STAR MYTHS OF THE GREEKS AND ROMANS
By Theony Condos (translator), published by Phanes Press at (around) £15. 287pp. ISBN: 1-890492-93-5
When I was a kid I had a book on astronomy that treated each constellation separately, describing its constituent stars and the nebulae and other features to be found in it and briefly relating the myths associated with it. Delphinus, I learned, represented the dolphin that carried the musician Arion to land after he had been thrown overboard from the ship on which he was travelling, while Cygnus represented the swan into which Zeus transformed himself to rape Leda and father Helen of Troy. It was a most enjoyableway of learning Greek mythology even if I did not think to wonder at the time where these stories came from.
This book provides the answers in the form of translations of the relevant sections of two key works, the 1st or 2nd century CE Catasterismi of Pseudo-Eratosthenes and the 1st century BCE Poeticon Astonomicon or De Astronomia attributed to Hyginus. Divided, like my childhood book, into short chapters each dealing with one of the constellations known at the time of Ptolemy, the book provides translations from the ancient texts followed by the author's commentary on them, pointing out contractions between the sources, relating them to other sources for the same stories or otherwise providing context to the translations.
It's a delightfully simple idea and one which is, as far as I know, unique at the present time. Although the relentless rise of interest in the Celtic cultures has in recent decades somewhat overshadowed the classical paganism more familiar to earlier generations, this is volume is well worth having on the shelf for reference regardless of one's path or tradition