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This article is about Greek mythology. The Pleiades star cluster also appears in many other mythologies.




The Pleiades ( , also ; from the Greek Πλειάδες , Modern ), companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllenemarker. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides. The Pleiades were nymphs in the train of Artemis, and together with the seven Hyades were called the Atlantides, Dodonides, or Nysiades, nursemaids and teachers to the infant Bacchus.

There is some debate as to the origin of the name Pleiades. Previously, it was accepted the name is derived from the name of their mother, Pleione. However, the name Pleiades is more likely to come from (to sail), because the Pleiades star cluster is visible in the Mediterraneanmarker at night during the summer, from the middle of May until the beginning of November, which coincided with the sailing season in antiquity. This derivation was recognized by the ancients, including Virgil (Georgics 1.136-138).

The Seven Sisters

Several of the most prominent male Olympian gods (including Zeus, Poseidon, and Ares) engaged in affairs with the seven heavenly sisters. These relationships resulted in the birth of children.

  1. Maia, eldest of the seven Pleiades, was mother of Hermes by Zeus and Iris by Thaumas.
  2. Electra was mother of Dardanus and Iasion by Zeus.
  3. Taygete was mother of Lacedaemonmarker, also by Zeus.
  4. Alcyone was mother of Hyrieus by Poseidon.
  5. Celaeno was mother of Lycus and Eurypylus by Poseidon.
  6. Sterope (also Asterope) was mother of Oenomaus by Ares.
  7. Merope, youngest of the seven Pleiades, was wooed by Orion. In other mythic contexts she married Sisyphus and, becoming mortal, faded away. She bore to Sisyphus several sons.


All of the Pleiades except Merope consorted with gods.

Mythology



After Atlas was forced to carry the heavens on his shoulders, Orion began to pursue all of the Pleiades, and Zeus transformed them first into doves, and then into stars to comfort their father. The constellation of Orion is said to still pursue them across the night sky.

In the Pleiades star cluster only six of the stars shine brightly, the seventh, Merope, shines dully because she is shamed for eternity for having an affair with a mortal. Some myths also say that the star that doesn't shine is Electra; she is said to have left her place so that she will not have to look down upon the ruin of Troy, because the city was founded by her son Dardanus.

One of the most memorable myths involving the Pleiades is the story of how these sisters literally became stars, their catasterism. According to some versions of the tale, all seven sisters committed suicide because they were so saddened by either the fate of their father, Atlas, or the loss of their siblings, the Hyades. In turn Zeus, the ruler of the Greek gods, immortalized the sisters by placing them in the sky. There these seven stars formed the constellation known thereafter as the Pleiades.

The Greek poet Hesiod mentions the Pleiades several times in his Works and Days. As the Pleiades are primarily winter stars, they feature prominently in the ancient agricultural calendar. Here is a bit of advice from Hesiod:

"And if longing seizes you for sailing the stormy seas,
when the Pleiades flee mighty Orion
and plunge into the misty deep
and all the gusty winds are raging,
then do not keep your ship on the wine-dark sea
but, as I bid you, remember to work the land."
(Works and Days 618-23)

The Pleiades would "flee mighty Orion and plunge into the misty deep" as they set in the West, which they would begin to do just before dawn during October-November, a good time of the year to lay up your ship after the fine summer weather and "remember to work the land"; in Mediterranean agriculture autumn is the time to plough and sow.

The poet Lord Tennyson mentions the Pleiades in his poem Locksley Hall:

"Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid."


See also



Notes

  1. Bulfinch, Thomas Bulfinch's Mythology Barnes and Noble, 2006, pp. 194-195.


References




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