heliades, whose tears, shed at the death of their brother Phaëthon, turned into amber as they fell into "that stream of tears" on which that unfortunate was hurled by Jove after his disastrous attempt to drive the chariot of the sun. This was a favorite theme with poets, from Ovid, in the Metamorphoses, to Dean Milman, in Samor, and the foundation of the story that the river was transferred to the sky to console Apollo for the loss of his son.
But none of these comparatively northern streams suit the stellar position of our Eridanus, for it is a southern constellation, and it would seem that its earthly counterpart ought to be found in a corresponding quarter. In harmony with this, we know that Eratosthenes and the scholiasts on Germanicus and Hyginus said that it represented the Nile, the only noteworthy river that flows from the south to the north, as this is said to do when rising above the horizon. Thus it is Nilus in the Alfonsine Tables, the edition of 1521 saying, Stellatio fluvii id est Eridanus sive Gyon sive Nilus; Gyon, The word Sihor for the Nile, in our Authorized Version of Jeremiah ii.18, is Γηων in the Septuagint, Josephus also using it in his Ἰουδαϊκή Ἀρχαιολογία, or Jewish Antiquities, in referring to the Nile as one of the four great branches of the River of Paradise, coming from the statement in Genesis ii.13:
the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush;
this latter being misunderstood for the Nile country instead of the Asiatic Kush that was unquestionably intended by the sacred writer. La Lande cited Mulda, equivalent to another title for the stellar Eridanus, — Μέλας, Black, — and so again connected with Egypt, whose native name, Khem, has this same meaning, well describing the color of the fertile deposit that the Nile waters leave on the land. This became the Latin Melo, an early name for the Nile [Serv. ad Georg. IV.291], as it also was for the constellation.
This allusion to the Nile recalls the ancient wide-spread brief that it and the Euphrates were but different portions of the same stream; and Brown, in his monograph The Eridanus, argues that we should identify the Euphrates with the sky figure. He finds his reasons in the fact that both are frequently alluded to, from very early days to the classical age, as The River, the Euphrates originally being Pura or Purat, the Water, as the Nile was, and even now is, Ioma or Iauma, the Sea; that they resemble each other as long and winding streams with two great branches; that each is connected with a Paradise — Eden and Heaven; that the adjoining constellations seems to be Euphratean in origin; and that each is in some way associated with the Nile, and each with the overthrow of the sun-god.
There is much in the Euphratean records alluding to a stellar stream that may be our Eridanus, — possibly the Milky Way, another sky river; yet it is to the former that the passage translated by Fox Talbot possibly refers:
Like the stars of heaven he shall shine; like the River of Night he shall flow;
and its title has been derived from the Akkadian Aria-dan, the Strong River. George Smith thinks that the heavenly Eridanus may have been the Euphratean Erib-me‑gali.
Its hither termination at the star Rigel gave it the title River of Orion, used by Hipparchos, Proclus, and others; and Landseer wrote:
the stars now constellated as Erydanus were originally known in different countries by the names of Nile, Nereus, and Ocean, or Neptune.
Riccioli cited for it Vardi, and a Moorish title, according to Bayer, was Guad, — the 1720 edition of the Uranometria has Guagi, — all these from the Arabic wādī, and reminding us of the Wādī al Kabīr, the Great River, the Spaniards' Guadalquivir; but the common designation among the Arabians was Al Nahr, the River, transcribed Nar and Nahar, — Chilmead's Alvahar; this Semitic word, occasionally written Nahal, also having been adduced as a derivation of the word Nile.
Assemani quoted Al Kaff Algeria from the Borgian globe for stars in the bend of the stream; but Ideler claimed these for Al Kaff al Jidhmah of Cetus.
Caesius thought our Eridanus the sky representative of the Jordan, or of the Red Sea, which the Israelites passed over as on dry land.
Old illuminated manuscripts added a venerable river-god lying on the surface of the stream, with urn, aquatic plants, and rows of stars; for all of which the Hyginus of 1488 substitutes the figure of a nude woman, with stars lining the lower bank. Bayer's illustration is quite artistic, with reeds and sedge on the margins. The monster Cetus often is depicted with his fore paws, or flippers, in the River.

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